Nameless to the world, she stepped out from between discarded trash from the city that pulses beyond the pallet and cardboard walls of her home. How strange our band of multi-ethnic people must have looked to her eyes as we walked by with white teeth and neatly laced shoes.
We made our way through the squeezed streets along the truck route to the city dump where thousands survive by scavenging and recycling the plastic, glass, metal, and unwanted bits of life.
In this place, the Hot Wheels and action figures of my childhood are replaced with bits of string and random pieces of brokenness that are grasped with tiny hands. Just hold one little hand... and bear witness to the hard life that is evidence by broken fingernails, caked deep with the dust and grit that is existence here.
Take moment and stop by their front door... don't just pass them by... and consider their day, their desires and hopes, listen to them describe what the future holds. I found myself staring at a crusty jar of mayonnaise, the oil had separated from the other ingredients, sitting on top the yellowing cream due to a lack of refrigeration.
These home have no running water and they are stacked side by side for as long as I can see. Where do they go to the bathroom? Many have no power. They're just bits of garbage, held together with old hangers and bits of wire. The nice homes here are raw concrete, offering shelter from all the world in a place where dust obscures the sunlight and rain floods every home.
We were honored to be in this place. I am grateful to see my son walk among people that know how to survive among the most difficult conditions, in a place with the lowest health conditions and highest murders on the planet. People who live daily by faith.
People who understand what the value of knowing Jesus Christ is really about. I helped assemble a bed as I contemplated the words of Paul to the church in Ephesus. He said that knowing Jesus is worth more than anything else. So much more, that the things we think are important, like college degrees, titles, and occupation... in comparison, those things are like garbage that is thrown to dogs.
Which of us then are the poor?
Danna learns English from "Light for the Future" mission. She has shared a bed with her four siblings and their mother with a single thin mattress during the hot nights near the opening of the dump. Her family is more fortunate than others, they have a steel door that locks the dangers out.
Their story is one of hope that Paul would understand so well. There was a place that Paul spoke of, known as Gehenna. It was referenced by the prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah. It was a place where things burned perpetually; discarded things, unwanted things, even bodies.
It is the same here. Among the garbage can be found the discarded dead... some by accidental crushing as the trash underfoot collapses, and others discarded after murder.
Certainly we all have trouble in our lives. We also have things that we believe give us worth, value, and identity. Surely it is easy for us to consider how a family living in Gehenna might lose perspective, faith, and hope. Meanwhile we are blind to the fact that the very things we cling to... endanger our souls every bit as much as threatening crime, disease, and malnutrition.
What a lesson we have to learn. It is not the situation that surrounds us that gives our life worth. It is only our relationship to the person of Jesus Christ that gives us value, hope, and meaning. Everything else is disgusting like piled debris that holds the decayed bodies of burning corpses.
Everything else is simply worthless... if you do not know Jesus Christ. Seek him daily with all your heart, all your mind, all your actions... and don't seek him alone.
*This project made possible by the cooperation and fellowship of four mission organizations:
-Promise House, a home for teen moms build the bed,
-Prince of Peace, home for girls provided transportation,
-Journey Church Guatemala paid for the bed,
-Light for the Future coordinated the team.
Pauls words taken from Philippians 3:7-14.