by Bucky Rogers
Founder and Executive Director of Benjamin House Ministries
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.
by Karen Nazor Hill
Staff Writer for the Times Free Press. This article was published online by the Times Free Press in Life Entertainment on 9 April 2016. Read the original article at https://www.timesfreepress.com/news/life/entertainment/story/2016/apr/09/building-community-love-uganda/359249/.
On March 9, after an emotional send-off from family and friends, Bucky and Julie Rogers boarded a plane with 15 suitcases containing everything they owned. The next day, they landed in an African country that would become their permanent home — Uganda.
It's a drastic change from the life they set out to have when the young preacher, who grew up in Cleveland, Tenn., and his wife married 15 years ago, back when they decided to not have children.
"We selfishly knew we didn't want anything to do with that," says Rogers, admitting that "the Lord must have laughed."
Today, with five children ages 6 to 19, Rogers, 35, serves as executive director of Benjamin House Ministries, a family restoration center for children in Uganda. He says God called him and his wife to work internationally on behalf of those who cannot fend for themselves. It was a journey, physically and mentally, to get there, he says, but Uganda is where they're meant to be.
The journey started when he was 17 and became a Christian. His family moved to Chattanooga after his stepfather was injured at work and spent a year in hospitals and rehab.
"It was a rough time for my family," he says. "We became that family that area churches would provide food and small items for us kids for Christmas. But I'm thankful for that difficult time. It brought me to the Chattanooga area, to my wife, my Savior, my calling as a pastor and a glimpse of my future."
After graduating from Whitwell High School, he attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga on a full academic scholarship, graduating with a degree in business administration and accounting. But during that time he felt the call to become a pastor. He soon began serving as an associate student pastor at Red Bank Baptist Church, where he married Julie, his high school sweetheart. It was in their pre-marital counseling that they agreed to not have children.
After they married, he earned a master's degree in Christian education from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
"It was in seminary that the Lord changed my heart about children," he says. "Through a seemingly random event, he convinced me that we needed to adopt internationally. We didn't have anything. We could barely pay for the place we were living and gas to get to school and back. How in the world would we come up with $30,000 for an international adoption?
"I let those questions hold me back for a few months, but the Lord soon overwhelmed me. We decided to trust him and move, even when it didn't make sense and even when all the external indicators would say no. God provided every cent, and we brought home our first son, Xan, from Guatemala."
Moving to Spartanburg, S.C., he pastored a church, Anderson Mill Road Baptist, for a decade.
"During that 10 years, the Lord added to our family three more children (all adopted)," he says. And though he was content with pastoring in the Spartanburg church, he says he began "to feel a stirring."
"Usually the winds of change start blowing when you're not satisfied with where you are. That was not the case for me. Things were great. We had a comfortable home, a church family that loved us, a great city, and many friends and students we were investing our lives in.
"We had a promising future, and then the Lord started a gentle prodding. We knew God had called us to full-time orphan advocacy. We didn't know if that just meant we were going to keep adopting until we died or what, but after a trip to Uganda, I started feeling like our role in the orphan care crisis would be much larger."
After a second trip, he was convinced, he says. His wife? Not so much.
"I have always been open to Bucky and I moving to another country. Ironically, my prayer has always been, 'Lord, I'll go anywhere except Africa,' " says Julie Rogers, 34. "When Bucky first called me from Uganda that first year, asking me to think and pray about it, my response was 'OK,' but inside I was thinking 'no way.'
"Over time, though, the Lord softened me to the idea and eventually gave me a love and a calling every bit as strong as Bucky's. Toward the end of our time in the U.S., I was even more excited than he was, I think."
Though the couple knew they were doing the right thing, their families weren't so sure.
"At first our parents were very emotional and afraid for us," Rogers says. "They asked all the questions you would expect: Why does it have to be to Africa? How will you get medical care? Aren't there plenty of hurting children in America? What about your safety? Why would you take such a risk on so big of a change?
"My answer doesn't really satisfy people, but it's true," Rogers says. "I would rather be on the edge of a cliff and be obedient to God than be in comfort and rejecting what I know he has called us to do. Yes, we will be uncomfortable, poor by U.S. standards, rejected in many ways, unsafe to a certain extent, and choosing a more difficult life. It is still better than us ignoring the clear call of God and leaving these children to suffer and many to die without ever having known what it's like to go to sleep at night without fear and hunger."
Children in Uganda are desperately in need of parents, the Rogers say. Because of the result of AIDS crisis in Africa and the 20-year war in northern Uganda and South Sudan, much of the adult population has been wiped out, Rogers says.
"Children were taken as soldiers and those that were left were either put in refugee camps or left to fend for themselves," he says. "The result is that now 75 percent of the nation is under the age of 18. It's literally a nation of children."
He says young families there have been faced with either keeping their children and raising yet another generation in poverty or giving up their parental rights and handing their kids over to a center, where they'll be nurtured, educated and offered the chance for a better life.
"Julie and I believe no parent should ever have to make that decision," Rogers says. "Our desire is to remove the barriers to families staying together and restore children to their families. Where that is not possible or safe, we will advocate for foster care and adoption. We want to wake up in 20 years and see half of the country's orphanages closed because those children are now with their families."
But to help the Ugandan children, they had to build a ministry from the ground up. Benjamin House was born. The name "Benjamin" was chosen to honor the son of Rogers' best friend, a baby who died in his mother's womb. The Benjamin House is a nonprofit so the Rogers had to fundraise enough money to cover their first three years of expenses, he says.
"We are trusting the Lord to provide beyond that."
Benjamin House is located on the northern end of Kampala, the capital city.
"We won't be in the main city area, but we will have some access to electricity and running water. We will grow much of our food, but there are also local markets to be able to get other things."
Meanwhile, support for Benjamin House is dependent upon partner churches and supporters.
"We have about 20 partner churches and are looking to expand that," Rogers says. "We will have fundraising banquets in Chattanooga and Spartanburg each September as well as ongoing fundraising as we let our needs be known to our current and potential supporters. We need an army of people giving, coming to Uganda on short-term mission trips to serve alongside us, and sponsoring children for $30 per month."
Meanwhile, while unpacking their 15 suitcases of mostly clothing, Julie uncovered something that had been hanging in their homes for many years — a metal plaque.
"It simply says 'FAMILY,' " she says. "That's what drives us and on the hard days it will remind us why we are here."
"We have no intentions of ever living anywhere else," her husband says. "This is home."
Contact Karen Nazor Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bucky Rogers, Benjamin House staff, and short-term missionaries