Ashley Bennett had never been on a mission trip. Yet the Woodruff Middle School math teacher found herself answering God’s call in 2017 to serve in Uganda alongside Benjamin House with Bucky and Julie Rogers. Going out of the country was a big step, but it’s also where she met Lizik.
Lizik and eleven siblings live in the Katanga slum in Kampala, and are being raised by an older sister. They are Muslim. Ashley and Lizik established a strong friendship and Ashley returned home believing that Lizik would be their sponsored child. But Lizik had a sponsor. Her then ten-year-old sister however did not, and so Shukran became their child.
Ashley returned this last summer to Uganda, seeing Lizik again and meeting Shukran face-to-face. Julie Rogers says that they love to have sponsors come and meet their children and make every effort to give them time together. In Ashley’s case, she was able to accompany Shukran to her first doctor’s visit at the mission team’s medical camp. Sitting beside Shukran and holding her hand, Ashley remembers, “I felt that protection like a mama.” At one point, Shukran said to Ashley, “Muhammad sent you”. “No”, Ashley replied, “Jesus did”. Ashley’s time with Shukran was emotional, and her feelings grew amazingly. “I did not expect to feel such a strong connection”, she says.
It’s not just Ashley and Chris who have felt the tremendous impact of child sponsorship. Their children, L.G.,14, and C.J.,12, have become more aware of the importance of missions while attending Church at The Mill. But a missions mindset has become more personal, through supporting Shukran and seeing their parents’ example in going- Ashley to Uganda and Chris and Ashley serving in disaster relief.
Among the many organizations offering a child sponsorship program, Benjamin House stands out by fulfilling not only physical and educational needs, but spiritual ones as well. The children hear the Gospel, participate in Saturday mini- VBS activities and memorize Scripture. Benjamin House also offers parents in the sponsorship program job skills training and an opportunity to join a savings and loan program. American money goes a long way in Uganda and, for a mere $30 per month, the sponsored child receives school tuition, a uniform and some school supplies. Even a small amount at Christmas and birthdays helps the child and family by supplying what they need.
Ashley says this about sponsorship and Benjamin House: “Sponsorship is a great avenue for the children, but that’s not the main point. The goal is for them to receive Christ”. Shukran’s salvation is very much on Ashley’s mind. Ashley adds, “If she just had the Gospel, I know she would be okay. The fact that Benjamin House is there to bring the Gospel to her is so comforting and it’s the only reason I can lay my head down at night.” Chris echoes his wife’s sentiments when he says, “Where better to put your money than when you invest in the spiritual lives of children?”.
There are approximately 100 Church at The Mill members sponsoring children through Benjamin House. The benefits are obvious for Ugandan children and their families, but so is the impact to the sponsor and his or her families.
Ashley writes this in a current blog:
“How could seeing children without basic necessities and adults in desperate situations cause one to have more hope? It seems counterintuitive that seeing starvation, lack of medical care, and extreme poverty in a third world country would inspire anything but discouragement. But my second time to Uganda, the Lord reminded me to look at Uganda through the lens of His Word. I was reminded of 1John 4:4 that says ‘Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world’”…He (God) has overcome every disparity we will ever see and provided salvation for all. That is HOPE!”