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.”
Bucky Rogers, Benjamin House staff, and short-term missionaries