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
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 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
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 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 Kimberly Henderson
Sometimes it takes being broken ourselves to get us to the point that we will willingly minister to those who are broken around us.
Take yesterday for example. As I stepped out of our van to head into church, my shoes fell to pieces. Literally. Pieces. Right there in the parking lot.
First, I lost both heels in huge chunks. Then smaller, crumbly pieces followed suit. It was the craziest thing. I had to walk carefully and a little tip-toey so I didn’t leave a huge mess with every step. But even with me walking with the greatest of care, I had to pick up pieces of my sole as we made our way in and as I made my way to and from the stage for choir.
We “just happened” to have visitors at church yesterday. People from Benjamin House Ministries, a ministry doing incredible work in Uganda. And what did they have with them in order to raise money for and awareness about their ministry?
Not just t-shirts.
Not just beautiful handmade necklaces and bracelets.
They had shoes.
The ones you see pictured above.
Shoes I was able to purchase and slip on my feet between services. Shoes and a shirt purchased with money that will now be sown back into the lives of people in Uganda.
And I can’t quite get over it. How God met me in my place of need and, in doing so, allowed me to help provide in a small way for people in their place of need.
Would I have stopped at their booth and given anyways? Maybe so. I hope so. But it was the brokenness I was walking in that made it a certainty.
How thankful I am that He let those shoes break exactly when they did. I want to remember He is a God who meets us in our brokenness. A God who tenderly helps us pick up the pieces of our soul. A God who takes those broken places, leads us to a place of healing and then allows us to minister out to others.
May we trust Him with our broken places-expecting Him to lovingly and powerfully meet us in them, knowing He can bring beautiful purpose out of pain. And may we become faithful and humble partners in His ministry of hope and wholeness. Because we have a world that is deeply hurting and is in desperate need of hope.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Summer 2017 Short-Term Missionary
We began our ministry that day by washing feet. Layers and layers of dirt... As I scrubbed the bottoms of their feet, they were not even ticklish. Their feet, just like their hearts and eyes, were hardened and void of feeling.
I won't lie... I caught myself thinking what's the point? What will washing these dirty feet accomplish? They will be dirty again in minutes.
Covered in scars and open wounds, I began to see their feet as a beautiful, sorrowful depiction of the lives they live. Hard, dirty, unfeeling, scarred, and wounded.
God revealed to me that the washing was not only for them, but for me. I needed to see their filth, their pain, their scars, their wounds. I needed "the eyes of my heart enlightened" (Ephesians 1:18), because I was just as dirty, scarred, and wounded before I found Christ. Those feet represent all our lives before Christ, and thankfully Christ does not look at us and say, "What's the point? They will sin again." No, lovingly and patiently, He washes us clean over and over again.
Thank you Jesus for your never-ending and never-failing salvation that washes us white as snow.
Bucky Rogers, Benjamin House staff, and short-term missionaries