From the Garden to the Dump (May – Jun 2009)

By Matt Dabbs

by Sherry Hubright
May – June, 2009

77 - The Economy of Generosity

“…if you spend yourself in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” ~ Isaiah 58: 10

There is a large city dump located on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa, Honduras that is home to several hundred men, women, and children. There are no words to describe the environment in which these people live. It is a dump, after all, and the heat, dust, and stench are unbelievable. This oppressed group of people compete for food with vultures, stray cattle, dogs, and each other. To watch human beings, God’s beloved, reduced to such means of survival is heart wrenching. Dignity has been replaced by desperation. Hope has been traded for despair.

In April of this year, I traveled with a group of twenty-three high school students and adults from the Atlanta area to spend ten days on the mission field in Tegucigalpa with TORCH ministries. During our stay we built houses, visited a children’s home and hospital, worshiped with our Honduran brothers and sisters, and fed the hungry. We fed people in a village, on the street, and in the local dump; however, it was our time feeding the people living among the heaps of trash our minds refuse to forget. Its imprint has been left on our hearts as well.

This was a return trip to the landfill for three members of our current team. In April of 2008, Caleb Townsend, Christie Quevedo, and Donna Ellis made their first visit as participants in the dump program. (Lacey Bates, a member of the original group, was unable to return this spring; however, she continues to be an essential part of the ministry and its mission.) What they experienced at that time resulted in the birth of a ministry now known as “Last Hope”. Its mission is to promote awareness about the tremendous need, and raise funds to supply food to feed the hungry. Its vision is to offer both spiritual hope and practical help that will eventually move the people away from the dump. Our amazing God continues to expand the program and, as a result, the eternal outreach.

The Wednesday before Easter was designated as the time when our group would feed a meal to the people living in the dump. Our three more seasoned comrades and the director of TORCH, Marc Tindall, attempted to prepare us for what we might experience. We began with a morning devotional and a time of prayer. With food preparation behind us, we boarded the bus and began our journey to the place God would use to change us. As our bus came to a stop and we disembarked, most of our team watched in disbelief as men, women, and children began to gather in the area where the meal would be served from the bed of a pickup truck. Some seemed to appear from nowhere, crawling out from underneath pieces of cardboard they used as shelter. Many in our group stood paralyzed as our gaze turn toward the sky, watching the buzzards flying over head waiting for their opportunity to find food among the piles of trash. We continued to watch in disbelief as trucks depositing fresh trash became a “free for all” for some of the young men. The entire setting was surreal.

When it was time for the meal to be distributed, most of the people were patient and considerate of one another. The men formed one line, while the women and children stood in another line parallel to them. It was an incredibly well-organized effort. Because most of us on the team did not know the language, we served quietly. We included a smile, and sometimes a touch. We wanted to be God’s hands and feet and were desperate to convey His love to the people we were serving. We spent some time walking among the people, attempting to interact enough to destroy some of the language and social barriers. Our teen boys were most successful when they initiated a soccer game. Ah, “futbol“, the universal language!

There were sacred moments too. Several team members decided to remove their shoes and leave them behind for the people, and a tearful father and son embraced as we prepared to leave the dump. All too soon, it was time to board the bus and continue to our next destination. Our journey away from the dump was silent. Many of us felt we were walking away from a group of people who still had such tremendous need. Sensing our grief, our team leader, Kin Ellis, prayed. Tears were shed. Hearts were broken and changed. Lives were impacted for eternity. Our lives.

While video footage and photos were taken in an attempt to capture the experience, the overall impact was far too personal and sacred. I could not help but to consider my own spiritual desperation and helplessness. More than once I heard our team leader, Kin Ellis, say we are all simply beggars telling another beggar where to find food. From a spiritual perspective that is such a true statement. We all make choices in this life. Some are good. Some are not. All of us have a story, including our friends living in the Tegucigalpa dump. The good news is that hope is not out of reach for anyone. The great news is that for all of us, our manna is eternal. It is Jesus, the Bread of Life.

Yes, feeding the people living in the dump was about quelling their physical hunger for one more day, but it was also about stopping those same pangs long enough for God’s truth and love to be heard and received. Eternally, what matters most to God is our relationship, our oneness with Him. It is for every man, woman, and child.

From the very beginning God wanted to give us Himself, but we traded the Garden for the Dump. All the riches the earth had to offer were given to man from the heart and hand of God. Only one thing was withheld. From the very first day it was God’s heart to protect man from the only thing that could bring him separation, destruction and ultimately death: the knowledge of good and evil. We know the story well. The serpent lied. Eve believed the lie. Adam believed Eve. And Adam blamed God. True fellowship with our Creator was broken. Our poverty, in whatever form, was not created by God, but man. We chose to live in the stench of our own sinfulness and depravity. We chose the Dump over the Garden.

When “the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the Garden in the cool of the day… they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the Garden.” (Genesis 3:8) God’s desire was to walk hand in hand with His children, together enjoying the beauty of the creation He designed. Instead His created ones decided to hide in their shame. And we have been hiding ever since that day. But fortunately this is not the end of the story. The Lord God called out to the man, “Where are you?” It is the same question our God has been asking us since that fateful day. Undeserving as we are, it is the heart of God to pursue and rescue us whether we are living in a spiritual dump, a physical dump, or both.

Easter Sunday was our departure day. We worshiped that morning at the top of a mountain with several of our Honduran brothers and sisters. We sang songs of praise in both Spanish and English. We shared communion together. Our celebration was held at the base of a cross made of automobile parts. To some that might seem sacrilegious. To us it was stunning. Surrounding the area were planters containing beautiful orange flowers with large thorns, called “The Crown of Jesus”. It was a vivid reminder of the great price paid by our Creator God and Abba Father to bring us back into fellowship with Him. He painfully gave the life of His One and Only Son.

We are not the same people that first left Atlanta that day in early April; nor do we want to be those people. Our story does not end here though, and neither does the story of our friends living in the landfill outside of Tegucigalpa. We are not that different. Our sin struggle is the same. The salvation of our souls was bought at the same great price. Our stretched out hands begging for manna were replaced by His outstretched arms. The Father’s tears have been shed, tearing the dividing curtain in two. Our fellowship with Him has been restored. The Son’s blood has been poured, washing away the pain of our soul’s hunger forever. Indeed, Jesus is our Last Hope, and remains our only hope.

Resources

TORCH Ministries (Marc Tindall, director)
[marclt2003@yahoo.com]

LAST HOPE (Caleb Townsend, founder)
[calebatownsend@gmail.com]
[http://tinyurl.com/lasthopegroup]

Photo Gallery

The Dump Ministry – Photos by Mark SiscoNew Wineskins

Sherry HubrightSherry Hubright has a BA degree in English from Florida State University. She is a wife, mother of four, and home teacher. She and her husband Jeff live and worship in the metro Atlanta area. She enjoys writing with purpose, and has a heart for missions. She hopes to return to Honduras in December of this year to help the TORCH ministry serve a great feast to those currently living in the dump in Tegucigalpa. Reach her at [sherryhubright@gmail.com]

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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