What started as a simple reply to an email has blossomed into a flourishing relationship between Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, and Buckner International.
In early 2016 when Shiloh’s youth pastor, Bryan McCray, responded to an email from Buckner President/CEO Albert Reyes, he got a surprise.
“Honestly, I didn’t think anyone would respond," Bryan said. "But you guys did and that led to a meeting with someone from Buckner, and we took off from there. We had been volunteering at [the Buckner Center for Humanitarian Aid] sorting shoes before then, and in that meeting, we were made aware of other volunteer opportunities for our youth group.”
Bryan and his youth ministry leadership team have grasped every Buckner opportunity that’s come before them, including organizing shoe drives for Shoes for Orphan Souls®, volunteering at a fall festival for foster care children and families and helping out foster care parents at Camp Buckner. To cap this growing relationship, they went on an international mission trip this summer.
“Our youth ministry’s and Buckner’s mission statements go hand-in-hand,” Bryan said. “Buckner has provided us a place and opportunities of service for our young people to achieve our mission. We were looking for opportunities for our youth to operate outside of themselves, to think and be global in serving the Lord. I wanted us to move from having church to being the church. I wanted us to be more than just a Sunday-based faith and for us to be missional in all that we do.
“Our experience with Buckner has been more than what we originally thought. It’s been a great relationship, and it’s only going to grow.”
And while one might think the benefit is solely to the Buckner children and families, Bryan points out that serving others has provided his youth group opportunities to grow spiritually.
“What I’ve seen from our young people is an increased desire to learn more from the Bible and to apply what they are learning, to actually live it out,” he said. “I’ve seen it more in how they conduct themselves, the way they have expressed selfless love in serving and the way they enjoy what they’re doing.
“They look forward to serving, and serving others has now become a part of our culture. I’ve seen sparks of spiritual maturity in their lives, and I thank the Lord for that.”
The first time Bryan noticed that was at Camp Buckner in the Texas Hill Country when the youth group served foster care parents and children during a retreat Buckner hosts specifically for foster parents, providing them time of rest and recreation.
“Our young people stepped up and led, and they built strong relationships with the children and their foster parents, so much so that some of the parents wanted to take our young people home with them,” Bryan said. “I saw in them an overwhelming desire to serve others in a Christ-like manner. It doesn’t get any better than that for a youth pastor.”
The summer mission trip to the Dominican Republic served as another opportunity for Bryan and his youth to step up. The trip was also the first mission trip Shiloh had taken, and the process of planning, raising money, praying and getting ready proved to be galvanizing for the entire church.
“The trip had a tremendous impact on the entire church,” Senior Pastor Isiah Joshua said. “When you see our young people serving children, washing their feet and placing shoes on their feet, well, those are Kleenex moments for us.
“It’s an unbelievable joy we felt seeing our young people serving like that. I kept thinking these are our kids doing this. The things you preach and teach over the years, and they put those things into action. What a great example these young people have set for us all.”
The 16 young people and their five adult sponsors held Vacation Bible Schools at two Buckner Family Hope Centers in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic over a week’s period. They distributed 858 pairs of new shoes to children. The team also painted various rooms at the centers.
“Even weeks later, we’re still receiving benefits from the mission trip,” Bryan said. “It’s created in all of us a desire to create an even stronger youth ministry. The trip has challenged all of us to be better at how we serve, how we teach and lead and how we love and serve our God.”
Written by Gilbert Montez, director of the Buckner Church Relations Department. If your church is interested in working with Buckner to help vulnerable children and families, contact Gilbert at firstname.lastname@example.org or 214-758-8106.