Story by Elizabeth Starr
Photography by Katie Moore
What do you get when you put together a group of 13- and 14-year-olds and a whole bunch of athletic shoes? Sounds a bit like a middle school gym, but it’s actually the Shoes For Orphan Souls® sorting room at the Buckner Center for Humanitarian Aid.
On June 3 and 4, a group of middle school students and their leaders from Johnson Ferry Baptist Church of Marietta, Ga., volunteered at the Center for Humanitarian Aid, sorting shoes for future shipments. The dedicated volunteers have taken mission trips to Texas for eight years and have made a stop at Buckner four years in a row.
“It’s so cool to think about all the kids getting these shoes and maybe planting a seed in them to learn about Jesus,” said student Sydney Sonderman, who was serving with Buckner for the first time.
Tables covered in colorful markers, slips of paper and rubber bands filled the Shoes for Orphan Souls sorting area. Students sat or stood around the tables, talking cheerfully as they opened brand-new pairs of shoes and wrote messages of God’s love in careful handwriting. Then, they wrapped the pairs together, stuffed their notes inside and sorted the shoes in boxes according to type and gender.
“I just love this place,” said Jennifer McGlamry, one of this year’s trip leaders. “I wish they had a place like this in Atlanta – I would volunteer at least once a day.”
McGlamry’s eyes danced as she explained her passion for the Buckner mission. The Georgia native is a retired nurse and married to a podiatrist, so caring for others comes naturally to her. She identified personally with the Buckner ministry of sharing the gospel by taking care of physical needs along with spiritual ones.
“You’ve got to start from the ground up,” she laughed. “That’s the way the gospel speaks to me.”
Like McGlamry, the Johnson Ferry Baptist students expressed a deep appreciation for Buckner’s ability to provide international humanitarian aid.
“I feel like I’m really impacting these kids who don’t have much,” said student Claire Parsons. “A simple pair of shoes can make their lives so much better.”
“I love the fact that [Buckner] is so hands-on,” McGlamry added. “I feel like we can see the difference. I can see how the kids would be so excited to get a brand-new pair of shoes.”
For Mike Julian, Buckner director of international aid, it’s fulfilling to see volunteer groups return over and over to serve with Shoes for Orphan Souls.
“What’s neat about seeing recurring volunteers is that they’re sold out on our mission,” he said. “Their willingness to serve, coming from out of state to invest in ministries like ours, makes it about the folks that they’re serving and not about themselves.”
This remarkable group of students certainly shows – through dedication, enthusiasm and love – that there is no minimum age requirement for global ministry.
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