There are no photos to show you of Thursday of our week in Mexico because we were forbidden to take them. So here’s a description of one of the worst and yet most inspiring experiences of my life. We had been in the slums of Tijuana to bless families with homes that, as our teens had pointed out, were smaller than their bedrooms in Ohio. That served as a primer for our trip to the dump.
Yes, a garbage dump. Eddie Passmore, co-director of Mexico Caravan Ministries with his wife Maggie, had cautioned us before we left. It’s important to quickly get past the shock of what we were about to see so that way we could bless the people in the name of Jesus Christ.
Katie, the staff member who accompanied us, bribed the security guard at the dump’s gate with soda and some snacks so that he’d let us in. That’s just the way they roll down there. Our van crawled up the hill that protected the world from the reality of the other side. We parked where the hill plateaued overlooking the acres of garbage and the people who make their living there – some of whom actually live there.
We descended the roadway in teams of two with bottles of water. Then we handed out the 800 hot dogs wrapped in tortillas we had made that morning. The plan was to spread out to the far reaches of the dump so that every worker would get blessed in the name of Jesus Christ. That wasn’t easy because once people realized we were there we were swarmed, though none of them were impolite.
There was a large pile about a 1/2 acre in size and six or seven feet high where trucks would deposit fresh garbage. Several men were there working hard sorting plastic, metal and other recyclables, so they couldn’t pull themselves away to get water or food. One of my favorite memories of our trip was seeing three of our
boys young men climb that hill to make sure that nobody would be left out. I was so moved that I jogged across the dump to join them on their second trip. Our feet sunk down into the muck making it hard to climb, and the smell of fresh garbage didn’t help either. The men were truly grateful.
Katie informed us that there was a shantytown over one of the hills where many of the workers lived. But some had made their homes in shacks of garbage that dotted the dump made of anything they found there: pieces of wood, old carpets, beach umbrellas and the occasional brick. Amongst the bustle some of the older folks sat outside the entrance of their homes like your or I would on our porches on a calm summer evening. There was even a pregnant woman sitting in one of the huts.
This is their reality. I don’t ever want to go back, and yet I probably would if the opportunity arose. My eldest child starts high school this year and we’ve already talked about her doing this trip. It’s not only about our kids – and adults – having a grasp on how well we have it in the United States. What I felt at the dump gives insight into how Jesus feels about our world. He is more disgusted about this than we were. Have you noticed the Bible’s emphasis on feeding the poor and finding justice for the oppressed?
That’s what Jesus came to do (Luke 4:14-21), and we are to do it as well. But we can’t if our eyes aren’t open. So, feel free to paint your own picture of people in need where you live. Quickly get past the shock and press on to bless people in the name of Jesus Christ.