by Bucky Rogers
Founder of Benjamin House Ministries
There are some days when I have a thousand things to say to really anyone who is willing to listen. I can usually carry on a conversation about almost anything, and I can definitely debate almost anything. Today, I have no words. Here are just a few of the things that have happened in the past 36 hours that have left me at the point where I just sit on my bed, wanting to sleep, but having my eyes forced open by the tears:
1) In the heart of downtown Kampala, a bustling and ever developing city, there are highrise apartment buildings and hotel suites (well, I say highrise…but I guess 12 floors isn’t exactly high rise), busy city traffic, and the hum of commerce. In the very center of it all is a place where people don’t even glance. its about 5 acres of land called the Kitanga Slums. When you drive by you simply look to the other side of the road. If you ignore it enough, maybe the sights and smells of that place don’t really exist. But then you visit. You walk through the narrow alleys between houses, overwhelmed by the stench of the raw sewage you’re walking through that is right outside of everyone’s front door every day. I say front door, but no one has a door, just an opening and a curtain. Kids are playing in a pit that flows with all the sewage from all the area buildings that have running water (Kitanga has none). Babies wander around the slum by themselves, nearly exclusively because their fathers are gone and their mothers are prostitutes that are either working or sleeping. On the hill directly across the street is a coffin vendor, and the front of his lot is lined with dozens of tiny…overwhelmingly tiny coffins.
2) An orphanage way out in the bush welcomes us with cheers. As they wait for their lunch to be ready (that we had purchased so they could have beans that day instead of just porridge), they sit on the front porch of the small building that serves as their lodging, gathering, and dining areas and begin to play a game with a couple dozen dirty, used bottle caps. As they get their plates of rice and beans, they gobble it up with their little fingers, licking every morsel of food off. One of the wooden bunk beds has the words “mom” and “dad” carved in it and then marked through with a big line. The director talks about his dreams and challenges, and I leave overwhelmed by both God’s goodness, and a hundred “what if” questions running through my mind.
3) Perhaps the most powerful man in southern Uganda invites us into his home, talks about how he is getting older and wants to pass his ministry along to someone he can trust, and then offers us the blessing of land and his connections to get started. He even offered us office space in his ministry headquarters until we are on our feet. We ask him why he would do that and he simply says that he trusts us and what God has called us to do.
4) A pastor sits with me and he sounds JUST like me. His passions were identical to mine. It was as if I was looking in the mirror….until he gets to the part where he says: “And so we must move northward to plant churches in areas in more hostile zones. If we don’t, ISIS may get there first, and we want to make sure when they get there that they find strong believers and multiplying churches.” The shame for the complacency in my heart was overwhelming.
5) I just left a hut where a grandmother knelt down and hugged my leg. Her grandson, whom she is no longer able to care for physically or financially sits on the edge of being removed from school altogether, and the Lord has placed him in my heart. He has no father to tell him how to be a man, what manhood looks like and how to build a life. His tribe is scattered from the war and still recovering. As we drove by the public park in the city, he said, “Papa, we don’t go there at night. People get their neck sliced and some kidnapped and others killed who go there after dark.”
And I sit here in my room, wishing I could close my eyes and reopen them and it will have all been a nightmare. This couldn’t possibly be happening in our world. Yet it is. And the tough thing is, I can’t solve this for them. I can’t throw money at the situation and make it better. I can’t grab kids out of desperate situations and save the day every time. But I can give them the source of ultimate hope, train them up to choose a better and more sustainable life, and inspire them to follow hard after God regardless of the circumstances around them. I can love them unconditionally and tell their stories to everyone who will choose to hear it. I can give YOU and opportunity to stand with one more…to help one more have life. We are ONE tribe…ONE family. Let’s stand together.
Benjamin House staff, short-term missionaries, and our founders