We were walking our neighborhood, supplied with the food and charcoal that donors have sacrificed to provide when we happened along her. She was sitting on the ground crying and alone, outside of a home with many children playing in front of her. We approached her and as she saw us coming, she wiped away her tears and attempted to compose herself. She shared with us that all 6 children were hers, but that she was raising them alone. Before businesses closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, she worked as a laborer in a nearby factory. With each day's pay, she bought enough food for 1 meal for her entire family and paid rent. Without this work, they have been evicted. For days, they have been chased away from one rental home to the next. As she shared that they were told they could stay outside of her former home for shelter, she cried out that their lives will never be the same again.
No longer able to hide her pain, she confided that she would rather take poison and meet her Maker than watch her children starve in her presence. No words can accurately describe the pain in her eyes as she looked off at her 6 beautiful children.
Immediately, we gave her food for the week. Where hope was almost gone, you could see a flicker of light. We stayed and talked about Christ and how He is still the God of miracles (because that's exactly what she said this food was -- a miracle). Before we left to seek out more families to feed, we prayed together. You could sense a revived spirit and hopefulness within her. She knows her children will have food and that she's not alone.
"The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.
Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest
to send out laborers into his harvest."
Please pray with us that we'll continue to be able to go out into the harvest.
Pray for this woman's family to flourish.
Pray that people will hear her story and be compelled to help their neighbors from across the sea.
Pray for our staff as we deliver the food being donated.
Viruses are contagious, but kindness is contagious, too!
Whether our prayer magnet is on your fridge, you sponsor a child (or 4), or you've served with us on a mission trip, explaining family restoration to the littlest members of your family can be a challenge. The vast majority of our children haven't had to go without meals, shelter, or their parents. But they have seen Disney movies. Many of the themes incorporated into children's films can help our children grasp the complicated concepts of family restoration.
We hope you can use these films to help make connections for your kids to the ministry your family holds dear to your hearts!
If your child is older, they may have asked you, "Why are so many children living on the streets of Kampala, Uganda?" And rightfully so — 20,000 street kids is a big number! You may have talked to them about poverty or the Ugandan culture surrounding step-parents, but another big factor is shame or the fear of punishment. We have helped reunify many families whose children ran away out of fear of consequences for something bad they had done. The list often includes skipping school, theft, and multiple run-ins with the local police. We also find that there is normally another young friend encouraging them to run away, saying the streets would be better than whatever punishment their parents might give.
But every time we've found their parents, all they wanted was for their child to come home.
In Disney's The Lion King we see Scar convince Simba that Mufasa's death is Simba's fault. Scar tells Simba to "run away and never return," which is exactly what Simba does. He believes he is guilty beyond forgiveness and runs away until he is dehydrated in the desert. Luckily, that's where Timon and Pumba find him, but the kids we move to our Transitional Home have often not been so lucky.
When a child is living in our Transitional Homes, the guilt and shame that they feared is one of the many areas of rehabilitation that we focus on. Through day-to-day life with their House Parents, they grow to understand that parents can give consequences as well as forgiveness. "If my House Parent can love me even though I've been a thief, maybe my dad can too." This is what Kevin came to believe. In fact, on Kevin's Reunion Day, he walked right up to his dad and said, "Forgive me." Without hesitation, his dad took Kevin into his arms and hugged him.
The first time I realized Tangled was a family restoration story, I bawled my eyes out. Before we get too deep into this topic, I have to warn you that the connection to family restoration is the ending. SPOILER ALERT!
Sometimes, however, the answer is no, but not because of negligence. In fact, the first family restoration Benjamin House had the privilege of seeing through was a story of a mother who believed her former-husband had taken their son, Innocent, to the city to get an education. Unfortunately, though, this was not true. Her son had been handed off to her former-husband's brother who paid for school fees for 1 term and then physically neglected Innocent. When we finally took Innocent into our Transitional Home to reunite his with his family, he had been living on the streets for 6 years. His mother was devastated when she discovered the truth and overjoyed when she was able to hold her son again!
The way Innocent's mother held him on Reunion Day flooded my memory as I watched the closing scenes of Disney's Tangled. Rapunzel's parents had searched for her nearly all of her life and all they could do when they were finally reunited was hold each other!
Finally, let's talk about the culture around step-parents in Uganda. Can it really be that bad? Growing up in the States, the closest I got to hearing about evil step-parents was the movies. Unfortunately, in Uganda, that's really not the case. Time and time again we hear stories of neglect and abuse beginning when one parent gets remarried. One such story is Hakim's.
When Hakim was young, his parents separated. After his mother got remarried, she and his step-father wouldn't let Hakim and his siblings visit. So their father took Hakim's siblings in and Hakim went to live with his Grandmother. After some time, Hakim's father and siblings visited. His father decided to take Hakim with him this time and leave his brother and sister with their Grandmother (essentially switching their living situations). She had no choice but to give Hakim to his father.
Hakim was 10 when he went to live with his father and new step-mother. Immediately, his step-mother began mistreating him and eventually she influenced Hakim's father to abuse him, as well. When their abuse became more serious, Hakim fled to the streets of Kampala.
Step-parents in Uganda are often attempting to do their best for any biological children they've already had or are planning to have with their new spouse. In order to give their children an advantage they neglect their spouse's children, just like in Disney's Cinderella. Cinderella's step-mother, Lady Tremaine views Cinderella as a threat to her daughters' chances to marry the Prince. Everything she does to Cinderella is in an effort to provide a better life for her biological daughters, Drizella and Anastasia.
In the film, this treatment results in Cinderella running to her bedroom, crying. In Uganda, it results in thousands of children running to the streets to avoid neglect and attempting to provide for themselves on their own. So far, in every restoration we've attempted with a story like this, there has always been another family member who desired to care for the child. The children do not return to homes of former abuse.
Family restoration doesn't always end like a fairy tale. "Happily ever after" looks more like healing old wounds and surrendering our family-life to Christ every day, but it is amazing how many children's movies are centered around themes of reunification!
One final movie suggestion we have is Disney's Queen of Katwe. While it doesn't necessarily carry easy metaphors for family restoration, older children will enjoy getting to see a movie set in Uganda. They'll even hear some words spoken in Luganda! Watching a movie that takes place in Uganda may help them visualize some of the challenges our restored families and sponsored families face on a daily basis.
What movies have you seen that feature family restoration? What has helped you explain these complicated concepts to your children? Let us know in the comments!
On behalf of the hundreds of community members served by Benjamin House Ministries, thank you for your continued support in transforming the lives of orphans and vulnerable children, preparing them for their futures, and building up the next generation of leaders through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
These are confusing, anxiety-filled, and uncertain times for all of us. But this doesn't mean the important work of inspiring hope across Uganda has stopped. Since 2015 our organization has sponsored 330 children! Our services just look a little different during this time of uneasiness and uncertainty. Today, President Museveni addressed the country regarding COVID-19, updating Uganda's preventative measures. President Museveni announced a number of new measures to combat the spread of COVID-19, including a ban on movement, even the use of private vehicles, and a ban on setting up food banks starting today at 10pm EAT (or 3pm EST) and ending on April 14.
Many of the parents you help support are currently without work and to be without work here, even for one day, means no food on the table that night. Today, we are reminded of God's perfect timing as we completed distributing food to all 3 of our sponsored regions in time for these measures to take effect!
Here's what we have been able to accomplish since President Museveni's COVID-19 address on March 18, 2020:
These program changes have not been easy, and our staff has been incredible at adapting. We have had to get creative with our programs, and will continue to work towards our goal of empowering and discipling families! While our physical doors may be locked, your support is essential during this time of uncertainty and means this important work can continue.
As we wait to be able to see these families face-to-face again, we know that many of you are looking for extra ways to stand with us and help provide for families during this crisis. So, what can you do?
As the local and global situation continues to change, our needs may also change over the coming days. We will continue to communicate with you during this time.
Know that we as a staff are praying for all of you, as well.
Joakim Matende and the Benjamin House team
by Prossy Nyafono
Benjamin House Ministries Storyteller
This is Annet Nambi. Annet is a single mother of six living in Ntinda. She is also a small business owner and runs a small restaurant along Kigoowa Road in Kampala, Uganda, offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner to her clients.
When we met Annet in 2017, three of her children -- Shamirah Nalukwago, Shamim Nackchwa, and Sharifah Namuli -- had been chosen for sponsorship and she was working as a food vendor in the city. The hours and the distance kept her from spending hardly any time with her youngest children.
Annet's sponsored daughters: Shamirah Nalukwago, Shamim Nackchwa, and Sharifah Namuli
Annet shared that when her BHM child advocate, Susan, emphasized the need for closer involvement between Annet and her children; Annet began contemplating finding work or starting a business closer home. She found a space, saved up, and with a loan of 800,000 UGX (about $218 USD) Annet finally stepped up to the challenge of opening her own business! She put up a makeshift structure and stocked it with the most essential items to kickstart her restaurant.
It's been 1 month now and Annet says she is able to monitor her children all day, repay a weekly fee to clear the loan, and even makes enough money to save with the Parents of Sponsored Children in Ntinda savings group.
Child Sponsorship doesn't simply put a child in school. It gives our child advocates an opportunity to share what Christ-like parenting looks like. Without child sponsorship, Annet may never have considered changing her job and starting a business in order to better pursue her family. We are so grateful to be a part of stories like hers and cannot wait for the day when her family becomes fully self-sufficient!
by Alli Kennedy
Benjamin House Ministries Summer 2019 Intern
After her husband, Tom, passed away in April from complications with diabetes, Rose Hambungala was left as a widow with no source of income and seven children in her care.
When the members of her Parents of Sponsored Children in Ntinda group learned that they had lost a dear member of their group and community, they began to think of ways they could help Rose and her family. Though they make little to nothing, they joined together to come up with 80,000 shillings, or $22, to provide for the Hambungala family.
Instead of providing a temporary solution, like food, that would run out quickly, they inquired about investing in a business that Rose could begin and continually support her family with the profits.
When Rose expressed an interest in selling charcoal, the parents decided they would cover the expenses of the materials she needed if she contributed to the cost of a shop. Charcoal is used by the majority of them Ugandans for fuel, cooking, and many daily needs. Rose’s daughter generously gave her mother some of her earnings from her job to pay for space for Rose to start her business.
Rose found a shop in a strategic position on a busy road with a large amount of space that will allow her to grow and scale her business as she continues to work. She purchased two bags of charcoal and within one week of opening her shop, she has already begun to make a profit.
Through all of the hardship Rose has gone through as a widow and mother, she continues to trust God to give her strength. “Even when I feel down, even when I cry sometimes because things are hard, I pray as I leave home each morning that I would surrender my life to God and let His will be done,” says Rose.
I want to grow my business so that I can begin to help the other parents in their times of need, just as they have helped me.
Rose is hopeful about her charcoal business and now has hopes for other businesses she would like to start in order to make enough money to provide for her entire family, such as selling fish and vegetables in front of her shop.
Susan is encouraged by their response and hopes that the parents will continue in their generosity. “Their mindset has now changed from ‘we’re helpless’ to ‘how can we help.’”
by Prossy Nyafono
Benjamin House Ministries Storyteller
Celebrating five graduates from The House Church Pastoral Internship Program
The first ever pastoral internship program run by The House Church in Kampala, Uganda successfully ended with the graduation of five pastors on January 3, 2020. The ceremony saw the Pastors John Sewankambo, Frank Rotta, Henry Sekabago, Allan Tabula, and Elijah Tumwine awarded certificates after completing a 12 month training which equipped them with pastoral ethics, administration, leadership skills, scriptural interpretation, preaching, and teaching of the word.
Pastor Bucky Rogers, founder of The House Church and one of the program's teachers, testified to the transformation he has witnessed in the trainees and said a pastor should be, "able to go to bed unashamed of what he accomplished all day" not forgetting to be the shepherds God requires them to be because, "what we do here has a purpose beyond us."
Also present was Pastor Isaac Sebuwufu of Bible Truth Church Nabutaka and head of the National Fellowship of Born Again Pastors in Nangabo Sub County in Wakiso District who spoke to the graduates and emphasized a pastor’s personal relationship with Jesus, which should override knowledge because, "Jesus is the word that brings life."
Pastor John Sewankambo, who represented the interns, testifies to the fact that the training "took junk out of us" as they appreciated that the Gospel must be delivered honestly and simply with love to people with broken hearts.
Pastors Dennis Karamagi, Charles Opio, Isaac Sebuwufu, and Bucky Rogers pray over the graduates and their new mission.
According to Pastor Denis Karamagi, Senior Pastor of the House Church and internship teacher, the Pastoral Internship Program aims to equip pastors with tools to nurture believers to be disciples. He hopes the Program will one day be a full theological college.
In 2018, we met Gladys and 3 of her 5 children. As far as Katanga goes, they were living in a ruthless section of the slum -- no place for a single mother and her children. Gladys explained that she didn't know how much longer she could provide for her girls and even mentioned running away, leaving her children defenseless and alone in Katanga. We shared about the many benefits of child sponsorship through Benjamin House, shared the Gospel with Gladys and her family, and she asked to register one of her daughters, Catherine, for sponsorship. In March, Catherine was sponsored and we were able to begin discipling Gladys and her family, as well as provide for some of their physical needs. Overtime, Gladys' heart changed toward her situation and she stopped making plans to abandon her children.
Gladys sells tomatoes and other perishable foods on the streets as people are on their way home from work. Selling goods without a storefront and a license (or street vending) is illegal, so Gladys sells her food at night so that Kampala officials are less likely to confiscate her goods. She leaves her home around 5 in the evening, before Sarah and Catherine return home from school. She picks up her produce and walks to the section of the street where she likes to set up. The walk is roughly 20 minutes with sacks of food on her back.
Then, she sets up her "store front" and sells. In the brief time we watched her work, Gladys made 10,000 shillings (around $2.62 USD). With the average daily income of Ugandans at $1 USD, it's obvious why she takes the risk of street vending to provide for her family. She returns home every morning around 1 AM. It's risky for Gladys who could get stopped by police at any point, but it's also dangerous for her children who are home alone in a slum all night long.
In an effort to provide more security for her family, Gladys moved them into a smaller home in Katanga. The smaller conditions are a challenge, but their safety was paramount to Gladys because she works at night. This week while visiting the family, Gladys recalled that "life was hard for me. I was hopeless," but now she says she will never abandon her children, no matter what creeps up. She is determined to be the mother of her children through thick and thin. This past January, her eldest daughter, Sarah, was sponsored. Now, with two children in sponsorship, Gladys has taken on a dream! She wants to save her money so that she can start an official business and move her family out of Katanga. Gladys dreams of opening an automobile spare parts shop! As she shared her dreams and prepared to go out for work that night, we watched her fix dinner for her 3 kids. The meal was small, but they didn't seem to notice. They were happy.
Sarah, Catherine, and Gladys are each realizing their potential and working hard to change their future and secure their dreams. But none of it would be possible if someone on the other side of an ocean hadn't said "yes" to sponsorship. Pray with us that they continue to grow in their love of their Savior, of each other, and continue to put forth the immense effort to save up and move out of Katanga.
There is hope for this family. Progress has been made. Pray that it continues.
by Alli Kennedy
Benjamin House Ministries Summer 2019 Intern
Mary Nanyonga welcomes Susan (our Ntinda Child Advocate), Sharif (a volunteer and Ntinda sponsored child), and me from outside of her home and then hurriedly disappears behind a yellow curtain covered in floral print in the door frame to get something from inside. She reappears with something in her arms and motions for us to sit on the steps in front of her house as she spreads out a pink woven mat. Susan remarks on her youthful look and Mary's eyes light up as she laughs at the remark. Mary is small in stature, but I can tell she is strong from her build and the way she walks.
As we talk with her about her two children who are in the Benjamin House sponsorship program and her husband’s poor health following a boda boda accident, I notice a mountain of plastic bottles that look as if they’re going to burst from a multitude of sacks gathered together next to her home. I quickly learn that these plastic bottles are Mary’s livelihood. She spends each day walking through trenches and along roadsides with three sacks on her back to fill, hoping to collect enough to sell for a profit.
The nature of her work is cruel. People laugh at her like she is a mad person as they see her wandering around aimlessly looking for bottles. She’s lost respect from many people in her community because of her job. Her health is at risk each day as she digs through sewage and waste collecting plastic bottles in three sacks that she tries to fill each day. “I am constantly discouraged by their laughter, but I know God is with me because it’s a risky job and I never get sick,” Mary says.
She gets up to show us the collection of bottles she’s obtained over the last few months. She used to collect bottles on a small scale and send them to a factory, but the people she would give them to would cheat her out of money by using weighing scales that weren’t fully functional to measure the amount she had collected, or by giving her less than what she had earned from the profits from the factory. She decided that she wanted to buy her own scale so she could maintain the integrity of her business and have an accurate way of weighing the bottles.
Aside from a few times a week when her husband works as a boda boda driver for two hours at a time, Mary is the sole provider for her family. She smiles and tells us that the parents in her savings group, through the Benjamin House sponsorship program, lent her the money to get her scale, which she will pay back when she earns the profits from the plastic bottles that she has been collecting for three months. She will need 600 kg, or 1,322 pounds, of bottles, to earn around $135 from the plastic company. Until she reaches her goal, she will sell jerry cans and other large items she finds to provide for the every-day needs of her children.
Benjamin House Ministries' sponsorship program is benefitting her entire family through education and various programs. Mary attends a savings program and parents' group while her children attend the spiritual development program. She tells us with tears in her eyes how happy she is that she can send her children to school. “My child said to me one day, ‘Mommy, why don’t you just stop buying food for me at home and use that money to help me go to school,’ and that broke my heart,” Mary says with a heavy sigh. She couldn’t have even taken her children to a cheap school. Sponsorship is the only option she has to provide education for her children.
As I finish taking photos and talking to Mary, she looks at us with bright eyes, sacks filled with bottles over her shoulders, telling us she’s okay with whatever demands her job brings. Assuring us that she will find the number of bottles she needs, that she will someday expand to a bigger store where people will come and sell their bottles to her, and that she will have more room to contain the bottles she’s collected. Despite the ridicule and the risk of her work, she carries on with a joyful heart, striving to earn enough to give back to other parents in need, and thanking God for the courage to do her work each day.
by NCU Insider (August 2019)
This article was published by NCU Insider on 28 August 2019. NCU Insider is a monthly news digest for EHS&S employees in North America.
Tracey Malone, Senior Product Steward (NCU/R) recently traveled to Uganda and shared her story with NCU Insider.
Who would know that perseverance pays off? In June 2017, I traveled with eight other people to Uganda, Africa. We were working in coordination with a non-profit organization, Benjamin House, in the capital city of Kampala and surrounding areas. Benjamin House sponsors over 300 children and we were “feet on the ground” ministering to these children and their families. One of the challenges facing Uganda is malaria, the mosquito-borne disease caused by a parasite. Individuals with malaria often experience fever, chills, and flu-like symptoms. If left untreated, the disease may result in death. Malaria kills one child every 30 seconds across the planet - about 3,000 children every day! On average, malaria kills 42 children in Uganda every day. One way to combat malaria is to install bed-nets. Since many families are extremely poor, they cannot afford the nets.
It just so happened, after being home almost a year from my first trip to Uganda, BASF published an article in the Online Reporter entitled “ZERO by 40,” in which Saori Dubourg, Member of the Board BASF SE, attended a malaria summit in London. I discovered that BASF manufactures and distributes Inceptor® long-lasting, insecticide treated bed-nets. In fact, BASF delivered over 900 million bed-nets between 2008 and 2014.
After reading the article, I was on the hunt to see if BASF would donate nets to Benjamin House. If anyone knows me, I tend to be persistent on getting things accomplished, so I reached out to anyone and everyone for help.
Jodi Visco, Manager of Product Stewardship and Applied Sustainability (NCU/R), put me in contact with several colleagues. After hitting a few dead ends, we finally found the right person in the AP business. Steve Brunt, NA APN Product Stewardship Manager, introduced me to Dr. Susanne Stutz, BASF Professional and Specialty Solutions, Public Health in Germany. She, in turn, had a colleague, Dr. James Austin, Global Product Development Manager, Insecticides, in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, who had 50 nets. Dr. Austin shipped the nets to me, and I provided them to several families in Nangabo, Uganda, this past July. What a blessing to be able to give these nets to the community! I am extremely proud to say I work for a company that can a make a difference in the world!
If you, like Tracey, have a unique idea for ways to partner with Benjamin House, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
by Alli Kennedy
Benjamin House Ministries Summer 2019 Intern
To Karim Nsanja Martin or “Nate,” education is more than just studying for exams and writing papers, it’s preparing for the future.
Before sponsorship, Nate was kicked out of school several times because he couldn’t pay school fees. This led to a decline in his school performance because of his inconsistency in class attendance.
“When I was in primary school, I had shorts that had holes in it. My fellow students made fun of me and called my shorts a rug. Though, I always went back and tried talking to them no matter the way they were treating me.”
His grandmother would go to Lake Victoria, buy fish, and give them to Nate and his cousins to sell to different customers in order to pay school fees. His grandma works hard to sustain the family financially, but not all of the children's school fees could be paid.
After sponsorship, Nate’s school fees were paid for and he stopped missing school. He’s reading and studying constantly, connecting with fellow students, and hoping to attend university where he would like to study political science or history.
Nate knew he wanted to gain confidence in public speaking and be exposed to many different types of people, so he decided to run for head prefect of his school. a position similar to a student council president at a high school in the U.S.
Nate won by a staggering 85% majority vote from his classmates after only one year of attendance at Comprehensive College Kitetika, a true testament to how his classmates admire his natural-born leadership qualities and character.
As head prefect, Nate will lead a full cabinet of other student leaders, discuss challenges facing the school with administration, and be the voice of the students around him. “I create time for everyone. I want to know what my neighbor is facing and figure out ways to help that person through my leadership,” says Nate.
“God is always teaching me to believe in him. I didn’t know if this position as head prefect would work out because I had never done something like this before, but God made it evident that this is what I’m supposed to do.”
Nate also hopes to use the confidence and public speaking skills he learns from his time as head prefect to serve with Benjamin House in the future.
“Someone may choose to sponsor a child because their friend does or they hear about it at church one time, but really, sponsorship is everything for the kid who is being sponsored. The conversation and support between a sponsor and a child create a great change in the way the child continues their life,” says Nate.
Before he gave his life to Christ, Nate was a Muslim. "I even had the Muslim name ‘Karim,’ but I didn’t really live out the Muslim lifestyle,” says Nate.
After being taught to dance, he was performing at a church in 2016 where he gave his life to Christ and has been discipled and attending The House Church ever since. He was baptized on December 25, 2016 and took the name Nate.
“I want to live by the verse 'The greatest among you shall be your servant. (Matthew 23:11)' Though I am a leader in my school, I want to serve my classmates and the people around me all the time.
by Alli Kennedy
Benjamin House Ministries Summer 2019 Intern
This is Winifred Nabwami. Winifred is an entrepreneur and single mother of four children, the youngest of which is Josephine Nalubega, sponsored through BHM.
Since 1990 when Winifred had her first child, she has been making envelopes by hand to hold medicine ordered at local pharmacies in order to support her family.
She buys scrap paper and then cuts sheets into the shape of the envelope. Because glue is very expensive, Winifred seals them with a mix of cassava flour and water which is then warmed over a fire to create paste.
Each night, she goes from pharmacy to pharmacy, selling her envelopes in hopes that she will find a new partner to work with. She wants to distribute her envelopes to the pharmacies and become their exclusive and trusted vendor.
Every day she worries whether or not she will sell enough to put food on the table because people do not buy her packages every day and the pharmacies have begun to replicate her design.
Despite the challenges she faces, Winifred is thankful for her job because it allows her to stay at home with her family and prevents her from having to do jobs that would put her health at risk. Many women in the community have to pick up scraps and sweep the roads or other hard manual labor in which they can be easily exploited.
Winifred is extremely thankful for her daughter’s sponsorship because it released her from the stress of her child’s school fees and introduced her to a savings program that has prevented her from being in a vulnerable position by asking people for loans.
With the BHM savings program, which each parent of sponsored children can be enrolled in, she has started saving money for her daughter’s university fees and transportation. Her daughter hopes to be an accountant.
Winifred Nabwami is excited to teach the other mothers in the sponsorship program how to make the envelopes and sell them so they can all provide for their families and save money together. A true act of humility and trusting that the Lord will provide for her family and the Ntinda community through the skills He has given her.
by Alli Kennedy
Benjamin House Ministries Summer 2019 Intern
Some names have been changed for the privacy of those whose stories we are honored to share.
The power was out so there was no light to block the view of the stars on Thursday night. The big dipper looks different here and I point it out to Nathan, who eventually finds it in the sky and traces an imaginary line through it with his fingers. Jimmy sits in between Chloe and Emma Grace, holding tightly to their hands, tucking his head between his legs looking at Chloe’s phone at pictures of the boys who have already left earlier this week: Kevin and Musa. I ask Nathan what he will miss about being here in the transitional home. He doesn’t tell me the food or the material things he’s received since he’s been here. Instead, he names person after person: Uncle Abraham, Auntie Phionah, Uncle Dan, Uncle Bucky, Auntie Julie, Kevin, Musa, Xan, Auntie Wavey, Auntie Jennie, Pastor Cosmas…his voice trails off into the dark and we sit in silence for a few minutes, Nathan and Jimmy no doubt thinking about the day to come. The day they will be restored with their families. A day that has been in the works for three months. Three months of Abraham and Phionah loving them like a mother and father. Three months of teaching them about the hope of the Gospel. Three months of instilling work ethic and routine into their lives. Three months of replacing the mindset that came with them from the streets with one of hope and confidence for the future. Three months finished.
The next morning is a bit of a tease. We wake up early and prepare for the journey to meet Nathan's and Jimmy's father. But in Uganda, cars break weekly and repairs take hours and hours. Which is exactly what happened. We fill the hours with funny videos, the boys play games with Abraham and Phionah, Dan gives Jimmy a soccer ball and Nathan a new pair of pants. The boys adore Dan, an accountant for BHM and tutor for the Roger's son, Brennan. They look up to him and admire him like crazy...so much so that they’ve begun to imitate Dan’s trademark selfie smirk whenever they smile. Dan tells them all the things he hopes for them and that he will visit them again through tearful embraces and notes exchanged.
Xan, the Roger’s 13-year-old son, has also made Kevin, Musa, Nathan, and Jimmy feel like normal kids again. Through soccer games, board games, dancing, making movies on the iPad together, Nerf gun wars (which I still have bruises from), and laser tag, Xan has given the boys memories of just being able to be kids without the weight of the world on their shoulders...I know they will hold onto those memories forever.
Soon, the van is fixed and goodbyes begin. Jonathan, Pastor Cosmas, Vicent, Chloe, and I all pile in the van with Jimmy and Nathan. Abraham and Phionah are overcome with emotion. A side note: many Ugandans suppress emotion in public, so it’s refreshing to see their love for the boys through the tearful goodbyes. The boys need to know it’s okay for them to feel things. Especially on this day. A day that is nothing but emotional. Abraham and Phionah gave them all the love they could for the last three months and have to watch them leave in an instant.
The van door shuts. Everyone stands and watches from the gate of the compound as we drive away. I look at Nathan and Jimmy as I wonder what they're thinking. Jimmy smiles as he grabs Chloe’s and my hands and clashes them together with laughter. I wonder if he understands. We guess that he's only 8. Nathan sits behind us and stares out the window as the dust rises from the sea of red dirt road beneath us. I try so hard to put myself in their place and how they must be feeling and the questions they could be asking themselves. "Will their dad be happy to see them? Will he be angry that they were gone? Will they be able to live normally? What will the community think? Do they know that they were on the streets?" A very possible reality could be that the community would make them feel ashamed for living on the streets and the other kids would make fun of them. I wonder if these questions are racing through their heads too.
Let me say that Pastor Cosmas intentionally seeks out the best option for the boys, which family situation would be ideal for restoration. Pastor Cosmas and a boda boda (motorcycle taxi) driver spent hours on hours seeking out the father of Nathan and Jimmy and followed up with him carefully. Abraham constantly tells me that he still thinks that this could be their most successful restoration ever. Despite the questions rolling through my head, BHM does everything in their power to restore these boys with a stable family and to make sure they set them up for success even before the physical restoration.
During their time in the transitional homes with Abraham and Phionah as their foster parents, the boys have been loved so well! Abraham and Phionah disciple them and instill practical skills in them. They are taught how to cook and the values of saving money. They are given activities and chores to do around the compound to earn money, which Abraham then saves for them for the time they are to be restored back to their home. Abraham contacts each of their parents and discusses how the boys can have a successful long-term transition back home even before they start their journey back.
Much like the boys' parents who they are eventually restored to, Abraham and Phionah may not have much to offer materially, but they create a space to grow spiritually and emotionally. Abraham and Phionah strive to provide a home enviornment that is centered around God. They want to create a peaceful home in which they are encouraged to value each other and look after each other. They discipline the boys and teach them daily about Jesus, while showing them the fruits of the spirit in their own lives. Discipleship and constant, consistant love, despite the mistakes the boys have made or will make during their time with Abraham and Phionah, has encouraged their mindsets to be one of hope rather than distress. They are taught to believe in themselves and trust in God’s provisions so that they can believe they can persist through trials at home, just like they did while in the transitional home.
Nathan and Jimmy have lived through situations that were unthinkable. Kidnappings. Starvation. But today, they will finally have the love of their own father again, something that is often rare in Uganda because of how broken the concept of family is here. I almost expected that all 4 boys in the transitional home would be restored with their mothers, but the fathers were the ones who stepped up to care for them and love them.
Chloe and Jimmy listen to music together. We all eat meat sticks from vendors on the side of the road (and definitely regret it later) and I sleep. It takes a couple of hours to get to their home and I’m covered in a blanket in exhaustion from the previous transitions and school visits from the week. I wake when I feel the smooth road turn to potholes and little dust mountains that make me a little carsick every time we drive. We pass by shops and shacks where people sell food they’ve grown. Shops eventually fade behind us as we are surrounded by fields of maize with mountains looming in the distance. The boys are directing Vicent (BHM's spiritual development director), who is driving, where to go. I’m constantly puzzled on how anyone remembers how to get anywhere without a GPS. Especially an 8-year-old and 12-year-old boy who haven’t been home in so, so long.
Fields turn into an expanse of sweet potato farm lining the narrow dirt road leading to a small brick house the size of my dorm room back home. A man with a toothy grin and a sweater filled with autumn leaves waves at us as we approach. He’s accompanied by two young girls and a woman who is wringing out clothes in colorful buckets of soapy water with a small baby at her side. They're home
Jonathan and I rush out of the car with our cameras as the boys gather their things from the car. Jimmy hops out of the car and hugs the woman, who we later learn is a neighbor who helps the father. He relies on her like a sister now that his wife left him.
Then, Jimmy approaches his father and embraces him. The father’s face lights up with the joy of being reunited with his youngest son again. Nathan takes a little while longer to gather his things from the car, but once he does, he approaches his father and embraces him happily. The father is exuberant. His kids are back. Nathan and Jimmy beam with delight as they talk to him and their sisters. The oldest sister is overcome with emotion and sobs as she hugs Nathan. I hadn’t really thought about how restoration would impact their siblings as well.
Tearful interviews with the family are done. Pictures are taken. We are led into their house that, with the exception of a few dishes, is completely empty. Their mother had taken everything with her when she left the father because she “didn’t see a future with him,” he tells us. Nathan and Jimmy are given mattresses, mosquito nets, pillows, blankets, shoes, clothes, maize, and backpacks. The father thanks Pastor Cosmas over and over. He hugs his boys constantly and they seem to be relieved by his warm welcome home. It makes me think of the prodigal son. I don’t think a smile ever left his face the entire time we were there. It made me feel relieved, too. These boys that I had come to love through their time being my next door neighbors over the last month are with a father who loves them. They have hope of education as Benjamin House will help pay for their next 2 terms at school and check in on their family consistently. They have the hope of Jesus through the love that they had been shown over the last three months, the salvation they asked about and accepted, and the truth instilled in them by Abraham and Phionah.
It takes a village. That’s what they say, right? This village made up of the Benjamin House staff and their partnership with these families gives me hope. Hope that the four boys who went from shyly introducing themselves to Chloe and me the night we arrived to scaring us every time we’d come home -- the boys who went from being on the streets to being with their father again, -- will love Jesus for the rest of their lives and show their families and community the love they’ve experienced over the last few months as they grow up.
Pastor Cosmas and Abraham tell us now that the fathers of the 4 boys call almost daily with updates on their sons and to express how thankful they are to be reunited. There are so many people fighting for their success and a God who dearly loves them and invited them into His family even before they knew what a family was. Even while family is so broken on this earth and in this country through sin, we hope that they get to experience a reflection of what it’s like to be in God’s family through being restored with their earthly families.
by Alli Kennedy
Benjamin House Ministries Summer 2019 Intern
On a cloudy morning in Nangabo, Julie Rogers sits in her home office, scanning letters from children to their sponsors about their favorite colors and foods from a desk covered with letters delivering good news to parents in Nangabo that their children have been sponsored.
Julie is the co-founder of Benjamin House Ministries with her husband, Bucky Rogers, and serves as BHM's sponsorship coordinator. Her favorite movies are Pride and Prejudice and Anne of Green Gables, the movie that God used to first reveal to her the needs of orphans worldwide. She is the mother of five adopted children: Sasha (22), Innocent (17), Xan (13), Brennan (11), and Becca (9).
If anyone had a multitude of valid excuses for not leaving the U.S. to serve in a third world country, it was Julie Rogers. Her daughter Becca was attending the school for the deaf and blind and showing progress in therapy. Brennan and Xan were being homeschooled by Julie, their son Sasha was just starting college, and Bucky was serving on staff at Church at The Mill.
When Bucky first came to Uganda, he called Julie to tell her he felt like Uganda was where God wanted them to serve.
“I changed the subject completely,” Julie laughs as she recounts their phone conversation.
One year passed and with another trip to Uganda and another phone call from Bucky, Julie began to pray. As pieces starting falling into place, they knew it was God’s will for their life. “Bucky felt like God had called him and I trust Bucky, so I said 'Let’s go.'”
Julie’s life has been one overarching theme of trusting God.
Years before the thought of Uganda had crossed Julie’s mind, she had to take a leap of faith when she and Bucky decided to adopt. Before getting married, Bucky and Julie had decided they weren’t going to have children. Even so, the Lord began to soften Julie’s heart towards the thought of having children. She began to pray and trust that God would change the desires of Bucky’s heart as well. A full year later, the Lord revealed He had been working in both of their hearts simultaneously when Bucky told her he felt that the Lord was calling them to adopt. They were ready to begin the journey.
They were poor seminary students. The cost of adoption was more than they made in a year. All she could do was trust God. “We knew the Lord wanted us to do this, so we’re just going to do this. Trust what the Lord has placed on our heart.”
At every stage of the process, the Lord provided. They adopted Xan first from Guatemala as an infant in 2006, Brennan from Louisiana in 2007, Sasha from Ukraine in 2010, Rebecca from China in 2012, and Innocent from Uganda in 2016.
Julie loves that when questions arise about their family from those they come in contact with, she is able to share the gospel and how Jesus took us into his family even though we aren’t biologically His. Adoption has enabled them to show that they are very much pro-life and living it out as they have chosen to adopt two children, Becca and Brennan, with special needs.
Things haven’t been easy living in Uganda for her family. People stop in the street and watch them walk by. They draw attention anywhere they go, which is one thing Julie wishes she could change. Usually, children with special needs are sent to the orphanage when they are born, so the Ugandans are surprised by their family.
While Becca doesn’t have access to the therapies she was getting back in the states, Julie trusts that God has her medical care under control. One of the blessings of living in a third world country has been the ability to afford a nanny for her. This way, Julie can have Becca at home and make sure she is well taken care of.
Julie also loves that they are able to provide Brennan with one-on-one tutoring from home with a Ugandan instructor. Interaction with people outside of his family has helped with his development and social skills. Julie does fear the limitations of what might be available to him in the future in Uganda. He won’t be able to live and work on his own, but she wishes to see his dream of being a chef come to fruition. Brennan’s love language is food, so the most difficult part about living in Uganda for him has been not having access to the foods he loves. "While Brennan has adjusted well to their Ugandan lifestyle, he still misses our food dates and Chick-fil-A and Firehouse Subs,” says Julie.
For Xan, moving was really a chance to get him out of his comfort zone and grow in his faith, Julie tells me. He misses his friends back in the states, but regularly video calls with his friend Jackson who came to visit him during the summer of 2018.
Xan has also actively pursued friendships with each boy who has come through our Transitional Home.
When Innocent first met the Rogers, he had come with a children’s choir to Church at The Mill. They found out that his grandmother needed help providing for Innocent and that she wished for Innocent to stay with the Rogers to have a godly mother and father. “She told us, 'Don’t see this as I’m merely giving you my grandson, see this as I’m adopting you as well,'” Julie shares. They have since taken in Innocent as their 4th son. He lives with them at home in Uganda.
Julie and Sasha’s relationship has transitioned from child and parent to friendship as Sasha moved back to the States to marry his bride, Hannah. It was fulfilling for Julie to see him mature as he prepared himself to become a husband after the few months he spent living in Uganda with his family.
Raising a family is difficult on its own. Then paired with the emotional strain of living in a place that is filled with the sense of overwhelming helplessness and extreme poverty, Julie has had to really trust in the Lord during her time in Uganda.
Despite the hardships, Julie loves seeing the passion that people have all the way across the world for children they’ve never met in a country they haven’t been and may never get to go too. “I’m seeing the great commission fulfilled right before my eyes,” Julie says with excitement.
She and Bucky both hope and pray for a day where they can take a step back with a team of Ugandans in place on staff that are just as passionate about Benjamin House as they are and to see a great amount of their budget coming from Ugandans. They’re beginning to see this progress in Ntinda, where their ministry all began. Once the locals learned about the mission of BHM to rescue children from the streets, they began to raise a significant amount of money to help build the new transitional homes all while learning how to save money on their own and live a better life because of wise decisions they’ve made with their money, Julie tells me.
Julie’s pattern of trusting the Lord in the big and the small has proven so rewarding in the advancement of the Kingdom through her work and family. God is teaching Julie to be thankful amidst frustration, patient with His timing, and to rest in the fact that their future is in His hands.
by Alli Kennedy
Benjamin House Ministries Summer 2019 Intern
It’s rainy season here in Uganda. When it rains, the water gathers in caramel puddles on the dirt roads, creating small rivers that slice through the dust. That’s when riding boda-bodas gets interesting. Think sailor meets the churning sea, except small motorcycle meets hundreds of potholes. Water decides where it wants to go and no one attempts to correct its course. The rain decides the agenda of the inhabitants of Kampala for the day. There are the few that have money for vans and boda-bodas. But people here walk. For miles and miles. Kilometers and kilometers. To school, to work, to church. Attendance at The House Church dwindles on rainy days because people can’t get to the service.
All the while, there are faithful ones who choose to come and serve.
They walk in the rain from their homes, soaked from head to toe, to show up with a smile and serve out of humility.
Jackson Ssempereza, the Children’s Minister at The House Church, has his work cut out for him. Jackson is a wide-eyed optimist with the heart of a child. His joy and drive are contagious. He cares so deeply for those who cross his path. He loves what he does and sees the Lord working through children of all ages. He has discipled children who are ready to turn around and serve once they reach a certain age.
As The House Church continues to grow and thrive, it means more and more children come as well. For Jackson, this means finding the passionate who are able to serve consistently.
Volunteers are single mothers. Women who walk over an hour from their homes to get to The House Church. Women who love children and want to serve, but life makes it difficult for them to come to The House Church. Their children fall ill. They experience death quite frequently in their families and among their friends. Sometimes they don’t have a husband in the picture to help provide. They work jobs and get paid very little. Too little to afford transportation in the rain or shine. Too little to afford food to even feed themselves sometimes.
Yet, whenever they can, they give their time. They sacrifice so that these children might know Jesus.
And I complain about not finding a parking spot at my home church in the U.S.
And I complain about getting up a few hours early to serve.
What does that say about my heart and my God?
When all they do is sacrifice and serve the best they can with a heart overflowing with love.
Jackson cherishes people like Mama Gertrude, Helen, and Mercy who are women who have been a constant encouragement to him and his ministry. Mama Gertrude has seven children. Helen has two children and teaches school. Mercy has recently experienced the loss of her brother. Yet, they show up and serve happily. Pouring porridge, playing games, teaching lessons, singing songs, leading discipleship classes.
They want to make disciples of these children now so they can change the history of Uganda forever. They know how truly crucial it is to shape the hearts of these children at a young age. That’s what Jackson prays for. He prays for money for their transportation. Prays for more women to step into the roles of teaching. Prays for more men to be godly examples for the boys. Prays for encouragement for his own heart that can be struck with discouragement through these growing pains. Prays for the women who have come alongside him to care for the precious little hearts who are eager to know Jesus.
Through the sacrifice and prayers of these men and women, these children will know how to walk and serve Christ through every storm, both the literal storms and the figurative storms that life throws their way.
by Chloe Binkley
Benjamin House Ministries Summer 2019 Intern
Some names have been changed for the privacy of those whose stories we are honored to share.
Benjamin House Ministries is an organization that values relationships, encourages discipleship, and works passionately at reuniting families. Over the past few weeks, I have had the honor and joy of being a next-door neighbor to four incredible young boys: Jimmy, Nathan, Kevin, and Musa. They are a part of BHM’s family restoration initiative, which strives to reunite young boys from the streets with their families. This team looks at children the way that Jesus looks at me and you—with hope, with immense love, and with a passion to help them reach their full potential. This is a brief testimony provided by the four boys living in the transitional home with whom I had the chance to talk. I am obliged to observe that their stories always point back to the Lord, and that these boys were eager to share how the Lord is working through each one of them.
I want to thank Jesus for His persistent love, His continuous grace, and for never cutting our stories short. He doesn’t leave empty pages blank, or let us end on a cliff-hanger, but brings closure, peace, and certainty to His beloved children. I thank Jesus for these boys and how He never sees a lost cause, but rather individuals who needed Him in a time of extreme uncertainty. These circumstances of instability are where the story of Nathan and Jimmy begins.
Nathan was incredibly willing to share his story, and I pray that I am able to do it justice. Nathan and Jimmy are brothers from Luwero, Uganda. Their father lacked the finances to pay school fees, so the boys did not initially receive education. I believe that even during this season of their lives, Jesus was working, preparing their hearts for what was to come. One day, while their father was at work, a man from their village entered their home and kidnapped the boys. There were four children in the family in total, but only Nathan and Jimmy were taken. Once he had captured Nathan and Jimmy, among several other boys in the village, the kidnapper took them back to his home. He forced the boys to do unimaginable sexual acts for his benefit. He even used the kids as accomplices in committing theft from a bank. The boys made the brave decision to run away as he was formulating future plans. For two days, all on-foot, they walked all the way to Kampala, the nation’s capital. Along the way, the boys collected metal in order to fund the expense of basic survival. On their first night after escaping, there were street boys who robbed them of all of their belongings. Whenever the boys searched for more money, elders beat them and took what little they had. This was their story for far too long, but in the waiting, God had a plan already in motion.
Cosmas, one of BHM’s social workers, was making frequent visits on the streets when he noticed the boys. He took their photos and assured them that he would return later that week.
Nathan, Musa, Jimmy, and Kevin leaving the streets.
Jimmy, Nathan, Kevin, and Musa arriving at the Transitional Homes for the first time.
The next Monday, Cosmas, Joakim, and Abraham arrived at the streets to pick them up. He went through an extensive process in order to be granted a letter of authentication from the Local Chairman (LC) to take the boys into their care.
Nathan eagerly explained that once he reached Benjamin House, things were good. I think that this word, "good," was not part of their vocabulary prior to that day. They were quickly shown love, given fresh clothes that fit them, and provided more food than they could have previously imagined. But above all else, they were shown Jesus Christ—they were shown the vast love that the Father has for His sons. It is impossible to believe that such a God exists when one hears testimonies such as this. How could a loving and merciful God allow such tragedy to take place in the lives of innocent children? If the story ended there, then this narrative of a Father in heaven who does not take care of us would be an easy one to believe. But praise be to God that He takes our broken past and uses it for His glory.
Musa was more hesitant to share, but his story still deserves to be told. His living situation at home was not a good one. It is common in Ugandan cultures for a step-mother to be reluctant towards caring for a step-child. Like other children in Uganda, this was Musa’s reality. His step-mother used to threaten to pour hot water on him without explanation or reasoning. She did not see what Jesus sees when He looks at Musa. He used to be a Muslim, but by the grace of God, He is now a born-again Christian.
Imagine being a part of a family that did not see your worth. Knowing Musa, it is hard to imagine him enduring such a past. His heart is so pure, he loves to serve others, and is quick to show love to new faces. Despite his past circumstances, Musa always greets me with a huge smile, quickly followed by, “Auntie Chloe, how are you?” This is how Christ wants us to be—warm, loving, and a lot like Musa.
Lastly, let me share the story of Kevin—one of redemption and Jesus’ grace. As a child, he had a weakness of stealing. It was something that he struggled with, but he eventually let go of the bad habit. One day, his neighbors accused him of stealing money and threatened to call his father. The neighbors told Kevin they'd advise his father to beat him. Although this was a habit he had broken long ago, Kevin was fearful that his father wouldn’t believe him, so he left for the city. He slept on the streets and found a group of boys with which he surrounded himself. They noticed he was new to the area, and helped him find bags (like potato sacks) in which he would sleep. They stayed on the move, collecting bags, picking plastics to sell, and finding ways to make as much money as they could. At night, there were others who would pester the boys for the money they had collected. Even if they denied having any, they would be beaten anyway. The money taken from Kevin and his friends was supposed to go toward their next meal. So once again, they started to look for plastics. Fortunately, there is another ministry that BHM works closely with which has already been established on the streets. The boys informed Kevin they would be eating dinner there and staying in their facilities. So, they snuck Kevin in and took care of him in that place. That next day, Cosmas went to the streets alone. He interviewed a few of the boys, took their names, and then promised to come back and take them to Benjamin House. Upon Cosmas’ return, he noticed that the boys had fled due to fear and only Kevin remained. His name was never on the list, he was never supposed to get in the car and leave with Cosmas, but by the grace of God He allowed Kevin to enter the transitional home. This is a testament of the glory of God and His goodness. This shows how He intercedes for His children and only wants what is best for us.
These boys will be the first to tell you how much their lives have improved since coming to Benjamin House. They recognize that it is not by any act of man that they are part of such a wonderful place but are quick to give the glory to God. Having been at Benjamin House for the past three months, the boys are full of joy and are excited to be reunited with family members who are eagerly awaiting their return. Since they have been in the transitional home, the boys say they are eating comfortably, food is always available, they can shower as they please, and love is shown to them every single day. The boys learn so much from each other. Paul and Musa admire Kevin’s ability to speak English so well. Paul said that he admired Musa because he is “fat.” This comment, among others, was followed by an uproar of laughter. They all agree that by being in this home at the same time, it has grown them closer to the Lord and therefore closer to each other.
Abraham and Phionah are the fearless leaders who act as parents to the boys. Nathan says that because of their leadership and love, he now knows the power and importance of prayer. He knows how to show love to his friends with intentionality. He says when he arrived, his view on the world was so negative, but because of their hospitality he now knows the truth and is seeking to change his life. Musa says that he now knows how to work. If someone makes a mistake, they are openly told in a way that exhibits mercy, a true reflection of Jesus. Kevin says he has been taught of how there is a time for everything—work, play, prayers. Obedience is an important lesson he has learned, and that he can now obey commands. I believe that the Lord intentionally placed each boy under the supervision of BHM to allow them a glimpse of what heaven will be like—a place of acceptance, continuous mercy, and unconditional love.
I want to encourage you all to join me in prayer as these boys prepare to return home. Pray for Nathan and the relationship he is hoping to regain with his father. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak through him as he asks for his father’s forgiveness. Pray for Jimmy as he hopes to be in the top of his class, and Kevin who hopes to be number two in his class (this comment was also followed by immediate laughter). Pray for Musa and that the Lord would bless him with wisdom and good grades in his studies. These boys have very real dreams and want to make a difference in their country. These dreams start at home and are nurtured by supportive friends and family. Pray for their hearts, too, that Jesus would allow their homes to be receptive to the message of good news they will bring. Nathan’s prayer is that God would bless BHM and for it to develop at high speeds. He wants more children to be brought into the transitional homes, and that they would know the real truth and change as a result. Musa’s prayer is that more sponsors would come to support Benjamin House. He wants many kids like himself to be helped and prays that once they arrive to the transitional homes, they should behave well and be positive. Jimmy prays boldly for BHM to simply be well. Kevin’s prayer is that God may help BHM to get more money for transitional homes. They confidently ask these things in Jesus’ name, knowing He will make a way where there is none.
I want you to all know that this is not a sales pitch. This is not a scheme to simply take your money, make an empty promise, and never hear of a situation being solved. This is a story of four real boys with real testimonies. They are sons of the King who were given a chance, and because of people like you, were given a fresh start. It is because of their holy God that they were rescued from their circumstances and now confidently live a life of freedom and of love. I want to thank God for who they are, the humility that I have learned from them, and their hearts which are full of hope.
by Bucky Rogers
Founder of Benjamin House Ministries
As I’m sitting here, coordinating our sponsored kids going back to school, signing those checks, double checking the lists, and praying over the names, I am both excited and frustrated. For these, now over 300, kids, this week has meant going back to school with excitement and hope. But if I were to look to my right or left right now, at this very moment, I could count another dozen who will not be getting that opportunity.
I am tempted, honestly, for us to set a goal of how many kids we want in sponsorship, how many transitional homes we want to complete, how many schools and churches we will one day build, how many pastors we desire to train, and how many families we see graduate from our program because they are now self-sufficient…but I can’t. When I ask myself the question of how many is enough, I can’t answer my own question. Why? Because it’s never going to be enough.
We recently launched our third sponsorship region: Nangabo. So, now we have Katanga (the slum downtown), Ntinda (caring mostly for kids of families who are low wage earners on the outskirts of the city), and Nangabo. Nangabo is the area where Julie, our family, and I live. It’s far from the city and very much a village context. Some of these families have no power and walk very far to fetch water to boil for drinking each day. School is the farthest thing from some of their minds because income is next to impossible. Until…you. Because our BHM supporters are so incredible and we continue to see growth in both our ministry giving and our sponsorships, we have been able to bring hope into this village.
Excitement is building as more and more kids and families are being affected by sponsorship in Nangabo. And we have you to thank for that. Thank you for continuing to sacrifice to see that these kids get a chance at a future and the hope of the Gospel.
We will stop when we know we have done enough. But it’s never going to be enough this side of heaven.
Thanks for digging in and standing with us!
Bucky and Julie
by Chloe Binkley
Benjamin House Ministries Summer 2019 Intern
Let me preface by saying I am not a writer and have never been great at constructing eloquent sentences or coherent thoughts. But, my prayer is that these words would be guided by the Holy Spirit, and that the Lord would be glorified through each and every person and ministry mentioned in this testimony. This team deserves more than the mere superlatives I will be granting them, but I write to share that they know their identity lies in Christ and to show that they are serving Him with their whole hearts.
The Lord does not assign us all the same spiritual gifts. He does not equip us to be independent bodies with independent minds and a closed heart. The Lord calls for community; He calls those who are the least of these to expand and glorify His kingdom. The Benjamin House team is the quintessential embodiment of what it means to serve the Lord with all that we have -- body, mind, and heart. The short time I have spent with these individuals has truly blessed my life, and I cannot wait to learn more about the Lord and His goodness through each one of them.
The nature of the Lord is shown through each and every one of the staff. He has handpicked them, equipped them each with an exceptional set of gifts, and uses their personal testimonies to represent Christ on earth. They are ordinary people loved and called by an extraordinary Lord. They have been divinely ordained to serve the Lord with Benjamin House Ministries. No matter where their calling lies, they serve the Lord with their whole heart by advocating for those who are voiceless, by going above and beyond what their job requires of them and are motivated by the Spirit. Their intentions are pure, and they love with no agenda.
Let me begin with the Rogers family -- they have allowed my friend Alli and I to enter their lives, serve alongside them, and have truly made me feel so welcome. When I think of them, I immediately know what it means to feel like you are part of a community. Their home is one of love, thanksgiving, mercy, and hospitality. They are servants of the Lord, and I cannot stress to you enough how much they radiate God’s goodness.
Gloria is a woman whom I have had the pleasure to get to know the past few weeks. She not only serves the Rogers’ family and assists with day to day tasks, but you can find her actively pursuing ministry any way she can. Whether she is tending to my sickness (which occurs frequently), making meals for the family, or is volunteering her time in Katanga, she does each with a smile on her face. She is genuine, but more than that, she looks at every interaction as a chance to shine the Lord’s goodness. I constantly remind her of her servant’s heart, to which she gracefully declines. She is the portrayal of love which Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
Frank is another dear friend that I have grown close to. He has the high calling of working with kids in several slums throughout Kampala. I have witnessed the Holy Spirit work through him by his interactions with children, the way he looks out for me and Alli, and his sense of humor that radiates the joy of the Lord. He lives simply and maintains a modest essence. When he serves, he gives all he has. There are some acts of service which pursue an earthly agenda. It can seem hard to notice someone who exemplifies unconditional love, but Frank is the kind of person who pursues others just as Jesus pursues you and me. He talks to the kids as if every word is a chance to show the love of Jesus. He serves quietly as we are called to do in Matthew 6: 1-2: “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in Heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” And alongside of that, the kids trust him. That’s the thing about the BHM staff -- they value relationships. They value consistency. They want continual investment in the lives of the young, knowing full well they are the future of their church and their nation.
This leads me to yet another fearless leader on staff named Jackson. I had the pleasure of getting to know him over the course of a two-day Sunday School Conference. He presented his plans of restoration all while maintaining the goal of the House Church: to be a place of disciples making disciples. Jackson specializes in children, and this is evident with the childlike personality He has himself. If you know Jackson, you know what it means to confidently trust the Lord without disbelief. He has recently been struggling with Sunday School and a lack of staff. Never once has he cast judgement on teachers not being able to attend, but instead uses it as an opportunity to invest in the lives of those who are called to serve. The scripture that comes to me when I think about Jackson is found in Matthew 18: 3-5: “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives me.” I think this is the reason Jackson is so full of delight. He humbles himself to that of a child, and because of this, the Lord overfills Jackson’s cup with joy! He is always authentically himself, and that’s what he is teaching the children in Sunday School -- to be the person God created them to be. In doing so, true disciple making is possible.
There are many more the Lord has blessed me with knowing since I have been in Uganda, and I cannot wait to dive into their stories! God is so good, and He is intentional with the ministry and works of His people. Let me assure you that the staff here at Benjamin House wear their hearts on their sleeves. They clothe themselves every morning with the garments of compassion, empathy, and a love that pursues the Lord and others. Never have I seen such devotion to the Lord like I have seen the past few weeks in this team!
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 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 'Nate' 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 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 20,000 others still waiting
Benjamin House staff, short-term missionaries, and our founders