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