Faith and works: A conversation with Dr. Albert Reyes

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Faith and works: A conversation with Dr. Albert Reyes

May 23, 2022 -

Summary: Dr. Albert Reyes and Dr. Mark Turman discuss how the gospel and meeting physical needs are two sides of the same coin of advancing God’s kingdom, how Buckner lives this out from “womb to tomb,” the importance of family, and how to get involved. 

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Show notes: Dr. Albert Reyes and Dr. Mark Turman discuss the unfortunate conflict between two supposed teams: Christians who help people with physical needs and Christians who help with spiritual needs (3:22). Actually, Jesus did both in an integrated way, they are two sides of the same coin (7:16). They talk about the importance of healing, peace, and justice, along with the importance of words (12:13). They discuss the history of Buckner International and the life of Robert Cooke Buckner, the baptist minister who lived out this idea in his life and founded the ministry as an orphanage (19:12). Dr. Reyes then talks about their senior living ministry, and why it’s so important in our culture (28:40). Their ministry spans from “womb to tomb,” helping children through fostering, adopting, and orphanages (34:49). Then, they talk about the importance of family and how their ministry supports all kinds of families (38:42). Millennial Christians have learned the importance of adoption, it’s a beautiful return to the roots of Christianity (49:56). They end by talking about how our audience can get involved, and their slow, deliberate process of taking families through the decision to foster and adopt (50:52).

Resources and further reading:

About the hosts 

Jim Denison, Ph.D., is an author, speaker, and the CEO of Denison Ministries, which is transforming 6.8 million lives through meaningful digital content. 

Dr. Mark Turman is the executive director of Denison Forum. He received his DMin from Truett at Baylor and previously served as lead pastor of Crosspoint Church. 

About the guest 

Dr. Albert L. Reyes is the sixth President and CEO of Buckner International. He previously served as president of Buckner Children and Family Services. Prior to his tenure at Buckner, Albert was president of Baptist University of the Américas in San Antonio. He also has served as pastor of three churches and as a manager for Sprint’s National Customer Service Call Center. Albert and his wife, Belinda, have three children. They are members of Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas.


Transcribed by 

Mark Turman  00:07

You’re listening to the Denison Forum Podcast. I’m Dr. Mark Turman, the executive director of Denison Forum. Thank you for joining us today we have a special opportunity. We have invited Dr. Albert Reyes, President and CEO of Buckner International to be our guests. Let me introduce him to you for just a moment. Dr. Reyes is the sixth president of Buckner International, a faith based global nonprofit ministry begun in 1879, serving vulnerable children, families and seniors. He was previously president of Buckner Children and Family Services. Prior to his tenure at Buckner Albert was the president of Baptist University of the Americas in San Antonio. He also served as pastor in three churches and a manager for Sprint National Service Center here in Dallas. He is the author of two books, the Jesus agenda, and his latest book, hope now. Albert serves on the board of the Christian alliance for orphans as vice president of the Baptist world Alliance representing North America and is a member of the Forbes nonprofit Council. He and his wife Belinda have three adult sons, and they are members of park City’s Baptist Church here in the Dallas area. He’s also working on a new book about families. We’ll get to that hopefully, in a moment. Dr. Reyes, welcome to the podcast.


Albert Reyes  01:30

Thank you. Good to be here, Mark.


Mark Turman  01:31

We’re glad to have you as a part and just give you a little bit about my background as it relates particularly to Butner I came became a Christian, when I was a teenager, 17 years old happened to just come into through the influences of my conversion to faith into a significant Southern Baptist Church in East Texas. And it wasn’t very long before I started hearing the name Buttner and Buckner International and Buttner services, and very quickly started to develop a significant respect and awareness for that ministry. And that’s only grown over the years. Your predecessor we mentioned a moment ago, Ken Hall was someone I got to know when we were pastoring together in East Texas, about, Gosh, 3035 years ago. And it’s I don’t even realize that I’m that old to be able to say those kinds of things. But gotten got to know him and then followed his path into the leadership of Buckner have known families in one way or another that have been served by the Ministry of Butner International. So it’s a real treat for me to get to sit down to learn a lot more about you and about this ministry and talk about where things are now. So thank you for being a part


Albert Reyes  02:53

right. Thanks. Thanks for having me. I look forward to conversation. Tell us a little bit


Mark Turman  02:57

about the book that you released called hope now, what is that book about?


Albert Reyes  03:02

Yeah, that book really, is an attempt to answer the question of what what do we need now in our world and and this was before we entered the global pandemic, before the Arctic freeze came across Texas, before the tornado ripped through Dallas. Before the war in Ukraine, all these things that have been happening have only exacerbated the situation. And I started out by talking about a song that Aretha Franklin made popular what the world needs now is love sweet love, right? We don’t need another mountain or you know, stream we had enough rivers to cross was the mark Bacharach song that we wrote, right? And I realized that after researching that song that it was actually done as a prayer to God. That’s how the song was intended. Right? And of course, it became popular. And so that was in the 1960s. I was I was a baby, back then I grew up in the 60s and 70s, you know, and so I started asking, the question is, Are we better off now that we have love? You know, and I don’t know if we’re better. I think I think things have gotten more challenging. And so I guess love is good to offer. But I think what we need now is hope. And we need it now. I hope now. It comes from the idea of encountering families that are struggling and I have concluded that I’ve never met a struggling family or child that was willing to reschedule hope, or postpone it. They typically were desperate and needed hope right then. So I wanted to write about that. It sort of stemmed from a question that I that I had in going into the writing of the book, Dr. Edward David Cook, the founder of the Oxford Centre for biomedical research, and the Oxford Centre for emissions studies, was my postdoctoral tutor at Oxford and so The first time I talked to him, he said, Well, you’re coming to Oxford, and I’m going to meet you there, and what do you want to study? And I named about six or seven topics. And he said, Oh, no, that’s way too broad. You have to narrow it down. Call me back in two weeks. He said, I said, Okay, let’s call him back two weeks later, and I got it down to three top because he goes, Oh, that’s way too broad, you’ve got to be more specific, call me back in two weeks when you’ve got a better idea. So I was getting worn out, you know, call him back the third time. And as as I started to answer the question, he interrupted me, and he said, The problem with you Americans is how he started. The problem with you Americans, because he’s Scottish, you know, problems you Americans is that you tend to try to take something good and make it better. But that’s not the Oxford way. at Oxford, we take a negative and we turn it into a positive, we take a problem and we solve it, at which point he paused. And then there was silence on the phone. And he said, So Albert, what’s your problem? And I said, Okay, I actually do have a problem. And here’s here’s so I tried to, you know, get on first base, right? So I said, my problem is growing. I told him Mark, I said, my problem is growing up, coming to faith in Christ, as a nine year old, then baptized, and then through Sunday school, Royal ambassadors, church training, everything that you know, that we would go through in our spiritual development. And then of course, sensing a call to ministry, going to seminary, having graduated twice from there, and then began pastoring. Looking back, I said to Dr. Cook, I think I feel like we’ve got two teams. There’s like a team that is really concerned about your spiritual condition, and maybe your spiritual destiny. And so we break those off into disciplines like evangelism, church planting, church growth, missiology missions and things like that. Right, then there’s another team that seems to really be more concerned it whether or not you’re thirsty, if you have some clothes or something to eat, if you have a place to live it more of the here and now type team. And those two teams didn’t didn’t always work together, just recognizing there were two different teams both wanting to follow Jesus both wanting to serve people, but the way they did it was very different. And I said, my problem, Dr. Cook is that when I look at Jesus, I don’t see two teams, I see two sides of the same coin, right. And what I like to do is, is sort of expose that issue and from a biblical perspective, show that there really shouldn’t be two teams that they really are, there’s the complementary, there’s two sides of the same coin. And then I would like to use Buckner as Exhibit A, and say, here’s what the Bible says, of what we should be doing. And then here’s an example. Right? And so that’s, that’s how I wrote the book. And I wanted to find a passage of scripture that could really start for the team that I grew up on, which was the missions evangelism team, right? So I want to I wanted to find if I could find a missionary commissioning, that was, without a doubt, for going and sharing the gospel and speaking, you know, the message of good news, but also had a hook in it that that you had to do physical needs to write, I found it in Luke chapter 10, one through nine, where Jesus sends out the 72, two by 236, teams, sends them out. And he says, Don’t take a purse, a bag of sand, extra pair of sandals, you know, just don’t greet anybody on the road, just go, you know, just go to all the places where I’m going to show you, right, and he says, when you get there, knock on the door, say peace to this house of amount of pieces there, you know, stay with that house, don’t move around house to house and eat whatever they give you. Then Then in verse eight is where the where the twist turns in the whole story. He says, When you get to a city or a village, and they welcome you, and they give you something to eat, then he says, heal the sick who are there and tell them that the kingdom of God is near? So, so then I looked at the whole story, I said, Well, he’s offering peace. He’s offering, you know, hope. And then justice isn’t in there. But that’s found in Matthew 633. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. And in in the study, I realized that righteousness from the Latin Vulgate is really justice. So another reading of that verse could be seek first, the kingdom of God, and the justice of God. And all these things will be added to you. And that was just like a light that turned down like I never really thought about trying to find God’s justice in every situation. Right. So so then I titled it peace, healing, and justice when the cause the healing part is or not hope, hope now peace, healing and justice when the kingdom comes near. So I started really focusing on those topics and I could take each one and talk more about it, but that’s really what that books is about. It’s a very refreshing good News type of thing,


Mark Turman  10:01

and seems so much needed now, especially now this far into this pandemic world and other things in it. I think you’re exactly right. There’s a there’s a plague of hopelessness. And we can talk about that maybe a little bit further down the line. But we’re seeing a lot of things relative to teenage anxiety, the pandemic, and some of these other problems has really risen. Some of our writers here at Denison forum and others have written extensively about the rapid rise of anxiety, depression, isolation, particularly accelerated by the pandemic and other things. But it also takes me back to, I remember all the way back in my college days, hearing about the kind of two teams the divide, you’re talking about, that there was the social gospel, and then there was maybe the spiritual gospel or the spoken gospel, and that, that there there almost seemed to be like, the devil had somehow manufactured a wedge between them when there should have never been a wedge. Right. And but you had people arguing for their side, almost to the elimination of the other side. And well, if you’re working on that side, then you don’t really believe in our side, right. And you could almost even back in my college days, we would have discussions in classes about how even hold denominations had kind of started to focus in that way to the exclusion of the other side, and and claim the noble high road for whatever side they had gotten on. Right. Right. And that seems to have even accelerated now in in the environment that we’re in the last 345 years, where one of the questions I wanted to talk to you about was, if you use terms like social justice, then that somehow seems to identify you with a camp. Right. Right. Right. And and excludes you from the other camp. Right? And that seems to be even more the case. Now, would you say that that’s true,


Albert Reyes  12:13

I think, you know, we can get, I guess the word words do matter. And the words you say, put you in the place, whether you want to be there or not, you know, I really tried in this book to to follow what the scripture said, You know, Jesus said, No, offer peace, right. So then you start thinking about, What would our lives be like, if peace was not a possibility? Like, if only conflict, like any kind of content, if you’re breathing and you’re human, you’re going to have conflict. So but but you have the conflict, and that’s what you live with. That’s all you got. There’s no chance for reconciliation, forgiveness, peace, and just well being. So I talk about that, you know, and then healing, what if you what if you could never be healed? You have a cut, you know, a scar? Well, the scar is actually part of the result of healing, but a broken bone, broken leg, and it’s like, okay, it’s broke. It’s broken. That’s it. It’s live with the brokenness and no chance for healing, no surgery, no, nothing. And then we talk about healing relationships and families and people, I mean, that what if you could never have healing? And then, of course, justice, I mean, you know, we’re seeing all kinds of injustice right happening in our world. And I think that as followers of Jesus, because we don’t focus much on that, we’re almost a little bit numb to it. As long as we were treated in just in a just way, then it’s not an issue. But if you if you are treated unjustly, or if as a follower of Jesus, you encounter an unjust situation, it should make us feel uncomfortable, right? Because it’s all wrapped around this idea that that Jesus said, Alright, for those people that are going to be healed, and by the way, that word healing is therapy Well, which sounds more like therapy, right? It’s not the instant healing that Jesus did. And there’s lots of examples of that where, you know, pick up your bed and walk or the woman touches the hem of His garment, or he tells the girl, the Jairus, his daughter, you know, wake up, you know, she’s asleep. So are Lazarus come up from the grave, you know, all that was instantaneous, you saw it, but he’s talking about here is the kind of healing that takes place over a period of time we ever had therapy, it’s usually not one trip to the doctor, it’s multiple sessions, you know, to work those muscles or whatever it needs to be fixed. And so that healing is there. But then justice is the other part. So he wraps it all up by saying, You got to give these people talking points, because they’re going to the guy who couldn’t see he can see now the one that was lame was walking, so you got to give them an explanation, you know, right. And he says, tell them that their talking point really is that the kingdom of God has now invaded their lives penetrated their lives, right. And so so then I started doing some stuff Ready to the point, your question about justice is, well, what is the kingdom of God? Is it something we look forward to some day? Or is it right now? Is it both here and now and yet to be right, and that’s, that’s where I landed, having studied on a little bit on that. And so as a follower of Jesus, you can’t have a kingdom without a king. And we know our King is Jesus. And so anywhere the king is you can have the kingdom. And if the king is resident in us and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, then really his kingdom goes anywhere we go. And whenever followers of Jesus are in a place, we always need to be thinking, how would the king want this done? How would the king want? How would King Jesus want people to be treated? How would the economics work? If the king actually was here? What would


Mark Turman  15:49

what would justice or peace would it look or healing, right? Like what would write any of these environments,


Albert Reyes  15:54

anything that requires peace, we get to work at anything that requires healing, we get to work, do the best, we can do everything. We can even pray for supernatural healing, and other forms of healing. And then anything that’s unjust, we would start getting to work to make it the way the king wants it. Because if we lived in a place where we don’t have kings in America, but but in other countries where you have the king, or the queen, you know, you you want to, you want to please the king, you want to dress like the king, you want to hang out with the king, right? Want to know, you know, that’s as long as the king you know. And so I think that taking that mindset, putting all labels aside, we would just take any situation that seems to be unjust and wrong, would would and should make Jesus followers uncomfortable, and would then call us to action, our king would call us to action to fix it, right? To bring his kingdom, because that’s what he taught us to pray, Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. There’s a present tense that it’s right now. So that’s I think that’s why that’s where the hope comes from. When you start people that are being treated unjustly and someone comes to undo it, they start to have hope. And that’s what we need now.


Mark Turman  17:08

And it’s interesting how, like you said, giving, giving these people who had had miraculous experiences with Jesus talking points from the standpoint of kind of what James says in the Bible about every good and perfect gift coming down from above, hey, this is this is God, this is his kingdom coming upon you. And then as they were able to tell what had happened that could become contagious in terms of hope, wealth, it sure if if that brought healing, if that brought peace, if that brought justice, then then maybe it’s available for more of us, right. Yeah. But it’s interesting. You know, it’s, it seems like right now, from my perspective, that you can talk about peace, not stir too many people up. You can you can talk about healing, because we’re in a very therapeutic kind of environment. That seems to be welcome. But the word justice seems like a lightning rod. Oh, yeah. Now? Yes. Even from our earliest days, we talk about it when we’re parenting, right, that even children very early on are like, Well, wait a minute, that’s not fair. They start, you know, I was talking to one of my co workers yesterday and she has four children and we were talking about some permission that she had given to one of her youngest of her four children is like are you are ready for the other three to start to charge squawking and calling about fairness. Right. And so it’s, it’s in us this sense of justice is in us from our very earliest days. But I know it’s I was refreshing my awareness about Buckner and loved reading a little bit of the history of our see Buckner, maybe you can correct me, I think, do you know or tell me if you know this trivial part of history in some ways that some of the founding documents about Bognor international were actually signed, just north of Dallas in the town I live in in McKinney. And right what I understand from part of the history,


Albert Reyes  19:12

yes. In fact, some of the first children that he took in as orphans were from McKinney, right, I don’t recall their names, but their first first three, a couple of boys and a girl, right in McKinney, Texas. And I think some of those early documents were signed. There. Of course, he had pastored in in Paris for a long time now and and then, of course, in the Dallas area, he moved from Paris to Dallas, and yes, so 1879 1877 was when he started gathering deacons to say what are we going to do with all these orphans? This would have been


Mark Turman  19:48

because he started he started seeing this need, right, this whole meet a physical need to have the opportunity to address a spiritual need.


Albert Reyes  19:55

Right. Exactly. So I you know, he came to Texas, the year that Sam Houston was running for governor 1859. He came from Albany, Kentucky. Madisonville, Tennessee, served at Albany first Baptist and then migrated to Texas 1859. Right in the E on the eve of the Civil War. Of course, Texas was in the south and defending in the Confederacy defending slavery, right. And so lots of dads went to fight in the war and civil war and didn’t come back. Right. So a lot of mom moms became widows. Children became orphans, and a lot of the widows didn’t survive. So then you have true orphans were both parents are gone and no one to care for the children. Right. And so that, that, that bothered Dr. Buckner, and he saw the family decimated in kids without any care. And so he pulled together deacons, in first Baptist Paris and said, What if it was you that was gone? What would you want the church to do? And with that rallying cry, they raised $200. And his Deacon group said, When you get to 2000, you can start you your children’s home orphans home. And so that took him two years 1877 1879. And in that January of that year, he, he put in $800, of his own because he’d only raise 1200. And he started the butter orphan zone here in Dallas, Texas, at that corner corner of Junius, and Haskell, which is across the street from the old Gaston Avenue Baptist Church, which now crystal college. And I just spoke to commencement address last week, and I said, we started across the street here. And Dr. Chris will had an annual sermon 35, I encountered 35 sermons where he mentioned the work of Buckner orphans home as part of the history that he was recounting. Right. But we have a really fantastic history that that, you know, that touches McKinney and Dallas and Paris, Texas and all points in Texas. It’s been now an international now internationalized six countries outside the US 12 cities in Texas, and then six countries, mainly in Latin America, and then across the ocean in Kenya. So yeah, it’s really spread out.


Mark Turman  22:13

Right? I love like said, learning some of the history through the website and everything that it was, as you said, about helping these orphans who were vulnerable in the aftermath of the Civil War. Again, just a Christian, a pastor looking and saying, look, there’s there’s something broken is not right. It’s there needs to be healing, there needs to be justice, there needs to be care, compassion. And, and I love this idea, as the history is told on the Butner International website about RCW, Buckner absolute commitment to Biblical faith to personal Biblical faith, but also to an act of faith that engaged the needs the the social, physical, real needs. And again, you kind of you kind of see the wedding, if you will, theologically of you know, the hero that we many of us claim of the apostle Paul, but also James saying, you know, if you just say to people, the warmth to be filled, and good luck with that, right. Where’s your faith? Where, where is the reality of your faith in that? Yeah, so


Albert Reyes  23:18

yeah, that that’s exactly right. And I think he, Marcy Buckner, you know, not not a perfect person. But but you know, he was not known often in the history is that he served as the president of Texas Baptist for 19 consecutive years, he started the Dallas Humane Society, which was designed for the fair and humane treatment of cats, dogs, horses, cows, donkeys, mules, you know, sheep, and children. And you think, Well, why would you need a Dallas Humane Society for children? Well, at that time, orphans that had no parents had to work if they were going to eat so they would put a child to work and the saw meals or whatever business was going on. And when that child died, they would bury it, and him or her and get another orphan, put them to work. Wow. And so he wrote, so he said, You need to at least treat them humanely, not, you know, like, you know, just in a decent way. Then following that he wrote the Texas child labor laws, the actual laws that prevent the labor of children, and he also testify in a congressional Commission in Washington DC, sort of shaping the federal child labor laws. He was on the founding board of the Baptist sanatorium which became Baylor Hospital, which is now Baylor Scott and White. He started the first African American orphanage for children in Gilmer, Texas, and in the 1880s, that was a person ahead of their time coming out of the Civil War, right big town, and then he started the first theological school for women. He started more schools and orphanages, and yet he was an evangelist. He was a church planter. He started churches he started Sundays. Schools he was an itinerant missionary. So he actively did both the speaking of the gospel and the doing of the gospel as if it were, what I say two sides of the same coin. He did totally, totally woven together. Yeah, holistic, a holistic gospel where we do care about people here and now, but we also care about the, the yet to come. So the life after this life, and of course, the spiritual, the gospel, and he actually built a chapel on the campus that that was that we still own since 1880, of the corner of Samuel and Buckner and he baptized children there when they come to faith in Christ. And so, yeah, he just did both and never stopped.


Mark Turman  25:44

Right. And I think, you know, it’s a beautiful picture of, of a holistic expression of faith, right? That we’re not just spiritual beings, we’re physical beings, we’re emotional beings. And it just kind of astounds me to hear that story. That the Humane Society would have been included not only for animals, but for orphans kid that, hey, you ought to be treating, you ought to be treating this orphan child at least as good as you treat your dog or your cat,


Albert Reyes  26:13

by the implication is that they weren’t being treated even as good as you would a horse. Right. So, so and he, so what he saw in the word, I think, is what he wanted to see in the world. And I think that’s where we should live today. If it’s in the Word, you know, and in terms of the way things should be the kingdom of God present, then then Shouldn’t it be in the world now? And, and so, justice? Yeah, does spark controversy? And, you know, a lot of people will say, Well, we’ve got to change the system. And, and there probably are systems in place that favor one group over the other. But I look at it more on an individual basis, you know, does this child you know, are they living in a situation where the kingdom of God is evident, right, in this family? Do they have opportunity to, to work and eat right and to provide? And can they be a healthy family? So I’m kind of looking at on at a micro level of children and families. And I’m not really worrying about the macro, I think there’s probably somebody needs to look at the macro and say, Is this System supporting healthy families? And if it’s not, let’s fix it? Let’s


Mark Turman  27:23

try it. Again, and something we’ve talked about right in different forms. We’ve talked about systemic racism and other forms of isms. But, you know, it kind of goes without saying, if you really think about it, but broken people are going to create broken systems that always need to be constantly evaluated and reformed, and, and certainly true on many levels. But that’s, that’s a really good segue into, I want to talk a little bit about some of the specific ministries. I have a friend in McKinney, who’s doing some work in this area around the unborn. And, and Holly and her husband, Aaron, like say, Hey, we’re here to help the vulnerable, those who are least last and voiceless, which is a big part, and it goes into the spirit of what Butner International is all about. But I want to kind of start at the end and move back to the beginning. Okay, because when I first started learning about the ministry of Buchner, it was it was in those days, at least, most commonly referred to as an orphanage, which is its roots. Its its origin, right. But I want to start at the other end, which is the work that Buckner has expanded into relative to senior Karen, can you explain a little bit about what y’all do in that space? Yeah,


Albert Reyes  28:40

you know, what’s interesting is it is Mark, it is connected. What we do today and Senior Living is connected to our history because what would happen is, there were children and then there were widows. And now, following Buckner followed the teachings of James, the half brother of Jesus, who said pure religion that that’s faultless that God accepts, is to visit orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself under fire from the world. So that’s James 127. Right? So that’s the verse that we model and in that verse, he had the two objects, orphans, which are children, and widows, senior adults. And so today, we do serve seniors on six different campuses in six different cities in Texas. But in the very beginning, he a doctor Butner brought in not only children there, many of the children that came but he also had widows come on the campus. And if you look at an aerial view of the campus from back in those days when it was built out, around, you know, 1880s or so, there’s a row of cottages, close to the dormitories where the kids live in those cottages housed widows. And so from the very beginning, he found a place for women who couldn’t sustain themselves to have a place to live, and then serve as matrons to take care of the kid While he kind of had this system working, but we do senior living today, Ventana by Buckner is our latest project right here at Northwest highway in 75. It’s a twin Twin Tower, 12 storey senior living community that has all of our campuses have independent living. So if you wanted, you have to be 62. So I’ve had 20 Somethings wonder if they could move in. I said, No, no, this is you have to be over 60


Mark Turman  30:24

Maybe they were like those children back in the early days, looking for some parents role figures to be around,


Albert Reyes  30:30

tell you and because because it doesn’t look like a senior living community. It’s, you know, just beautiful high rise with glass and everything you would want. So you you come in as an independent, independent living, you have a condo, you have meal service, cleaning service, you have activities, a chaplain for spiritual development, there’s, you know, the Cooper clinic has a relationship, we collaborate with them. And they we we actually had them consult us on what type of equipment to buy. And then we’ve hired their staff to be on site. So when you live there, you go down to the workout area, and you have Cooper getting keep training and training diners and running the physical trainers and so on. And then Baylor Scott and White, you know, we have a relationship with them to have medical staff and we our chaplain is out sourced from them. And then we have Steven Pyles, the chef of supervisors, our menus, and so they, you gotta be careful because if you eat really well, you gain weight. That’s where you gotta


Mark Turman  31:33

go at least a workout. Even more, right. But it does go to, you know, talk about some of the issues in senior care. Yeah, isolation is an issue within as people get older, especially with the kind of geographically mobile and diverse society where, you know, one of the most significant areas of growth in my church that I pastored in McKinney, in the last particularly the last 10 years that I passed her there was the growth in the older demographic as parents moved toward their children as they were getting older. And so we saw, you know, in the early days, I password there were there was none of this, but we saw the the rapid proliferation of Senior Living Centers, assisted living centers and into other things like memory care as those were needed. But a large, large influx of people moving to be near their children, right. But that’s not available for everyone, right. And so there are large issues of of isolation. One things that goes along with isolation is a lot of times seniors don’t eat the eating. I don’t, I’m not that hungry. I don’t feel like eating alone again, so I just don’t eat right, right.


Albert Reyes  32:49

And exercise. And I don’t exercise, right. So we have at every campus independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing, and memory care, we call it a continuum care retirement community. And so if you’re, if you go in healthy and strong, and then over time, you need a little bit of assistance, you’ve got assisted living, you might need help getting dressed or eating a meal. But if then you’re more confined to your bed, then that’s going to be skilled nursing. And, you know, most families don’t have what they need at home to take care of their parents like that. And then of course, if they’re dementia or Alzheimer’s, there’s memory care to keep them in a safe place. So you if you have greater needs, you don’t have to move to another campus, you’re you just moved to another floor or another department. And so every one of our six campuses has that continuum. And so we, we promote active living, inspiring happiness is our motto. And so, when people come to the sunset of their lives, we want it to be full of dignity and respect and, and activity and strength and good quality of life, you know, and they need to have greater needs, their their physical training, physical, PT, OT, speech, pathology, all the rehab that you need, everything is available for people to age in place, and to have a good experience.


Mark Turman  34:11

Right. And it sounds like a kind of a collective response, if you will, to some of the things that we’re seeing in our society. One of the things we talk about at the Denison forum is that we believe in the sanctity, the sacredness of life, from conception to natural death, right. What’s your perspective on some of the things that we see regarding euthanasia? Assisted suicide, kind of fits under this maybe this banner of death with dignity? A lot of what y’all are working on it Buckner is kind of a better answer to that. I would say


Albert Reyes  34:49

we think of our work from womb to womb to tomb, as you were saying a moment ago, so when we figured out on the children side after 143 years 14 decades, that the best even though we start out as an orphanage, that the best place for a child to grow and develop, is to be in a healthy family safe and healthy family. So we’re not really an institutional care anymore. The way we started out, we really try to drive in place children and families, that’s where they belong. And then for seniors, of course, you know, we want them. And for all children and seniors, you know, respect, dignity are among our values. We value life, we believe every human is created in the image of God. And there is a certain, you know, expectation of dignity as a human dignity of life and respect for the individual. And when we call and recruit people to work at one of our senior living communities, we talk about our faith. And our we’ve read on the mission here last few years, a little bit more specific to say our mission is to follow the example of Jesus in serving vulnerable children, families and seniors. So it sounded good. And I thought, but is it biblical? You know, so Did Jesus take care of children? Yeah. He said, bring the children to me, so we can bless them, right? Examples of that. What about families? So of course, there he was, with families who worked with families, you know, Martha, Mary, Lazarus, and so on. And then well, what about seniors and, and I saw, I remember that he from the Cross said to the disciples, when I was thinking, take care of her. So even he was even, you know, caring for senior adults, or his parents. So I think we got it covered on the biblical front of Jesus, actually, if we would just follow his example. So we tell our staff look, pretend as though these are your parents, you know, how would you treat them? And so there’s that there’s that sense of ownership and care and concern and the desire to imitate Jesus? In everything we do. Now, we’re not perfect, you know, on any given day, you know, we may not get it exactly right. But we’re always going to wake up wanting to do that and aiming towards the best possible service. And so until Until life is gone, right? Then even at that point, what administer to the family along the way. And you know, ours are tend to be more middle to upper income, people that can afford to live in those situations. We have one camp campus, it’s a little bit more affordable in San Angelo. But I would say that even if you’re a senior and you have resources, you can be vulnerable. Robin at that point. So it’s that who’s taking care of you of the senior and further best, and well being now I’ve


Mark Turman  37:34

seen that I’ve seen that in my own extended family and in other families that, you know, yes, no doubt, resources make a big difference and can be very, very helpful. But that that alone doesn’t guarantee that that person as they get older is being cared for well, it’s it’s more complicated than that. They’re more they’re more dynamics involved than that. But great stuff and kind of a segue into the other, another major focus of your ministry, which is families, right, which is, as, as I continue to learn both preventative and intervention in many ways. Talk a little bit about that you’re writing currently writing a book about families. So tell us where your thoughts and where the ministry Buckner is going relative to, as you said, believing in the biblical origin of family, right. But there’s a lot in our culture, about shifting definitions of family, but out of your research and work your writing for this new book, what are your thoughts relative to the conditions of families and where the opportunities are in front of us?


Albert Reyes  38:43

Well, we start out mark with the belief that the best place for a child to grow up is in a healthy family healthy, healthy, safe environment, a family. And it might be it might look different might be a single parent, it might be grandparents that have to raise the child, it might be traditional parents may or may be just as I said, one parent parents, or families that are put together that weren’t related to each other like adoptive families or foster families. We even know of a program now that we’re using with kids that age out of foster care. We have a program called next step. So we kind of create a family environment for them. When they finish foster care, they receive a certificate of completion and a plastic bag with their belongings and good luck, you know, so we’ve created this program, we call it next step where they can land for from 18 to 24 years of age, while they’re, you know, figuring out their college and career and getting settled and then once they’re financially independent, they’re on their way, right. There’s another organization we collaborate with called connections homes, where these, this group finds families and matches enough with matches them up with single adults over 18 who have aged out to two to put them together to say, this can be your family and that family commits to be the family for that single, that that person doesn’t live with the family. But they, they, they’re there for each other, maybe holidays or weddings or special moments. Because even if even if a young person ages out, they go through our program, they’re financially independent, they still don’t have a family, right? So this is a way to make that happen. But I think, you know, when God created humanity, and when he decided to organize it, he decided to use the family as a basic organizational unit. It was in the beginning, and it is now however, the family, whatever shape it takes, it’s still a family unit. So I started out the book, this book that we’re calling family hope, which is a vision for Healthy Families in 21st century starting out, you know, really pursuing the idea that what, what if, what if there were no families? What would life be like without a family? So I did a little chapter on that. Right? And even there have been experiments in history, trying to do without the family.


Mark Turman  41:05

There’s even some in our culture today that were saying, Yeah, you know, we need to get away from this whole concept. Right? Right.


Albert Reyes  41:11

So I kind of show those experiments and, and then I looked at a biblical case for the family, you know, what is the place of the family, in Holy Scripture and in the Bible, so kind of went through that. And then the chapters that follow were then to take each family and take different families in the Bible, which as I mentioned, are all dysfunctional, they’re all sin named have all sin nature, and they’re all in need of redemptive Redeemer and emptive work. When I


Mark Turman  41:39

when I first started pastoring, I was talking to a pastoral counselor, and he said, Well, you know, the definition of a dysfunctional family is when a mom and a dad can agree on how to discipline the child. Like we’re all in this,


Albert Reyes  41:51

there were there, there’s varying degrees of dysfunction, you know, but, but in so it’s fascinating to look at the families in the Bible that are imperfect, they’re like, they’re like ours. And, you know, and then to see God’s hand of grace and mercy and redemption to shape the family in the way that he planned for it to be, you know. And so, we look at all kinds of configurations and stories, and then I draw down principles to say, from this dysfunctional family, here’s what we can learn. Here’s what here’s the way God redeemed it. Here’s what we can do today to not repeat those things. We have our own problems, but let’s not borrow theirs.


Mark Turman  42:30

Let’s learn from theirs. Right and repeat the same bride. Right.


Albert Reyes  42:33

But you know, we’re, you know, Buckner believes that the traditional family, you know, their families are made up of a man and a woman committed to life or their lifetime, and that those children, those people, bear children, and that they’re to raise those children. And that’s just kind of the definition that we work with. And, but we realized that that’s not the only way families show up, you know, foster families are incredible heroes that open their home to a child that’s not related to them for a period of time. Sometimes those children are adopted, so foster to adopt, sometimes a family would just be an adoptive family. So they’ll put together children that don’t have a home. And so that’s kind of a different kind of family. Single parents, as I mentioned, kinship care, which would be grandparents or an uncle or an aunt, raising a child of the family shows up in different shapes and sizes, and and we’re partners here to support families to be healthy, and to create that environment where the child can grow up and develop.


Mark Turman  43:39

Right. So you mentioned the foster care system. So is is Buckner directly engaged with like every state has their own expression, but the Texas foster care system, are y’all directly involved in that and tell us a little bit about how that works? Sure,


Albert Reyes  43:56

the Texas Department of Family Protective Services is is in place to respond to children and families, children that are abandoned, neglected or abused. And when that happens, and it does happen pretty often in factoring COVID. We we think that the cases went down because children didn’t have someone else at school, or someone noticing something was wrong right. Now that things are opening up the cases are starting to increase being reported and so CPS Child Protective Services, one of the divisions of the of that department does the investigation. They’ll go in and respond to a complaint or a concern, and then if needed, remove the child. And at that point, Buckner is an outsourced agency where we agree to collaborate with the state and recruit families that are willing to be foster parents. So we do the orientation education certification, and we do trauma based informed care because when a child is removed, they’ve probably gone through some type of trauma about even the removal itself can be traumatic, right. And so we want families to understand what trauma is, what it looks like how to respond and how to care. And that’s really an above and beyond service. Because if you and I have our own biological families, you know, we have our own troubles and challenges, we’re trying to, we’re managing our own. And then and then on top of that to say, and we’re gonna make room for a person that doesn’t have a family to me is heroic, right. And it requires a calling, I think, and a sense of grace and mercy and patience. And your it can be a disruption to your family, but but your, that child needs a place to be safe, right, so, so we have families that agreed to be foster families. And typically, they’re in churches, and they see it as a calling. So the placement might be, you know, 180 days or more. And sometimes those are multiple placements. We also have a program called foster to adopt that in some cases, they start out fostering the child and then can shift to adoption. And so a lot of children are adopted that way. And then other families that will say, Well, you know, we just want to adopt a child. And so they’ll go with that process. So that falls under we do three things in the Children and Family Services, right, protect children, strengthen families, and transform generations. And so this falls into the protection part. In a typical year, we’ll place about 1100 children in foster care, we’re called upon to place children, and I match them up, and then about 150 or so adoptions into what we call forever families. Because when a child’s parental rights are terminated, they can’t go back to their family a lot. A lot of times the goal is reunification. So while the child is in foster care, the state is working with the family to rehab unifies, reunify. But if the judge says they’re not, they’re not able to be parents anymore of that child, then they’re eligible for adoption, call it Texas waiting. And and then so then we need to find families to have the children adopted. And so it’s a it’s a hard, it’s difficult work because we see the the rough side of life with children.


Mark Turman  47:12

Yeah. And then like I said, very traumatic. And so I had a chance in my own community to work with some, some children in these spaces. And one thing is I learned and this happened in my case, through our partnership in our school district, I found out that some of these children coming from in living in some of these environments, the school was actually the place where they felt the safest. And I remember when I was mentoring one of these children years ago, I learned that when I started asking him, how do you feel about your summer break? Or how do you feel about your, your vacation at Christmas time, he didn’t look forward to those things. Because school was the most stable environment, it was the most reliable when it came to food. We learned in our partnership with the school district that there were children that when they went home on the weekend, had no certainty of stable meals. And so we started sending food home with them on the weekend. Some of these children experienced gunfire on a regular basis, happening in the environment where near or where they lived. And again, that’s a lot of times why the school and sometimes churches would become the ones who could see these things happening because they represented the most stable environment for these children. But if I understand you right, Buckner is one of the the right partners with family services in the state of Texas, there’ll be other partners as well. But so much of it is so helpful, but there’s still a significant number of people in our state anyway, I would suspect it’s true across the country, have children who don’t ever get adopted, right? They end up being in the foster care system. And like you said, they end up aging out. I have a friend in my town north of Dallas, who started a whole ministry, kind of like what you were talking about, of trying to receive when these children step out of fall out of a foster care system at 18. They’re not nearly ready or equipped to manage their own lives. And so he started the ministry similar to what you were talking about, to try to give them a place to live to land and to live in a safe environment to a home to live in. A usually a community home that’s overseen by a trained adult, that type of thing. How do people how do people come to clarity about whether or not they should be a foster parent or even a foster to adopt family? Yeah, how to families typically work their way through that.


Albert Reyes  49:56

Yeah, I think that families hear about it in their church. Church and this generation, you know, the millennials and the younger generation really have this belief that that Christians are supposed to adopt, right? Like, like they put it on the level of like, okay, Christians go to church, they read their Bible, they give money and they adopt. Like, aren’t we supposed to do that,


Mark Turman  50:21

which really goes back to you’ve probably heard Dr. Denison talk about this, that is one of the ways that the very first Christians demonstrated their faith, they had no power to do anything about it were very little abortion, but the abandonment of babies, right. But in their world, 2000 years ago, a lot of times, if it wasn’t a boy, they would abandon the baby girls, and the Christians were the ones who went down and scooped those children up and adopted them and raised them as their own. Right, so we’re kind of going back to our roots.


Albert Reyes  50:52

That’s right. That’s right. And so you know, I’ve traveled around the world, been in over 20 countries, and I’ll tell you, that when I see the fingerprints, the footprints, or since the fragrance of Jesus, in that community, it tends to be a better place. But the opposite is true, when I kind of can’t find a trace that he’s been there, right through the testimony of his followers, then it’s pretty ugly, it gets pretty bad. So when a family begins to to think, wonder if we should foster the way we approach is, we invite people to an information session, or we might host an information session in a local church, if there are enough families that are interested, this is kind of like no commitment, no requirement, just learn about it’s an information session from that session, then they can then come to if they want to pursue it then come to an orientation of okay, this is this is what it would take if you wanted to go through it. And then at that point, if they decide to go to the next step, then you go through classes to get certified that will take six weeks or certain amount of time, right. And so it’s a graduate, we don’t sort of like we’re not waiting for them to walk in the door, and then we you know, handcuff them to the desk. You’re right, we sort of let people explore, it’s not for everybody. And we tell the truth of the way life really will be. And I really think there is sort of a sense of a foster calling, like, they just feel like they’re, we’re all called in that sense, to serve in that way, takes a special kind of mindset and calling and sense of responding. And so we were very careful to walk them through the process to say, no, here’s what it’s going to take, you know, here’s what


Mark Turman  52:43

it means. There’s so there’s a significant journey of learning, and, obviously, prayer and investigation in understanding this, which also, kind of brings up another question that we wanted to ask, which is, if if someone becomes aware, or they are aware, or they become more aware, but they get to the point of saying, Okay, I’m not, I don’t feel like God is has pulled me in that direction of calling to foster or foster to adopt. But I do want to be involved. I do it. How can I be a part of the larger surrounding support network? We see that even here in our ministry, we have one of our team that is a foster parent and, and so we try to do things to support them as they foster these children. Right? What are some pathways through Buckner or otherwise, that hey, I don’t I don’t think God would have me to foster or welcome a child into my home in that in that sense, right. But I want to be engaged. What are the pathways to doing sure


Albert Reyes  53:43

there’s lots of ways mark, there’s there’s families can sign up for respite care. So this is the idea that, that, you know, they’ll say, Well, I don’t feel like I can bring a child in my home but I’ll go into someone’s home for a weekend, a Friday and Saturday, maybe a Sunday and substitute for that family so they can, you know, have a weekend off and you’re getting everybody needs a break a break. So there’s respite care. They can also come around the family and provide meals and supplies, resources. They can volunteer for different activities, even helping a family you know, have an outing. We have volunteers that can go to Camp Buckner, which is in the hill country. We have a foster family week where foster families with their children come to the camp and have camp so many foster kids have never been to a camp right so what we need volunteers to come in to help to run the camp unit during that week. We have adoption week. Last card adoption week a family pathways for single parents we have a week of that. And then family hope centers are families that haven’t been pulled apart that we we work with in a preventive way to keep keep the children in the home. So that’s family hope centers. And so there’s all different ways to volunteer. Churches can collect shoes, because children need need brand new shoes, their groups can come to the center for humanitarian aid in East Dallas on Samuel and sort shoes, their trips, we’re where we go and put shoes on children. So it’s broader than foster care. There’s lots of different ways that folks can plug into volunteer and help because we, we really can’t do our work without volunteers. And we have our staff, but we’re nonprofit, right? So we have limited staff who can carry out the programs that we need volunteers to to augment things like vacation Bible school, or tutoring or mentoring some of the things you talked about earlier, just to have another adult, female or male in that child’s life, because they’re missing some of that supervision they normally have. So yeah, there’s a number of ways that families can pitch in and help make a difference.


Mark Turman  55:59

Yeah, well, we’re just about finished with our time, anything else that you really want to share with our listeners today that they would understand this, this opportunity in front of them to care for the least the last the voiceless of vulnerable in our society?


Albert Reyes  56:14

Well, you know, about 99% of all social welfare agencies, like Buckner are in the work because something went wrong. And so we’re responding to try to repair and respond to what’s happened. We also do a preventive program to keep families out of it, right. So it’s family hope centers. And the family help center is designed to engage families, equip them, and elevate them to the point that they don’t need help anymore. We have 24 of those in Texas, in six countries across the US. And so families can come and volunteer at that point. And what’s really unique about them family home centers is we use family coaching, and their six protective factors that every family needs to survive. So we work with families and help them set goals to get to where they don’t need any help. And then when they when their whole unhealthy, they come around to help families that are in the same situation they were in. So we’ve seen multiple examples of families get healing and get stronger, and maybe start businesses learn computer skills or language. I find that wherever a family, parents can’t provide for their kids, no matter where and I’ve been said in other countries, that when that happens, the parents feel bad, right. And sometimes they’ll self medicate, because they’re depressed, right. And then sometimes it’ll turn into abuse. And so everything spirals down just because they don’t have a job. And it doesn’t mean as you know, market just because I have a good job doesn’t mean to have a good family. But it helps, right. So if you don’t have a job, I’ve seen things deteriorate. So family hope Centers are designed to help families that are struggling, stay together, keep them out of system, it takes $2,000 a year to coach a family to get them to be sustainable. Right? It takes $54,000 a year per child in foster care to separate them from a family. Wow. So the ratio is one to 27. So we’re going to still do the protection as long as kids need help. But we’re also trying to invest in keeping families and children out of this system. And we can do it for a lot less resource


Mark Turman  58:25

  1. It’s always been interesting to me that especially when I sit down as a pastor to talk to couples who are about to get married, that we just kind of intuitively think we know how to be married? Well. When we would say hey, my marriage is really, at the high end of most of the things most important to me, my family is but when do we ever sit down and intentionally get coaching? When do we ever go read a book about how to be a good spouse or how to parent? Well, as part of the reason we do a ministry here at Denison forum called Christian parenting, Christian is all in that same space, right? We are all broken people we are all sinners who need to be redeemed can be redeemed and can change can learn. But we need to go and access those resources. So that we can learn new things. Right. And to me, I love the idea of of prevention. You know, somebody said to me a long time ago, people change when they either no enough or hurt enough. And it’s always better to change because you know enough. Yeah, not because you’ve gotten to a place where you’re hurting. And yeah. And that’s so so needed. Dr. Reyes, thank you for being a part of this conversation. We hope that it is helpful to our audience and that it brings people into connection with both Bognor International and with this whole idea of helping those who are vulnerable especially children and seniors and helping everyone to have a safe and and A healthy family to be a part of thank you for being here. Thank you. It’s been great

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