Bennie Robinson hits rock bottom, turns to ministry
Every Sunday when Bennie Robinson walks into Mount Zion Baptist Church in Bethel with his wife, Jodi Robinson, and sons Bryson and Brooks, then opens the church bulletin, glancing at his own name beside the title of “Student Minister,” he says one word still continually comes to mind — amazement.
“I am amazed that God has shown me the grace to walk into a church to serve him,” said Bennie, who says he gives glory to God for bringing him out of a very dark place in his life to now minister to children and teenagers.
The Robinsons' story started when the pair met on the first day of kindergarten at Bethel Elementary in Mrs. Young and Mrs. Barrett’s classroom.
“I used to aggravate her and stump her toes,” Bennie said, also recalling their kindergarten graduation when he announced to Jodi’s mother that he was going to marry Jodi.
His bold kindergarten proclamation eventually came true.
Jodi cheered for Bennie as he played football for the Bethel Youth Organization and they dated off and on through school. After graduation from Pisgah High School in 1999, Bennie served in the U.S. Army for three years, completing deployments in Afghanistan and Korea. During his last year of service stationed at Fort Bragg, he reunited with Jodi on a visit home.
“Everything just felt natural with her again,” said Bennie, who finished up his military service at Fort Bragg in July 2002 and officially tied the knot with his kindergarten crush the next month, on Aug. 10, 2002.
The only glitch was that life wasn’t quite as innocent as kindergarten anymore.
“In the military, drinking and partying is really, really bad, and after I got married and had kids, I just continued in that lifestyle,” said Bennie.
“It was all about me having a good time at my family’s expense,” he added, regretfully.
That all came to a head on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013, when the couple had a heart-to-heart talk on the riverbank where they lived on Little East Fork Road in the Lake Logan community.
“That was my rock-bottom,” said Bennie. “I had lost my job, I was getting ready to lose my family, and I felt hopeless and guilty and I thought about ending it all because I knew I had blown it and there was nobody else to blame but me.”
“I told him, ‘You know what the answer is — we need to go to church,’” Jodi said.
The next day, Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013, the whole family attended Burnett Siding Baptist Church.
“That day, Andrew Warren played the guitar and sang a song called ‘What a Change He Made,’ and it was like he was singing my story and I was the only one sitting in the church,” said Bennie. “I went to the altar and told the preacher, ‘I want the change he was singing about’ and I gave my heart to Jesus and was saved.”
“After that, I promised God that however hard I had lived against him in the past, I would live twice that hard for him in the future,” he added.
The next day when he opened the refrigerator, he stared at eight left-over Busch Light beers.
“I was really worried about the alcohol because I knew I couldn’t do it on my own, but God totally took the desire for alcohol away from me,” said Bennie, adding that in the months after that life-changing day, he felt called to preach and announced his call on Mother’s Day 2014.
He accepted the student minister position at Mount Zion Baptist Church in October 2015 while also continuing to work as the asset protection manager for Wal-Mart in Franklin, and continues to be humbled working with the children and teenagers, who he describes as the “foundation of the church.”
“I love to have fun and aggravate and cut up with them but I want the focus to be on Jesus,” he said. “What those kids do will affect generations to come, and they have taught me how simple the gospel really is.”
Jodi was thrilled as she watched Bennie learn to play the guitar under Andrew Warren and now gets to watch with admiration as he plays the guitar and sings Christian songs in church.
“Seeing how he used to be to how he is now just shows that it was the work of God and I give all the glory to God,” said Jodi. “There’s never been a doubt in my mind that he was called to do what he does and I’m super proud of him.”
As he reveals his powerful testimony with the young people of the church, he says he hopes they learn from his story.
“I believe in being open and honest because I believe my testimony is evidence that Jesus Christ is real and works miracles and I want other people to know that you can’t be bad enough because it can’t get too dark for Jesus,” he said.
As Bennie and Jodi look back on their lives, they agree that they have Jodi’s mother, Annette Griffith, to wholeheartedly thank.
“I have the greatest mother-in-law there is because she was the voice in Jodi’s ear all along saying, ‘Stick it out — God has a plan,’” said Bennie.
“Now we can look back over our lives and see clearly. We couldn’t see it then for all the smoke, but God’s hand was in every piece of it,” he added.
To contact the Robinson family, call 550-1037 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.