Juan Calan and his wife Josefina Romero were living the American dream, working hard in New York to save money for their family. They sent the money to their parents to build a comfortable savings account.
The money never made it to a savings account, at least not one for them. Their parents had spent it all. They were penniless. Dejected and distrustful of family, they moved to Peñitas, Texas, to start over. This time they vowed to do it alone.
Doing so proved difficult. They lived in an old home and struggled starting a business. They needed help. That’s when they learned about the local Buckner Family Hope Center.
Romero was alone in the house. The children were at school and Calan went to work. She was bored. A friend told her about a bow-making class offered at the Family Hope Center and invited her to join them. At first, she was reluctant to go. The only person she knew at the class was her friend who invited her. Anxious to get out of the house, she attended the class. Then she attended again. Soon, she was making friends and taking other classes offered at the Family Hope Center.
The whole family started to get involved at the Family Hope Center. Calan took the fatherhood class and the children participated in after- school programs. Through the Family Hope Center, they qualified for a home build through Buckner Domestic Missions. That’s when they first met Sam Hutchinson, Buckner senior construction and agriculture coordinator.
Hutchinson could see how invested Calan and Romero were in their family and how hard they worked to improve their lives. A church mission group began the house build, but Calan and Romero finished about 20 percent of the house themselves.
When Buckner started a new program called AgriHope, Hutchinson knew Calan and Romero had the passion to be successful. AgriHope is a program that teaches families how to farm on their land for consumption or income generation. While Calan and Romero already grew some plants they sold at flea markets, Calan was reluctant to increase production, but his wife insisted it was something they could do and enjoy.
“More than me, my wife enjoys planting. She told me she wanted to do this, but I said, ‘Forget it. We’re going to do another thing.’ But she said she really liked it. So I said OK. She always gets what she wants,” Calan said with a smile.
Through Buckner and some ministry partners, Calan and Romero received initial resources and supplies to start their home garden. Then Hutchinson offered further training on best practices for agriculture and farming, and their first harvest was more successful than they could imagine.
“Juan Calan and his family specifically have a drive, the spark and initiative to be successful,” Hutchinson said. “Their rst harvest after their first AgriHope home garden was $1,100, which is substantial. The agriculture program is only successful because of Juan Calan and his drive to succeed.”
Calan and Romero soaked in all the knowledge they could and their agriculture business continued to expand. Once, they didn’t even need to harvest their own crop. A woman approached them and offered to buy their entire crop while they were still growing. She paid them, then she and her team harvested the crop themselves.
“What motivates us is being able to show our children that we can get ahead in life,” Calan said. “Buckner has given us the motivation and hope that we can have a business. Maybe we don’t have all the tools, but we do have the willingness, the strength, the motivation and the desire of being better, to have a business for us and for our children.”
They planted papaya, cilantro, carrots, beets, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, kale and many other items. With each harvest they learned more and more. But even more so, they developed a relationship with Hutchinson. They trusted him. Hutchinson has become family.
“What can I say about Sam? He’s awesome,” Calan said. “At home or when he sees me somewhere else, he always asks if I’m all right. Every time I imagine something great, Sam brings it alive for me. He’s always there for me. My wife laughs about me because I told her that whenever I see Sam, I want to give him a hug no matter what because I feel like he’s more than a friend, he’s a brother. I love Sam.”
Over the summer, Calan invited Hutchinson to attend a birthday party for his son at their house. Hutchinson was happy to go and spend more time with him and his family.
“Someone once told me that Juan referred to me as a father figure because I’ve always been there to teach him something or help his family,” Hutchinson said. “Knowing their family testimony, I knew how ‘father’ was a broken word for him. That was really powerful to hear how he perceives me and the relationship I strive to build with them. Building that relationship with the families is one of my favorite things about my job.”
Hutchinson encouraged Calan to expand his agriculture business to include raising chickens. Though he didn’t know anything about raising chickens, Calan agreed because he trusted Sam to provide him with the knowledge on proper care. Hutchinson set them up with a coop and chickens and now Calan is talking about building more coops to sell to other farmers.
“I see that with a lot of families,” Hutchinson said. “Families go from a situation where they are broken and in poverty, from living in a trailer or a house with tarp walls and dirt oors into a beautiful home that is secure. To see that transition in their happiness and their joy, to see all their mental anguish disappear, and seeing their frustrations and hardships really turn into a better situation is my favorite thing.”
With family coaching from the Family Hope Center and building a trusting relationship with Hutchinson, Calan and Romero have seen their hard work pay off. But even more, Buckner was able to restore trust in family.
“Since we’ve known Buckner, they’ve done a lot of things for us – for me and my family,” Calan added. “Everything they can, they’ve done it. I feel happy because when you need hope from Buckner, they are always there for you.”