Saturday was a long, emotional day. We started the day by making 300 baloney and mayo sandwiches. It was an interesting assembly line around the dining room table. We were preparing to head out to the Crematorio...the city landfill. About 100 people actually live there, and another 300 or so work there on a daily basis...not as city employees, but as individuals scavenging through the mounds of trash to find something that might bring them a few coins. By the time it gets to the landfill, the garbage truck drivers have already sorted through it for themselves, so the pickings are slim. They hope to make enough to feed the family that day, until they can go back again the next day.
There are several missions organizations that are actively involved with the dump, some by feeding people, others try to make more manageable conditions, and others are working to help families break the cycle and get out of the dump. Soyla tries to go every saturday with a lunch of sandwiches, water or tang, and cookies, if she has the finances to do so.
In our devotionals that morning, we all knew it was going to be hard, and we prayed for the ability to see and smell past the outer appearance, and see the people as Jesus sees them, and be able to treat them with dignity and respect. I was already emotional before we even got on the bus. As we drew nearer, our team leader annointed our hands with oil, symbolic of being the hands of Jesus reaching out to those in need.
As we came around the bend in the road, the stench was overpowering. Cattle, dogs, people, vultures, and mounds of trash several feet deep, plus the heat and humidity left behind by the rain the day before. We knew we had to deal with our reactions before we got off the bus. We were instructed to raise all the windows before we parked, not to keep out the smell, but to prevent people from trying to get in the bus.
When we parked, they literally mobbed the bus - pushing and shoving each other in an effort tot get as close as possible. They obviously knew why we were there. Soyla got off as soon as she was able, but told the rest of us to wait. We were trying to watch without staring. One of the team members prayed against a spirit of fear, and we heard Soyla outside starting to sing. It took a while, but she finally got them into lines of men, women, and children and rest of us could get off.
There was a pregnant woman holding a baby standing not far from the bus, and smiled and found out her baby was 2 months old. I couldn't imagine raising a baby in those conditions. She was waiting so patiently. Because I was still standing close to the bus I got recruited to stand on the ground, blocking the doorway with my body and holding the tray of sandwiches for Soyla and others to hand out. For the next 20 minutes or so, that's what I did...hustling to replace the empty tray with a full one as needed, feeling the dripping bag of tang and water being passed out of the bus over my head, and feeling endless hands on my back. The people were trying to reach over my shoulders and take food. They had to stay in line and do things in an orderly way.
I was touched by a woman who was standing at the front of the line. I know that she was just as hungry and in need as everyone else, but instead of taking any for herself, she stood and made sure the line stayed orderly and everyone else got something. She was one of the few I could see from where I was standing, and it affected me a lot. Found out later that Soyla gave her 5 or 6 of her own afterward, and knew the woman as a Christ follower.
We had to leave before handing out the bags of rice, beans, and cornmeal as we had intended. One of our team members wanted to give her shoes to a woman and got back on the bus to change into another pair. She tried to hand the shoes out the door to the woman, but as other people saw shoes coming out, they got agitated and started surging toward the bus again. Soyla made the decision to leave for our own safety. We got everyone back on the bus and drove away as quickly as could, although backing out was difficult with that many people.
300 people got some decent food in their stomachs because of the financial support our team received from our church, our families, and our friends. We were the hands that delivered the blessing, but it is multiplied knowing how many people contributed.
Not much the rest of the day...another mall food court for lunch and shopping in a marketplace. It was a difficult day, but I'm glad I went. I'm glad God allowed me to see how some people live. It makes me more thankful for the things I am blessed with, but also makes me realize how easy it is to overlook those in need. Where are the people in my town who are hungry? Do I bother looking? Would I know where to look? What would I do if I found them? It reminds me of a song...