I can’t put all the pictures on, but here are a few. They are of the kids and people we fed at the dump. The big pile of dirt is the dump. These pictures just show a fraction of it’s size. This is the pile that used to be an open pile of garbage where the people lived.
Category Archives: Travel
We are finally on the last leg of our trip home. Honestly, I am ready to be back. I love Mexico, and don’t mind being there. But I’ve had enough of being a tourist. If I go back to Mexico again, I want to go as “native” as possible, even with my northern white skin.
Even though I’ve done missions work in Mexico before, this trip was different for me. Maybe it’s that I’m older, or the work was different. Maybe it is being a mom now, and seeing these kids who had nothing to eat and wore dirty clothes. Either way, there are a few heart memories and lessons that I will take away from this trip.
I loved the time I had with the girls making bracelets. The smiles on their faces as they made something for themselves were just priceless. I loved helping them make something so simple yet beautiful, and I cherish the memory of them calling me “teacher.” I am wearing the two bracelets right now that were given to me, one black and white and the other pink, purple, black and white. I know these people have nothing compared to me. But what they gave me with their love at that moment was worth more than I can ever say.
Kevin will also always be in my heart. His eyes were so bright as we marched around the school pointing out things. How he would try to form his mouth and lips in the proper English sound was so precious! Kevin was so patient with me and my deficiencies in his own language, and was so eager to learn mine. I know there is a drive inside of him, and I pray that he keeps that drive alive so that he can escape the life that is usually certain for many of these people. That I was bold enough to seek this out, and confident enough in my words in two languages speaks volumes for the work that God has done in my heart. I love that Kevin was sent into my path to show me the person that God has created me to be.
There are many other things I will carry in my heart and memories from this trip. The one during worship with my son is so special to me. I asked him later why he did that, he just said that he wanted to do what I was doing. Oh, that I can continue to be such an example for him the rest of his life! I’ll also remember the kids without clothes and shoes, coming up and getting bread. The children racing behind the truck, slapping its sides, with huge smiles because they know they will get food. And the women and men of the dump as they stood in line for their daily bread.
And Chabba Salvador. I will never forget him. His smile that first night in the dump told me that there was something special in his heart. I didn’t care that his hands had just been digging through trash; I HAD to shake his hand. After talking with him, I realized what was so special about him, and it is that realization that I will keep with me. Chabba lives a life of trust and faith in his God for everything. His daily bread is supplied by God, and he knows that. He doesn’t question why this happens or why that happens. He just believes.
I hope that I can have and keep that attitude in life. When problems come to my life, I want to remember Chabba. I want to ask myself….is my situation any more impossible to solve than his? Is mine any more or less important to my God? I want to continue to have that faith, and that knowing that God is going to take care of me, no matter what the situation. My God is a god of miracles, and he is a god of love. I saw his love for Chabba, and I know he loves me just the same.
Without Linda coming here 13 years ago, I’m not sure if I would have been here now, meeting with such as man as Chabba. But God knows the future. He knew that I and my family would eventually end up here, with the groundwork laid by Linda. He knew what our situation would be like now, and how we would need a touch from him. He knew that we needed an affirmation of his love and care in our lives. They call it “The dream that never dies” here in Puerto Vallarta.
It was the dream of just one person.
And that dream has touched my life.
This morning was our last morning to get up lazily and have a nice breakfast. We fly home bright and early tomorrow morning. I’m actually ready to be home. I have loved every minute that I’ve been here, whether it’s been in the pool with the kids or feeding the people around the dump. I think that I could definitely live in Mexico, and do work like this church is doing for a while. But since it was just a short trip, my mind is already at home where I live, wanting the routine, the comforts, and the normalcy of home life. I look forward to when I can come here again.
My stomach was upset today, and felt like it was flushing stuff. Not sure if that means the Crohn’s was acting up, but I don’t like it when it does this. I had some D and stomach discomfort, and a general lack of appetite. It will be good to be back home and eat food I know should be okay. I have some Brasco Broth in the freezer, and some homemade yogurt already, so I think for a few days I’ll go back to intro foods on the SCD, just to reset my system. I don’t think any permanent damage was done, so all in all, I’m relieved.
This morning we went to the local church, Perdon Y Amistad, that is running all of these programs. It is the same church and the same pastor that Linda came to 13 years ago. It was a good sized church, with probably 250 people in attendance or more at the second service. The facilities are nothing spectacular, but I know a church is not the building but the people. The sanctuary looks like a gym, and it’s very basic. The people are so warm and inviting that it feels like home, even if we don’t look or speak the same. We start off the morning with 45 minutes of worship, which was awesome! I love to just sing and sing and sing praises with God’s people. Even though I didn’t know most of the songs, the words were up on the screen so I could make it work. It was an amazing time. They had a man lead the first half, and then the ladies came up and did about 4 special songs. Those girls can sing! Towards the end, one of the girls sang Michael W. Smith’s “Above All.” Even though I forgot some of the words, I still remembered the chorus. “Crucified, laid behind the stone. You lived to die, rejected and alone. Like a rose, trampled on the ground…you took the fall, and thought of me….Above All.” I was able to sing on the chorus, and just raised my hand in gratefulness for all that he has done for me. My son was sitting on my lap at that moment, and so I sang in his ear. Pretty soon, he gently took his hand and laid it on top of my upraised hand for the rest of the song. We sat there together, worshiping, me singing the words gently into his ear and his heart. It was a magical moment.
After worship Pastor Saul came up to speak. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the man I saw standing up there fit exactly. If you look at him you wouldn’t immediately think he is a pastor. You might see him as a professor at a college or something. He is a dignified looking man, I would guess in his 60’s, with gray hair and a gray beard. He’s not tall, nor is he short. When I saw him, I thought of Acts 4:13, which talks about the disciples of Jesus being just ordinary men with no special training, but they had been with Jesus. There is a spark and a life about Pastor Saul, and he is one that I would follow in an instant. He is nothing special, but he is following how God leads, and God is pouring his blessings down upon him and his congregation.
Pastor Saul spoke today about the things you are given, that you hold in your hand, which soon become ordinary because you have held them for so long. He talked about Moses and the staff in his hand. It was an ordinary staff that he had used for 40 years tending sheep. But in that instant when God touched this tool, it became something extraordinary, and was used for His purposes. He talked about Joshua, and about the woman who had nothing left in her house but a few drops of oil. He then gave an example of modern times, about a race car driver. Each of these people had something in their hand or their house that was ordinary, but which God wanted to use. His exhortation to us, from what I could gather, was to look around and see what we are holding onto that is ordinary but God wants to use. What have we had for years maybe, that God wants to touch. And once we find it, believe! It was a good challenge to hear, and I look forward to pondering it more with my husband and those who were also there.
After church we gathered together again to head back to the resort. None of us felt like much food, so my family went straight to the pool. Since it was our last day here, I let the kids play for 3 hours in the pool. I also played, and got some sun. I figured I needed to get some color on this white skin of mine to show that I had been out of the rain and in the sun!
Towards evening Rachel took our kids so Mark and I could have some time together. Instead of go to the resort restaurants, we took off walking down the streets. This is much more our style…to “go local” and get away from all the tourist stuff. We stopped at a few stores, and bought a few things, and stopped by KFC to get dinner for Mark on the way back. J We got the kids, settled into our room, and packed for our early morning. It is our last night here, but I will sleep well knowing that I will be home tomorrow.
Not sure if it’s the heat or the Crohn’s, but the dizzies are coming back again. Usually I can just take a deep breath and wait for it to pass. It’s not to the point of passing out, so I should be good the rest of the trip. I’m still just eating eggs for breakfast, a stir-fry for lunch and dinner, and as much pineapple as I can handle. I think the Lara bars are a good supplement, and there is no way I could do this without them! My side feels better today…..no dull ache. I’m very glad about that. All in all, I am very pleased that I’ve been able to go to Mexico with Crohn’s and survive. 🙂
This morning I took the kids down to the beach for a short playtime. Even though the water was calm and we only were in up to my knees, it was amazing how much power the waves hold as they pull back into the ocean. I had a hold of both kids with a vice-grip, and we had a great time playing.
We traveled to a market later this morning. It wasn’t quite what we expected though. Mark and I both remember shopping in Mexico City, and how we were not harassed at every turn to spend our money. Instead we were able to just browse at our own leisure and enjoy the day. Since PV is a tourist town, they are used to rich American’s coming and spending money, and I guess we look the part. Sigh…..One guy even got it right as he said,”come buy more junk!” That’s right…most of it is just little trinkets that will quickly be forgotten. Still, it was good to get out of the resort area and into a more local area, even if it wasn’t what we thought it would be. We found a few things to buy, and the kids got some “treasures.” I didn’t want to stop, but the rest of the family was done being in the heat, so we left and came home. The taxi driver tried to get Mark to buy some cocaine on the ride back, which was an interesting bit of local “color.” No, he doesn’t do any, so it just ended up making him mad at the guy. Thankfully the trip back to the hotel was short. 🙂
Tonight we go back to the dump. Even though this is an optional time, I think our whole group is going. I’m glad about that. I feel we are here to serve, and so it’s important to serve whenever we can, wherever we can. I think it will be good for my kids to see, one more time, what it’s like to live with virtually nothing.
Before we went out to the dump tonight Veronica took us by a tamale stand. My goodness, those things were huge! And they smelled oh so good. I love authentic Mexican food, and so wished I could each one. Maybe I will be able to another year.
I’m amazed at how much of the Spanish is coming back just in being here a few days. I find a comfort in being able to go up to people and at least converse a bit. I still have a long way to go though!
Our driver took us from the tamale stand out to the areas surrounding the old dump. As I’ve explained, these people live in poverty. No other way to say it but that. We took the same route we did last time. It was so cool to hear our driver sound out the call for food: BEEPBEEP, BEEPBEEPBEEP. Over and over again until kids started running after the bread truck like my kids do after the ice cream man, and people start the emerge from their houses. They know where we are going, and by the time we get there already a line of kids is waiting at the truck. I help this time with bagging the bread. The kids each get one sweet bread or donut, and we take 3 breads and put them in a sack for the adults. I don’t get to interact with the people much at this stop because I’m busy getting things ready to hand out. Pretty soon we move on to the next area.
It is light out this time as we drive by the dump. We can see even more clearly the people inside, sorting garbage, or sitting in their “sorting” area, taking a break. The smell is the same as before….rank garbage. I see again the buzzards sitting atop the big hill before I go and bag some more bread. This was the stop last time where the mom had her 2 month old girl who didn’t have a name. I so wanted to see them again. There was a faint hope inside of me that maybe we could help her give her child a name. But…..I didn’t see her. There are many stops, and we soon load up to go to another neighborhood.
This next neighborhood was one that we did not visit before. As we got out of the vehicles we saw the shacks. These are not houses made of bricks and stone, like some of the others were. Those at least were solid, if lacking in comfort. These houses were like “pretend” houses….the type of houses you would make as a child out of whatever you found lying around in the grass or the kitchen or the recycling bin. They were very basic structures; I’m sure with a dirt floor, and a basic roof and walls. Dirt courtyards were littered with old furniture and toys. Looking down a street I see kids smiling as they carry their bread and candy back to their “homes.” Many of them have no shoes, and their clothes are dirty and ill-fitting. In one place the family is cooking. There are about 5 adults sitting under a makeshift canopy. They have cut a hole in the middle of a 55-gallon drum, and into this they place whatever wood they can find to make a fire. On top of the drum is a bit pot of something cooking. A woman comes out with dough for tortillas. She rolls them out by hand, quickly wipes a rag across the top of the drum, and places the tortillas there to cook. There are many adults at this place, and even though it looks like there are plenty of tortillas, I know there will not be enough to go around. Pretty soon the tortilla lady comes and asks for bread, and we gladly give some to her. There is an old camper trailer on one corner, with an awning out the side. This would look like a good place for someone to live, I would think. And then I look behind at the 15-foot pile of trash that serves as their backyard. I cannot imagine my kids living in an area like this. The roofs to the houses look no more than 6 feet tall. And all of them look as if a stiff wind would blow these down houses of cards.
Our next stop is at the dump. We are prepared this time, so it doesn’t take us by surprise. We have lemons to bag and give out this time, and before I can even get started on this task there is a line of 20 people waiting to be served. We dig in and do the job, and everyone gets fed. It seems to go by very fast. When we are done, I look around. I wanted to find the man I spoke to the other night, the one whose heart was so different. My heart was drawn to talk with him again. I saw him by the truck, talking with our driver. He had on the same dirty clothes, and the same dirty hat, as he did the other night. I walked up, put my hand on his shoulder, and said, “Senor, como estas?” (Sir, how are you?). He looked over, smiled a big wide smile, and shook my hand. We tried to talk with each other, but the Spanish he was using had lots of words in it I didn’t know. Again, my heart understood the jist of what he was saying, but his smile and hand motions told the world of his story. I wanted clarification, to make sure I understood, and so I asked Veronica to come and help. She said that he is just so thankful in his heart for God, and how he provides. Every day he provides the bread that he eats. His needs are taken care of, and he trusts his God to do that. He is happy because he knows all will be okay. I was so touched by his faith. When you literally have to have the faith for your daily bread, to believe in “give us this day our daily bread´ you have a mighty faith indeed. I asked Veronica what his name was, later, and she told me it was Chabba Salvador. She also told us that when his children were little, their mother abandoned them, and now he works in the dump to support himself and his two kids. I want to remember Chabba, and pray for him. He has touched my heart with how simply he trusts God. It is a lesson I need to carry each day in my life.
We leave the dump, and make one more stop. There are a few kids that come here, but not many adults. We see the girl with the injured leg again, and wonder how she is. We saw her the other night, and Pastor Bill (the one with the healing charge on his life) prayed for her foot. I couldn’t really figure out how to ask her how her foot was, but that’s okay. We fed her again, and I’m certain that one day soon she will walk without her crutches again.
This was an amazing night. We fed 324 people with simple pieces of bread. Yet look at how much their hearts and souls are being fed. As we walked back to our vans from the dump, smiles of genuine gratitude graced the beautiful faces of the people. I saw a Spider Man doll clinging to the fence that surrounds the pile of dirt that was the old dump. He clings there seemingly with hope, not letting go, just as these people here do. I smiled in the fact that someone still believes in heroes, enough to put him up there.
I think this church and all that they are doing qualifies them as being heroes.
This morning it was wonderful to wake up! Our family was exhausted, so we slept in. Around 8:30 I looked over at the kids’ bed to where my son lay. He was awake too, but neither one of us wanted to get out of bed yet. So instead, we both held our hands up and out, then drew them to our chest, and we gave each other an air hug. No words were said, but none needed to be said. I tried to go back to sleep, but it wasn’t working. So, I jumped out of my bed and jumped right in the middle of both my kids! I snuggled under the blankets, and they snuggled up to me, and we lay there in perfect happiness for a short time. A memory was made. 🙂
After breakfast we got in the vans to take us back to the same schools we have visited before. My group went back to the first school I went to, where I met Kevin. I so hoped that Kevin would be there. I wanted to see if he remembered any of the words we worked on! But when we got to the school, we found out the kids had been let out early, and most had gone home already. Only 15-20 kids where there, and none were the ones I remember. Still, we fed them and gave them juice. My son ended up playing peek-a-boo with a boy not much older than one, and it was fun to see him taking that initiative. It was also fun to watch the moms as my son played with their sons! We didn’t stay long, and then were on our way again.
As we drove on, Veronica took us by the dump so we could see it in the daylight. As we drove, I was able to get more details. Apparently this dump was the main dump site as recent as just a few years ago. It was that scenario that Linda came into when she asked to go where no American would go. The garbage would come to this huge open pile of stuff, and be dumped on the ground. Yes, people actually lived IN the dump. As soon as children could walk they were most often working alongside their parents, digging through the trash. There was no wall between the big pile of garbage and the neighborhood, and the houses were made of whatever they could find. Massive amounts of people lived and worked under its shadow. The sewage ran free down the streets, and when it rained a black stream of water would pour off the mountain of garbage and into the streets. I guess that the smell was horrendous, and in general, things were much, much worse.
Now, about 500 or more people live around the dump. The structures, some of them, are still constructed using whatever materials can be found. Many are basic brick structures furnished with the things that people found laying around that they could use. The kids still run half naked and without shoes, and the smell is still there.
A new dump was built a few years ago, and dirt was piled on top of the stinking pile of garbage that was here. I don’t know how high this dirt pile is that used to be the dump….I’m guessing 100 feet tall? It looks to me to be a couple of football fields long, and just as wide. I’m not good at measurements, and so it very well could be even bigger than that. Regardless, it is huge.
Now, all that comes into this location is the garbage that is to be sorted for recycling, and the main bulk of garbage is taken to the new dump. At the new dump, they do not allow people to work among the garbage. But here, at the old dump, a small population of people still makes their living sifting through the rotting stuff that other people throw away. That was who we saw, and those are the people that we fed. They still are I believe…the poorest of the poor.
The church that we work with here has done an amazing job. Their pastor, Saul, has said that he doesn’t need to rest as long as there is work to be done. “I’ll be dead soon enough and I can rest then,” he has told some of our group. I like that attitude. Right now, the church feeds 1,100 kids a day. A DAY. That includes the kids at the dump, at the schools, and I believe at the 4 daycare centers that they run. And there is sooo much more that they do. This church is a GIVING church, and because of that they have made a huge difference in this town. Veronica said that about 20% of the money needed to run all the programs comes from sisters churches like ours. The rest comes from the church members. Wow! It is amazing what can be done when God’s people give.
Even though there is not much garbage being dumped at the old dump, there are still tons of buzzards that surround the area. As we drove through I first thought the dark spots were cows, they seemed so big, but it didn’t make sense that there would be cows on the side of the dump. Pretty soon I realized they were these huge birds, looking for a meal. I cannot even imagine a small child chasing one of those things away for a half-eaten sandwich.
We drove past the dump, and then visited one of the daycare centers. The parents pay $60 US a month for their child to come here. For that, their child gets 3 meals a day, full care while there, and preschool and kindergarten services. It sounds like a lot compared to what the people at the dump make, but the people who send their kids here are in a different class than those of the dump. The kids were so cute at this school…splashing in a little kiddie pool, and the workers were all nice and seemed to love what they were doing. I was glad to see one of these centers so that we could get a better idea of more of what this local church does.
This afternoon we simply swam, a lot. I’m pretty tired, but I’m not sure if that’s from the heat and sun, or if it’s this Crohn’s again sapping everything I have. Or, could it be the lack of true sustenance for me? Not sure. I know how to push through, and that’s what I’m doing. I woke up with a small ache in my side, so I’m wondering if the Crohn’s is acting up. Es la vida, no?
Tomorrow we’ll go shopping in a local market, and then tomorrow night at least Jacob and I will go back to the dump. My son wants to go. I will not stop whatever drive is in him right now.
Tonight after we got back into the room I left to find a quiet spot to myself. Hah!!! There are not any quiet places in a resort filled with people drinking all they want, whenever they want! Regardless, I went down by the ocean and found a lounge chair away from everything else. I was going to do a bit of a bible study I brought, but I ended up just sitting, looking at the clouds, and listening to the waves crash below me. It was a much needed time for me to just breathe, and do nothing else. I reflected on this trip, on the people, and about all that God is doing. It’s all good, and I look forward to whatever He brings into our lives.
I’m back in the hotel right now, and it is late. We just returned from the dump a short while ago. I got the kids snuggled in bed, talked with Mark, and then came out onto the deck to write. I can hear the waves crashing just down the way, the air is heavy and warm, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now. I want to look back on tonight, and get it all down, before any of the images escape my brain.
We piled into the vans and headed out to meet the bread guy. He brought a bunch of sweet breads and donuts to feed to the people. We drove out towards the dump, and pretty soon Ramon, our driver started to honk the horn. Honkhonk….honkhonkhonk!!! Over and over and over again he honked for the kids and families to come and get fed. Pretty soon I saw one boy, and then another, take off running in front of us, trying to beat us to the spot where their bellies could have food. Mothers with smaller children came out and started walking after us.
In the meantime, right at that moment, my son suddenly had to go to the bathroom, and bad! So bad that he was almost crying, and holding himself just trying not to have an accident. Finally I went up to the front of the van and asked Veronica if there was somewhere he could go. I didn’t have any hope that there would be a bathroom nearby, but I at least hoped she would point us to a tree or something that would be acceptable. She spoke to Ramon, and then said to me that there was a sister from their church who lived right in this area, and they might be able to let him use their bathroom. Thankfully they were there, and answered the door, and let Jacob in. There was a small courtyard where a small SUV was crammed in, safe and sound for the night. We walked through the doorway (I won’t call it a door for I can’t even remember if there was anything more than a curtain) and into a very dark enclosure. I was walking into a house that represented all that was typical of the structures I had driven past for 3 days. The front room held an old couch, and nothing else. No carpet or tile was on the floor. There were no windows, and there was no light there. The nice lady led us to a curtained off area, and thankfully turned on a light. This was the bathroom. It was a triangular shaped room, with a toilet in one corner, a shower head in another corner, and storage in the third. The walls were the same concrete blocks on the inside of the house as the outside. The toilet had no flusher, and no tank. I have no idea how they clear the liquid or solids out of it. The toilet paper was put into the garbage next to the toilet. The shower was just a shower head in the corner. There was no curtain, and I think just a small drain. There is no way for the water to be contained and I get the impression that showers are not very common, which makes sense if water is scarce. Again, I was so thankful for the lights, for I have no idea how I would have figured out what to do and where to go without them in that place. As we were leaving, I chanced a peek further into the house, but really couldn’t see that far. I got the idea though that it was more of the same…..dark, virtually windowless concrete rooms with minimal furnishings for people to live on and in.
When we came out, a ton of kids were already lined up to get food. And by food, I mean that it was one donut per kid, and one cup of juice-water. We had the 3 little kids of our group handing out the food, and I think there were over 50-60 kids that came. One thing I noticed was the lack of shoes. I know that many little boys hate wearing shoes, but some of these kids’ feet were so white from all the dust that I wonder if they ever had any shoes. I didn’t take too many pictures here, because it felt like I would have just been an obnoxious American taking pictures to show off to my friends back home. I can’t imagine that many of these people feel good about the way they live, but I didn’t need to make it worse by getting it on film. I did manage a few pictures though, for which I’m glad. After the kids got food the adults lined up for a bag of bread, which contained 3 sweet breads. There was only one bag per adult, along with a cup of juice-water. Everyone knew the drill, and it all went very smoothly. Pretty soon I didn’t know what to do, and I spied 3 girls standing off a ways. I didn’t want anyone to miss out, so I asked if they wanted any “pan” (bread) and they said they already had some. Then this one little 11 year-old starts talking to me in flawless English! I asked her where she came from and she said PV, and then California, and Oregon, and then back and forth to PV. She is the second child I’ve met who has come from America back to these parts of PV. I desperately want to ask how they adjust to the difference, but feel that there is no way I can do this. How do you ask someone if they like where they are living compared to where they came from? The girls and I had a good little chat though, and in the end I got their picture. I asked the girl who spoke English about this feeding program. I asked specifically if this is the only food that some of these kids get each day, if they don’t go to school, and she answered yes. She said that for her family, no, because they are not as poor as a lot of these people. But yes, for most of them, this is their only food.
A donut and some watery juice as your only meal? Again, wow…..
A few other kids came up for their food, and I discovered that they all wanted their picture taken. This opened up the entire rest of the night for me to take many more pictures.
From this location, where we fed over 100 people total, we went to a second location. This place was directly by the dump, probably less than 200 feet from the wall, and as we turned down the dirt road we passed the dump where we could see the piles of trash and people walking through collecting things to sell. When we came out of the vans the stench of garbage hung in the air, but it was manageable. I kept looking back at the hill with its lights and the people going to work to earn a few dollars worth for the night.
At this second location our kids again handed out food, and then started to blow some bubbles with the children. I’m not sure if the Mexican kids really got into it, but our kids had a great time blowing bubbles at them! Pretty soon I saw my son going up to two little kids sitting on the side, and began blowing bubbles directly at them. I think these kids were too young to really grasp that this could be fun, and they didn’t react much. One little boy had no clothes on at all, and just sat there without engaging any of us.
There were a few moms there with babies, and pretty soon we were “talking.” One mom had a one year old boy, I think, who was very cute. I wasn’t able to talk much with her, but did tell her that my son likes to make faces at and play with the little kids! She smiled and understood. The other mom had a 2 month old girl. Rachel ended up holding this girl for a time. When she gave her back to mom she asked for the little girl’s name. The mom said in halting English that she doesn’t have a name yet. Oh……….that just breaks my heart. As a mom myself…..I can’t imagine what one must go through for you to not be able to give your child a name. Sigh……
The third place we went was the dump itself. When our guide Veronica told us this was where we were headed, the mood turned somber in the van. Many of us had never been there before, but we had driven around it enough to know to be shocked. And yet, what we experienced was nothing compared to what it was 13 years ago when Linda started coming……
We drove in through the gate and parked the vans, and immediately noticed the large pile of trash sitting in the middle of whatever space this was. It was night, and so it was hard to determine all that was going on. There were probably 30 or so people all working in this same area. Many of them had bags tied around their waist so that they could put the things they found in it. Most had dirty clothes. The smell of rotting garbage was intense. These people are fed like this every night, so pretty quickly a line had formed. Two of our little ones (my son included) gave out bags which held 3 sweet breads. Many people thanked us, and many just walked on after getting their food. Each person or family had an area set aside where they could sort their trash, and many went to those areas to rest. Or they just sat down where they could. It didn’t matter, because they were all waiting for the next truck to arrive.
Towards the beginning I saw a man who struck me as different, and I went right up to him to say hello. The world would have told me to be afraid and to stay away. He wasn’t anything much….maybe 5’8”, 150 pounds, and looked to be in his mid 50’s, though it is hard to tell how old someone is here. His clothes were dirty and stained, and when I went to shake his hand his fingers curled in the early stages of arthritis and the calluses were so rough that his hand felt like sandpaper. Still, my heart told me that there was something special about this man, and I wanted to meet him. We said hello, and his smile was bright, along with his eyes. He said something to me that I couldn’t make out, so I asked him to repeat it. He did, and then raised one hand towards heaven. I smiled, and nodded, and think I said, “Dios.” He smiled, and nodded as well. I understood that he was saying God is good. Even with no common language, we have the same heart and Lord. I patted him on the shoulder as he walked away and said “God bless you.”
Later, that same man came through the line. I don’t know where he gets his faith, or what his story is. Maybe he just believes God to take care of his every need, when most of his need is feeding his family. Maybe he sees the power of God at work in the little things each and every day. He doesn’t need to wonder if God really cares because he KNOWS that there is a God who loves him. Regardless, there was something real and deep about his heart, and I was honored to meet him here in the dump, when he took a break from sifting through the garbage.
We continued to give out the bread and water, and I was so proud of my kids. My son, the timid one on this trip, stepped right up to hand out the bread without any fear at all. Common sense would say to stay away from these dirty, stinky men and women who you cannot talk to. But something took a hold of my son, and he bravely served the needs of those he came to serve. I am so proud of him.
It was almost time for us to leave when a garbage truck pulled in. My husband called me over to witness what was about to happen. As soon as the truck stopped, the people around us dropped whatever they were doing and ran over to it. Even those who were eating or still waiting to get food, left us to go dig through garbage. This was a “fresh” truck that had untold money stashed inside in the way of cardboard and plastic. This is where the real money is made, and before the truck was even done dumping there were probably 20 or more people digging through this pile. My husband said that these people can get six pesos, or 50 cents, per bag of cardboard or other recyclables, and that they try to get 12-15 bags a night. A bag worth 5 pesos is almost as tall as a small man, and probably is 30 gallons in size. Think of the huge black garbage bags that people use to put their leaves in, and you get the picture of how big a bag they needed to fill for 50 cents.
They work the whole night in this smelly place for only 6-8 dollars, if they are lucky.
We watched them for a while, and then piled into the vans to leave. I asked Veronica about the dump, and found out that the big hill of dirt behind us was the original place of the dump, where Linda had come all those years before. That it was here that she saw a young child fight off a buzzard for a half-eaten sandwich, and it broke her heart. Now, it is much cleaner, if you can say that. I think the garbage is sorted by the people here, and then dumped in the big pile, and then covered with dirt so it doesn’t smell so bad. Still, each of these main players in this drama had their own “place” there in the dump where they can go and rest and eat during the night, and take the things that they collected and sorted before they go to sell them. Do they live IN the dump anymore? No, but seeing the houses that they call home, it doesn’t seem like there is much of a difference.
There were a few bags of bread left so we went to one more location. At this place no adults came out, and I wondered if it was because they were all working in the dump. We had 15-20 kids show up, and we gave out all the rest of the bread that we had. All total tonight we fed over 250 meals to the people who live around the dump. And this happens with this church each and every night.
Back at the hotel we did a quick wrap-up, and found out we can go out again on Saturday and do the same thing. My first reaction was a selfish one, as I wanted to rest, but I quickly pushed that thought aside. Then my son raised his hand and said that he wanted to go. I was floored, shocked, flummoxed, and amazed. How many American boys, 6 years old, would volunteer to go back to the dusty streets, and back into the garbage, to feed kids they don’t know AND can’t talk to? Not many. My heart aches for those children, but it aches in appreciation and pride for my boy.
I think this trip is making a difference in his life.
As I sit here on my deck writing all these things, God has been giving me a show in the sky. I can see the night sky light up with huge bolts of lightning in the clouds every minute or so, and hear the big boom of the big kettle drums of heaven.
It just reminds me that He is in control, and all power and glory belong to Him.
I stand up to go in, and ask, “Okay God, send one more big one, just for me.” I wait there holding my breath, a smile playing on my lips. Before one minute has passed, a huge lightning bolt reaches down from heaven and touches the earth.
My smile gets as big as it can as I hear the thunder roll over me.
I am at peace.
This morning I took the kids out to the beach before breakfast just to enjoy the sand and the waves. I love the sound of the ocean, and could listen to that for hours on end in total peace. Of course with two kids nearby it wasn’t exactly “peaceful” but it was fun nonetheless. I especially liked just watching my daughter as she stood mesmerized by the waves, exclaiming every so often, “Mommy! That was a BIG one!!!” Very cool.
Breakfast was good and soon it was time to pack up the vans to go to another school feeding. We followed a different route this time, though the beginning was the same. We ended up out in the “sticks” as we would call it, in a very country type of setting. For a long time we followed a single-lane dirt road with fences and what looked like pasture-land on either side. I laughed because at one point in time a bicycle passed us on this road, because we could only go so fast over all the potholes! The houses here seem to be mostly made of concrete blocks or bricks, and are spaced further apart. I almost got the impression that there was a bit of land with each house, though I doubt that was the case. These houses definitely though were not the houses of made-up materials scavenged from the dump like the other houses we saw around the other school.
This school was set against a mountain, and was a spot of color amidst the brown. There were bright blue accents to go along with the nice white walls of the school building. Patches of grass were interspersed with concrete walkways, and small trees dotted along in the grass. A tall fence surrounded the entire compound, and was topped with razor wire. This was a change from the other school in that the other school just had high concrete walls surrounding it, and not razor wire. It’s kind of interesting that here, where there is obviously a smaller population, there is more security around the school setting. As we stood there waiting for the bread and juice to arrive, we glimpsed some of the kids inside. They were all in nice white shirts, skirts for the girls, and pants for the boys. When it was time for the kids to line up, I was very impressed with the discipline here. I was told later that this school actually is poorer than the other one, which surprised me. It seems, with how nice the school and the kids were, that this must be the richer. But these are more rural kids, not as much city kids as the others, and have even less means than the kids we’ve seen so far. Regardless, the kids were great! I had a great time again trying to learn Spanish and teach English. One little girl pulled out a piece of paper and started to ask me what English words were to go along with the Spanish words. She would write both words down on the paper, and I assumed it would be for her to read and study later. Boy was I surprised when she ripped the paper out and gave it to me so I could continue to study! It totally made me smile at how this little girl is taking care of me, a total stranger.
Later this same little girl came and asked me where I lived. I told her, and then she asked if it was very hot there. I said no, and tried to tell her that it rains a lot where I’m from. The best I could come up with was there was a lot of “water from the sky.” She picked that up, and thankfully taught me the word for rain (which I’ve forgotten already!). I then tried to push my luck and tell her that it snows every now and then. Boy was that fun! I again told her about the rain falling from the sky, only when it’s really cold out, and that’s it’s white, and what do you call that in Spanish? She didn’t know, but turned to one of the moms who was sitting outside the gate. The mom smiled at me, and it was then that I realized she had been watching us the whole time! I went up to the fence and spoke to her, me in halting Spanish and her in halting English. I said that this heat isn’t too bad for me, but it’s hard for my kids. Another mom laughed, and basically said that it was hot for them! I said that yes, for just a few days it’s okay for me, but that if I lived here full time I know it would get to me. The first mom then said something that really struck me deep. She said, “Yes, when you are only on vacation for a few days here it’s not so bad.”
She didn’t say when you come here to help us, or on a mission. Maybe that’s not in her language or understanding, and “vacation” is all she knows for a word to put with it. I began to wonder just how many “tourist” groups come to these schools to “feed” and take pictures, and then go away. Is it one of the things you can do from the cruise ship….”see the locals!” I know it sounds harsh, but it feels like they are used to groups of strangers coming to the schools, just to see how things are here.
I would go back each day for hours just to teach the kids and play with them, if I could. I wonder what God is calling me to, with the stirring that is being raised up? I know Mark and I both said we would love to live in Mexico and teach, but do not feel that that is where God has called us. We continue to be called to where we live right now, and to do what we are doing there.
But what if…………..
Back to the hotel we go to swim again and eat again and rest again. I’m sure glad we brought our Ipod and attachments to hook it up to the TV so our two kids can watch cartoons in English. We need them to rest, and they are beyond naps, so the best thing for them is to let them watch cartoons. Watching them in a different language just isn’t the same. J
Tonight we head out to the dump. It’s apparently going to be quite the experience, and I’m looking forward to it. I don’t know what to expect, but I’m open to whatever is thrown my way.
Oh, on another note, we got some clarification this morning on the stone at the School of Champions. Apparently it was not erected by Linda, the woman who was killed on the airplane with her husband Joe. This was her mission field, yes, and she was very determined to make a change in Puerto Vallarta. But it was erected a few months after the plane went down by their son Jeff and his wife Melinda as a remembrance to them and I’m sure, to what they had started down in this area.
Again….can one person change the world?
I’m seeing that the answer is yes. Just ask all these little kids that now have running water, showers, and food if one person has made a difference. Ask the kids who used to work in the dump if they appreciate that their younger siblings don’t have to do the same thing. Ask the parents if they are glad to have food to feed their family and if they like knowing their kids don’t have to work in the filth anymore. Ask the parents who know that their child might just have a way out now.
I bet at least some of them will answer that yes, one person CAN make a difference in this world.