“I live in a dump.” If you heard someone say that, you might conjure up a number of pictures in your mind, so let me be clear about what I’m saying. I’m not talking about a dirty house, a poor part of town, or the home of a hoarder. Recently I spent time with some children in Susuma, Nicaragua, who can literally make that statement. These children live with their families in the Matagalpa, Nicaragua, city dump.
What’s it like to live in a dump? Obviously, it’s not simple or safe. The smells, sights, and sounds of the dump assault the senses. The rotting food, carcasses of dead animals, and other trash blend with the smoke from perpetual fires that smolder throughout the landfill. The putrid, sulfuric stench burns the nose and eyes and lingers with a person for hours after leaving the dump.
The sights reveal an equally untenable living area. Mounds and mounds of all sorts of trash create a jagged, unstable foundation upon which to walk. Ravens and crows scavenge through the refuse to find a morsel to eat. As bulldozers spewing black smoke grind through the refuse, the birds scatter and return time and time again.
People in ragged clothing yell in Spanish to each other. Occasionally something special is found—something useful for the shack in which they live or an article of clothing. Then a noticeable expression of joy is oddly lifted up in the midst of this deprivation.
Perhaps the most unacceptable part of these sights and sounds is watching a child hold his or her parent’s hand as dad or mom teaches the little one the art of “picking.” Children who should be playing with dolls, playing games, or reading books join in the search. Who knows what toxic waste they’re being exposed to as they rummage for glass, plastic bottles, or pieces of metal that can be sold to recyclers for a few cents. It takes a dollar a day to keep body and soul alive in Susuma, and it requires a great deal of desperate searching to find enough recyclable trash to earn a dollar.
What hope is there for children who live in the dump? If parents can’t afford the school uniform for their children, they cannot attend the public school located a few miles down the road. And without an education and an example of a parent with a career or trade, there is next to no hope. Their world is extraordinarily small. They live in a dump. Their friends live in a dump. Everyone scrimps to barely make do. They are literally going nowhere.
But God has called us to the dump. Henderson Hills is helping to develop a school that teaches English, Spanish, and other skills. We are partnering with a group of local believers, and the gospel is being preached. Our people on mission trips serve the students and offer consistent love and attention.
Imagine students at this school coming to know Christ and gaining hope. Imagine these students finding jobs in the city because they have a working knowledge of English and other skills. Imagine them coming back to get their brothers, sisters, and friends. Then imagine the trickle turning into a river of people escaping the iron grip of poverty and life without Christ. I can envision a ghost town where Susuma used to stand.
How can you help? When you give to our church’s general ministry plan, you strengthen our church so we can send more help to Susuma. When you volunteer to serve for a short-term mission of a few days, weeks, or even months, you invest your life in an amazing transformation for the people we’re ministering to. When you pray for the children of Susuma and our missionaries, you become a partner with those who go. What’s God calling you to do?
DENNIS NEWKIRK | LEAD PASTOR | HENDERSON HILLS BAPTIST CHURCH