John and Bethany Arndt

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Monthly Archives: November 2010

thank·ful

November 27th, 2010 by | Leave a comment

thank·ful

adj.

1. Aware and appreciative of a benefit; grateful.
2. Expressive of gratitude: a thankful smile.

thankful·ly adv. thankful·ness n.
It was my first Thanksgiving in South Africa; its been in Oregon or Oklahoma for the last 10 years. I have  left here each year a couple days before so I could catch all the holidays in one trip. Thanksgiving in summer has its certain appeals though; I mean it is a holiday so you might as well have access to the sun and beach. Access to family is a must, and thankfully I have that here too. How many missonaries get to share life with people of their same tribe?
Thankful.
While the shops & banks stayed open and ministry and normal life went on around us, the Americans in my community snuck away to justify our annual act of gluttony. It never does dissappoint does it? I opted to brings drinks and salad; lets just say it was better for everyone this way.  Even though our celebration was oceans and scores away from where our ancestors first gave thanks, the traditional gratitude and aromatic flavors were certainly in the air.
Naturally I have been mourning the absence of autumn in my life. Autumn is more of an honored theme of life, rather than a season to me…All true appreciators agree that the lustre of the autumn sky, the deep accentuating colors that often stand in front of it, the crispness in the air, the bonfires, the cider, the creative power behind pumpkins, the need for sweaters, the caramel apples, the musk of fall… all of it is the essence of the most sacred of seasons.  Yes…Better to have loved and lost than never loved at all? Tis true, tis true.
Just as my bereavment nearly consumed my consciousness… a solitary, floating article of both simplicity and grandeur just happen to land in my kitchen… it whispered “glory” to this adoring saint.
Autumn lives in my heart, if not before my senses. And I am thankful for these sensors that are able to view, feel, percieve, and touch. I am thankful for every particle that makes up my life. The people, the purpose, the challenges, the memories, the sentiments. Life will always be more than okay. He surpassess mediocrity and even soars past goodness and despenses a certain “autumn” to our days.. a certain color and a descriptionless vibrance that comes from merely knowing him.
I’m definitely thankful.

Salem, Oregon 2007
Salem, OR  2007

South Africa's Most Dangerous…

November 23rd, 2010 by | 1 Comment

Pollsmoor Prison, officially, Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison is a prison in the Cape Town suburb of Tokai. Approximately 15 minutes from where I live.  Nelson Mandela was the most famous inmate of the prison. He describes Pollsmoor Prison as “the truth of Oscar Wilde’s haunting line about the tent of blue that prisoners call the sky.”

Pollsmoor is a maximum security prison with little means in the way of escape. Some of South Africa’s most dangerous criminals and roughest gangsters are held in Pollsmoor Prison. The prison has a staff of 1,278 and the capacity to accommodate 4,336 offenders, but the current inmate population is over 7,000 (a figure which fluctuates daily).

Today was not my first time at Pollsmoor. I had visited a client there a while back. She was in for child abuse, drugs, assault, attempted murder, you name it, she has done it. Alli and I tag teamed and had a memorable adventure in addition to our encounter with her. We left for the prison at dawn, passports with us as needed. Joining the queue of inmate family members we grasped our imported travel mugs full of clestial nectar, with what seemed like flourescent hands compared to the dark complexions around us. We avoided eye contact with pretty much everyone, mostly because of the painful time of day, but we also knew enough to repress our congenial personalities around these folk. For some reason American toned niceness seems to often translate into, “I am sexually attracted to you.”  There are times when its best to avoid interaction, that morning was one of them.

We found it interesting that at a maximum security prison, we went through a metal detector but brought purses and a bag of food and toiletries, which were never once checked for contraband. Its no wonder the drug trade is worse in the prison than without. And as you can imagine we were very conspicuous, dressed in our anglo skin and accesorized with smiles as big as our earrings. ; )

We did feel the freedom to be chatty with a black guard while we waited for a taxi to transport us to the women’s block. The icebreaker was asking him if he has ever watched the show “Prisonbreak.” Being sure of his answer it was mostly just to amuse ourselves but of course we explained the plot and told him he would love it. We asked what the worst thing that had happened there was. We wanted to know if the horrors of  Pollsmoor were fact or fiction. He then explained a certain horror that took place during a hunger strike through out the prison. Several inmmates staying in a special isolation sector, known to be the most secure area of the entire prison, planned to draw the attention of the guards by setting their mattresses on fire, in an attempt to either simply cause trouble or attempt to escape. What they didn’t know was that there was only one set of keys to their section, and none of the guards on duty had this key. So by the time the staff were able to get to the person who had the key, the three men had burned to death.

Upon our questioning, Mr. Guard also confirmed the truth that drugs come in all the time; mostly because the prison staff take bribes money from visitors who smuggle them in, along with weapons. He then further amused us with a slightly akward reenactment of what a man might look like smuggling  a “shank” in to prison in his one and only bodily orface.  He loved that we asked about “shanks” and we loved that he was walking like a man with a shank in his arse. Next to him on the wall of the outer building hung a white board charting the # of murders for the month, the number of attempted escapes, the # of scuicides. Alli and I simultanously observed, glanced at each other with a certain look of  “how did we get here?” and boarded the taxi to go visit our own favorite convict.

I returned to Pollsmoore today because after 5 months of paperwork, phone calls and emails Baby Safe had finally been invited by prison administrators to give a presentation.  Of course we want to  service the pregnant inmates in providing adoption to those interested, but we proposed access to the women having abortions, and the new moms as well. The possibilities are endless really and while it was clear they would welcome whatever sort of  resources and hope we could offer their inmmates, they didn’t have the appropriate staff there, and it seems my three hour wait would not produce a plan, but another meeting. I am okay with that though as we are excited about expanding His territory in perhaps the darkest sector of Cape Town.

Said about Whites in Pollsmoore,

“The key is to blend in; don’t look frightened, don’t look over confident, play it cool. This is however a rather exacting task when you’re a proverbial snow leopard in a baron desert. The archaic values entrenched behind the walls of South Africa’s most heinous detention facility bear little affinity to those of a democratic South Africa. The worlds that created these criminals were forged from the apartheid melting pot and one cannot but sympathise with these men who, through victims of their own circumstance, have been dragged into a life of malfeasance spurred on by a racial prejudice towards them. If my oppressor had driven me to a life of brutal incarceration and then a lilly-white social representation of him walked through my front door there would be hell to pay. And in Pollsmoor hell is paid each and every single day.”

www.capetownalive.co.za/…/2874-whiite-kids-in-pollsmoor-tasty-treats.html

A historic day…

November 20th, 2010 by | 4 Comments

“They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!” Psalm 22:31

After the 1st year of having the baby safe available and it not being used, I determined our location was not consistent with providing anonomyity to a parent wishing to secretly abandon their baby. In an effort to prevent the lethal dumping of babies, and to allow access to multiple impoverished communities, we chose a church that was centrally located, but its also in a white area and while other community members come on foot or taxi due to the stores near by, I didn’t anticipate the constant activity at that takes place at this church, nor did I adquately understand that a baby drop must be extremely close and quick to access for moms to use instead of simply throughing the baby in the township rubbish.

So trusting that the Lord had birthed and provided for the concept of baby safes, it not being used for a year, and constantly answering the question, “How many babies have been dropped?”, I naturally wrestled with the decision to equip other areas with baby safes.  If this were His idea than surely he would have affirmed with atleast one person using it, don’t you think? While Baby Safe’s success as a whole was undoubtful, with intervention with about one baby a week through our other programs, and with women constantly finding hope to keep their babies, I still couldn’t let go of my puzzled dissappointment concerning the orginal concept. But I  thank God for his words, “The end of a matter is better than the beginning and patience is better than pride.” Eccliesiasted 17:8

Choosing to error on faith and understanding and witnessing the spiritual warfare surrounding this cause, (DEATH vs. LIFE) the second year of it not being used was more digestable. But it was not all together easy to promote new locations for baby safes, having to share that ours has been unsuccessful with collecting unwanted babies but successful in drawing parents to come for help, and openly leave the baby with us, which of course we prefer. Thankfully because baby dumping is so prevelant, three other groups have still chosen to install baby safes, to provide the option in their area of need. One of them so far has also recieved a baby and the two others are brand new.

As sprinke of doubt, mixed with mostly perserverance,  has created a trusting confidence that these safes will represent His mighty right arm to the unwanted in Africa & eventually Asia, were rates of infanticide are incalcuble; that baby safes  are a part of His intent to lift the needy from the ash heap, and to seat the poor among princes. Clearly the enemy of these young souls would try to derail His purposes before they have come to fruition.  But greater is He… and patience is better than pride.

This past year has been hard for me. Hard on my body, hard on my heart. My health has failed me, the enemy has tried extra hard to counter the King’s plans through me.  And recently my heart, which I have for a long time compartmentalized in order to cope,  has had a seal rupture and its contents have spilled over,  flooding everything in sight.  Monday night I actually had yet another familiar dialogue with my Maker, expressing my weariness, the exhaustion of living in constant pain, my grief surrounding the lifestyle change. Some how He has a way of saying something newly comforting to the most reoccuring of prayers.

He makes a way in the wilderness and provides streams in the desert.

Something about His mere precense is strengthing even when circumstances remain unchanged. I found myself asking for joy again. That joy that my heart used to know and has seemed far away. That subtle but strong contentment in one’s soul, that delights in all things that reflect His image. That happiness that abides through the day, just underneath our consciousness as the day presents its activities and myriad of challenges. Yes, I have been praying for the return of that joy for sometime now.

But Joy comes in the morning.

The baby safe called at 4:36 am.  All in all we were totally blessed by a beautiful, 2 day old, baby girl, left in our baby safe. God was reall winking at me, because no, the first baby in our safe wasn’t the expected black or coloured one (the coloureds are a people group here) , she was clearly Chinese. We knew this because of her features and the sirname the hospital band around her miniature ankle. My heart was first captivated by orphaned Chinese baby girls, as I interned at Dillon International at the age of 19, and then worked as the Chinese case manager there years later. I quite sincerely first loved asian babies before He ever scooted me here to Africa, in some ways their the reason I’m here.

Two years to the exact week since this baby safe was opened we had our first baby dropped. I always said if it we ever only had one, it would be worth it. Although there have been an estimated 500 babies dumped in Cape Town city limits alone this year, with two babies found just this week, my staff, the All Nations greater family, and I rejoiced in this one. He leaves the 99 to go after the one.

The hospital band was from a far away hospital, her mom did her research, and displayed great courage to leave her baby safely. May we thank God for her middle of the night strength and may we pray for her heartache.

I heard the Lord say her name is to be Joy. That is what she brings to her heavenly Father,  what she will bring to this world, and what she has brought to my heart.

Joy came in the morning.

“Lift up your eyes and look around; all your children gather and come to you. As surely as I live,” declares the LORD, you will wear them all as ornaments;
you will put them on, like a bride. Though you were ruined and made desolate
and your land laid waste, now you will be too small for your people, and those who devoured you will be far away. The children born during your bereavement
will yet say in your hearing, ‘This place is too small for us; give us more space to live in.’  Then you will say in your heart, ‘Who bore me these? I was bereaved and barren;  Who brought these up? I was left all alone, but these—where have they come from?’”

This is what the Sovereign LORD says: “See, I will beckon to the nations, I will lift up my banner to the peoples; they will bring your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on their hips. Kings will be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers…

Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.” (Isaiah 49:18-23)

Joy is staying in a local baby home until the required 60 days has passed, at which time she will be matched with a adoptive family.

"We can not find out how they died."

November 8th, 2010 by | 1 Comment

Johannesburg – Babies dumped in Gauteng were increasingly becoming a large part of non-natural, undetermined deaths in the zero to four-year age group, the provincial forensic pathology service said on Thursday.

“These babies in dustbins, gutters, dumps…who are aborted or miscarried newborns being disposed of…are becoming a large part of 60% of undetermined deaths (of young children) in Gauteng,” Professor Jeanine Vellema told reporters in Johannesburg.

“We find these dumped babies when they are dead and we often cannot find out how they died,” she said.
Vellema was a speaker at a presentation on fatal injuries in Gauteng in 2009, an initiative by the MRC and the Unisa, supported by the department of health.She said the service was aware of an increased number of dumped babies in certain areas, particularly in urban, metro areas of Johannesburg.”We’ve also seen an increase towards the northwestern suburbs of Gauteng,” she said. Vellema said it was not clear why these babies were being dumped. “Is it people who are ill-informed about what to do with a baby or dead baby after birth?”
She said it was important to note that these deaths were not reported, and it was only because of their discovery by others that their numbers were known.

Abortions were the leading external cause of death in 2009 for children aged 0 to 4, where a cause of death was known, the MRC presentation revealed on Thursday.

http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/Dumping-of-babies-increasing-20101104

These articles seem to be as common as a gloomy day in this country. When I read them … I think my heart begins to beat a bit faster, and my thoughts begin to overlap themselves, ” NO… It doesn’t have to…How can I get a hold of that professor… I want more stats… What do we have to do to get the government to install baby safes through out the country for… …its happening more,  how many does that make this week ..If only the parents knew that scores of families through out the world would sacrifice most all they own to add a child through adoption….how is an abortion a leading cause of ‘external death.. There are not enough hours in the day, we could be on this better…”

Anyone in SA, want to volunteer to start sending letters, calls, emails to the appropriate gov departments on behalf of Baby Safe? It will be a part time job just trying to get an appoitment, the way things work here. We have mainly tried to stay on top of developing our programs rapidly in our own area, and only targeting exisiting groups that want to manage their own safe, as we are not equipped to manage more yet. When we approached social service headquarters locally before Baby Safe began, we were sternly discouraged and warned not to promote such an “irreponsible” option for parents. But I have a hope, and long time prayer that perhaps further up the hierachy of a socialist government, our plea must fall on logical ears, no matter how under resourced the country is.

A nation should value the lives of its youngest citizens before it can increase the quality of the ones whose voices are louder, counted, seen & heard. Shouldn’t the most vulnerable and helpless be considered first?

The Baby Safe team conducted 7 hours of abbreviated strategic managment today, held by a expert in the field who is visiting and volunteering from Hawaii. Our vision has never been more plain,  our mission more defined, and the partners, competitors, strengths, weaknesses, threats, opportunities, and strategic issues more identified. Our way forward with goals, due dates, and resources have been identified, and many already exist or  are near implimentation. In addition to our vision of total world domination, we are also unified, expectant, and passionate about working hand in hand with the Creator to bring justice, life, truth, hope, & empowerment, to name just a few of our values, to His creation who are stuck in the cycle of decay, life’s strenches which poverty and sin throw you into. He is throwing his rope down and pulling up with all His might, to those who seek freedom, and to the little ones who don’t even know what freedom is yet.