After going on a mission trip to Peru last summer and Guatemala the year before that, I felt God say it was time to journey to the Dominican Republic with Buckner. When we arrived, we were happy to see Mia, a Buckner staff member, waiting for us at our gate.
The next morning, Mia prepared us for our visit to the Buckner Family Hope Center at Villa Esfuerzo and introduced us to the translators. These people would become “life savers” to people like me who don’t speak Spanish.
We were warmly greeted by the community there and treated to a beautiful song by all the children. Each team was then assigned to a group of children based upon their ages, and supervised their activity time.
The children were energetic and eager to participate in the different stations. Although the electricity cut off a couple of times, our lessons were completed thanks to some nifty cellphone lights. The children were very well-behaved and really respected the people who worked at the Family Hope Center. At the end of the afternoon session, the older children presented each of us with a handmade thank-you card that I will forever treasure.
On the second day, we traveled to Hope Center at Eduardo Brito. After our crafts were completed, the children sat waiting to get their new shoes. Out of the blue, one boy voluntarily got a broom and started sweeping the floor. After he finished, it would take three different pairs of shoes until this boy had the right fit. He was filled with joy and quickly gave me a bear hug before hurrying away to show off his new shoes.
While we went to serve, the Buckner staff and volunteers at the different sites we visited actually served us. They were exceptionally gratefully and humble. Several times when a worker or volunteer was complimented, their response would simply be, “To God be the glory.”
I can remember when the phrase was spoken in Spanish by an older man who made several trips lugging two five-gallon buckets filled with water across his shoulders. He would take the buckets across the street and fill them to the brim before coming back. The water was for us to use the restroom comfortably.
The shoes that we gave filled a huge need, but it was the need for the children to feel and experience the love of God that was even more important. The Lord’s grace was evident in many ways, but it was truly special when many of the children began to grasp the Vacation Bible School lesson about the Holy Spirit.
To anyone contemplating a mission trip, talk to a Buckner staff member. They answer any questions you have and alleviate any concerns you might be feeling. Pray about where to go, but know that no matter where you go, it will be the experience of a lifetime. The orphans and vulnerable children you encounter will touch your heart like none other.
Carlene James traveled to the Dominican Republic on a Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls® delivery trip in June. To find out how you and your church can plan a mission trip, visit our mission information page.