International (MNN) — God can turn any effort into a beautiful realization, no matter how small or disorganized it may feel at first.
Buckner International is several years into their Project Go! program, and what started as a small project in the early 2000s has grown into an experience that blesses students in the United States and countless people around the world every summer.
Allyson Vandiver of Buckner says, “Right now we have students in Russia, Peru, Ethiopia, Guatemala, and Mexico, and then later in the summer some will go to the Dominican Republic.”
There are 43 college students participating in Project Go! this summer. These trips are between one month and two months in length.
Depending on their location, the students participate in a variety of projects. Vandiver says, “Some of them are doing VBS at orphanages. Some are teaching English and computer classes. Some are doing social work visits and just getting involved in some of the community projects that Buckner is doing around the world.”
They work out of Family Hope Centers located in the countries with the goal to serve vulnerable families and children.
The centers are run by nationals. Vandiver says of the workers, “Everything that they do is with the understanding that we are Christians. In some places they distribute Bibles and things like that, but everything really has an underlying value of Christianity. By our actions, [we’re] showing who Jesus is.
“Everything isn’t necessarily evangelical. I mean of course there are some things like VBS and stuff like that–they are specifically sharing the Gospel. But overall we’re just trying to make an impact in their lives and [we’re] showing them Jesus in that way.”
The students are guided by people who are working in the communities day in and day out, the ones who get to see a better idea of what kind of impact Buckner has.
“I have no doubt that there is a very significant spiritual value and some spiritual conversations going on in families,” Vandiver says. “I think that God moves through the work that Buckner does constantly, and not just with our volunteers. Our volunteers come, I think, to supplement that and to see what God is already doing in those countries.”
Many of the students participating this year were referred by their friends or have gone on short-term trips with Buckner before.
Vandiver is looking forward to seeing them have their own experiences with Buckner. “I am excited to see how they’re burdened for what God is doing in those countries that they’re in right now,” she says.
Mission trips are a common summer activity for college students. Vandiver explains why: “I think a lot of students realize that college is a great time for them to be able to take a break from school and from their normal routine for the summer and be able to go do something like this. They know it’s going to be life changing.”
One of the reasons you might want to consider Buckner is that they have a lot of information about their trips that will help you know exactly what a mission trip with them will entail.
While it’s too late to sign up for Project Go! this year, you might consider looking into it for next summer.
Vandiver says, “Really it comes down to what is the Lord is leading them to do. Some students decide not to go with us because God is putting them in a different direction. But other students know that this is where the Lord wants them; they’ve explored other avenues, and this is where they felt most at home.”
Either way, Vandiver believes that the students should follow where they’re called. Would you pray for the students?
“Pray for unity on their team,” she says, “that they will just come together and serve together as a unified team. Pray that the things that are going on in other countries are not a threat to their safety, that they can not have fear as they volunteer in these different countries and different environments.” Also pray “that they have their hearts open to learning what God has for them this summer and that they will come home really changed and wanting to make a difference in their own environment.”
If you would like to support Buckner in other ways, consider helping with their shoe donation program, or contact Buckner (info below) about financially supporting students for next year.
700 North Pearl St, Suite 1200
Dallas, Texas 75201
Do you have a mission trip experience from college that changed your life? Feel free to share in the comment section below.