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No. Jesus Christ. No. No. No. This isn’t real. This can’t be real. But it is. It’s real. Mounds of trash have replaced the mountains in the distance. It’s all you can see. It surrounds you, envelopes you, crushes you, smothers you. “Okay” I was thinking. “There’s mountains of trash. Trash has to go somewhere…” my thought is halted because it’s not just trash. It’s people. It’s families. Mothers, fathers, teenagers, children, infants; there is a village here. There is a village in this garbage dump.
I stumble over every disgusting thing you could possibly imagine, feeling beyond thankful that I had worn Toms instead of Rainbows. Brands mean nothing here though. It’s either valuable or not. I feel ashamed to have spent $50 on these shoes. I feel even more ashamed that I have 2 other pairs of sneakers at home. I’m even uncomfortable knowing that I have a home to go to after I leave this place. I follow after my friend. I’m walking through trash. I’m walking through a pile of feathers. I’m walking through dirty diapers. I’m walking through rotting food. I’m walking through a group of pigs eating the rotting food. I see a woman climbing the nearest hill of trash. She has a bag and a long hook. My friend greets her and I do as well. The one word I know in Burmese. Mingalaba. We pass another woman, she grins at us. We climb down one of the mountains. There are more people. I see babies running barefoot and half naked playing with string and empty soap containers. My friend begins to converse with the leader, a man with crooked teeth. I take in my surroundings. A dirty pond is in front of me, a field littered with trash behind. A group of women sit to my right. A group of men sit to my left. I feel so out of place. My clothes are clean. My skin is white. I squat down next to a young mother who is kissing her baby. My throat closes as I realize we are one in the same. Someday I’ll have a child who I’ll kiss and cuddle. Someday I will do anything to provide for that baby. But, would I dig through trash?
I’m thankful for the breeze, because the smell is overpowering. There is the constant buzzing of flies. They zoom past my ear, graze my eyelashes, and land on my arms and legs. I feel like I’m in shock, unable to move, hardly able to think. Suddenly there is a commotion up the hill. People are congregating. I’m almost knocked over as the men and woman rush towards to crowd. “Time to go!” My friend Aikawn announces.
“What’s going on?” I ask, doing my best to avoid the pile of who knows what I almost stepped in.
“The garbage truck is coming. They need to get back to work.”
As we are pulling out of the dump, the garbage truck pulls in. The people wait in anticipation. Bags are open waiting to be filled.
My heart feels empty as we drive back to the office of Compasio. I feel like crying. I don’t understand how I could have seen what I just did. A verse flashes through my mind as we turn a corner; Be joyful always, but Jesus how can I be? Pray continually, oh I am. Give thanks in all circumstances, but my soul is so heavy. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. The verse replays over and over until it is replaced by another; All praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the source of every mercy and the God who comforts us. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. Tears form. We zoom past a Buddhist temple. I feel like shaking my fist at the dragons that guard the gate. Jesus has sent us. Jesus has told us to serve the poor and to love the unlovable. How could I but follow, even if it means walking through the garbage dump.
Tonight the Lord revealed to me Psalm 37. I was looking at this chapter last week… but a different verse had stuck out to me. This week I am facing a different battle and this chapter addressed it. God continues to leave me speechless. My struggle with poverty and justice has been heartbreaking these past few days. Tonight I find comfort in His word and in the truth that He loves his Burmese children.
1 Do not fret because of evil men
or be envious of those who do wrong;
2 for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.
3 Trust in the LORD and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Delight yourself in the LORD
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him and he will do this:
6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when men succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.
9 For evil men will be cut off,
but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.
10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look for them, they will not be found.
11 But the meek will inherit the land
and enjoy great peace.
12 The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them;
13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he knows their day is coming.
14 The wicked draw the sword
and bend the bow
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose ways are upright.
15 But their swords will pierce their own hearts,
and their bows will be broken.
16 Better the little that the righteous have
than the wealth of many wicked;
17 for the power of the wicked will be broken,
but the LORD upholds the righteous.
18 The days of the blameless are known to the LORD,
and their inheritance will endure forever.
19 In times of disaster they will not wither;
in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.
20 But the wicked will perish:
The LORD's enemies will be like the beauty of the fields,
they will vanish—vanish like smoke.
21 The wicked borrow and do not repay,
but the righteous give generously;
22 those the LORD blesses will inherit the land,
but those he curses will be cut off.
23 If the LORD delights in a man's way,
he makes his steps firm;
24 though he stumble, he will not fall,
for the LORD upholds him with his hand.
25 I was young and now I am old,
yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.
26 They are always generous and lend freely;
their children will be blessed.
27 Turn from evil and do good;
then you will dwell in the land forever.
28 For the LORD loves the just
and will not forsake his faithful ones.
They will be protected forever,
but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off;
29 the righteous will inherit the land
and dwell in it forever.
30 The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom,
and his tongue speaks what is just.
31 The law of his God is in his heart;
his feet do not slip.
32 The wicked lie in wait for the righteous,
seeking their very lives;
33 but the LORD will not leave them in their power
or let them be condemned when brought to trial.
34 Wait for the LORD
and keep his way.
He will exalt you to inherit the land;
when the wicked are cut off, you will see it.
35 I have seen a wicked and ruthless man
flourishing like a green tree in its native soil,
36 but he soon passed away and was no more;
though I looked for him, he could not be found.
37 Consider the blameless, observe the upright;
there is a future for the man of peace.
38 But all sinners will be destroyed;
the future of the wicked will be cut off.
39 The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD;
he is their stronghold in time of trouble.
40 The LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.