By John Hall
In 1894, Guglielmo Marconi began conducting experiments in his attic. Building much of his equipment, he found a way to ring a bell on the other side of a room by pushing a telegraphic button. The next year, he ventured outdoors, pushing the distance limits of his new technology. By the turn of the century, the man who is generally considered the inventor of the radio was well on his way to sending communiqués across the Atlantic Ocean.
He had changed the world, and he knew it. “In the new era, thought itself will be transmitted by radio,” he said in 1931.
Radio indeed has transmitted ideas around the globe. More powerfully, it’s spread hope to those who have none. In the last 15 years, Christian radio stations across the United States have offered their listeners the opportunity to give hope to vulnerable children through Buckner Shoes For Orphan Souls®.
The willingness of so many stations to partner with Shoes for Orphan Souls is humbling, said Jenny Pope, Buckner director of marketing and media relations. Those relationships have helped the program have the impact it has.
“The support of Christian radio has been the single biggest driving factor for the longevity of Shoes for Orphan Souls and its success,” she said. “Christian radio listeners are extremely faithful and loyal to their causes. It’s because they believe in our mission and continue to give year after year that we have been able to provide almost 3 million shoes to children in 76 countries around the world.”
The program was birthed as Shoes for Russian Souls out of the heart of Ron Harris, then general manager of Dallas radio station KCBI. From that point forward, radio stations across the nation have picked up the initiative, involving like-minded individuals, churches, businesses and other organizations.
Leighton LeBoeuf, former general manager of Shoes for Orphan Souls longest radio partner, WMBW in Chattanooga, Tenn., said the relationship between Shoes for Orphan Souls is an ideal fit for Christian radio.
Like the wires of Marconi’s early experiments, stations like WMBW connect listeners with ways to meet the needs of vulnerable children. Listeners understand a basic need like shoes. They relate to having walked barefoot on a rough or hot surface. They know people need shoes.
As a result, groups and individuals have donated hundreds of thousands of shoes through radio station-sponsored drives.
“How can we help you fulfill the Great Commission?” LeBoeuf said. “People want to care for widows and orphans, feed the homeless, the list goes on and on. They just don’t know how to do it.”
The longer radio stations continue as Buckner partners, the more they learn about the ministry, said Tim Sinclair, morning show host of WBGL in Champaign, Ill. Giving a child a pair of shoes meets a physical need, but the message it sends and the opportunity it creates is significantly larger.
”Having been now three times and seeing the progression that happens, meeting many of the same kids each time, you see that the shoes are more than just shoes,” he said. “Yes, they’re protection. Yes, they’re for safety. But, also there’s ownership in those for the kids. It’s a sense that there are people other than those who are taking care of them at the orphanage who love them, who care about them; and then ultimately, the opportunity to share Jesus.”
Carmen Brown, program director and morning show co-host at JOY FM in Sarasota, Fla., has ministered to a multitude of children on her trips with Buckner. God empowered her to connect strongly with two children in particular.
During her first trip, she held an infant girl for a long time. She sensed a bond with the young child. Eventually, she learned the baby’s name also was Carmen. On her return trip, Brown had the opportunity to see baby Carmen and her parents.
On her most recent trip, Brown shared extensively with a 14-year-old girl who has suffered significant hardships in her life. Despite the trials the young lady had endured, she remains faithful to God who loves her.
“I love Buckner Honduras,” Brown said. “And I love the people of Honduras, especially the children. I am always mindful of Honduras, praying for Honduras, and despite the miles between us, a big piece of my heart is still there, seeing their faces, feeling their presence. In the same way, I hope they can feel my heart and remember our love.”
Radio station-sponsored trips have allowed people to see their donations put to work, Sinclair said. Putting a pair of shoes on a young child in need transforms people. It widens their view of what God is doing in the world. It expands a desire for ministry.
“You wish you could go more,” Morais said. “You throw yourself into the shoe drive because you realize if it’s not you putting shoes on children’s feet, someone else from Buckner will be.”
Shoe drives and trips take place for short periods of time, but Buckner is committed to ministry throughout the year. Staff members are working with vulnerable children each day.
“Buckner is committed to having people on the ground in these places 24/7, 365,” Sinclair said. “There’s ministry going on there all the time. We’re there for a week, but those there on staff are there all year long. And for us, not doing a drive-by trip but aiding in a ministry that exists all the time was huge for us.”
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