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More than two decades of Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls® and 5 million lives impacted

Honoring the legacy and impact for National Shoe the World Day today

25 years. This is a figure I’ve contemplated often over the last few months. That’s because the ministry project I’m privileged to serve – Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls® – is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. 
As we embark upon the coming months of celebration, including National Shoe the World Day today, I have found myself reflecting on what 25 years of this ministry project represents for Buckner International and I can only conclude it has all been a work of God.

National Shoe the World Day was created in 2012 as a way to raise awareness and provide shoes for those who don't have access to them. Nearly 300 million children across the world lack access to appropriate shoes: opening the doorway to sickness, injury and overall lack of opportunity.
Since 1999, Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls® has collected and provided 5 million pairs of shoes – and counting – to children in 86 different countries. Nearly 20,000 churches, businesses, civic groups, radio stations and families have registered to host shoe drives. 
What was once the fledgling project of a local Christian radio station has now become a ministry project that has impacted children and families in nearly every corner of the world. 
The stats are impressive. But what do these figures truly represent? 
To me, they represent 25 years of stories. Five million different stories. One of the things that has become abundantly clear to me over the past 10 years serving this ministry is that we never know what type of story a pair of shoes will find themselves in. 

A pair of shoes represents a unique story and journey

Cynthia experienced hope through a pair of shoesStories like 12-year-old Cynthia's in the latest Buckner Today – a young girl in Bungoma, Kenya, who was facing the insurmountable hardship and isolation of losing both her parents and living in poverty. This situation had a profound impact on her social and emotional wellbeing. Unable to access the basics needed to attend school, she was introduced to the Buckner Family Hope Center® program through a pair of shoes. This pair of shoes opened the door to a good education, where she is now thriving in her studies and growing in both confidence and faith. This journey began with someone caring enough to carry a burden for her by providing a pair of shoes. 
These numbers represent millions of encouraging hand-written notes and prayers that have been folded into a pair of shoes – communicating to the recipient they are loved, cared for and not forgotten by us or by God. They represent the millions of hopeful smiles that have appeared on the faces of children who have received a meaningful gift – even one as simple as a new pair of shoes. 
I think of the countless parents who have picked up an extra pair of shoes when shopping for school clothes for their own children, the Rotarians who have found a project they can rally around, local radio stations who have told the story and the young kids, like my own, who have fundraised by selling lemonade to their neighbors – all to put a smile on the face of a child they may never meet – and to promote meeting those most basic needs of health and education. 

Impact made possible by trusting God

Recently, I had a conversation with Dr. Ron Harris, the former general manager of KCBI 90.9, where the Buckner Shoes project began (then under the name Shoes for Russian Souls). Dr. Harris made a statement that has been bouncing through my mind ever since. 
He suggested Buckner Shoes is an example of what the Lord can do when you open your hands to his plans and not your own. What could have been a project that impacted thousands (which would have been amazing in its own right) has become one that has impacted millions throughout the world – and that is a work of God. 

25 years represents a longevity that’s clearly built on the foundation of that open-handedness to God. And it is, I hope, that same posture that continues to drive us to pursue new, innovative ways to meet this need and compels generous friends to serve their neighbor in this way. But after 25 years, the basics are still the same – Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls® promotes education, health, opportunity and HOPE through the gift of shoes. 

Shawn Spurrier is the director of Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls®, the largest humanitarian aid project of nonprofit Buckner International.

Learn more about the opportunity a pair of shoes can provide for a vulnerable child.

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