John and Bethany Arndt

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Monthly Archives: June 2008

shack attack in the wetlands

June 17th, 2008 by | Leave a comment

It was a bit irregular and quite petty considering the circumstances and the activity going on, but I found my thoughts regularly thinking of how dirty my shoes were getting; my cute little DC skate shoes that I morphed from my sister (morphed = to borrow something from someone and have them so long or so far away in my case, that it morphs into belonging to you, mostly because the original owner doesn’t care). Shout out to Chels.. did you know I have them.. the brown ones you left in your closet at Mom and Dad’s?

My once clean and crisp shoes didn’t stay unaffected by the muddy ground of the wetlands for long. I kept pushing back the thoughts of what was likely getting all over them…wet dirt, human refuse, chicken guts, and bodily fluids. It’s not uncommon to see used condoms on the streets and trails of Masi. Although I can’t figure out how they get on the sidewalks or streets, is it weird that in seeing them, I actually think, “that’s great; people are listening to the education that may save their lives”?

I know I am in Africa and working among the poor, so my shoes getting dirty isn’t keeping me up at night, but I think I was bothered that my shoes getting dirty was actually bothering me… in light of the fact that most kids go barefoot in Masi. That day’s events did keep me awake a little longer than usual though. After a month’s work of finding the most needy homes within in Masi, through Wendy the St. Theresa of the community; a Xhosa woman who spends many afternoons taking Missy and I back to the wetlands to assess the needs of the children whose parents are dying or just plain gone, we finally had a incredible work day on the shack of just one of these families.

The “wetlands” is a section of the township that is located in the back. Its different than the rest of Masi, as it literally borders a swamp like area… the shacks are built one on top of the other, jetting out into fields of tall grass. It’s very easy to get lost back there because there is no sidewalk, street or even a consistent trail. The shacks touch one another and the gaps in-between them create a narrow labyrinth fitting no more than two people at one time in some parts. Those who live in the wetlands are on the bottom of the socio-economic hierarchy of even a poor black township, they generally have much less, in both possessions and hope.

The conditions of this family’s one room shack was unthinkable, as the floor was literally puddles of water and sludge, with a missing window, and faulty lock on the door ( see pics on PHOTO Page). The mom goes in and out of hospice as she is in stage four of AIDS, her two daughters age 11 and 15, will stay there alone when she is gone. Sadly, they have been targeted during these times, and someone did break in and take advantage of these vulnerable girls. It was a heart warming day as our All Nations team joined our vision to help this family; the shack was completely torn down, lifted up from the wet ground, and rebuilt. We recruited some Xhosa locals, to empower them to help the needy in their own community, which we are teaching them is essential to following Jesus.

Some of the unskilled laborers such as myself, entertained the mobs of children, in addition to spending time with the two girls that live there. My thoughts at the opening and closing of the day, thankfully had nothing to do with my shoes, but they were more along the lines of asking God to help this family to make the connection between us serving them and loving on them, for what it is…direct intervention, protection, care and concern from Him, a Father who hasn’t left them, a Father who longs to comfort them and keep them safe. I asked God that our efforts to better their life, would be interpreted by them as a very real sign from Him, that He is with them, He is for them, He loves them, and although that life is full of sadness, suffering and injustice, all of which they are living through, that He does see, He does care, and He longs for them to know this, to know Him.