John and Bethany Arndt

Header image
 

Monthly Archives: October 2009

The Face of Hope

October 31st, 2009 by | 3 Comments

unthan21

No one really likes to hear stories that don’t have happy endings. How often at the end of the movie, do we raise our voice at the screen when it leaves us on a low note, or without explanation? Who really wants to read another depressing account of human suffering coming from Africa? I like to think mine are a tad different but you can be the judge.

Fundisawa is 7 months pregnant and HIV +. She hadn’t eaten a meal in a few days and hardly even looked pregnant. She has three children already, they are all in orphanages. She admits with tears streaming that her children were taken from her because she used to drink a lot. She was hopelessly depressed. Her “husband” sadly meets the stereotypical description: a jobless, drunk, wife beater. She decides to make an adoption plan and is given some food. She is taken a couple days later to the adoption home for pregnant women. She goes into labor early the next day. The doctors delay the baby’s arrival but her husband meets her at the hospital and they leave to go home together, and decide against adoption.

Chandre is 17 years old with a 6 month old baby girl. Chandre has two cousins that have told her that they were raped as children by their grandfather, and he has hurt other children. Chandre now lives with this grandfather and sleeps with one eye open. She has no where else to go. She said she has never been sexually abused. Sadly she considers the 62 year old father of her baby a boyfriend, not a predator. Chandre has been given the opportunity to have help writing a resume and getting a job, and moving away from her grandfather who poses a sickening risk to her baby… But “she doesn’t want to work right now”. The grandfather was taken to court a while back and not convicted.

Jen is 14 and her mom found out that she was pregnant, raped by her cousin, and in labor, all in one moment. Jen has the face and disposition of a mere child. She nervously told her story for the first time, having kept these secrets for months. With the fear of shame and reproof she was calmed by understanding and four breath giving four words, “ Its not your fault..” Jen and her mom wanted an immediate adoption but later changed their mind and are keeping the baby. The cousin has been arrested and a family feud has broken out.

Timbeza has been a foster child herself most of her 21 years. She calls her foster mom, who is nearly 80 years old, mom. She is mentally slow but never missed a day of school. Her foster brother  raped her and two days ago the product of that rape arrived. This little baby could hardly be called a product however. When you look at her tiny face and hands, you know she is worth far more than rubies and her maker just may use her as a secret weapon. Timbeza must stay at hospital in the psychiatric ward for some time because she is severely depressed. The baby has been placed in a Baby Safe foster home until Timbeza gets better.

Shannon would hardly look up. She wouldn’t answer any questions. She looked young, certainly not old enough to have three kids already! It finally came out that Shannon’s alcoholic mother and brother have kicked her out, but still have her kids. She hasn’t eaten in two days, and yes also 7 months pregnant. The baby’s father is on drugs. Shannon admitted she was suicidal and had a plan to take her life, however she wouldn’t admit to what the plan was. Shannon waited for me for couple hours until I was done and it was the promise of food that kept her from leaving. I couldn’t let her leave the hospital in such a state so plans were made to take her to a different trauma unit. Shannon refused to go and the staff did not support me in persuading her. So she was taken to the shop for some food. With her head bowed as I was leaving, she not so shamefully asked for tax fare. Before departing Shannon made a promise not to hurt herself. She called later that week and is doing okay. Of the 8 or so shelters in Cape Town there is not one where a pregnant woman who is keeping her baby can stay.

Chanelle is 21 and has some kids already. Her boyfriend has tried to kill her before. She is 5 months pregnant and addicted to Tck (meth). Her boyfriend is a ganster and she wants help and but every attempt to meet her she has not showed. I was told this week by another girl in the community that she saw Chanelle with a busted lip. The reason she did not show last time was that her boyfriend found out and he actually stoned her, threw rocks at her face.

While my daily encounters often end on far less than a positive note, I have the joy of working with a unique demographic, where hope is always and literally birthed from suffering. Oh the paradox! The agony that a defenseless life is now going to be pulled into to the chaos, the pain, the cycle,….the pressures of a totally dependent child… this intensifies each woman’s circumstances. Yet the joy of new life, and the immeasurable love that a mother has for her child, it is often the one thing many of them can look forward to… seeing the face of their baby. The face of hope.

unthan1



Hope that they will live a better life, make better decisions, have more, do more, be more.. Every mother hopes.

Cleary the odds are against these incoming lives. The weight of the societal, cultural, and family strongholds, to the faithless  may seem insurmountable. But what if one prayer of faith, that would otherwise never have been prayed, actually sets these babies apart for the King’s use. What if one prayer covering them in the invisible power of Jesus’ blood, one prayer declaring protection, preservation, declaring that they will know the love of their heavenly Father, that they will serve Him and bring Him glory, that His intentions and design for their life will not be thwarted but rather fulfilled…His plan to abide with them, empower them, bring salvation to others through them…. what if this one earnest prayer is granted. I try to touch and pray over every baby I encounter, whether in the womb or out and I “fix my eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”.

Job 6:8
“Oh, that I might have my request,that God would grant what I hope for…

me1
( all names changed; both baby’s pictured with permission & both baby’s pictured were scheduled to be aborted).

Infant Mortality Rates

October 5th, 2009 by | Leave a comment

UNICEF report: Infant mortality rates still high

By Barry Mason
31 January 2008

Nearly 10 million children under five died worldwide in 2006, according to a new report. That is a daily rate of 26,000 deaths.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has used the latest data available (2006) on the under-five mortality rate for every country in the world. The rate is expressed as the number of children dying before their fifth birthday per 1,000 live births.

Of the 10 million, 4 million die within the first month of life, half of these within the first 24 hours. Many of these deaths are related to the lack of adequate medical and nursing intervention at the time of birth. The report notes that half a million women a year die in childbirth.

The mortality rate is a result of various factors, such as nutrition, availability of safe water, child and maternal services available, the availability of medication and immunisation. The report provides a detailed picture of the conditions facing newborn children around the world.

The five countries with the highest rates of infant mortality were Sierra Leone, with 270 deaths per 1,000 live births; Angola with 260; Afghanistan with 257; Niger with 253; and Liberia with 235. In contrast, Sweden and Iceland were among the countries with the lowest mortality rates—3 deaths per 1,000 live births.

The report notes, “For every newborn baby who dies, another 20 suffer birth injury, complications arising from preterm birth or other neonatal conditions…. [A]t present in the developing world, one quarter of pregnant women do not receive even a single visit from skilled health personnel…. [O]nly 59% of births take place with the assistance of a skilled attendant; and just half take place in a health facility.”

Whilst there has been some reduction in child mortality rates, progress in some regions of the world has been negligible. One of the millennium development goals set by the UN in 2000 was to reduce the under-five child mortality rate by two thirds by the year 2015.

Amongst regions making “insufficient progress” towards this goal are sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern and Southern Africa, whilst the region of West and Central Africa has made no progress.

The report notes, “Sub-Saharan Africa remains the most troubling geographic area…. 1 in every 6 children dies before age five.” Almost half of all deaths of children under five occurred in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet only 22 percent of children were born there.

“Of most concern,” the report continues, “are the 27 countries that have registered scant progress since 1990 or have an under-five mortality rate that is stagnant or higher that it was in 1990… The region as a whole only managed to reduce child mortality at an average annual rate of 1 percent from 1990-2006, and double-digit reductions will be needed during each of the remaining years (to 2015) if it is to meet MDG4 (the millennium goal of reducing child mortality by two thirds).”

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown admitted the likely failure to reach the millennium goals. Speaking at the world economic summit being held in Davos, Switzerland, he said: “We have promised that infant mortality will be cut by three quarters by 2015. On present trends we will not make that happen until at least 2050.”

The UN General-Secretary Ban Ki-moon added: “We need fresh ideas and fresh approaches. It is unacceptable that one child dies of hunger every five seconds.”

A separate report issued by the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a non-governmental relief agency, on the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, shows around 45,000 people a month are dying, of which half are young children.

The IRC report noted: “The majority of deaths have been due to infectious diseases, malnutrition and neo-natal and pregnancy-related conditions. Increased rates of disease are likely related to the social and economic disturbances caused by conflict, including disruption of health services, poor food security, deterioration of infrastructure and population displacement. Children…are particularly susceptible to these easily preventable and treatable conditions.”

Ann Veneman, UNICEF executive director, in a foreword to the UNICEF report, noted: “Widespread adoption of basic health interventions including early and exclusive breastfeeding, immunisation, vitamin A supplementation and the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets to prevent malaria, are essential to scaling up progress, in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere.”

The report notes: “Pneumonia kills more children than any other disease—more than AIDS, malaria and measles combined. It is a major cause of deaths in every region.” The report goes on to note how other factors such as malnutrition and environmental conditions heighten the susceptibility of children to pneumonia.

It further notes that there are more than 2 million children under the age of 15 living with the HIV virus and that in 2006 more than half a million were born HIV-infected. Antiretroviral drug therapy can dramatically reduce the chance of HIV-infected mothers passing the virus to their children. But the report notes, “Despite the obvious benefits of drug therapy and it relatively low cost, only 11% of women in low and middle income countries who were HIV-positive were receiving services to prevent transmissions of the virus to their newborns in 2005… The vast majority of these women live in sub-Saharan Africa.”

The interventions necessary to reduce this appalling total of infant deaths are comparatively simple and cheap. The fact that the death rate is so high is the result of the failure of Western governments to provide the means to address this problem.

The indifference is not confined to developing countries. The under-five mortality rate in Britain is dramatically higher than in other Western nations such as Sweden. While the figure for Sweden is 3 per 1,000 live births, it is 6 in Britain. The figure for mothers dying in childbirth in Sweden is 1 in 17,400, whilst that in Britain is 1 in 8,200.

A recent report by the Healthcare Commission in Britain, an independent health watchdog, stated 31 National Health Trusts (around 20 percent of the trusts) provided maternity care that was below approved standards.

Anna Walker, commission chief executive, was reported in the Guardian January 25 saying that the investigation had been triggered by “serious concerns” about maternity services.

Walker spoke of “real concerns about performance” at some London hospitals. Antenatal and postnatal care was consistently poor at these hospitals, she said.

With the threat of worldwide recession, economic turmoil and an increased turn to militarism, whatever minimal pledges may have been made by the world’s leading powers in the past to address the plight of those at the bottom of the development indices, they are likely to fall off the agenda in the coming period.

I have not always obeyed this command.

October 3rd, 2009 by | 1 Comment

I Have Not Always Obeyed This Command

September 28, 2009  |  By: Jon Bloom |  Category: Commentary

“Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you” (Matthew 5:42).

I confess, I have not always obeyed this command.

I’m a veteran urban-dweller. Having lived in an inner city neighborhood for 18 years, I’ve encountered many beggers and borrowers. Some I discerned as cons I have called out or waved off. Some I have hired to do work. Others I’ve given to because I felt the conviction of this text.

I’ve thought a lot about this command of Jesus over the years. I’ve discussed it with many. I think I know all the major reasons why not to give when someone asks. You don’t want to encourage deception. You don’t want to feed a chemical addiction. You don’t want to contribute to someone’s cycle of poverty. And there are many others.

But still this text unnerves and convicts me.

The reason is that Jesus doesn’t give this command in the context of addressing how I can best facilitate transformation in someone else. He is telling me how I should respond to those who are making demands on me, either from explicitly evil motives or just plain out of their difficult situation. He is telling me how I ought to respond even when being taken advantage of.

  • Do not resist the evil person, he says. Let him slap you twice. (v. 39)
  • Give him more than he is suing you for. (v. 40)
  • Do more than he is forcing you to do. (v. 41)
  • Give to those who ask. (v. 42)
  • Love your enemy. (v. 44)

Jesus is telling me to actively show kindness and radical generosity toward those who hate me or who are seeking to take advantage of me.

Really, Jesus? Isn’t that rewarding sinful, or at least unhealthy, behavior?

Of course, I can think of Biblical examples that illustrate when it seems right to resist or flee an evil person in situations of theft, deception, abuse, persecution, war, etc. So when the Word speaks, I must listen carefully, and I must weigh all of his words.

But from the words Jesus speaks here, I think it applies more often and more broadly than I want it to. He does not let me off the hook easily. He tests my heart with such radical love. And in my heart I see my selfish, unloving impulses that do not want to part with my money, possessions, time, or convenience for needy or evil people. And I have a ready arsenal of noble-sounding rationales that conceal my sin, almost from myself.

What Jesus is calling me to is gospel love. It’s the love that drove him to die for me with when I was still a weak, ungodly, sinful enemy of his (Romans 5:6-10). There is something about such over-the-top, radically generous love that is so different from the way the world loves that it reflects the Father’s love for sinners. It’s why Jesus calls us also to costly love. It is both an expression and picture of the gospel.

Pray for me. I have an opportunity in my life right now to obey this command, which is why I’m wrestling with this text again. Pray that I will love the way I have been loved.

Give to the One Who Begs from You (Part 2)

Posted: 01 Oct 2009 04:40 AM PDT

(Author: Jon Bloom)

In my previous post I reflected on this verse: “Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you” (Matthew 5:42). And the comments have been very thoughtful and helpful.

It’s a breathtaking command, isn’t it? Typical Jesus. If he doesn’t knock the wind out of us occasionally, we’re not really listening to him.

Just a clarifying thought.

Like the friends who commented, I too wrestle in the specifics of obeying this command. And in my stumbling attempts I have not personally seen many transformed lives. It’s enough to make one quite cynical.

But the reason for our cynicism may be that we are misunderstanding Jesus’ purpose for the command. We tend to assume that the motive for radical generosity ought to be to meet a real need and help facilitate transformation in someone’s life. If that isn’t likely to happen, we shouldn’t give. It wastes money and reinforces evil behavior. The problem is Jesus doesn’t command us to give for those reasons.

What is his reason? “So that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:45) The point? The Father shows radical generosity toward both good and evil people (v. 45). The text makes no promise that all the evil people are reformed as a result of his generosity. From my observation, most are not.

And like Father, like Son. Jesus showed great kindness toward the crowds who followed him and toward those who crucified him. Yet only a few believed in him.

And like Father (and Son), like adopted “sons” (male and female). We are being called to bear the family resemblance. The Father’s children behave like the Father and the Son. One of those ways is the stunning—some would call foolish—way we show generous kindness toward undeserving evil people—the very kindness we’ve received.

If these evil people don’t repent, we are not wasting our generosity on them. Through us, God is showing them grace that he will hold them accountable for someday. We show the world that we love God and not money (Matthew 6:24). And God is showing us that he

…is able to make all grace abound to [us], so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, [we] may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” (2 Corinthians 9:8-9)

Now, there are times when real love dictates that we withhold giving, and the more intimately we are involved in a person’s life the better we can discern this. Biblical love must govern all our actions. God give us wisdom!

It’s also helpful to remember that Jesus is instructing disciples, not government agencies or NGO’s. He’s not giving a formula for eliminating poverty. Neither is he necessarily instructing a church’s institutional approach to community development, though he’s informing it. On those levels it is necessary to carefully identify and strategically address the causes of poverty.

But he is calling us to radical, gospel generosity. The kind that looks weird in the world. The kind that sifts our motives and tests our love. The kind that is impossible for the natural man. But let’s take heart, that’s the way it’s supposed to be, for “with man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27).