Saturday, June 4, 2011
The Korah Trash Dump - thoughts & reflections
As I sit down to write this post I think back to what I saw that day at the trash dump and I wonder how I can adequately put it into words. As I left the van and walked up the mounds of dirt and garbage that had formed hill after hill, I had to be careful not to slip. Broken glass was everywhere and my feet sank slightly into the many layers of dried grass, dirt and years of disposed waste… who knows what was hidden underneath.
When reaching the top I remember being taken aback by the vast expanse that lay before me – it was a huge plateau, miles and miles of garbage. I had to strain in the distance to see where the garbage trucks, bulldozers and tractors were dumping and pushing the garbage. It was there I could see the outline of people moving and birds flying, all hovering around the working vehicles.
As we began to walk towards this hub of activity there were goats, dogs and thousands of birds flying everywhere, swooping down, trying to be the first to snatch that tiny morsel of food. Scattered pockets of people were here and there, sitting, standing or picking through older mounds that were long forgotten. Mothers with children seemed to be taking a break, sitting down with other women, resting almost in picnic style… minus the food. The closer we came to the trucks, new horizons came into view, revealing even more silhouettes of bodies picking, bending and searching in the distance.
When we arrived into the middle of the action I saw first hand men and women, some with babies on their backs and I saw children on their own, searching and sifting through the trash, desperate to find that one piece of leftover food or the discarded metal and plastic they could salvage and sell for pennies… I noticed the children especially. Numbers of them who the moment they found their ‘treasure’ stopped dead in their tracks, tore off the wrapper and used their hands to scoop the food or shove the half eaten fruit into their mouths. It couldn’t make it to their hungry bellies fast enough.
These crowds of humanity, roaming animals and swooping birds all swarm around the bulldozers that are constantly pushing and flattening the mounds of garbage, moving and trampling the hopes of those stalking their every move. Even the young children are dangerously close to the massive wheels that propel the vehicles forward and stop unexpectedly. It is a continuous movement of activity, both treacherous and desperate.
Then out of the blue, the momentum shifts and all attention is redirected to the new garbage truck driving onto the grounds. They all recognize this blue truck – it is coming from the airport! Everyone rushes over, completely focused and determined to be one of the first to reach the bounty that is sure to flow from within. For the first time in my life, I wondered, what happens to my uneaten airline food… that which I so readily complain about? This thought had never crossed my mind before. Hmmm… I hope I never complain again.
The air at the dump has a heaviness to it. Smoke from the smouldering fires burning here and there and everywhere, fill the air. The soft breeze gently blows so that a layer of soot covers everything and everyone. Every face is covered with ash and their eyes are bloodshot and red. Many wear scarves, rags or goggles in attempts to protect their eyes, mouth and nose. But I wonder, what protects their hearts? How do these people feel deep inside, as they know they are eating the leftovers, the waste of what others were privileged to throw away? How can they feel important when they are forgotten, discarded like the trash they are sifting through? As each year goes drudgingly by, what does this do to their soul, their confidence, their hope for a future?
I then turn my thoughts heavenward… I wonder how God feels as He watches this day after day… These are His people, His children whom He created, searching and struggling through the trash. He knows each one. He loves each one. They are all important.
As I am caught up in these thoughts I become aware of Berhanu, Murad and Sammy, the Great Hope Leaders who brought us here today. They themselves grew up at this dump. Each one of them has their own story. They all slept here, struggled here, watched people die here and they all hurt here; these men of God whom we have so easily grown to love. I can’t imagine them as little boys living in this dump, finding shelter under pieces of cardboard, being hungry all of the time and chasing the hyenas that roam the grounds at night. How could it be that this life once was theirs? I turn around and see Berhanu grown up and strong, with his deep compassion and love for God. There he is, sitting down, relaxed in the garbage, ministering to one who is living here now. Berhanu has not forgotten and he easily reaches out and loves this man.
Sammy and Murad too, they soon join him in the garbage. I take their photograph – what is captured in this picture I can’t fully comprehend. These are the ‘boys of the trash dump’ who have grown up to become the ‘Men of Korah’; a beacon of light and hope to those living here. These men are oaks of righteousness; a picture of God’s love and His power to break the yoke of poverty, bringing hope and a future and glory to His name.
Standing at the trash dump that day, I immediately thought of the bible verse that Sumer Yates from Project 61 sensed the Lord put on her heart when she first arrived at the dump. I can’t think of a better verse to describe what God has for the people of Korah.
“He will bestow on them
a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendour.”