by Bucky Rogers
Founder and Executive Director of Benjamin House Ministries
Three years ago today, my family boarded an airplane with 15 bags containing all the earthly possessions that we hadn’t sold, bound for a land we felt called to minister in. A crowd of 60 people accompanied us to the airport to send us off. Many tears were shed and a lot of hugs were given. Some “final” words were passed along, and the sentiment that had been echoed so many times in the past 12 months came again, “Thanks for obeying God’s call to go.”
We tend to super-spiritualize the call to go. We put missionaries who go in a separate category, and while there is a good deal of faith required to sell everything and go, I believe there is a group of people who are vastly overlooked when a missionary or missionary family choose to go…those who stay.
In the weeks and months leading up to our departure, I did everything I knew to do to make sure family and friends knew exactly how we felt about them, and why we had to do this. Many were happy, some incredibly sad, and nearly everybody experienced both emotions at some point during those months. There’s a whole army of people who aren’t called to go. They’re called to be missionaries disguised as public school teachers, stay at home moms, business executives, and doctors. They minister in much the same way that I minister on a daily basis, and their calling is no less valid.
Another group that stays are those who deeply love those who are going. Parents, grandparents, close friends and neighbors, disciples, and others. In many ways they have the unfair burden of grieving a loss that they cannot fully allow to show. They must keep a smile, even if through tears. Their mourning happens largely internally and out of the limelight. They’re not able to fully express how fearful they are, how abandoned they feel, because they have to be strong for the ones they sent.
A third group that stays are those whose pens, wallets, and computer strokes make the going possible. Literally thousands of people gave and continue to give financially to make sure the work of Benjamin House continues on a daily basis. We are 100% dependent on their faithful “staying” power. These came in the form of $2.38 from a little boy’s piggy bank, a bundle of $1 bills from a local shaved ice stand, a random $5,000 matching grant from a complete stranger, and a hundred gifts in between…all with a story. Those who stay to make the going possible, are every bit as much a part of the going as those whose names are on the boarding pass.
The final group that stays is probably the most important and is made up of members from the other three groups. These are the folks who I thank God most for. These are the ones whose shoes I am not fit to tie. They are the rocks of Benjamin House. They are those who stay the course in prayer. It is as if as we go down into this deep cave, they are on the other end holding the rope for us. And though our hands become worn and scared as we descend and sometimes get exhausted, we remember there are those above whose hands are equally worn and scarred and who are equally exhausted. There are people who pray for us…Every. Single. Day. They make our going possible, and their staying should be celebrated.
by Bucky Rogers
Founder and Executive Director of Benjamin House Ministries
Living in a third-world country for 3 years now and having gone on about 20 mission trips in my life, I’ve learned some valuable lessons….mostly from making mistakes. One of them is that unless mission trips are intentionally done right they do much more harm than good, and in more ways than one.
So, here are my four reasons you should never go on a mission trip again. NEVER go on a mission trip again if:
NEVER go on a mission trip again if:
1. You think you’re ready to change someone’s life. This may seem odd, but we see it soooooooo often. This mindset is called "a Savior complex" and I’ve seen so many teams soaked in it. Thankfully, we have been blessed with pretty strong teams as Benjamin House Ministries, but I also get to interact with a lot of mission teams from other areas and with other organizations and see them on the Kampala Expatriates page on Facebook. Honestly, it can be nauseating. Blog posts are written by a mission team member chronicling how they were able to single handedly bring a smile to an utterly hopeless child. Or listing how many people “they’ve” saved. Even posting posed pictures to make the situation look more dire than it really is. You’re not here to save anyone, change anyone. It's actually very demeaning to go into another culture with that kind of mindset. A family of 6 living in a mud hut may seem desperate to many in western culture, but it is very normal and comfortable for many here. Instead of coming in to change people, be willing to come to learn, to grow, introduce people to the ONE who does change people, and be prepared for it to change you.
2. You’re not willing to be uncomfortable. Everything about a mission trip is uncomfortable for a western mindset. Be willing to eat and drink whatever is offered to you. Know that your tummy is gonna be upset at some point and you’ll have stains from mud (or other substances) on your clothes more often than not. Be willing to pick up a child who smells awful without making a disgusted or disgruntled face. Walk through places and experience things that are a reality for millions without being judgmental or turning your nose. Instead of getting grossed out by the fact that Ugandans love Nsenene (fried grasshoppers), politely say, "No thank you," or try one rather than dismissing their preferred tastes. People will stare, people might mock, people may laugh, they could even reject you or Jesus, but you have to be ready for and ok with that. What is a little discomfort in comparison with eternity?
3. You want to post about your trip hour-by-hour to draw attention to yourself and get praise from people back home. Although I don’t know whether people knowingly do this, it does happen. And when people start praising you for the good work you’re doing, it can get easy to begin to believe them. Humility sometimes means you do good things because they need to be done, without anyone else this side of heaven ever knowing you did them. Does that mean you shouldn’t update people back home about progress? Of course not. But take care to always frame it in terms of what God is teaching you and allowing you to experience.
Humility sometimes means you do good things
because they need to be done,
without anyone else this side of heaven ever
knowing you did them.
4. You’re expecting everyone else to sacrifice in order to send you with no sacrifice of your own. Fundraisers are great. They allow people who may not be able to go on mission to participate with you. Missions offerings that cover part of a trip cost are great. They allow the body to be the body. Friends and family standing with you as you go is great. It allows a piece of them to go with you. But please be willing to also make a great sacrifice in order to go on mission. It needs to cost you something. Whether that’s your Friday morning Starbucks all year long, or your vacation, or having to drive that beater car another 6 months before you look for a replacement. Sacrifice something.
If you’re willing to have your life changed, to be uncomfortable at times and be okay with it, to allow all praise to go to the ONE who deserves it all, and to personally make a sacrifice, you’re ready to come on mission. And oh what a glorious mission it is. There is nothing better than being with the Lord and seeing Him work miraculous things in people’s lives, even your own. You’ll never be the same. And that’s a pretty great thing.
by Waverly McCall
Benjamin House Ministries U.S. Representative
I sat in Jacob and Brooke Martin’s living room enjoying coffee as they showed me pictures of their 19 year old son who lives 7,588 miles away. His name is Karim Nsanji and the Martins began sponsoring him through Benjamin House Ministries. You might point out that Karim isn’t really related to the Martins, but for Jacob, Brooke, and their two daughters, Bella and Layla, Karim couldn’t be any closer to theirs.
Karim has no parents and lives in Ntinda, Uganda with his grandmother. He has never even met his father. When I asked Jacob and Brooke why they pursued sponsorship, they took me back to 2015.
Jacob and Brooke were in a small group with former Mill member and pastor, Bucky Rogers, when he and his wife, Julie, founded Benjamin House and moved their family of 7 to Uganda. Jacob explained that when he was young and growing up in “a little white church, missions was foreign” to him. Missions became real when they saw two of their closest friends obey God’s call and move their family. The Martins knew they needed to do all they could to help God restore families through their friends’ ministry.
The Rogers moved to Uganda on March 8, 2016 and three months later, Brooke went on the very first Benjamin House mission trip. She explained, “I would have never thought in a million years that I would get on a plane and go to a third-world country. I fought it really hard. I was a stay at home mom, with two little girls. I was like, ‘I can’t do this!’ But God made it really clear that that’s what He wanted us to do and I was obedient and it has changed everything for us.”
When she got back home, Brooke and Jacob began talking about sponsoring a young child through Benjamin House. That September, Brooke saw a post on Facebook from Bucky stating, “I'm gonna have 5 older boys who need sponsorship. They're all between 1 and 4 years away from finishing secondary school, so these would be 1 to 4 year commitments. Message me if interested.”
Immediately, they knew they needed to sponsor one of those boys and on October 6, 2016, their relationship with Karim began. Over the next few months, they exchanged letters and pictures, learning about Karim’s life and praying for his salvation. On Christmas day 2016, they received a video of Karim being baptized at the House Church, publicly professing his faith in Christ! Jacob describes the moment they heard that Karim was saved as “really impactful.” Karim “knows there are going to be challenges that he’s going to face because he’s a Christian, but he still answered the call of the Lord to give his life and follow up with believer’s baptism. . . . his life is forever changed.”
That same week, the Martins were able to Facetime Karim for the first time. Now, the two use their Facebook to message with Karim on a weekly basis! Nothing can substitute being together in person, however, and this past summer Brooke finally got to meet Karim.
Brooke was on mission with the Mill, doing social work visits in Katanga slum. She knew she wouldn’t get to meet Karim until visiting Ntinda later that week. Her team visited houses and spoke with families about their current needs and strides toward independence. As the team was leaving one home, Brooke took a second look at a boy waiting outside and realized it was Karim! They hugged and Brooke cried as Karim explained that he paid for a boda boda (or motorcycle taxi) ride to meet her sooner.
“He spent the rest of the day doing [social work] visits” with Brooke’s team. When they took a break, Brooke went for a coffee and offered to order Karim a snack. He chose a milkshake – the first he had in his 17 years of life. Later that week he asked if he could call Jacob and Brooke his mom and dad and become a Martin. Honored, they said “absolutely.”
Karim has a passion and talent for photography, so Brooke recounts that she often left her phone with Karim to let him take photos. When she looked through them, she found a video he had recorded earlier that day. It was Karim expressing what it meant to him that he now has a mom and dad and can call Bella and Layla his sisters. “It melts my heart that without prompting or me telling them what to do” our daughters call Karim their brother. Brooke said, “I will treasure that for the rest of my life. . . . You don’t realize how fully [sponsorship] impacts their lives until you see it yourself.”
Echoing Brooke’s thoughts, Jacob said, “When you sponsor a child, you’re not just changing that child’s life – though you are, dramatically. It does something to you that changes your life and the way you live it. And the way that the things that were important to you are not important anymore. . . . It’s like when Bucky says, ‘I’m just crazy enough to think we can change a nation,’ but it’s not crazy! . . . Cut out one meal a month and sponsor a child and see the change it does in your life!”
Fighting back tears, Brooke said, “We’re to go and make disciples. We’re sponsoring Karim, providing him with the opportunity to get an education. My hope is that he will grow closer to the Lord. That we’re raising up a disciple. Our $30 a month is raising a disciple. My hope is that he will grow into a man who loves Jesus, that will be a father who loves [his kids]. That’s just my prayer! I just want him to be a disciple!” Jacob and Brooke say they have the same desire for their daughters, explaining that Karim is their “son, he’s just not here.”
After half-joking about wishing Karim could live with them, Jacob shared his ultimate wish for his son: “My prayer is that Karim would lead his family to Christ and lead others to Christ and just be different than this world. My hope and prayer is that he lives out the Gospel and people see the difference and want to have what he has. . . . Small changes make all the difference.”
by Bucky Rogers
Founder and Executive Director of Benjamin House Ministries
You have done it again. God has used you to encourage us, provide for the plans He has given us for 2019, and literally rescue kids. We are so grateful for your partnership. Love really does go beyond borders.
Click below to download Bucky Rogers' "Great Are Your Lord (Live)," recorded at our Benjamin House Ministries Unveiling at Chattanooga Valley Baptist Church in Flintstone, GA. Special thanks to Andy Highlander to accompanying me with his guitar.
Family Restoration Stories: Shafiq
Shafiq's mom and dad never married, so when Fatuma gave birth to Shafiq she had no way to take care of him. She decided to find Shafiq's father and ask him to take care of their son. For the next 8 years Shafiq lived with his father and step-mother. In 2016, Shafiq's father suddenly showed up at Fatuma's door and dropped off Shafiq. After living with his mother for only 3 days, Shafiq went missing and the police picked him up and brought him back to Fatuma. Although Shafiq claimed he had gotten lost, a few weeks later he went missing again and a non-governmental organization found him and brought him back home. They enrolled Shafiq in school and he immediately began performing well. Within the first 2 weeks Shafiq was enrolled, it was time for the school's exams and Shafiq excelled.
His demeanor did not match his academics, however, and Fatuma began to notice that Shafiq was acting strange. Fatuma was advised to take Shafiq back to his father so that his behavior would improve, but shortly after Shafiq moved, his father sent Shafiq back with a letter for Fatuma. In the letter, Shafiq's father proclaimed that Shafiq could not be his son, explaining that no one with Shafiq's strange habits could possibly be his son. (Fatuma shared a copy of the letter with our social workers. You can imagine the pain the family felt hearing that Shafiq's father wants nothing to do with him after raising him for the first 8 years of his life). Within weeks of returning to his mother, Shafiq was no where to be found. Fatuma searched for him, but had no idea where he could be. She filed a missing person's report with the police, but never received news of her son. Follow-up between police and our social workers revealed reports that Shafiq's step-mother, whom he lived with for 8 years, had mistreated and even bewitched Shafiq. She would not feed him and while he lived with her and his biological father he began to steal food and cigarettes. His history of disappearing for days began under their care.
Shafiq goes Home.
In June 2018 we found Shafiq living in Kisenyi, Kampala, where he slept on the sidewalks or dirt streets each night and searched through rubbage pits for food. He lived on the street for nearly 3 years. When Shafiq expressed interest in returning home, our social workers asked him if he'd like us to try to make returning home a reality. Shafiq wanted to go home and moved to our transitional home in June. While there, at the age of 12, Shafiq gave up smoking and took on a whole new demeanor. The boy who used to fight for his survival on the streets began opening the door for others to get into the car before he would. And he was shown the love of Jesus and asked to become a believer.
After 2 months of counseling, rehabilitation, and adjustment to family life in his transitional home Shafiq and Fatuma were reunited! She welcomed him home with a meal and the local chairman (a town official) and their neighbors gathered around to catch a glimpse of the prodigal son returned!
Since their reunification, Fatuma and Shafiq have already been able to move to a nicer home and Shafiq is attending school again. Our social workers will continue to check up on Shafiq and his family throughout the year as he adjusts to being a kid, again, in his forever family!
There are 7,000 others still waiting on the streets of Kampala.
by Brooke Martin
Child Sponsor and 2016 + 2018 BHM short-term missionary
I didn't know...
I didn't know when we were obedient to God's call to sponsor a child that our monthly donation would be more than just helping a child and their family. I didn't know when Jacob and I prayed for the Lord to show us which child He had in mind, what other plans He had in store. For almost two years, we've sponsored Karim. We've enjoyed letters, a Facetime call, Facebook Messenger conversations. We've prayed for him and loved him from the other side of the world. We longed for the day when we could finally meet.
I didn't know when the day actually came, what would happen to my heart. I didn't know that he would take a boda taxi all the way to Katanga slum and track me down so he could meet me earlier than I expected, that he would have a birthday gift for me, that he would be so much taller than me, and that it would make my heart feel the way it did when I finally got to give him a hug.
I also didn't know that he would ask me if it was okay to call me mom and Jacob, Papa, and if Bella and Layla could be his sisters, and if he could change his last name to Martin.
I didn't know when I bought him a milkshake that it was the first one he'd ever had, or that he would be sick when I got to Uganda, and I would be able to check his head for a fever and make sure he had medicine.
I didn't know when we were obedient to sponsor
that we would gain a son.
I didn't know when we were obedient to sponsor that we would gain a son, that it would hurt so bad to leave. He gets to go to his first prom, and I wanted to leave more than money for it. I want to be there to help him pick out a suit and take pictures of him with his date.
I didn't know when I hugged him for the last time at the airport, if he knows how much I really love him and how much it hurt to say goodbye. I didn't know if he realized how much I wanted him to get on the plane with me and come home to our family.
Thank you, Lord, for showing me what I didn't know before. Thank you for Karim and for his presence in our lives. Father, help him feel our love for him from across the ocean. Protect him and grow him closer to you, Lord. Thank you for your goodness and mercy. Amen.
by Alli Kennedy
BHM 2018 Short-Term Summer Missionary
there is a school
Where hundreds of children greet our group
with warm affection
at the last classroom I desperately try to hold back the flood of tears that have been rising to my eyes
And for a moment I don’t hear anything
I just see her
Dancing and smiling
Freezing in time
“Alli, can you spot your child?” Our translator Jackson asks
I nod excitedly and point at her
Her eyes light up and we both run towards each other kneeling into an embrace
She places her little hand in mine
never letting go
we ride to Katanga
her only response to my hundreds of questions along the journey a shy little “yes”
When we arrive
She leads me through beaten dirt paths
As if to say “let me show you my home”
as she pulls me along
She looks back at me with bright eyes
and a grin from ear to ear
with two little teeth missing from the bottom
she is the contrast of beauty
In this hell
In this slum
with a river of sewage
rising from rainfall
walls start closing in as Esther leads me
To her home
Her grandmother greets me and welcomes as many of us that can fit into her home
her house is the size of my bathroom
only a curtain separating the bed from the living area
She tells me
Esther’s mother cannot care for her
because of the mental challenges she faces
she has been taken advantage of several times of so no one knows Esther’s father
her grandmother is aging
Their only hope has been through sponsorship
For Esther’s school, clothes, water, and food
and in that moment
I feel peace
I also feel absolutely horribly helpless
I want to save her from the hell she lives in
I want to take her into my arms and run away to safety
I want her to know love
I want her to know the love of my Father
it takes everything in me to not break in that moment
We walk to lunch holding hands
My friends swinging her in between us
She sits with us and laughs and laughs
Her sweet giggles bringing joy to everyone around the room
Her dances inspiring claps and videos
She makes silly faces at us
Her goofy personality on full display
She asks for my water and tries to drink it
All at once
I stop her for breaks
This is probably the most water she’s ever had to drink at once.
My heart sinks
I try to hide my tears from her
Beneath a smile
but it’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.
We walk along back to her home
I know our time together is short
But to her little mind, this lasts forever.
This is it.
This is the end of her suffering.
and I can’t take that from her
I just can’t.
When we reach the bus, I get on my knees to meet her eyes and her smile fades
Like she knew the dream I was about to steal away from her
Jackson tells her she has to go home and we’re leaving for the day
I can see her little heart drop.
she lets go of my hand
I coax her back into my arms and she stands still
“Hey, I love you sweet girl” I whisper to her
A blank stare haunts me
From eyes that had shined so bright
I step away from her and wave
she turns her back to walk home
and as her little feet carry her away from me
the dust churns as we drive away.
She fades into the horizon of Katanga.
Esther is just one of many children that live in Katanga with a story like this. Sponsorship can be the only hope for some children to go to school and to have meals and clean water. A year ago, a post from my friend, Waverly McCall, convicted me of how much I was spending on food and extraneous items when I could be changing the life of a little girl in Uganda. I never thought in a million years I’d be able to meet her and cherish her for even a short time. She has rocked my whole world and shown me how to love in a way I never knew how. If you are interested in sponsoring a child and forever changing his or her future, please check out Benjamin House Ministries and the wonderful things they’re doing in Uganda.
Family Restoration Stories: Ibra
You may have heard that, in honor of their birthdays, we're having a friendly competition to see which of our founders - Bucky or Julie Rogers - can raise the most money for our Transitional Homes. Our goal is $10,000 or one full year of Family Restoration operations. That may seem like a big goal for just 3 months, but it's just that important. Here's why:
Ibra Believed He was the Problem
For as long as he can remember, Ibra's mother and father have been separated and while he was young his father cared for him. When his father took a new wife, she refused to cook for Ibra and his siblings. Naturally, they told their father and, to their surprise, he immediately kicked their step-mother out of their home. Soon after, their father regretted his actions, knowing they were made in anger, and pleaded with his new wife to return.
Ibra believed that he was the problem; he was the cause of his step-mother's banishment. When Ibra heard that his step-mother might return, he fled out of fear that she might blame him for his father's actions and mistreat him. Ibra was only 10 years old.
Life on the Street
For the next 4 years of his life, Ibra was homeless and lived on the streets of Kampala - the capital of Uganda. Each day, he dug through rubbish pits for food and re-sold plastic bottles in front of street shops to try to earn money. At night he would sleep on the sidewalk and hide from policemen, ordered to arrest homeless children and send them to Reprimand "Rimand" Houses. Throughout the years, a few non-profits occasionally fed him, but none did anything to get him off of the streets.
If our Transitional Homes didn't exist,
Bucky Rogers, Benjamin House staff, and short-term missionaries