By Jenny Pope and Analiz González
(DALLAS, Texas) — Shoes for Orphan Souls is usually the first to tread on new soil for Buckner ministries. And whether shoes are used to spread the Gospel directly or indirectly, they always help get a foot in the door.
“Meeting people’s physical needs allows us to share the Gospel,” said Rachel Garton, director of Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls. “And whoever delivers these shoes to our kids does it in the spirit of God's love. The shoes are prayed for many times before they ever reach a child.”
Garton said SOS has allowed Buckner to establish relationships with many governments in countries around the world, building the framework for long-term support and a more committed form of evangelism.
“This is ideal in that we are able to make our evangelistic efforts a commitment rather than a one-time thing,” she said.
Garton recalled her meeting with the councilwoman to the president of Honduras:
“Her face lit up. I knew that by meeting one need for them, it allowed us to sit down and discuss with them further how we could help meet more needs for children in their country, which means we’d be able to have a number of developed ministries there that give us a chance to talk about God.”
Leslie Chace, director of ministry development for Buckner in Latin America, said that the first thing Buckner does when it enters a new country is send humanitarian aid and shoes.
“This immediately gives us a favorable introduction, as shoes are usually a huge necessity among children in third world countries,” Chace said.
“In Honduras, when we first walked into the Nueva Esperanza Home, we were surrounded by young children who were all barefoot. I thought that perhaps they were having a swimming activity but when I asked the director of the home, why the children were barefoot, she said, ‘They don't have shoes.’
“Immediately Buckner put an order in to send 5,000 pairs of shoes so that the children living in the orphanages in Honduras could have shoes. Because of the lack of resources, shoes don't seem to be a priority in these countries.
“Jesus gave us the example of his own ministry by supplying the physical needs of the people he was trying to reach. It's a manifestation of the Lord's love to give and it opens opportunities to bring them to receive Jesus.”
Garton said that it’s the ability to share the Gospel which makes Shoes for Orphan Souls different from other humanitarian aid organizations.
“The first thing every child will ask you is, ‘Will you remember me?’” Garton said. “That's our opportunity to tell them that there's always someone with them. That Jesus is with them always.”
Garton said 166,751 shoes were distributed in 2007 and 900 shoe drives have been held in 2008. Each of these shoes is an opportunity for a child to know the Gospel.
“We also encourage churches that raise shoes for us to keep some of the shoes they collect to use on their own evangelistic mission trips,” she said.
Shoes for Orphan Souls gives many of the shoes it collects to other Christian organizations who share the gospel in a very direct way. These organizations include Campus Crusade for Christ, Family Legacy, Convoy of Hope, Mercy Ships and Operation Care.
In 2009, Shoes for Orphan Souls will celebrate its 10th anniversary. More than 1.6 million pairs of shoes have been distributed to more than 60 countries to date.
For more information on donating a pair of shoes, going on a short-term shoe trip with Buckner or hosting a shoe drive, visit www.shoesfororphansouls.com or call 1-866-774-SHOE (7463).
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