John and Bethany Arndt

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Monthly Archives: May 2008

peace

May 26th, 2008 by | Leave a comment

I sat in a room with over fifteen male Zimbabwean refugees. A couple Malawians were also sprinkled into this undersized space. My eyes scanned their faces. The scan came to a sudden end when my not my eyes, but my heart caught the face of a man. He didn’t notice my intent stare… I couldn’t look away. There was an unfamiliar absence of hope in these eyes. I was fortunate during this prayer meeting to not have caught his attention; this permitted me to continue to look at him. I think I was compelled because on his face, just pass the dark ovals of his eyes was weariness, certain exhaustion, this was coupled with a sadness that almost described the context of the evening.

The death threats breathed by his South African neighbors had no doubt brought him to this room. They had made him frantically exit his home, his community, abandon what little belongings he had this night…the threats looked as if they still echoed in his ears, as he sat there. The xenophobic hate speech and looting targeted at the African immigrants who lived in Masiphumelele, had caused a mass exodus starting at 3:00am the night before and into this day. Masiphumelele isn’t necessarily home for this man, as he has clearly already fled once before, from a less than protected homeland. The iconic variations of war, governmental injustice, and desperate poverty, which unfortunately define Africa to many western minds, had caused all the men in the room to flee their native soul.

As I kept glancing back to these eyes, they also seemed to gesture towards a statement of surrender, muttering something like.. “I admit my defeat.” All I could do with the heartbreaking presence of this sorrow was to simply pray, “Jesus comfort his heart, wrap your presence around his soul, breathe hope, breathe peace, breathe on Him and resurrect the dreams of this man’s heart.”

After prayer for peace in Masi, in room of over 30 people and although I was positive my looking had been discrete, this man walked directly across this room and introduced himself to me. A smile quickly formed on him and transformed his weary eyes, to one which whispered “kindness.” Bobs was his name and because he was the first I met in this group of twice displaced refugees, I felt as if God was going to answer my prayer for Bobs, that he would feel the unparalleled comfort of the one who created comfort.

This was Friday night. Things have since calmed down in Masiphumlele. I believe that due to a massive prayer effort no one was killed in Masi, although there were some deaths in other Cape Town area townships. We are overwhelmed by the Lord as Masi is the only township in my area where the police said it was safe for the foreigners to return. The 25 men, women and children that we were housing indeed returned to Masi yesterday and today. Tensions are still very high in South Africa, continue to pray for peace!

the love shack

May 15th, 2008 by | 1 Comment

So I went to hang out with my friends who live in Red Hill tonight. I walked up the beaten path to find brand new shacks where smolder and rubble once dominated, where the sand used to burn my feet. All Nations helped rebuild every single shack that was lost in the fire of February. My friends decided to move into Red Hill ( an informal squatter camp) for three months.. so they are living in a shack, three of them. The owner of the shack said they could use it while he is in the slammer.

So its a couple and another girl; they are my age and all from Oregon(!) I am not sure how thats working out with the young couple and a single girl in the one bedroom shack..(so I am not sure that the title of my note is relevant in that context) … A huge South African flag hangs from one wall. The walls are corrugated zinc sheets.. and some wood. We ate macaroni and drank Coke by candlelight (no electricity) and chuckled about how they bathe in a bucket now and use the “long drop” out back as a toilet. Adres, joined us, he is Xhosa local, who has recently decided to stop drinking because He wants to start to please Jesus with his life.. In fact in just the two weeks that Nick, Paula, and Lianna have been living there, 5 people have made commitments to stop drinking..and completely initiated this themselves.. their rehab are the small groups that are happening every day, sometimes three times a day. Where they read and discuss the Bible and care for one another.

Because this Red Hill team had been working there doing the disaster relief for three months already, once they moved in, its like the flood gates have opened, as people’s hearts are astounded at their willingness to live among them.

While they were once considering leaving Red Hill on the weekends because the drinking can get out of hand, and this puts them at risk for robbery and violence…they have decided to stay because their next door neighbor David, who was once a drunken threat, has now been sober for 5 days straight and wants to meet everyday to talk about Jesus.

As Nick played some Ben Harper and Johnny Cash on the guitar tonight, we sat and chatted about community gardens that will provide produce and income for the residents, we also felt the cool breeze of the night whistle through the cracks in the wood. I was so satisfied singing with friends in a shack, on a mountain in South Africa and celebrating the changes that Jesus is making in the lives of people who were once bound.

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the poor

May 5th, 2008 by | 5 Comments

I have been studying the follower of Jesus’, biblical responsibility to care for the poor and needy. It’s interesting that the bible discusses the poor over 2,000 times. I learned that between 1980 and 1988 the US government pumped $83 billion dollars of foreign aid into Sub-Saharan Africa. $83 billion dollars! During that same period of time living standards dropped and infant mortality rose. As my leader, Floyd says, “Once again, we learn that foreign aid does not disciple the hearts and minds of people. God uses people to disciple people.” Poverty is not simply a hungry mouth and an empty pocket, poverty is a world view and a mindset.

A local pastor here, who has started a hospital for people suffering from AIDS, shared how he was talking with a young girl from Masi recently. She is 14 years old, pregnant, and has HIV. He simply asked her how at 14; she was so involved in sex. She explained her perspective on life…. “ I figured that when I finish high school, if I am lucky I will get a job as a domestic worker, probably for at the most 100 Rand ( $15) a day, for two days a week). I will live in a tin shack the rest of my life and this will be my existence. So people told me that sex was good, that it was fun and I started having it a lot. My goal was to get HIV by the time I was 15 and be dead by 20, so far it looks like I am on track.”

I know of a family where the mother called my friend to come and get her 7 year old daughter because she has been raped and the rapist, her boyfriend is coming back. Social services were called, yet nothing was done. The mom’s boyfriend now lives with them, and has now also raped the baby ( its commonly believed that sex with a baby will cure a man of AIDS). Bianca has pleaded with social services to remove these children; she even contacted the presiding judge of the children court. The judge’s response… it’s too late now to prove anything we must wait for it to happen again, and then we can do something. Wait for it to happen again? Not only does this question make my stomach turn, but it causes me to ask what can be done to help the helpless?

Is there really hope to change an entire system of deficiency after deficiency? Possibly not to change a system… but maybe more or less to change a few precious lives. Hope that is seen is not hope at all. So I walk, I talk, I pray… and I HOPE. The people that I meet, they need an impartation of the power to dream! That’s what I have been trying to stir in the young girls I am mentoring, that they can dream. Circumstances are next to desperate for some, but I am confident of this… that I do have the answer. Jesus is the answer to all human needs. Yes, He is redemption, love and comfort, but he also provides, jobs, food, health, freedom from addiction, and release from the chains of injustice.

It’s unfair and condescending to this beautiful continent to always highlight the tragedies and not give goodness a platform. Do not be fooled… there is much goodness in Africa. I have become friends with a couple in Masi. They are simply doers of kindness and they have a heart for the needy in their community. Although they may not have much, they regularly check on those who have less. They know all of the child headed homes in Masi and will often check on these kids to offer food, or even just help with homework.

CPX lecture phase is over now… apparently now I am a qualified servant leader, community developing, simple church planter! I did learn a lot and now I am entering a phase of full time outreach in Masiphumelele.