Emergency Update: Fire in Masiphumelele, South Africa

Masi Wetlands

Boxing Day morning (26/12/10) we woke up to a text message from a friend in Masi, shortly followed by another report from a friend who’s house overlooks masi that there was thick smoke and sirens heading into Masi. We had been warned that this month is notorious for fires, which are particularly destructive during the dry season, the wind here in Cape town howls and fire spreads between shanty shacks built so close that we have to turn sideways to walk in-between.

I first headed into Masi this morning after speaking with our friends and finding that one of our local workers named “Vovo” (who was currently in the eastern cape – a common exodus that happens this time of year) heard her shack had been destroyed in the fire, and had heard her mother and brother had been seen since the fire and were safe and well but no one had seen her younger sister. I tried to muster my memory from our recent Xhosa course on how to ask “Have you seen….”.

Burnt out shacks

Fortunately soon after arrival, I heard that all 3 of her relatives had been spotted. Masi was its usual rambuncious-self, and there were at least half a dozen fire engines, and a small army of police officers on the road. The back road is the line marker for the back end of Masiphumelele, that is, the legal settlement, known in government terms as “site 5”. Behind lives thousands of people in an area called the “wetlands” exactly because they live on partially reclaimed marsh land. These areas house the very poorest of the poor in Masi, people live in shacks the size of most western world bathrooms, that are constructed of wood, sheet metal and timber frame. The shacks are either built against each other or leave the smallest gap for access, and small waterways and pools of stagnant water surround the loosely grouped dwellings. The source of the fire is unknown, but many of these stories around holiday times are started in similar ways, a drunken person falls asleep and leaves their stove on, a rigged electricity wire sets fire to piles of clothes.

As we cultivate relationships in these communities, it is impossible for us to stand by as these

residents in disbelief

tragic events take place as a direct result of poverty, All Nations are as a community committed to serving the needs of the poor in times of disaster, fire, and riots including providing clothing and food, rebuilding shack homes, housing assistance, medical assistance to house church members and for long term African Staff. We really believe the greatest blessing we can provide is the community, abundant life and transformation that springs from the gospel of Jesus, but there are times when a person or community is in a serious crisis, and it is in these times that it is right for us to seek to practice the truth Jesus taught to “love your neighbour as yourself”(Matthew 22:39).

We are considering all the ways we can ‘become Jesus’ for the people in Masiphumelele during this time, one of those ways, we are convinced is to be their voice, to tell their stories and comfort them in their distress, to mobilize the wider church of Jesus Christ to be the answer to the wider problems of South Africa.

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Would you pray as you read this…

ask your family, community and church to pray? Pray for people like Nombini, a single mother we know, who a day after christmas lost every she and her young daughters own and are staying temporarily with friends in Masi, pray for Vovo and her family as they piece together their belongings and work out whether the government will ever let them return to the illegal settlement. Pray for the 3 families we were able to give school uniforms to last month with have now been lost to fire, and pray for workers for the harvest, that God would use these circumstances as terrible as they are to turn people to himself, that Africa might be transformed for the Glory of His Name, We are convinced above all things that He Is Worthy of this. Finally would you also pray for the safety of workers, we had two women who are our co-workers held at knife point, and we have been harassed almost every time we have entered Masi this month in one way or another.

If you feel after praying that you or your church are able to give to the needs of this community

Please pray through the following and hear in which way God may be asking you to be involved:

– Replacement of School Uniforms, childrens clothing and shoes – (unfortunately we cannot receive overseas donations of clothing, but it can be sourced locally with funds)

– Rebuilding of shacks and find new accommodation who are now homeless

– In Prayer and Finances Support a local African church planter – support those locals we are seeking to serve here in mobilizing a simple church planting movement, Vovo, Sbu, Lucas, and Nceba.

– In Prayer and Finances Support Rachel and I – We feel we have followed Gods call here and are serving the community with the love of Jesus, desiring that he would be worshipped first here in Masiphumelele but eventually throughout the continent of Africa.

Please contact us by email – byrnesyliam@gmail.com – of you are considering giving to any of the above needs and we can direct you to the best method of giving.

For His Glory…

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