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Community volunteers, often clients themselves, help shoe distributions (right) or meal cooking and service each week during the Buckner Family Hope Center’s feeding program (below). For many of these children, this is the most filling meal they will receive all week.

leads the spiritual development portion of the Hope Center’s work and cites it as a key factor in the families’ other successes. “Serving comes from my heart,” Hernández says of the work. “I

believe God put the desire in me. I enjoy serving people, especially people in need, and looking at the satisfaction in their faces, even if they don’t know how to say ‘thank you, I needed that.’ Just seeing it in their faces makes me really happy, and I like to do it all the time to feel useful to God.” When Wendi Triste Mendoza lost her husband to cancer a year ago and found her family of four destitute and without a home, she needed tangible care. Before his death, the Hope Center already provided not only social services and a place to stay, but spiritual support from Hernández as well. “He passed away and it was a very hard time for the family,” Rodri- guez recalls. “Maria and her family were always taking care of them, especially for Wendi, that was important.” Hernández’s strategy was simple: sharing Christ through her presence and her example while also sharing ways to support her family. When Triste was feeling lonely, Hernández would come by her side, and slowly she was able to move on. Hernández taught her how to make donuts and earrings so she could sell them as a way to support herself financially. “Wendi didn’t have any family and, in a way, we became her

siblings, her family,” Hernández says. “We stood by them in the most difficult moments, and we helped them change, like in their ability to forgive. They didn’t know how to forgive, especially her. She held too many grudges. Now she knows Christ, and there are people who show her how to love, how to forgive.” “You need a place where you feel accepted, where you can share your problems and express what you’re feeling without the fear of it becoming rumor or gossip,” Triste adds. “We were having a hard time. We needed to find a place to help us for support. All the time he was sick and needed support, Buckner gave it to us: medications, spiritual help, humanitarian help. We have received a lot of support from Buckner.” The most valuable help received though was “the warmth of family.” “Unfortunately growing up, I didn’t have a house, a family or home. I grew up in three different houses,” Triste says. “When you come to Buck- ner, you feel like part of a family. Buckner hugs us like a family member.” Having the Buckner family a part of her life has influenced Triste, and the change is apparent, even at just a glance. “She is different now, she has many friends. She has learned to forgive her family, her parents, and all the people who have hurt her,” Hernández says. “She has even changed her face and now she smiles, and one thing she didn’t know how to say was “thank you,” and now she is a very grateful woman.” n

FALL 2015 ISSUE • Buckner Today 59

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