According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Honduras has suffered immeasurably in the last 12 years, during which the country has endured two devastating hurricanes and the slowest economic recovery from the pandemic of any Central American country. As recently as July of 2021, the government estimates that 73 percent of Hondurans live in poverty with 53 percent living in extreme poverty which, among many other things, impacts children immensely.
In the midst of all this, Debbie and Steve Buckner, missionaries at the LAMB Institute, have made ministry to children their full-time focus since 2014. They serve at the Children’s Home, one of several LAMB ministries around Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Spend just a minute with the Buckners and you will not only hear the stories of these kids of various age ranges, but you’ll also hear firsthand the love the they have for these children. “Steve is basically a human jungle-gym for the younger ones,” says Debbie. “And the teenage girls with all their moodiness tend to come to me.”
Kids who have been shunned, orphaned, or impacted by grinding poverty now live in a Christ-centered environment. Showing Christ’s love personally is the Buckner’s trademark. For instance, every year, every child, is given a personal birthday party. “We give each child a personal gift from us, a gift from the Children’s Home, and a cake. All the other kids in their cabin, and any siblings, are invited. We try to be creative with each one and all the kids so look forward to having their own party,” Debbie says.
Steve assists with things like parties, but his main focus is a carpentry ministry. In 2018 a shop was built for him to build pieces that the kids could sell, but with the pandemic Steve had to adapt. “I was already making bookshelves for the school, but then with the new shop I starting making tables, desks, stools, anything that was needed really. But now that we have mission groups returning, the kids are once again selling the items we make and they earn some decent money. Plus, the kids come to me with their ideas of something creative to make.”
Steve adds, “In addition to school, they are learning to run a business. We now have a store and I buy the wood and they make the piece and then they pay me back with the proceeds from their sales. I teach them how to price things and also that raw materials aren’t free – everything counts – the wood, the glue, the screws, the nails, the stain. All of that stuff adds up and has to be accounted for in the price of the item. And they also learn to tithe and give ten percent to the church.”
Debbie is the money person. She has a bank set up and the money is there as the children need it, but the children are counseled by the Buckners on how to manage money and make wise saving and spending decisions. They are taught to save for things they need and they are held accountable to ensure the money doesn’t burn a whole in their pocket, spending it on snack food and sodas.
Money management is central to Debbie because she runs a clothing bodega (thrift shop) and sewing ministry. The kids help run the shop comprised of donated clothing, hats, jewelry, and items that are handmade. The kids share in the profits from the items they sell in which half goes to the kids and the other half goes to buy more material, thread, or whatever is needed.
The role that the Buckners play is evident in the kids themselves. Alex is one such child. “Alex was one kid that was due to be leaving. He was angry all the time and aggressive and never listened, “says Debbie. “He bit Steve. He even fought physically with the pastor.”
Yet they began to see a change. “Since the woodshop opened, he’s a different kid. He started coming to work, and giving him a place to release his energy and creativity was key. Soon his creativity spilled over to a garden at his cabin. He built, by himself, a fence for the garden. He began to farm and grow vegetables. The catalyst was encouragement and really just having a safe place where he could find an outlet for his talents. He’s now a joy to be around, plus he’s good at it and he’s proud of his work. Just recently he’s been confirmed and now he serves the church on the altar guild. He does it with reverence and now knows how to serve on a team with other kids, being a crucifer, and helping the others. Seeing the likeness of Christ in kids like Alex is what energizes us every day.”