'A light to keep going'
Running away from home felt like Mary Romero’s only option. When she found the Buckner Transitional Home for Women in Lima, Peru, she had the opportunity to choose a new path – a path of hope.
Growing up in Calca, Peru, Mary was surrounded by strife. Her parents separated when she was young and she lived with her aunt for a few years. But in high school, Mary spent seven years living with her father in an unhealthy, abusive environment. She’d always dreamed of furthering her education and enrolled in a local university.
“When I started attending university, everything happened. It was really hard. At some point I just decided that I was OK with dying. I was depressed. So I decided to leave the university,” Mary shared.
Her decision was not made lightly. She always saw school as the way out of her home life. With an uneasy heart, she left home with only a backpack and lived homeless until she found a temporary resting place with nuns at a local convent for a few months.
Continuing to search for direction, Mary connected with a friend who told her about Buckner’s Peruvian services, and she was determined to seek for their help.
With her money running low, she traveled to Cusco on her Buckner quest. Mary was scared, but the nuns encouraged her: “Don’t worry, God will take care of you.”
Mary found the director of Buckner Peru, Claudia Leon, who let her stay with her until there was an opening at the Women’s Transitional Home in Lima.
Mary lived at the Buckner home for three years – excelling in school and learning more about how to love herself.
Throughout those years, God was not only moving in Mary’s heart but in the heart of Buckner volunteer Lanie Williams of Plano, Texas. Lanie started her volunteering journey with Buckner through a friend’s urging to participate in buying Christmas gifts.
“I really had never thought about Peru in my life, but I know now there was a reason God sent me there,” Lanie shared.
In 2011, she started going on annual mission trips with Buckner to visit the orphanages, transition homes and deliver Christmas gifts to those in Peru. She remembered meeting Mary at the women’s transitional home and began communicating with her regularly. Lanie knew Mary dreamed of coming to the U.S. to further her education and was determined to figure out how to help make that happen.
“I remember thinking there’s got to be a way, but I don’t know anything about this process. With visas, anything – so God, you’re going to have to just lead me and show me,” she said.
The pair began working together to find a school to teach Mary English near Lanie’s home in Plano and apply for her student visa to finish her education.
With the Williamses’ children grown and out of the house, Lanie and her husband felt like this was divine timing. They had plenty of room and felt called to support this young woman in the next steps of her life.
Within a few weeks, Mary was in the U.S. attending school again and living with Lanie and her family. After completing an associate degree in North Texas, Mary applied and was accepted to Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.
In December 2019, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in engineering – marking a major milestone in her life.
“I never thought I would finish, but now I’ve completed this and it feels really good. I’m looking for jobs and life is hard, but I’m so very happy,” Mary said.
Lanie beams with pride when she thinks about the time Mary has spent in the U.S. with few English skills to now earning an engineering degree and looking to enter the job field. Lanie has seen Mary grow in maturity and spiritually.
“They helped me without even knowing me,” Mary explained. “I feel so blessed. God is giving me these times and I am really thankful for it. And as soon as I have the opportunity and the resources, I want to give back – like what Lanie and what Buckner did for me. Buckner gave me this career and all the resources – and a light to keep going.”
Find ways to volunteer and help a vulnerable family in your community at buckner.org/volunteer.