John and Bethany Arndt

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Monthly Archives: May 2009

3 women, 2 stories, 1 hope.

May 17th, 2009 by | 2 Comments

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“How much can we ever know about the love and pain in   another’s heart? How much can we hope to understand those who have suffered deeper anguish, greater deprivation, and more crushing disappointment than we ourselves have ever known?” -Orhan Pamuck

Thandi comes from the Eastern Cape, a rural village on the east coast of South Africa. She is 28, she married young. Her husband soon began beating her, he also stepped out on their marriage sleeping with many different women. They have two children. They moved to Cape Town to look for work, she found out she was HIV positive. She told her husband her status and after he beat her up, he took the children and left her, and went to Johannesburg with the children. The gross irony is that her infection was surely caused by him. While nearly half of the population here has HIV/AIDS, the stigmatization is still so drastic and Thandi’ story is not an uncommon one. She explains that she was wandering Masi in a stupor of depression and sorrow, worried that she will never see her children again, and planning a way to take her life, the day that Regina randomly met her and invited her to our house church at Wendy’s house (perhaps not so randomly). Thandi was sleeping with a couple different men just for food to get by and rent money for her humble shack. God provided a full time job though and Thandi is self sufficient for the first time in her life. She is still struggling for hope, as she is separated from her kids. Thandi has no family in Masi and knew no one; she has now become best friends with Vovo (also a member of my house church). Vovo is very open about her HIV status and she is constantly looking for the person who needs encouragement. Thandi’ works at a local bakery now, and her shift begins at 5am, so she must walk through the township at 4 in the morning, this is very scary and dangerous. She fears going to work every morning, especially after she and her co-worker were chased and almost attacked by three men with knives last week. But her job is her life line in many ways. rearview2

Fortunate comes from Zimbabwe, she arrived here in January. She is quiet and timid; her English skills are not like that of the other Zimbabweans I know. She dropped out of school early and never became proficient like most Zimbabweans. In fact, when we speak on the phone, we both get frustrated and repeat ourselves over and over, and then we eventually give up and laugh. Fortunate is the older sister of my close friend Portia, who has been here for almost two years. Her story became exceptionally worrisome to me, as I learned that the calamity and desperation in her own country has lead her here in hope of any job, of any kind, so she can send money and materials home to her three children, ages 11, 8, and 6. These children are staying completely on their own, while their mom is here. If this breaks my heart, I can only try to understand what this does to Fortunate’s. Not only has she left her small children by themselves, but she left her normal house and now shares a tiny shack with three adults, a two year old, and one single bed for all of them. She sleeps on the rumpled, dirty floor of the shack. Every single time I am there, I see a mouse skittering across the floor. The great frustration is that it has now been 5 months and still no job. I helped Fortunate create a CV (resume), and I posted it on gumtree (its like Craig’s list), in addition to submitting it to many employers online. Fortunate is growing weary and is very close to heading home to be with her kids. She has an idea of starting a business where she buys things in South Africa on the border and then sells them to Zimbabweans. I have made her an appointment with a man who coaches entrepreneurs at a local NGO.

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These are just two stories of women I have the honor of knowing. I am regularly astounded by most women I meet …their courage is mind blowing, what they walk through, and how they keep walking… what is most beautiful is their continued belief and confession that… “God is good.” Their trials silence any complaints I may have, their smiles challenge my thankfulness, and their perseverance reminds me that there really is a Peace that passes all me11understanding.

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snippets & snapshots

May 8th, 2009 by | 1 Comment

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I just discovered a ridiculously cool mall, only 40 minutes from my house. Its HUGE! I have only bought eye liner and a card reader for my camera , yet  I have gone twice in 3 weeks. Cavendish Mall bids me come!.. they get the movies sooner there too.

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So one afternoon it was cold, rainy and blustery and I kinda didn’t feel like trekking through the Masi wetlands to find this new mom that contacted Baby Safe.  She had just given birth and was unsure of if she wanted to/or could keep the baby. I knew I would need an interpreter, so I met my friend Vovo and she lead me on the maze to her. We entered her little shanty. I realized that her kids are actually in our Vulnerable Children program. She is HIV+ with a 6 year old, two year old, and now two week old. We found them all huddled in their one single bed, the children’s big eyes shone from behind the covers, one crawled into my lap. I was sweetly shocked at how WARM the shack was… they were heating the place by simply turning the two burners on, on the electric stove top. IT FELT SO GOOD! I actually got hot. I had brought her some much need baby blankets, and clothes. We talked about many things as you can imagine, including this Jesus that she has not yet met. At one point I was listening to her speak in Xhosa, I was holding this absolutely precious baby, the other two children lay quietly in the bed of this warm, yet tattered shack…and I had a this bold moment of thinking…

” This is exactly why I am here. ”

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Not neccessarily for them.. but for me. I can’t imagine enjoying anything more, then what I get to do.

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So, I took a full week out of Masi and all meetings, and appts. and dedicated myself to completeing my application for social work licensing as a foreigner… this was my work station (my wanna be living room).

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…and this is approximately 7% of the total docs I sent to the South African Council for Social Work Professionals. After 14 months, hundreds of hours of typing & researching, dozens of frustrating phone calls & emails ( with no responses), 12 different papers prooving my knowledge and skills, a ridiculous amount of communication and correspondence with my professors at ORU & OU… I completed this application, and I couldn’t be more relieved!!! Just as I was about to send it registered mail to Pretoria and pray nothing African happens to it… I met a woman who was visiting here and offered to hand deliver it, b/c she works down the street from the place in Pretoria! What are the odds?

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When I was in Tulsa in November,  I was referencing the average wage here and how Vovo worked full time earning only $2 a day, and how she was in debt to her neighbor  for $160 , because she had to go to her often for food, for herself and her son. My Uncle Danny who heads the Oral Roberts University Academic Peer Adviser Program (that was a lot of capitalized words in a row) said the program wanted to sponsor paying off Vovo’s debt & they also now sponsor a food parcel for an orphan in Masi every month!!! –Thank you ORU!

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