[DOMINICAN REPUBLIC thoughts from 12/2/16]
*Disclaimer: this is about a heavy subject. If you need to be light-hearted today, it may be best to read this another time.*
*also, this picture is not from the dump. We weren’t allowed to take pictures there. It’s actually a picture of the beauty of the area surrounding the dump.
In America, it’s the stinky place you take your trash (or have someone hired to take it for you) and wash your hands as soon as you get home because…germs.
In Dominican Republic, it’s the place probably a hundred people live, per dump. The people are mostly refugees that are there illegally. Somehow, they ended up in the Dominican with no way to get back home, probably a result of the numerous natural disasters that have repeatedly beaten those two countries. The disasters could have caused them to run to the DR, leaving everything behind, hoping they would find a better life-only to end up in a dump.
Picture this: day in and day out a hundred people (elderly, adults, children, pregnant mamas, babies) rummaging through pile after pile after pile of trash-my trash, even, from the hotel I stayed at-searching for enough metal or paper or plastic to sell to be recycled so they could make a couple of cents. They each wear clothes they found in the garbage. They live in “houses” under the trees made of cardboard and tires. They eat whatever food scraps they can find. Stray cows and dogs are also rummaging through that same trash. When another, long anticipated dump truck pulls up the long road leading to the dump, the people jump on it and take a look at the garbage to see if it’s worthwhile. If it is, they will fight off the other people so they can try to find food and anything else they could either wear or sell. The people are outcasts if they go into the town. It reminds me of the way lepers were treated in Bible times.
This place was hell on earth. Worms don’t die in dumps like that; instead they infest the people. Thirst and hunger that cannot be satisfied overcome the people in that place. Burning hot weather, everyday, with almost no cover from the elements.
I don’t know what the estimated life expectancy is of people once they end up in the dump, but it can’t be long. And when they die, they are most likely just buried under the garbage.
We drove up in two buses, pulled out a table and set up two big buckets of hot, healthy soup, five 5-gallon containers of cold, clean water, and four huge loafs of peanut butter sandwiches.
And I learned quickly that I don’t even know what hunger or thirst is.
They get cold, clean water only twice a week, when this organization brings it to them. The same goes for a healthy meal.
Before we got there, they told us that the people in the dump may not even reach out to shake our hands when we try to talk to them or hand them food. Instead, they will point out their elbow. They do not want to touch our hands because they know the filth that is on theirs.
Do you know what the first lady did when she saw me? Reached out her hand. But I was nervous. I wasn’t going to not shake it, but I wasn’t sure that I wanted to.
Then, someone handed me a filthy piece of cardboard to fan away the flies and wasps from the hot soup they were setting up. I was paranoid to even touch the cardboard at first because they kept telling us of all the kinds of garbage that these people lived in.
As I stood there in that muggy, reeking, disgusting place, waving a piece of cardboard around, I realized, “Who are you to not get dirty? This could be you. Why are you the one “just visiting” this place for a bit to catch a glimpse of how some other people live? You are so blessed. But God didn’t bless you so you could relish in the blessing and let it end there. He blessed you so you could help others.”
In Ephesians 1, Paul talks about our spiritual blessings. The theme that runs through that passage (and the whole Bible, for that matter) is that it all ends with “His glory.”
I can’t let the fear of something stop me from helping someone. If I do, then it suddenly becomes about me-not His glory.
I turned away from my sinful self and tried to refocus on the people.
But it came as such a shock to my body. It was as if a cloud was hovering over my mind. I almost couldn’t think. The lives of these people are completely and utterly out of their control. They are in such an intense poverty that they can’t even afford to travel back to their own country. Furthermore, none of them could get across the border because they probably don’t have passports. My tiny mind cannot even comprehend that kind of hopelessness.
Now, I’m back home in The States trying to resume my life but I still don’t know what to do with what I’ve seen.
Seeing it brought on a numbing shock.
I’m still in a numbing shock.
How do I physically help them?
How do I change my life to better benefit theirs?
How do I relate with those people (through a language barrier) when we have nothing in common? They are literally living in the waste of my abundant life.
What do I do from here?
These questions have been swarming my mind for a week now. And I don’t expect them to go away anytime soon.
I’ve been racking my mind for ideas and ways to fund providing for their needs.
I want to find a way to rescue them.
But I just don’t know.
All I know is this: Jesus is already in those dumps.
He loves the “least of these” better than I ever could. And He has plans for “the least of these” bigger than I could ever dream.
And eventually, God will show me a way to help them.
I normally try to end a blog post with a call for action or something inspirational. But today, I don’t know even know what to do myself-other than to let it hurt.
And that’s okay.
Jesus’ heart hurts for those people, so why shouldn’t mine?