This afternoon we are just relaxing, waiting for night to come so we can head back out to the dump. I have my son watching his favorite cartoon on my Ipod and my daughter is watching hers on the TV. Thank goodness for modern technology. I’m not sure how much they would rest if they had to concentrate on cartoons in Spanish. 🙂 I look over at my daughter and laugh just a bit. She just looks so cute! I’m putting a cold washcloth on her forehead because I think she got overheated and overtired in the pool today. She’s cute because of her brilliant blue eyes, blond hair, and bright red cheeks!!! I think I missed the sunscreen today. 🙂
I had a chance to sit with Rachel today and get even more details about The Rock Church and what has happened in this mission field. I wanted to just take this time right now to fill those blanks in.
Apparently back in 1997-ish Joe and Linda, pastors of a local church, would occasionally host the local bible show on TV. One day a pastor from Puerto Vallarta came and they interviewed him. His name is Saul (pronounced saw-ool). He told them a bit about what happens down in PV, and it inspired them enough that Linda went for a visit. Once she was there, she said to him, “Take me to where no American will go,” and so Saul took her to the dump.
The dump back then was a bad place. It was an enormous pile of filth, filled with all the things that this city had thrown out. Entire families worked there, even the little kids as soon as they could walk, scavenging whatever they could find. The kids all had sores and lesions on their legs because they were never clean. If they had clothes on, they were dirty and usually didn’t fit. The parents would sift through the garbage and pull out the things they could sell, and the kids would fight off the buzzards for whatever food they could find. Kids would tilt two liter bottles to their lips trying to find any amount of moisture to quench their thirst, regardless of what it was or how long it had been there. There was no clean water, and the people lived at the base of the dump or in the dump itself, in whatever shelter they could build, out of whatever material they could find. Raw sewage ran through the “streets” and when it rained, a river of thick black sludge would run off of the garbage pile.
Linda saw all of this, and made up her mind to help. I understand that she was a bit stubborn, and could really put her food down in determination to change something. 🙂 After she visited the dump that first time, she made up her mind and this became her mission field. Over the next 3 years one of her main goals was clean water, and eventually she was able to go and build (with a group) a two-stall shower right there in the dump. She took many trips to the area, each time doing whatever she could to help these people.
On her last trip in January 2000 Joe came with Linda. They went to the dump again, and Linda saw that her shower was now filled with garbage and unusable. It crushed her heart to see this, and I’m sure just as much to know that it seemed no one cared for these people.
The rest of the story, as far as Joe and Linda is concerned, I’ll tell in brief here. The entire story can be found if you just google “Joe and Linda Knight” or “Alaska Airlines Flight 261.” On Jan. 31 2000 as they were flying back from PV, their plane crashed off the coast of California and everyone on board was killed. My leader on this trip, Rachel, said that this was such a huge event that the media was just scrambling to find a good storyline, and what better story than that of two pastors coming back from helping to serve those who work and live in the dump. Needless to say, this story got huge press, and pretty soon the Mexican government started to pay attention. They DID NOT want the world to know about the people that they had ignored for so many years. From there, everything started to snowball. Funds came in from all over the world to help the mission field that Linda had worked in for 3 years. With those funds the School of Champions was built and programs were established. Joe and Linda’s son and daughter-in-law, Jeff and Melinda, erected the stone monument to Joe and Linda at the School of Champions upon its dedication. The government made it illegal for kids to work in the dump. A wall was erected around the dump. Dirt was piled on the garbage to help it break down and to keep the smell down. People could no longer live in the dump. A few roads were eventually paved, and a water system was put into place.
Now, 10 years later, I am here, and I see all that has been done. I’m told that the School of Champions is in process of opening up another campus across town. The government has them (and the church that runs School of Champions) running daycares and even gives them buildings to house their programs. The government is paying them to preach the gospel! At each of the places we have gone to there is clean running water and bathrooms. Some even have showers. English is being taught so that the kids can hopefully leave the dump and go work in the tourist industry, where there is money to live on.
All of this happened because one person took the time to look at how another part of the world lived. One person was not afraid to look at what the world called ugly, and decided that she could do something about it. Yes, it took a tragedy of incomparable heartbreak to bring about the change, but that change might never had happened if Linda had not been willing to go in the first place.