Stan Buckley is founder and director of But God Ministries in Ridgeland. The Madison resident started the group in 2011, around the time he stepped down as pastor of First Baptist Church of Jackson. He graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi and received his Juris Doctorate from the Mississippi College School of Law. After practicing law four years, he returned to school and earned his master’s and doctorate from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife Jewell have three adult children, twin boys, and a daughter. He recently spoke to Sun Senior Staff Writer Anthony Warren about But God and its efforts to help individuals in Mississippi and Haiti.
So, what is But God Ministries?
“It’s a Christian nonprofit that exists to share the love of Christ through building sustainable communities. We do that in Haiti and the Mississippi Delta.”
What do you define as a sustainable community?
“We look at a community that’s healthy in all ways, and not depending on outside help. And (building those) is a process. We seek to do that in seven SPHERES. S is for spiritual, P is the physical, for us that’s medical and dental; the H is for H20 or clean water; E is for education; R is for roofs – that’s housing, of course; the second E is for economic development, and that’s jobs; the final S is soil or healthy food.
“So, I live in Madison and don’t want any of those taken out of my community. We work on all of those. Regarding the sustainability aspect, we want locals to be in charge of all those areas. We want Haitians to be in charge of all those (in Haiti). As far as the spiritual sphere, we have Haitian pastors. In education, we have Haitian teachers; for roofs, we have Haitian contractors. (This) takes time. We may be dealing with people who are uneducated or not trained. It may take time to get them trained in a (particular) area. That’s why we have to be there for the long haul.”
How long has But God been in Haiti?
“We started construction on our first community in 2011. We have three locations there. At the first two, we have a ‘Hope Center,’ a large walled compound, and inside each one is missionary housing, dorms for visiting teams. You have medical and dental clinics, all within the walls of the compounds. Out of that, we do all the SPHERES. We (built) the first compound when we started in 2011, the second one in 2014. It’s about an hour and a half away from the first one, high up in the mountains. I would also like to say that our third location is like a mini hospital for malnourished children. There, we have round-the-clock care and can hold up to 12 children at a time.”
How many volunteers are needed to make these centers a success?
“There are about 850 that go with us to Haiti every year (and) another 300 to 400 that go to the Delta, not counting the missionaries we have there full-time.”
What’s the population of these communities?
“The first we built from scratch. We built 44 homes, water wells – the whole nine yards – to get people out of tent cities, who were living in them as a result of the (2010) earthquake. The second (town) already existed. We moved into that community. Overall, we’ve built 140 homes, have treated probably 70,000 patients and sponsor over 900 children in local schools in Haiti for $37 a month. They get tuition paid, uniforms. They get to eat every day, which a lot of them would not (without our support).”
Have these towns become sustainable yet?
“Oh no; but we’re moving toward that through having Haitians leading in all areas where we serve. The sustainability part will come through economic development and job creation. In addition to the things I described earlier, we have a job training center in our first location. We have several businesses we have (helped) create, and the University of Alabama Culverhouse College of Business comes down once or twice a year with professors and students to help (residents) design and start their businesses. They give them $1,000 seed money to get them started.”
You give $1,000 to each person starting a business? And what type of businesses have been started?
“Yes; to each one who wants to start a business. We have a sewing business that makes hundreds and hundreds of uniforms each year for the surrounding schools. (One person) started an auto parts business. We helped a guy start that. Those are some examples.”
Does But God have a similar formula in the Delta?
“Absolutely, we work in SPHERES everywhere we go.”
Where is But God in the Delta?
“Jonestown, which is a small town in Coahoma County, next to Clarksdale. We traveled through the Delta looking for signs of health, such as is there a grocery store, a medical clinic, a bank? Are there active churches? We traveled and prayed, and one day, a friend suggested we go to Jonestown. I’ve been in Mississippi for 50 years and never heard of Jonestown. We went there and found out they had no medical clinic, no pharmacy, no grocery store, no bank, no jobs. We went and met with the mayor and town leadership and they all agreed (But God) would be a good fit. That was in 2015. In 2016, our first full-time missionary moved there.”
What kind of progress has been made?
“We built a 6,000-square-foot Hope Center there. That’s our headquarters and we can host up to 40 people at a time on a mission trip. In addition, we have a dental clinic – we have a formalized agreement with the University of Mississippi School of Dentistry and we are open every Friday. We also have a legal clinic, through a relationship with the Ole Miss School of Law. Then, we have a Montessori school for two to five-year-olds. This year, we should build four houses, open a medical clinic and build an economic development center.”
How many kids are at the Montessori school?
About 32, I believe.
How much money does it take for But God to run these programs?
“Last year, we had revenues of $2.6 million, almost all from private donors. We have three sources of revenue: team fees, from people who go on trips (with us); designated gifts, from people who want to build a house in Haiti, build a well or sponsor a child. The third source we have are general gifts, from people who believe in our work and want to support it.
“We have 150 full-time employees in Haiti. We have eight missionaries. At our offices in Ridgeland, we have five full-time employees and two part-time. In the Delta, we have two missionaries and eight employees, (all) Jonestown residents.”
Where do you see Jonestown in five years?
“As being a shining star in the Delta, complete with many new houses built, a medical clinic, a dental clinic and lots of jobs. And the goal is to, within a year and a half, duplicate this in another area in the Delta.”
If people want more information, what do they need to do?
“Go to our website, at www.butGodministries.com.”