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 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 Bucky Rogers
Benjamin House Ministries Founder and Executive Director
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 Brooke Martin
Child Sponsor and 2016 + 2018 BHM short-term missionary
I didn't know...
I didn't know when we were obedient to God's call to sponsor a child that our monthly donation would be more than just helping a child and their family. I didn't know when Jacob and I prayed for the Lord to show us which child He had in mind, what other plans He had in store. For almost two years, we've sponsored Karim. We've enjoyed letters, a Facetime call, Facebook Messenger conversations. We've prayed for him and loved him from the other side of the world. We longed for the day when we could finally meet.
I didn't know when the day actually came, what would happen to my heart. I didn't know that he would take a boda taxi all the way to Katanga slum and track me down so he could meet me earlier than I expected, that he would have a birthday gift for me, that he would be so much taller than me, and that it would make my heart feel the way it did when I finally got to give him a hug.
I also didn't know that he would ask me if it was okay to call me mom and Jacob, Papa, and if Bella and Layla could be his sisters, and if he could change his last name to Martin.
I didn't know when I bought him a milkshake that it was the first one he'd ever had, or that he would be sick when I got to Uganda, and I would be able to check his head for a fever and make sure he had medicine.
I didn't know when we were obedient to sponsor
that we would gain a son.
I didn't know when we were obedient to sponsor that we would gain a son, that it would hurt so bad to leave. He gets to go to his first prom, and I wanted to leave more than money for it. I want to be there to help him pick out a suit and take pictures of him with his date.
I didn't know when I hugged him for the last time at the airport, if he knows how much I really love him and how much it hurt to say goodbye. I didn't know if he realized how much I wanted him to get on the plane with me and come home to our family.
Thank you, Lord, for showing me what I didn't know before. Thank you for Karim and for his presence in our lives. Father, help him feel our love for him from across the ocean. Protect him and grow him closer to you, Lord. Thank you for your goodness and mercy. Amen.
by Alli Kennedy
BHM 2018 Short-Term Summer Missionary
there is a school
Where hundreds of children greet our group
with warm affection
at the last classroom I desperately try to hold back the flood of tears that have been rising to my eyes
And for a moment I don’t hear anything
I just see her
Dancing and smiling
Freezing in time
“Alli, can you spot your child?” Our translator Jackson asks
I nod excitedly and point at her
Her eyes light up and we both run towards each other kneeling into an embrace
She places her little hand in mine
never letting go
we ride to Katanga
her only response to my hundreds of questions along the journey a shy little “yes”
When we arrive
She leads me through beaten dirt paths
As if to say “let me show you my home”
as she pulls me along
She looks back at me with bright eyes
and a grin from ear to ear
with two little teeth missing from the bottom
she is the contrast of beauty
In this hell
In this slum
with a river of sewage
rising from rainfall
walls start closing in as Esther leads me
To her home
Her grandmother greets me and welcomes as many of us that can fit into her home
her house is the size of my bathroom
only a curtain separating the bed from the living area
She tells me
Esther’s mother cannot care for her
because of the mental challenges she faces
she has been taken advantage of several times of so no one knows Esther’s father
her grandmother is aging
Their only hope has been through sponsorship
For Esther’s school, clothes, water, and food
and in that moment
I feel peace
I also feel absolutely horribly helpless
I want to save her from the hell she lives in
I want to take her into my arms and run away to safety
I want her to know love
I want her to know the love of my Father
it takes everything in me to not break in that moment
We walk to lunch holding hands
My friends swinging her in between us
She sits with us and laughs and laughs
Her sweet giggles bringing joy to everyone around the room
Her dances inspiring claps and videos
She makes silly faces at us
Her goofy personality on full display
She asks for my water and tries to drink it
All at once
I stop her for breaks
This is probably the most water she’s ever had to drink at once.
My heart sinks
I try to hide my tears from her
Beneath a smile
but it’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.
We walk along back to her home
I know our time together is short
But to her little mind, this lasts forever.
This is it.
This is the end of her suffering.
and I can’t take that from her
I just can’t.
When we reach the bus, I get on my knees to meet her eyes and her smile fades
Like she knew the dream I was about to steal away from her
Jackson tells her she has to go home and we’re leaving for the day
I can see her little heart drop.
she lets go of my hand
I coax her back into my arms and she stands still
“Hey, I love you sweet girl” I whisper to her
A blank stare haunts me
From eyes that had shined so bright
I step away from her and wave
she turns her back to walk home
and as her little feet carry her away from me
the dust churns as we drive away.
She fades into the horizon of Katanga.
Esther is just one of many children that live in Katanga with a story like this. Sponsorship can be the only hope for some children to go to school and to have meals and clean water. A year ago, a post from my friend, Waverly McCall, convicted me of how much I was spending on food and extraneous items when I could be changing the life of a little girl in Uganda. I never thought in a million years I’d be able to meet her and cherish her for even a short time. She has rocked my whole world and shown me how to love in a way I never knew how. If you are interested in sponsoring a child and forever changing his or her future, please check out Benjamin House Ministries and the wonderful things they’re doing in Uganda.
by Bucky Rogers
Founder & Executive Director of Benjamin House Ministries
Flu strain A, B, C, XYZ and everything in between has littered my Facebook feed this winter season. It's everywhere. I've watched as people lament getting it, their kids getting it, and a hundred home remedies to stop it or make it better. Influenza can be deadly in a small portion of the elderly and very small children in the USA, but for the vast majority of people who get the flu, they feel like trash for a few days, then start getting back on their feet.
Where we live, in Uganda, Malaria is everywhere. It makes up nearly half of all diagnoses and treatments from hospital and clinic visits. It is the single highest cause of death, making up 1/3 of all deaths, globally. Forty-two Ugandan children die every day due to Malaria. In fact, during the time it will take me to write this blog, a child here will have taken their last breath because of a disease that is preventable and easily treatable.
Forty-two Ugandan children die every day due to Malaria.
I got malaria for the first time about a year ago today. My wife, Julie, asked our son, Innocent, what having Malaria felt like. He told her, "It feels like your world is ending." Within 2 hours I went from normal to barely being able to function. I couldn't form coherent sentences. By the time I got to the doctor, I passed out in the lobby and woke up hours later with an IV and Julie by my bedside. It took nearly 7 days for me to feel well enough to even attempt normal activities and another 3 weeks to fully recover. The first month after we moved to Uganda, another missionary contracted Malaria and it went cerebral and he was in a coma within hours. He died just a few weeks later.
It feels like your world is ending.
Some of the best ways to prevent malaria are sleeping under a treated mosquito net, taking anti-malarial drugs, and avoiding mosquito breeding grounds at dusk. Benjamin House, through our sponsorship program, is trying to ensure that the families under our care have every tool they need to escape this deadly disease.
Thank you for standing with us, always.
Click here to donate $10 to our World Malaria Day fund to provide a child with a mosquito net.
Click here to donate $25 or more to our World Malaria Day fund to provide a child with anti-malarial medication.
Click here to learn more about Child Sponsorship.
Click here to Email us and register your church for this year's VBS for BHM fundraising theme: Fight the Bite.
This is Beatrice and her two sons, Jonathan and Samuel. Two years ago, Beatrice was at a point of desperation. Her skin had been breaking out with odd bumps, so she went to see a doctor. Not only did the doctor verify that Beatrice has a skin disease, but she also has HIV. When her husband heard the news, he left Beatrice and their sons, who were only 3 years old and 1 month old at the time. Beatrice was ostracized with no job, no food, no health care, and no way to take care of her boys. She shared with her friend, Faith, that she felt she had no choice but to abandon Jonathan in the streets and throw Samuel into a pit latrine (a deep pit that is dug in the ground to be used as a toilet).
That month Bucky and Julie Rogers, our founders, moved to Uganda. They started a neighborhood fellowship that met together in their home every Sunday night. Faith came to the fellowship every week and convinced Beatrice to come with her to see if Benjamin House could help her. Immediately, we fed Beatrice and her boys and gave them food to get them through the next few days. Bucky and Julie asked her to come back in two days to hear our plan to help preserve her family. That night, we shared Beatrice’s story with our supporters and both of her boys were sponsored in less than an hour! Today, Beatrice’s skin is healing and she receives treatment for her HIV, Jonathan is in primary school, and Samuel is a happy and thriving 2 year old!
This sweet boy is a living miracle; a picture of God's perfect timing and a reminder, on the hard days, of why we’re here. The Lord is good and greatly to be praised!
Bucky Rogers, Benjamin House staff, and short-term missionaries