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The WikiHistory of the Messiah College Rafiki House[edit]

Originally written and compiled by Benjamin Jancewicz, for the International Students Association and Missionary Kids (ISA/MuKappa) of Messiah College.

James Hubbard, Cathy Poisez, and Kim Phipps were involved in the main conversations and negotiations of the Rafiki House.

Beginning - Prior to 1997: Rafiki House was the then-rundown building now called the "Alumni House"

After that - 1997 to 1998?: Alumni House is set to be renovated, and the Rafiki House was "relocated" to the then-rundown building now called Issachar's Loft.

After that - 1998 to 2001: Issachar's Loft is set to be renovated, and the Rafiki House was "relocated" again to the then-rundown building that occupied the space where the Student Union walkway from Jordan Science Center (next door to Engle) now occupies (the building was officially called the "Heisey House"). The building was in bad need of repair when the international students moved in, as it had been occupied by a Soccer group who had apparently used it as a clubhouse.

Reuben Liew made these observations when the house was moved:

"...the problem in 2001 was also exacerbated by the fact that the new and renovated Issachar's loft, Rafiki's old home, looked very new and refurbished, compared to the state of the Rafiki then (the old soccer house). I remember visiting Issachar's loft for something during that time, and the difference between that renovated home and our then home couldn't be more obvious. The Rafiki was in a bad state of disrepair, and knowing that we were moved so that Issachar's loft could be renovated clearly added salt to the wound when we heard there may not be a replacement for the Rafiki once the previous soccer home was demolished. There was clearly a lot of feelings of being sidelined and underappreciated as an international community, I remember, as I was graduating."

1998-2000: Residents of Rafiki House include Chilobe Kalambo, Samuel Berhanu, Apolo Ndybahika, Frank Rath, Michael Able, Alvin Sugianto, and Steve Mak.

2000-2001: Residents of Rafiki House include Leonard Nelson (house head), Reuben Liew (house-head), Daniel Gomez, Samuel Berhanu, Anuj Kalsy, Bentley Wong, and Alvin Sugianto, all Senior ISA/MK members. During the second semester of the year, Alvin leaves and graduates, and Benjamin Jancewicz (myself) is admitted as a freshman into the house, after experiencing racial and cultural problems in the dorms.

Later that spring, the Rafiki residents wake up to see construction machinery in the backyard, leveling ground and doing survey work. Later that week, administration members (one of the members I could recognize, but forget her name; a thin older woman with blond hair) come into the house unannounced and "survey it". Upon questioning, the members of the house discover that the house is to be demolished. No prior information was given to them. Some of the house residents, all juniors and seniors, sadly accepted the fate of the Rafiki House, and when asked them if they would fight for it, felt frustrated. Many of them had dealt with other problems with the administration concerning the upkeep of the house and the technicalities of being an International Student on Messiah's campus, and now being upperclassmen felt as if they had taken a final blow. Reuben emailed the editor of the Swinging Bridge regarding his concerns. Below was his plea:

Letter to the Editor of Swinging Bridge.

It is a well-known fact that the powers-that-be oftentimes find it easy to displace a few residents for the greater good of the whole. A new shopping mall, a golf course, a great new stadium. The story is the same. The new mall, golf course, or stadium will of course bring prosperity, peace and wealth to the larger community. This much is always assumed. The few residents, whose homes have to make way for "progress," however, are oftentimes left in the dark, coerced to submit, for the architect has been chosen, the plans drawn up, and the board has already given it its seal of approval.

Some time in the near future, a few homes, including the Rafiki House, will make way for a new student union building. The new building will of course benefit the larger student population, goes the official word. I might be more inclined to agree with them if I can be convinced that, among other things, more student lounges are what we need. I'm thinking of the numerous lounges that already exist in our residence halls, and how student union buildings at Biola University and Bethel College are inevitably referred to as "student spaces which nobody uses."

The Rafiki House is irreplaceable. To us as sojourners in a foreign land, the house is a small space in an alien culture and a place of refuge. It is a place where we can attach some sense of identity, where we need not make unneeded compromises in order to stay true to who we are as peoples who bear the tremendous heritage of our own cultures. It is a retreat from the dominant culture that can be overwhelming at times. Unless it be misunderstood, I am not conjuring up the full extent of injustices related in the first paragraph above. I am merely documenting, in a public way, what it is like to lose a home and not have any satisfying reasons why.

Reuben Liew

At Leonard and Fellistus Munakombwe's encouragement, (a political science Alumni of Messiah College) I organized the ISA/MK government and the Students for Social Action to fight against this demolition, and fight for International Student rights and to either keep or have a new Rafiki House. Cathy Poisez emerges as an ally and friend of the cause, and serves as a confidant for me. James Hubbard, though agreeing with us, was more complacent on the matter. One of our main arguments was that Messiah was going directly against it's argument that it "embraced multiculturalism" as stated in their handbook, and though they prominently placed International Students on all publications, declined to treat them as important members of the community.

2001-2002: Messiah College bends and puts a bandaid on the situation saying a house was absolutely impossible, and offered us "International Apartments". The first semester, there was a girls and guys apartment for International Students (which I was a resident in), and the second semester we were moved (even though we were initially told we could stay) to Mellinger. The second semester, the girls were moved across the railroad tracks to a green house next to a big field (I forget the address), so that did not happen, and there were not enough men for a 5-man, so Anuj, Leonard and I moved into a 3-man. I became an ISA/MK Vice-President of Missionary Kids. The apartments and the girls house were a flop, they did not work for the organization; the apartments could not serve the function the house had, and the girls house was too far away. It was at this point that Messiah stated that to "earn" our stay in the apartments, we would be required to perform the "tasks" which I described in my previous e-mail.

The Heisey House (previous Rafiki) was then renovated, and Information Technology Services moved into it. Smelling foul play, I organized a protest again, and stated flat out that we wanted a house, which was vital to the organization.

2002-2003: Messiah College places the men in a house across the railroad tracks from Old Main, in a semi-rundown building. The "tasks" idea is lifted, and more freedom and self-government is granted the house members.

The "Girls Rafiki House" continued in their building, which was directly across the street from the "Men's Rafiki House". I was house leader at this point. Members included Paulo Zurita (international transfer), Javier Barros (international transfer), David Wagner (senior and president of ISA/MK), Nashon Walker (American student) and a freshman named Damjen from Germany who was later banned from Rafiki and then banned from Messiah for misconduct. The houses functioned only partially, as they were far removed from campus, initially had no internet, and made it difficult not only for the on-campus students to meet, but also for the residents to study. We protested again, pointing out that we only wanted ONE house, to unify us, ON campus. Nothing else would be sufficient.

2003-2004: We get to talk to Kim Phipps, a member of the administration who for the first time since our struggle began, actually listens to us, hears us, and grants us a house (the present day Rafiki). She also sees to it the house is renovated BEFORE we move in, and all new appliances and a budget for future repairs are in place. Generous hours for the lounge downstairs are also granted, along with the promise we would never have the house taken away from the organization, or have it placed under "Satellite Housing". The men moved into the new house, with Luke Mackin taking the reigns as house leader. Residents included myself, Fred Boutcher, Collins Mwangi, Richard Arao, and Michelo Kalambo.

I graduated in May of 2004.



--Benjamin Jancewicz 18:03, 2 February 2006 (UTC)