John and Bethany Arndt

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Monthly Archives: April 2010

It Takes a Village…

April 24th, 2010 by | 2 Comments

April 24th, 2007

It Really Does Take a Village…

I remember being a teenager and one of the motto’s of the Clinton administration, particularly the 1st Lady was, “ It take a village to raise a child.” My mom would always rebuttal quickly with a “ No it doesn’t, it takes responsible parents to raise a child.” In later years I have come to understand the two different philosophies, especially as I have studied sociology and human behavior in the social environment. But here in South Africa, and in my line of work, I often think, “Sheesh.. It really does take a village…”

It takes so many various resources to intervene with a suffering woman in a holistic way. For instance take Nosisi a young Xhosa girl. She was abandoned at a young age, never knowing her biological parents. Raised by an older foster mother in one of Cape Town’s largest townships called Gugulethu. I have heard black people say they take off their jewelry before going to visit relatives in Gugulethu and they leave their cell phones at home, due to the risk of attack. Nosisi’s vulnerability isn’t just due to being orphaned, but she clearly lacks the IQ and communication abilities that most of us have, and further more she never had access to support to even be diagnosed with a particular disability.

Nosisi only went through the 9th grade, undoubtedly because of learning difficulties. Her foster mother raised her with love, but her foster brother was another story.   At 17, Vuyani began to fight and assault his 80 year foster mother and he also began to violently rape his vulnerable foster sister. The produce of these assaults became a living being growing inside of Nosisi, at the age of 21. Ashamed and angry at this pregnancy, she tried on her own, several times to kill the life with in her, but with out success.

Enter Baby safe here. I was contacted by Cape Town’s largest hospital, Groote Scurr. Intervention was needed for this young girl, and her even more vulnerable, one day old baby. Nosisi was so withdrawn and traumatized because the last year of her life that she needed to stay in a psychiatric ward to try and work through what had happened to her. Her foster mother was too old and unfit to take on another child, so I took this precious little bundle and placed her with an amazing woman named Maria. I was very prayerful of which foster family I chose for this baby named Noxolo, as I sensed it would be a long road for this little one, and I was lead to ask someone I believed would be most willing to potentially work with Nosisi  as well.

Alli and I ended up waiting longer than we expected when we went to fetch Nosisi from the hospital, we then went on an adventure through Cape Town’s roughest areas to find a hidden safe house for Nosisi to be transferred to. As dusk approached and we grew lost, driving past gangsters and drug addicts, with a newborn, a grieving orphan, and a random Zimbabwean woman (one whom we were giving a ride to) in tow, we tried to receive directions from the police, another shelter, and various pedestrians, yet with no luck. Not giving up, as darkness, frustration, and nervousness came upon us, we finally found the shabby little Salvation Army shelter. Thank God for the Salvation Army! For the love of God, literally… give them your coins! Nosisi tearfully kissed her new baby goodbye and we headed back in a hurry to our side of town, getting home pretty late.

That night was over 5 months ago. The baby remains with Maria, and Alli or Danielle have spent many afternoons driving to pick up Nosisi or to take the baby to visit her. The sight of her daughter is literally one of the only things that will illicit a smile from Nosisi. Alli taught her how to change her daughter’s nappie, how to feed her, how to comfort her. And a better foster mother than Maria can not be found. Even though she lives in a one room shack this baby is spoiled rotten, and whats more Maria has played a hugely significant role in Nosisi’s life as she has welcomed her foster child’s mother into her family as well. She has hosted Nosisi on many weekends, so she can have the joy of bonding with her child and work towards a long term reunion. Even when Nosisi has responded much like a child herself, wetting the bed once, and withdrawing into a semi conscious state, Maria has offered her love and comfort, far above what she ever signed up for.

Because the authorities in Gugulethu will not do their job, and because Nosisi remains incapable of caring for her baby full time, the village has rallied together for a solution for these two beautiful girls, who have no idea yet of the plan their Maker has for them, one with a hope and a future. In addition to all the work towards therapy, a protection orders, medication, care & concern, the pursuit of justice, provision, accommodations,  court reports, and foster care grants, for these two vulnerable ones;  Danielle, Alli, Myself, Maria, Frithe, the hospital social worker, and Carlyn the shelter social worker,  have added another mighty woman of love as a key player. Orelia is now taking her seat as a Village elder sent to bind up Nosisi’s broken heart. I met Orelia last year, when someone asked me to check on a child who she had taken in. I knew then that I had come upon a gem of a person, one whose story blows your mind, and one whom honor is due.

Orelia was the daughter of a Rwandan doctor and his upper class wife. When her father decided to leave the family with not so much of a farewell or explanation, her mother became destitute. Her mother’s family, who were considered socially elite, refused to take her in unless she made other arrangements for her children. Unwilling to leave her children they slept on the streets of Rwanda, more specifically in a field. Orelia remembers at the age of six walking 7 km to the catholic church, asking the nuns if she could have a job, so she could buy food for her family. When they laughed at her they quickly drove her back to the field to discover the story she told them was entirely true.

Through a series of events the Bishop of the church actually came to adopt her, and he raised her as his own daughter. She loves to tell the story of getting her period and having no idea what was happening to her, she walked into the Bishop’s office proclaiming that she was dying. This man who she reveres, drew a picture of human anatomy and explained everything, then he literally drew her a picture of how to make her own pad, with cut up cotton wool. Orelia grew up in catholic boarding schools with the finest education the country of Rwanda could provide. She married a man who was a Rwandan ambassador to other countries, and they had four children. During the genocide her husband & child where shot in the head in front of her face.

She fled the country with her remaining children and after being imprisoned in Namibia, she made it to Cape Town. This traumatized family of four slept under a bridge for months. She can recall the depth of coldness they felt at night, almost as if it was yesterday. She recalls laying down to die, one night as she was ill in a shelter bed, where bugs covered the walls, after her son had a near fatal seizure. Orelia some how found the strength to keep going and during Apartheid she was moved to live in Masiphumelele, after she gained refugee status. That was 14 years ago, and here she remains, but not without success. Orelia is the only african woman I knowwho has sought out funding on her own and built a Kreshe (daycare/preschool) for Masi’s children.

Its not just a Creshe but a brilliant little school, where she only charges parents who can pay. They serve over 100 kids on a beautiful property, and they actual implement excellent, early childhood, education. In addition to opening this preschool, Orelia actually helped build it herself, somewhere along the way, she learned brick laying! She requires all her teachers to have a high school diploma ( most Creshe workers are drop outs). My friend Vovo’s son, goes there at no charge, and he knows no English except the songs he has learned there, and he can recite Psalm 91 verbatim; its pretty adorable. Orelia has helped me with other clients as well, Nosisi isn’t the first. But we arranged for her to live with Orelia and work at the Creche by day, where she will be supervised to have her baby with her. The baby will stay with Maria at night and weekends, but Nosisi will be free to be at Maria’s any time. Our Vulnerable Children program has partnered with Baby Safe to provide sponsors for women and children Baby Safe highlights as particularly in need. So Nosisi and her baby have been sponsored and will receive a food parcel each month, as well as winter blankets, and clothing.

As a Baby Safe team we weekly pray for all our clients by name, and our continuous prayer is that Nosisi’s heavenly father would provide healing to her feeble heart. That he would bring her joy, peace, and enable her to be the mother that her child needs. We trust that He has brought together this village of resources and compassion to raise up two women who can walk proud and empowered, who can learn to thrive and not merely survive. He has Nosisi and Noxolo written on the palm of His hand and He has commissioned a village of humble advocates to make sure they know about their Father’s tattoo.

Sex Trafficking in South Africa

April 16th, 2010 by | 2 Comments

Two years ago I was bored one evening and went to the book store to pick out a new book to read. I happen to pick up a huge book titled, ‘ A Crime so Monstrous’ by E. Benjamin Skinner. I was riveted by this undercover journalist who was writing an expose on human trafficking in various countries around the world. His compelling accounts were not only shockingly disturbing but they also gave a solid framework for prevention efforts and the lack there of, within various governments. At the time I was a member of

Justice [Acts] (www.justiceacts.org) which my friend and fellow missionary, Tonya Stanfield had just founded. Justice [Acts] is a alliance of  Christians countering human trafficking in South Africa (SA).

Little did I know at the time that indeed our speculations about SA being both a sending and receiving country for human trafficking would not only prove entirely true, but now Justic Acts’ prevention specialists can hardly do a single training of “Traffick Proof” without hearing people’s accounts of how their friends and family have gone missing, never to return. Justice Acts has been a catalyst in SA for launching a government established counter trafficking coalition, as well as successfully lobbying against the legalization of prostitution in this country. Would you believe in SA its illegal to sell sex, but not illegal to buy?

In fact just a couple weeks ago one of my close friends Christina Bacino, also a Justice Acts team member (www.christinabacino.com) was at Oceanview primary school teaching the kids how to protect them selves from being trafficked, when she saw and called on Lydia, my “little sister” from our VC program. Lydia couldn’t wait to tell me that day when I saw her in Masi.               ” Guess What Bethany? I have good news!”, he said as she hopped in my car. She made me chuckle at her “good news” when she reported of how Christina was at her school that day. She later asked me very serioiusly, “But who can I trust then?” I was deeply saddened that this  8 year old has to face the reality that she is actually at risk for  being sold.

Lydia’s mom will probably not live to see her fully grown due to AIDS, but I do know that she would never consider selling her daughter. When I told Lydia that she could trust her mother, she exclaimed that she didn’t know if thats true. She said this because after the Traffick Proof presentation, a little girl in her class told everyone that her mom tried to sell her when she was 5 years old. Lydia said this child started crying as she told her story, of how if it were not for her grandmother her mom would have sold her to someone.

Yesterday I was chatting with another dear friend in Masi. She was telling me about her aunt who once jumped on the back of a truck, whose driver boasted of jobs. She was wearing her primary school uniform, and they never saw her again. Years later they were presented with a newborn baby boy, the woman who delivered him to the family said she was a friend of her aunt’s and that they were prostitutes together in Johannesburg. He is 15 now and has never met or spoken to his mother.

It wasn’t long after I read this book, that the rest of the Justice Acts team quickly read it and passed it on. I was always intrigued by its author, not merely his passion for justice concerning modern day slavery, but his head shot at the back of the book was not too shabby! When I found out that he was coming to Cape Town for an article, and that Justice Acts was hosting him, I definitely had hopes of being his tour guide ; )  After being swept away with Baby Safe responsibilities last year, I had to step away from Justice Acts but my friends continue to work alongside the government, law enforcement, and the “at risk” to counter this crime so monstrous. You can find an article that Benjamin Skinner wrote for TIME while visiting South Africa below.

With the World Cup 2010 taking place in this country in less than two months, Justice Acts is preparing to intervene with trafficked victims in the 5 stadium cities. Law enforcement called them at 10pm this past Saturday, they had just rescued two victims, and they were asking what they should do now? I found them beds at an emergency shelter and we were on our way to fetch them when we were told that the two released from captivity actually fled and returned to get their friends.

Will you pray for wisdom and resources for a much needed safe house to be established here?

Would you considering helping me cover the fees for an online course that will train me specifically in counseling rescued victims? It is called Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (www.tfcbtmesc.edu). To learn more, email me at bethany@thebabysafe.org.

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1952335-3,00.html#ixzz0lBx0tvDF

Do Justice; Love Mercy.

Masiphumelele (We Shall Overcome)

April 2nd, 2010 by | Leave a comment

GREETINGS to our AMAZING FRIENDS for OUR CHILDREN IN MASIPHUMLELE!!!

Hello from Masi!

This is a picture of our kids club we have been running on Friday afternoons with our kids and the neighborhood kids. We have around 67 kids that show up for games, songs, prayer and story. It has been a really fun time and we are getting to know the kids better all the time.

We have mentors on our team that spend time with each family. These connections are the heart of what we desire to do. Sometimes it is a very easy connect and other times it is hard to find the families who live in the dangerous areas of Masi,  the language barrier is a hurdle as well. Our families often times don’t have cell phones and when we get to the shack they might not all be there. We are privileged to build friendships.  And we are focuused to impact these ones so they will thrive.

These families that you are helping with monthly support are so very very poor would have very little to eat without you. You are helping these orphans and vulnerable ones to have a chance for the future. THANK YOU SO MUCH. Isaiah 58:6-12 are your promises for feeding the poor and helping the afflicted.  Read this passage and soak in the blessings that are yours. We are so grateful to you.

We hope this email finds you all doing well! For most of you, Spring is on the way. Here in South Africa, we will soon be heading into the cold and rainy winter season. As some of you may remember from last year, we try to make sure that every family that you sponsor has a BLANKET for each bed that they sleep in. These are quality BLANKETS that are very warm and heavy. Would you please consider how you may be able to help us as we move into this difficult season for the people of Masiphumelele? Would you consider giving an extra $35.00 this month to go towards buying a BLANKET for a new vulnerable family? Their shacks have a very hard time holding up to the wind and rain. These BLANKETS help to make the winter a bit more bearable. We appreciate everything that you do as a sponsor. As the Vulnerable Children’s Team, we are honored to be an extension of your generosity and kindness.

If you do decide that you are able to help us financially, please notify us via email no later than April 15th. PLEASE SEND YOUR BLANKET MONEY THE SAME WAY YOU SEND YOUR MONTHLY SUPPORT, JUST LABEL IT VULNERABLE CHILDREN BLANKET FUND IN MASI.  If you have any questions regarding this please reply to this email and we will help you.

We want to make sure our new families have BLANKETS by the beginning of May. I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks and God bless!

Kalyn, Bethany, Christina, Cheri and Danielle

Your Vulnerable Children team