Staff Writer for the Spartanburg Herald Journal. This article was published online by the Spartanburg Herald Journal on 24 September 2017. Read the original article at http://www.goupstate.com/news/20170924/rescuing-ugandas-orphans-spartanburg-ministry-still-growing.
Bucky and Julie Rogers say God has called them to Uganda for life.
The Spartanburg couple had known for a few years they were being called to provide orphan care overseas in some capacity. After multiple mission trips to Uganda through their church, Anderson Mill Road Baptist Church in Moore, that calling turned into a vision three years ago to rebuild Ugandan families by helping the country’s growing number of orphaned and vulnerable children.
“It became apparent that (Uganda) was the place God was calling us to plant our lives,” said Bucky Rogers, who had been pastor of students and worship arts at Anderson Mill. “The situation for orphaned and vulnerable children is very dire there, and generations of exploitation have made it exponentially worse.”
The Rogers sought to invest their lives in seeing things change and in spring 2016, the couple and their four adopted children moved to Kampala, Uganda, to establish an orphan care and family restoration ministry called Benjamin House Ministries.
Right now, the organization is assisting 140 children and families in Uganda through its programs.
“We have been on the ground in Uganda for about 18 months now…and have no plans to return back to the states to live,” Rogers said. “We believe God has called us here for life.”
Providing basic necessities
Among the priorities of Benjamin House Ministries is to help provide basic necessities for Ugandan children like food, clean water, safe shelter and education.
The average Ugandan lives on less than $1 per day and eats one meal per day, Rogers said.
Streams, wells and run-off pipes are where most Ugandans get the water they use for drinking, cooking and bathing. Every year, more than 10,000 Ugandans die from illnesses related to drinking dirty water, Rogers said.
“Many of (the children) became separated from their parents and have been living and sleeping on the streets, begging for food and using drugs to numb the hunger and make themselves sleep,” he said. “Some reach a point of desperation and want to go home, but don’t know how.”
The Rogers and their staff of eight in Uganda also work with the country’s local leaders to get homeless children into transitional homes and prepare them to be part of a family again.
“We want to see the millions of children who are growing up in abject poverty without mothers and fathers be reunited with their birth family or tribe of origin,” Rogers said.
D.J. Horton, senior pastor at Anderson Mill Road Baptist Church, said like any new ministry in a challenging place, the organization’s first two years haven’t been without some difficulties. The organization has evolved and adjusted, but what hasn’t changed is the Rogers’ desire and call to help the people of Uganda, he said.
“Bucky and Julie had everything here with us at The Mill — great job, thriving ministry, beautiful home and tons of loving friends,” Horton said. “Yet, because of their heart for Uganda, they gave all of that up to go live in a third-world country and simultaneously start a new ministry.”
Helping children thrive
Uganda has one of the youngest populations in the world. The median age is around 16 years old.
The AIDS crisis in sub-Saharan Africa and the war in South Sudan and northern Uganda wiped out much of the adult generation, Rogers said.
“It’s literally a nation of children,” he said. “Well-meaning people came to Uganda and established orphanages to care for the children who were left behind. Inadvertently, they created an even bigger problem.”
Bucky Rogers said as a result, Uganda has a generation of adults who grew up in orphanages and boarding schools and who don’t know what it means to be a family. The majority of children are either raised by grandparents or placed in boarding schools and visit home only a few months a year, he said.
“This breakdown in the family has caused ripple effects that are hard to overestimate,” he said. The role of Benjamin House Ministries is to provide donors, churches and other groups an avenue to inspire hope across Uganda. The organization does this by assisting orphaned children and preparing them for their futures, subsequently building up the country’s next generation of leaders.
An important piece of this preparation is education, which can lead to job skills training and empowerment.
According to the organization, some Ugandan children begin working as young as 5 years old to help their parents earn a living. If they sell enough items like rice or bananas on the street, they might be able to pay for school.
“All education in Uganda costs money,” Rogers said. “If a family cannot afford the school fees, including a school uniform and school supplies, then their children may never learn to read or write.”
The organization’s sponsorship program helps take care of schooling expenses, along with medical care and other minor needs, allowing parents to keep children in their families. The organization also has a program that equips teenagers with leadership skills.
“Kids who were struggling when we first placed them in school are now thriving, and we even have several who have advanced to the top of their classes,” Rogers said.
Restoring healthy families
Another way Benjamin House Ministries helps to restore families and get abandoned children off the streets is by building transitional homes in Uganda.
The organization broke ground in June on the first of multiple transitional homes. Children will stay in the homes between three and six months as they receive counseling and rehab for any drug addictions.
“The kids we are rescuing from the streets are alone. On the streets there is no hope for them,” Rogers said. “Our transitional homes are a safe place to land and prepare to be a part of a family.”
Each home will have a set of house parents and between six and eight children. The organization’s staff will work to find the children’s families or tribes and make sure these are safe options for the kids.
Where that isn’t possible, suitable foster parents will be trained and assume the role of parents in a child’s life, Rogers said.
Parents or guardians also will receive counseling through the program in order to adequately care for any children and provide them with a forever home. This can be a complicated process and often involves helping parents or guardians gain skills so they can find a job and provide for their children.
“We want to see families lift themselves out of poverty and brokenness, not simply receiving a handout,” Rogers said.
Building future success
Back in the United States, one part-time representative and a board of directors help spread the Benjamin House story and raise financial support to help the organization continue its work in Uganda.
“Our ministry is completely dependent upon our supporters in the states,” Rogers said. “So the timing of our vision depends wholly on the giving.”
The organization’s major fundraising avenue is through its annual unveiling events. This year, such an event will be held on Sept. 28 in Chattanooga, Tenn., and another on Oct. 5 at the Upward Star Center in Spartanburg.
The ticketed dinner events are open to the public and will involve an intimate discussion with Bucky Rogers about the basic needs of Ugandans and how Benjamin House Ministries can help meet them.
“The work that Benjamin House does is transforming the lives of Ugandans by inspiring hope while meeting their basic needs,” said Kevin Drake, publisher of the Herald-Journal and a Benjamin House Ministries board member. “By caring for others we enhance our own life experience. This banquet gives us an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of these children.”
Michael Lord, who also is on the organization’s board, said the future of Benjamin House Ministries is bright because the need is still so large. The board’s role is to give the Rogers the tools they need to do what needs to be accomplished in Uganda, he said.
“When you look at Benjamin House and its aims and its goals for the future, the potential to reach every child is just overwhelming,” Lord said. “We want to impact the lives of as many children as possible, but it all starts with one child. And I think the Rogers know how to build those relationships with that one child, and then another child and another.”
Through ongoing financial and community support, Bucky Rogers sees the organization expanding in the coming years with an entire self-sustaining village in Uganda.
He also wants to see the organization reach more children and families, plant hundreds of new churches, and shift the general mindset of Ugandan families.
“Basically, we have a huge dream, and we believe God can do it,” he said.
by Zach Fox
Staff Writer for the Spartanburg Herald Journal. This article was published online by the Spartanburg Herald Journal on 25 August 2017. Read the original article at http://www.goupstate.com/news/20170825/hendrix-elementary-donating-eclipse-glasses-to-children-in-uganda.
A group of Hendrix Elementary School students want Ugandan children to enjoy an upcoming solar eclipse as much, and as safely, as they did this week.
Amy Flynn’s fourth-grade class has started collecting used eclipse glasses to send to Ugandan children later this year. School officials are working with Benjamin House Ministries, and the glasses will come with notes from Hendrix students about what the eclipse was like.
The African country lies in the path of a 2020 solar eclipse.
“One of the students said, ‘Well, we could keep them until the next eclipse’ and we said, ‘That’s not really possible,’” Flynn said. “That’s when we started looking, who could we even give these to?”
The idea built steam after Flynn reached out to Benjamin House staff. The organization works with orphans and families in Uganda.
Spartanburg School District 2 spokesman Adrian Acosta said other schools have been asked about either sending glasses to Hendrix Elementary or starting similar donation drives.
Friday, Flynn encouraged her class to bring in the glasses the district gave them for the eclipse.
She taught another lesson about the eclipse and its significance before having students write messages to the Ugandan children who will receive their glasses.
“I think it’s the right thing to do,” said Grayson Smithson. “I hope they’re thinking that, ‘Hey, some kid was nice enough to donate these to me.’”
Hendrix Elementary is an International Baccalaureate school, encouraging students to use lessons to take action, Flynn said. The eclipse provided a perfect opportunity for learning, because it it led to classroom lessons and a lesson in giving back, she said.
“I think that’s what they’re going to remember about fourth grade,” she said. “They’re going to remember all the learning about this specifically. I hope when they hear about the eclipse in 2020 in Uganda, they remember someone will be holding their glasses.”
Addison Posey said her “mind was blown” by seeing the eclipse with her parents and family friends. She hopes children in Uganda have the same feeling in a few years.
“I hope they get the message that the solar eclipse is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and they’re really experiencing history and now they have the glasses to actually experience that history,” she said.
Any residents who want to donate their glasses can drop them off at the front desk of Hendrix Elementary or mail them to 1084 Springfield Road in Boiling Springs.
by Allison M. Roberts
Staff Writer for the Spartanburg Herald Journal. This article was published online by the Spartanburg Herald Journal on 15 September 2016. Read the original article at https://www.goupstate.com/news/20160915/former-upstate-pastor-bucky-rogers-shares-updates-on-uganda-ministry.
A former Spartanburg pastor who moved to Uganda was back in the city Thursday night to update a large crowd of supporters about his first six months in Africa and the project he started there.
Bucky Rogers, executive director of Benjamin House Ministries, his wife, Julie, and their four children packed their lives into about 10 duffel bags and moved to Uganda in March to dedicate themselves full-time to Benjamin House. Rogers started the ministry to help orphans in the country.
It took about two months to get settled, Rogers said, but over the past six months Benjamin House Ministries has opened a church that about 300 people attend and started a family sponsorship program.
The next project is a transitional home that will help children transition from orphanages to a family setting. The home will give them a place to get comfortable with living with a family before moving into that situation, Rogers said.
Before moving to Uganda, Rogers took several trips to the country and saw firsthand how great the need was. Living there has allowed him to see the need in a different way, he said.
“It’s everything I expected it would be, and yet everything is different than I expected it would be,” Rogers said. “Every day is hard. It’s not hard in that it’s hot or we don’t have ice or we don’t have Chick-fil-As on every corner. We’re OK with that. But it’s hard helping 44 kids in a slum right now and seeing thousands more who need help. We’re asking God to open up the floodgates and let us help these kids.”
Kelly Clark, a member of Anderson Mill Road Baptist Church, went with Rogers on his first trip to Uganda. They were on a mission trip with the church, and Clark saw how much the trip and people there touched Rogers’ heart.
Clark said it wasn’t a surprise when Rogers announced his family was moving to Uganda. It seemed natural, she added.
Thursday was the first time Rogers had been back in Spartanburg since leaving. Clark said she was excited to hear about his experiences and had her handkerchief ready.
“They moved in March and I’ve seen the Facebook posts but I haven’t heard Bucky’s heart,” Clark said.
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 email@example.com.
by Luke Connell; Spartanburg Magazine
Staff Writer for the Spartanburg Herald Journal. This article was published online by the Spartanburg Herald Journal on 20 September 2015. Read the original article at https://www.goupstate.com/article/NC/20150920/News/605136188/SJ/.
In a neighborhood on Spartanburg’s westside, Bucky Rogers and his wife, Julie, take a needed break on the couch. A small film crew is documenting their home life and their mission to build Benjamin House Ministries, an organization with the goal of helping orphans and rebuilding families in Uganda.
The last few months have been a whirlwind of activity, and from an outsider’s perspective, their lives would seem to be more exhausting than many others. Bucky and Julie Rogers have four adopted children — Sasha, Xan, Brennan and Becca, who has special needs.
A Tennessee native, Rogers has worked as pastor of students and worship arts at Anderson Mill Road Baptist Church — The Mill, for short — in Moore since 2006. After several mission trips, he and his wife felt called to pursue a life helping children abroad. A 2013 trip to Uganda solidified in their hearts that God wanted them in the African country.
Named in honor of the stillborn son of friends, Benjamin House celebrated its global launch in June at an event featuring presidential candidate and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. The event made headlines nationwide and ignited a fundraising campaign.
Brightly colored T-shirts bearing the Benjamin House name are donned regularly by followers across Spartanburg County, and a social media campaign has seen supporters post photos wearing the shirts in 40 states and 13 countries, so far.
For his part, Rogers has become a reluctant front man for the movement. A pastor, with more than 14 years of experience and a passion for music, he appears more comfortable in the presence of young people, helping guide them through life’s troubles, than in soliciting money for the mission.
“I’m kind of used to meeting people’s needs,” Rogers said. “I thrive on that. So, asking people to partner with us financially to help us accomplish this task is something that doesn’t come easily. But, for these kids and these families, I’ll do whatever it takes. And, I’m seeing more and more that people are just waiting for an opportunity to be a part of something like this.”
In July, Rogers and members of the Benjamin House team spent a few days touring orphanages and discussing potential partnerships with existing Ugandan organizations. At one possible future home, surrounded by students, Rogers said the dream of Benjamin House — up until then only envisioned on blueprints and in his head — was becoming real.
A documentary chronicling the last several months and the effort to build Benjamin House will be unveiled at an event at the Upward Star Center on Thursday. Rogers plans to return to Uganda in October to finalize more plans and, in March, he will move his family there to begin building Benjamin House. His vision is that the organization will be more than a group home for orphans, that it can repair families and be a conduit for education and change.
For more information
What: Unveiling of a documentary about the effort to change orphan care in Uganda.
When: Thursday, 6-8 p.m.
Where: Upward Star Center, 9768 Warren H. Abernathy Highway
Tickets: visit BenjaminHouse.net
by Spartanburg Herald Journal
Staff Writer for the Spartanburg Herald Journal. This article was published online by the Spartanburg Herald Journal on 11 June 2015. Read the original article at https://www.goupstate.com/news/20150611/spartanburg-man-to-launch-ministry-to-help-orphans-in-uganda.
The Rev. Bucky Rogers will host the global launch of Benjamin House Ministries from 5-6:30 p.m. Friday at The Underground at Anderson Mill Baptist Church, 4455 Anderson Mill Road, Moore.
In Uganda, 81 children are orphaned every day.
The Rev. Bucky Rogers said God called his family to prepare a place for those children.
Rogers will host the global launch of Benjamin House Ministries from 5-6:30 p.m. Friday at The Underground at Anderson Mill Baptist Church, 4455 Anderson Mill Road, Moore.
Benjamin House Ministries is a grassroots effort to care for orphans in Uganda.
Rogers, executive director of Benjamin House, said he and his wife, Julie, have known for years that they would spend their lives in service of orphans. The couple built their family of five through adoption, including a child with special needs.
After a mission trip in 2013, Rogers, a pastor at Anderson Mill Road Baptist, said it became clear God was calling his family to move to Uganda and start an orphan-care ministry to meet the ever-growing need there.
“Julie and I have determined that we don’t really own anything that we have and so we feel like we need to share it with the people around us,” Rogers, 34, said. “We’re just not going to sit in comfort when there’s somebody out there that needs us or needs to talk. Over the course of your life, you’re going to have hundreds of opportunities to invest in things. Some will be for you. Some will be for others. There are children dying every day. Children who have never known what it’s like to have a home. You have the opportunity to make a difference. To change that statistic. To become a forever family to a child you’ll never meet, and I think that’s worth investing in.“
This global launch of Benjamin House Ministries, which will include the world premiere of a short documentary, will begin a fundraising effort to build the ministry in Uganda.
Special guest for the event will be presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
As a former Baptist pastor, Huckabee has a special interest in overseas missionary work. Huckabee was the 44th governor of Arkansas, serving from 1996 until 2007.
Rogers, a pastor of students and worship arts, has served as student pastor of Anderson Mill since 2006.
Bucky Rogers, Benjamin House staff, and short-term missionaries