I couldn’t believe what I saw. Or smelled.
Dump trucks brimming with garbage caravanned through the Guatemala City dump. Expectant foragers – men, women and children – chased behind them, anxious to see what treasures they held.
Their eyes searched for any potential provision. In addition to food and clothing, they gathered anything recyclable:
glass, metal, plastic, furniture, used electronics and toys.
A successful day results in a handful of dollars. An unsuccessful day means they’ll head out earlier the next.
“Scavengers” are the dregs of Guatemala City society and are even shunned by the local churches. Marta attends church on the other side of town, where she won’t be recognized. She’s willing to make the one-hour bus ride, but her family is not.
The dump presents many hazards to those who scavenge it. Methane gas rises from the heaps and fills their lungs. The unsteady ground shifts beneath their weight. Younger, stronger men compete for the best loot.
Many of the residents know no other life. Families of eight, 10, and 12 squeeze into a space no bigger than the average American living room. No running water, a single electrical line, one or two mattresses. As soon as the little ones are old enough to sort through the trash, they venture down into the dump.
Some will grow old here and will care for the next generation of scavengers. Others’ lives will be cut short by drugs, disease and neighborhood violence.
As we toured the neighborhoods with The Potter’s House ministry, we visited and prayed with several families. In addition to requests for prayer, we asked the matriarch what her dreams were for her children and grandchildren. Each gave us the same answer:
To get an education and have a life outside the dump.
The Potter’s House doesn’t view their neighbors as scavengers, but as treasures. For more than 25 years they’ve ministered in the area, changing thousands of lives.
“Making an impact with those who live and work in the dump requires more than just giving them money. To have a real impact, we must change the way they view themselves—to help them see themselves as God sees them. It is only with this shift in perspective that they can experience grace and hope for a better life.”
As difficult a place as the dump was is, it made me sad to leave. We delivered bags of staples and toiletries, chatted through interpreters, and clipped hair barrettes into little girls’ tresses. Yes, it was an incredibly small thing, but it was SOMEthing.
Mother Teresa said,
“If you can’t feed a hundred people, feed just one.”
I can feed one. Can you?
I assure you, when you did it to one of the
least of these My brothers and sisters,
you were doing it to Me!
~Matthew 25:40 (NLT)
If you’re interested in helping one of the least of these through The Potter’s House, check out their opportunities for partnership.