‘Times New Roman’; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”>BY MARTINE STEMERICK
As starvation tightens its grip across
Women and children sleep in the sanctuary of the church every night, while homeless men wrap themselves in blankets and sleep head-to-toe like sardines in the meeting rooms above. Conditions for 200 people in a church building not meant for housing are a nightmare, said the Bishop, but a far sight better than living rough on the inner-city streets.
Some of the women appealing for help are refugees in the truest sense of the word. “Just recently we had a small family of a child, a mother and a father who came down. They had been to an MDC rally, leaving their seven-year-old at home. He had been beaten up and was crying outside the house. They decided to move. I won’t tell you of the rest of her story because it is too horrendous for words, but they certainly left
Young girls harassed to join the youth militia are also appearing more frequently at Verryn’s office.
Inner-city missions like Central Methodist in
“What we need first of all is funding to get this building into a state of acceptable cleanliness. The second would be if we could cook at least one balanced meal at a central spot every day for everybody because people are scrounging all sorts of food from rubbish bins. I worry myself sick that they are going to get poisoned because they are not eating fresh food and because many of them are already health compromised,” said Verryn.
“And once one starts that kind of feeding scheme, it needs to be sustainable. You can’t raise people’s expectations and then tell them, ‘No, for the next four weeks, there’s not going to be any food.’ So, that’s the second thing. Third, there are basic needs for people to be able to get to and from the Home Affairs department . Most of that happens in
Although the outside world may think that what is happening at Central Methodist is commendable, Verryn finds himself “very ambivalent about the quality of what we are able to do here and would want it to be very different.”
“Some of the people we have in the building are extraordinary people: accountants, school teachers, qualified nurses, a doctor. Some are very ingenuous in the way they are making jobs and little projects trying to begin. So, sometimes just a little seed money for somebody to go and start a small business would make all the difference. We have wire artists, people who are making fly fishing lures. We have ballroom dancing, a drama group, all sorts of enterprises. Our goal is to try to enable people to take responsibility for their lives; to reduce dependency is a critical priority.”
Verryn urged the Church to pray for a politically sustainable solution for the Zimbabwean crisis.
“The second thing I would pray for is that while peace is not in place, people seeking asylum and refuge find a more humane welcome in the countries to which they flee, and that in South Africa, we have the opportunity for them to be granted full refugee status, almost in response to the way we were hosted and cared for during the difficult years by the Zimbabwean government of that time.
“And thirdly, it would be so good if we could pray for the health of refugees on every level. Some people come here who are really very sick. They are young people and there isn’t enough to sustain them and bring them to a place of health. Unfortunately, we have had two people die in hospital in the last week: one young man of 19 and another who has a two-month-old baby back in
“And then finally, prayers that begin to recognize that this is a ‘God moment’ for us in