Somewhere around the mid 80’s, John Farnham released a song called “You’re the Voice.” I’m sure the meaning of the song is nothing like how my brain has been applying it over the past 5 months, but nonetheless, those words keep ringing through my mind. We’re all someone’s daughter…we’re all someone’s son.
Yesterday, Julie and I were driving back home and there were two very little girls digging through our trash, trying to find something of value, and probably trying to find food. I met another boy at the gate who said, “Pastor, I don’t want to ask you for things. I know everybody does that. But we have no food. My grandmother is sick and needs to eat. Do you have anything left?” A man came up to me after service last Sunday asking to speak to me sometime this week. I made an appointment with him to talk this past Thursday. He told me he was thrown in the latrine as a baby and someone passing by got him out and cleaned him up and nursed him back to health. That caregiver died when he was a young boy and he’s lived the rest of his life trying to survive on his own. He turned from Islam and accepted Christ that day. I spoke to his wife yesterday and she too gave her heart to Christ as well. I told them I loved them and I would see them next Sunday, and as we were walking away, he told me that was the first time he had ever heard those words directed to him.
The other day I was doing some painting at the church and a student from the school that I’m campus pastor for came by to see me. He helped paint a little and then I walked with him back down to the school. On the way he said, “Do you remember a few weeks ago when you talked to me after the chapel service?” I did remember. He was clearly upset and wanted me to pray with him, so of course, I did. He continued, “That day I was going to commit suicide. I had already planned when I was going to jump from the 4th floor balcony. I played it out in my mind over and over. I decided not to after we prayed. Pastor, I have nothing left. I have no one left. There’s no one who would even know if I had died that day.” I kept it together until after I dropped him off at school and then I just got into my car and wept. Of all the things in this world I understand, that just isn’t one of them. I’ll never understand it.
When I think back over my childhood, all I can remember is love. My parents divorced when I was 2 years old. When I got a little older there were some pretty rough times…going from a fairly comfortable to having absolutely nothing within 6 months. I can remember a few times during those years not telling my mom that my class in elementary school was taking a field trip because I knew we didn’t have the money and I knew it would hurt her to tell me that we just couldn’t swing it. So, while the school was on field trip, I would hang out at the school, help the teachers grade papers and stuff, and then come home without a word. I can remember saving up my birthday money and Christmas money that relatives had given me, and sneaking a $20 bill in mom’s purse every now and then. My older brother was in trouble a lot, and I would wake up at night to shouting matches between him and my mom. And yet, with all that…the thing that is most in the forefront of my memory is love. There has never been a day of my life, ever, that I didn’t feel loved by my mom and dad. I’m their son. I know what that means. And I’m a lot like them.
Over the past 5 months I’ve been struck by the reality that there are generations of people in Uganda who are just like their parents. They too are someone’s daughter…someone’s son. They’ve known neglect and so they neglect. They know abandonment and a lack of love, so they abandon, and fail to love. They’ve been cheated and exploited for gain, so they cheat and exploit. They become their parents…and on and on. Uganda is drowning for lack of heroic, godly, caring, strong, Biblical fathers. I would never do anything to diminish the value of a mother. But there’s something powerful about the hands, heart, and words of a father. And they’re almost entirely absent here. I can feel it everywhere I go, and with every boy and girl I talk to or spend any time with. They hang on every word. They’re content to just sit beside you…to hold your hand. They have a scared look until you smile at them and then they smile the biggest smile you’ve ever seen. A simple “I love you” spoken by an adult, and their life is utterly changed.
Ministry is ministry, and our whole world needs it. And maybe I’m biased because these are my people. But there is a level of need here that isn’t matched by any experience I’ve had in the 15 or so nations I’ve been to. There’s a desperation that human words just can’t really fully explain. That’s why we need you. We need you to pray for wisdom and discernment. We need you to pray for strength as we hold our hearts out every day and bring them back in every night bruised and torn. We need you to give, and give sacrificially. I need people to value life and the Gospel and choose to sacrifice something to see something miraculous happen. We need you to come. These kids, mothers, fathers, this society needs you. It needs your smiles, your hugs, your words, your example, and the greatest need of every human heart…the Gospel. We need you to keep telling the story, to remember us, and to help others see what they otherwise would not see. We need you.
Our unveiling banquets in Chattanooga(Sept 13) and Spartanburg(Sept 15) are going to be a huge celebration of all the open doors God has made available to us in these past 5 months. But it’s also going to be a very difficult night for me. Because as much as I want to celebrate, and see everyone, and update everyone on our progress, I still have faces in my mind of all the kids and birth mothers we’ve had to tell that we can’t help them yet. I have memories of kids waiting just outside the door…kids waiting on their name to be called.
So, in the words of John Farnham:
We have the chance to turn the pages over. We can write what we want to write We gotta make ends meet, before we get much older
This time, we know we all can stand together With the power to be powerful Believing we can make it better
You’re the voice, try and understand it Make a noise and make it clear We’re not gonna sit in silence We’re not gonna live with fear
51. Taco does NOT mean taco. (So don’t say taco…trust me on this one)
52. Cheddar cheese does not exist, so when you find out that it does exist at one store, and there’s one brand and one package of that brand, you may or may not be justified in running to grab said package even if it means you might have knocked a little girl over. (theoretically speaking, of course)
53. You literally have no idea what is really going on in people’s lives. The smiles on their faces hide a lifetime of pain.
54. We are anxiously awaiting full funding so we can build permanent housing so that we don’ t have to have 14 of us into 6 rental bedrooms.
55. There’s not much better than ending every night with a family devotion being led by Ugandans, just sayin.
56. Roosters are gifts. This particular gift lasted about 24 hours on our property before we had him for dinner because he woke me up at 4am.
57. Ugandans sing…loud…always.
58. Our new home just might be the most beautiful nation in the world.
59. When you use one boda boda(motorcycle taxi) driver too often, he becomes the envy of the neighborhood, and all the rest of the boda drivers give you mean looks when you drive by.
60. When there’s a man selling popcorn on your street, you stop and buy popcorn from him even if you have popcorn at home. He’s working. And that may be the only thing he sells that day.
61. Internet costs more than a car. literally. I could probably hire a Ugandan to swim the Atlantic to deliver a message to someone in the states for cheaper than I pay for a month of internet.
62. Death is a part of daily life. One of Xan’s friends lost his mom this week. The standard of living is such that when Ugandans give testimony, the first thing they generally say is that they thank God for keeping them alive.
63. I just thought I was cheap before. Now I save every pickle jar, spaghetti jar, margarine tub…everything.
64. I always felt relatively proud of how I smelled in the states because of my limited sweat glands. I now stink 24/7…I can even smell myself.
65. I should never be surprised when God moves and works and prepares the way. I should be used to it by now.
66. An apartment size stove/oven doesn’t work well to try to feed 12-20 people every meal.
67. Turkeys poop. a lot.
68. Mike, our night guard, knows a little bit about everything. And can fix anything. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
69. Deliver the water tank to the house as soon as possible this morning actually means deliver the water tank to the house sometime between this morning and next week.
70. Ugandans know how to worship…we have a lot to learn.
71. I can’t dance. I’m pretty sure I knew that before, but now I have a daily reminder.
72. People are hungry to be loved, valued, just talked to.
73. Luganda(the heart language of most Ugandans) is hard to learn….dang it.
74. Some of the most skilled craftsmen in the world live here, and they make their craft with almost no real tools.
75. I hate corruption.
76. It’s very difficult to understand a Ugandan on the phone when you can’t see their lips.
77. When its very difficult to understand an Ugandan on the phone, you might accidently order 100 packs of something you need instead of one.
78. On a rainy day, the porch becomes a slip-n-slide.
79. Grass becomes non-existent when the neighborhood plays soccer in your yard every day.
80. An ounce of hope can literally change a life.
81. If your signature isn’t 100% identical to the signature card you signed at the bank, they make you sign a piece of paper 128 times until you sign one that is identical…. not joking.
82. Legos on the floor in the middle of the night hurt just as bad in Uganda as they did in South Carolina.
83. It is in fact COLD here in the early mornings during rainy season. for realz.
84. I wish I knew someone who owned a container, and a ship.
85. There’s not much better in all the world than hearing your children worship in the middle of the day, alone in their room.
86. There is no 86, I’m just throwing this in here to see if anyone is still reading.
87. Never underestimate the value of clean water.
88. There are literally thousands of people giving to make this ministry happen. Without them we’d be sunk. And every time I see that report I tear up because I know there are people who are sacrificing greatly to give what they give.
89. Food coloring here is made with salt…which makes for a very interesting birthday cake if you don’t realize that before you color the cake and the frosting.
90. On any given road there are at least 20 merchants selling the exact same inventory of items.
91. It’s pretty important to remember whether you’re using a 110v appliance or a 220v appliance…or else you lose your eyebrows.
92. It’s pretty important to remember that oil is very hot when you’re cooking with it and do whatever it takes to not have it pour on your face and neck or else you end up with gnarly scars that hurt for days.
93. Nightly devotions always end best when a Ugandan prays to close. #Ugandansknowhowtopray
94. During rainy season, drive slowly as you pass people walking on the road, or you cover them in mud from head to toe (not that I would know from experience…)
95. Neighbors are the best.
96. Neighbors with cows that produce milk are even better.
97. The USD to UGX exchange rate is simply ridiculous. When you buy an egg for 200 shillings it’s just confusing.
98. Boda boda(motorcycle taxi) drivers really really really like to drive Mzungus(whiteys).
99. I love my new home country and its people. More than I could have imagined.
100. Prayer and fasting works. Please keep praying for us!
We’ve now been on the ground in Uganda for exactly one month. I’ve learned a lot…I’m learning a lot. Here’s the first 50 of my top 100 things I’m learning.
1-Everything takes longer in Uganda. Everything. What I used to be able to accomplish in an hour takes a day. It’s probably good for me to slow down some, but with someone like me, that’s a hard pill to swallow.
2-A closed gate does not mean neighbors won’t just come in anyway. Honestly I kinda like that.
3-There probably won’t be a day of my life from now on that I don’t have tears well up in my eyes.
4-When a Mzungu (Luganda term for white person) moves into the hood, everyone…EVERYONE knows it. haha
5-Boda Boda(motorcycle taxis) drivers do not realize that there are other cars, people, animals, potholes, speed bumps, etc. on the road.
6-I used to hear stories of kids living with HIV and I would feel bad for a bit and then go on with life. Now those kids are my life.
7-Teenagers are the same everywhere. Even if they don’t have a phone, they’ll hold up a calculator and pretend they’re taking a selfie. (saw it twice)
8-Getting a haircut from a Ugandan barber costs about 70 cents. Score.
9-Getting a haircut from a Ugandan barber who has never cut Mzungu hair before causes said barber to shake and sweat a lot.
10-Getting a haircut from a Ugandan barber causes the entire village to come watch.
11-Not having hot water for a shower is quite nice once you get used to it.
12-At least 95% of the people you see on a daily basis struggle to survive, and can’t imagine ever being able to change their circumstances.
13-Ugandans think its cold when it gets down to 70 degrees. coats, toboggans, scarves, blankets and the like are common.
14-When you hire a painter, its likely that much more than what you hired him to paint will end up with paint on it.
15-A bag of popcorn from a roadside merchant is 16 cents. And it makes his day every single time you buy some from him. Score.
16-When you find a business that doesn’t charge you double because you’re a Mzungu, you keep them…forever.
17-Ugandans, like everyone, can’t be lumped into categories with nice clean labels.
18-People here work hard and long. Things that take 10 minutes to do with a machine in America take 2 days to do with a strong back, a homemade pic-ax, and a wooden wheel barrow.
19-Just when you think to yourself “There’s no way he can carry that on his head” he’s throws it up there and carries it a mile or two.
20-When you take Ambien the first few nights in a new country as you adjust to the time difference, go to be IMMEDIATELY. If not, you end up doing very embarrassing things that your family and team talk about nearly every day thereafter.
21-Kids all over the world always want something. Most of the kids here really just want an adult to love and lead them.
22-Soccer doesn’t require a soccer ball…or goal…or level ground.
23-Skin color stinks. I wish I could take a pill that would make me black…or a pill that could make everyone blind to skin color.
24-Electricity works…sometimes…in some outlets…with some things…if you stand on one foot and recite the alphabet.
25-When the carpenter says he can make you a table and chairs for less than you can buy them in a store and he says he will be done in 2 weeks, he really means that after 3 months he might have secured the wood to make them…maybe.
26-There are scars on every Ugandan; internal and external.
27-When you are car shopping from an individual seller and you arrange to meet up to see the vehicle, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the vehicle or the person actually exists.
28-Evidently there are still cannibals in some parts of Uganda. Or maybe its a story they tell children to keep them from wandering away alone…but no one seems to want to tell me which is true.
29-You have to dust everything in your house…every…day.
30-Sometimes, when you’re in a meeting with a lawyer, negotiating a contract, he asks you what your favorite song is and then gets up and proceeds to play it on a keyboard and tells you to sing it for him.
31-Sometimes, when you’re planning your Saturday, you get a call to come to the Egyptian ambassador’s house party and end up in the newspaper.
32-It’s not a good idea to read through a book of letters from people you love back in the states. ever. for any reason. unless you just really need to flush something out of your eyes.
33-It costs about 50 cents to have a garment altered by a skilled tailor. Score.
34-I miss DJ Horton’s preaching. That’s all I’ll say about that.
35-Just when you think everyone in the states has moved on with life, you get a message…and cry yet again.
36-I’m pretty sure I’ll never be fully hydrated ever again.
37-Getting anywhere that requires getting in a vehicle takes at least an hour longer than you thought it would.
38-There’s no such thing as right-of-way.
39-While most teenagers in the US hate school and try their best to find ways to skip, Ugandans love school and work very hard (sometimes selling things on the streets up to after midnight) in order to pay for it.
40-The side of the main road works as a fine substitute for a restroom.
41-Mayonnaise costs a fortune (please bring me mayo!!!)
42-You say a prayer here before you get on a road for any reason, not just before long trips asking for “traveling mercy” whatever that is.
43-Desperation causes people to make choices they otherwise would not make.
44-I still believe God can reshape an entire nation, and I’m praying for it every day.
45-God’s people, when they see a compelling need, can show up in force to support and provide for it. I’ve never been more encouraged by the generosity of believers all over the states.
46-Literally everywhere you are, there are people who desperately need Jesus…and clean water.
47-Just because someone says they know Jesus, and has”Jesus Saves” painted on the back of their taxi, doesn’t mean they’re a Christian.
48-Trying to text while on the back of a boda boda isn’t wise most of the time.
49-People here are so hungry for truth, and the freedom on their faces as they are being released from years of heretical and dangerous teaching is quite overwhelming.
50-God is good, He is at work, and we’re not stopping.
Please keep praying. If you feel like you can give, head over to benjaminhouse.net and click donate. A dollar accomplishes so much here. God has given us a big dream and we know that He will provide in His time. Thanks for holding us up!
Bucky, Julie, and the Benjamin House Team.
As we are in our last week in the United States there is a lot going through my heart and mind. There are a thousand tiny details to still get ironed out. There’s the actual travel (24 hours of travel time with 3 small children, 2 of which have special needs, and 15 bags that contain all our earthly belongings) through crowded airports, TSA checkpoints, times of food, times of no food, and times of plane food. There will be dozens of things I want to jump on as soon as we land and plans that have been in my dreams for the past year that we can finally set into motion. And yet, all I can think about is what happened last night.
Last night I sat down with about 25 men. The Lord led me to which 25 were there, but there could have been 100 others (although my heart may not have been able to withstand that). I wrote each of them a letter, reminiscing on the past, reminding them of where they’ve been, and challenging them to never go back there. In the mix were guys whose dads left their post and in doing so left a shattered heart after the dust settled, guys whose dads passed away early in their lives, guys who have been in the deepest sin struggles you can imagine, and guys who have earthly fathers that are second to none…and everything in between. The one thing they all shared in common was that they each have a piece of my heart.
The Lord has been gracious to me to bring me young men over the years to invest my life in. I don’t know exactly how He does it, or why He chooses the ones He does, but I’m so grateful. I don’t have all the answers, and I have messed up more than I’ve gotten right as I’ve sought to lead these men to Christ. I’ve said wrong things, given wrong advice, been impatient and pushy, and sometimes even pushed so hard that some of the men God brought to me are now far from Him. But for whatever reason, He keeps bringing them to me.
I went around the circle last night and read those hand-written letters aloud to each of them. I wanted them to be encouraged that they’re not alone…that every man goes through times of battle and can rise on the other side of it with victory. I laughed and cried during almost every letter. This was supposed to be my chance to encourage them and challenge them for the future. But, just as I wrapped up and was about to pray, one of them spoke up and began to share how the Lord had changed his life during the time I’ve known and loved him. One by one they shared, and the real flood gate of tears started. But these weren’t empty tears from brokenness or shame or self pity. If there can be joy in tears, I think that’s what was happening. I’ve never been more happy and more sad than in that moment. Then some of us went out to Taco Bell for one last ride. I’ll remember it forever.
People keep asking me how I’m doing, and I don’t really know how to answer. As far as moving goes, and selling all our stuff and being in a new culture, living simply, embracing poverty, and all the unknowns I’m doing fine. I’m ready. I’ve never been so ready for anything in my whole life. But when I think about the people I will leave, the relationships that will never be the same after 5 days from now, and the legacy these men will go on to build, I am completely undone…broken…scattered. That is, until I think of the 25, the 250, the 25,000 young men in Uganda who need to have this same testimony. What if a nation of fathers begins to commit to their families that they will not leave their post? What if each believer in that nation decides they’re going to add one more to their family whether through mentoring, foster care, or adoption? What if I could help make sure that one more child has the mom and dad they need and that they will never go to bed afraid ever again?
You see, Benjamin House isn’t just a project for Julie and I, it’s our lives…made into an organization. It’s the priorities of our family (the Gospel), multiplied. And as we go, we look back over our shoulders at the thousands who are holding our hands, holding us up, holding us accountable, and holding the rope for us in prayer and giving, and we are overwhelmed. Please continue to pray. We will be at GSP at noon this coming Tuesday, tickets and duffel bags in hand, ready to step out of the boat and trust Jesus to keep us from sinking. Pray, tell our story, give in whatever capacity the Lord allows, and let’s change the world. I’m just crazy enough to think we can.
To make a tax-deductible gift to Benjamin House, simply visit us online atwww.BenjaminHouse.net or mail your check to Benjamin House Ministries, PO BOX 21, Moore SC 29369.