It’s been almost ten years since I first visited a garbage dump in Nicaragua. That first time I saw children living in the deplorable conditions of the Managua city landfill. It was a sight that forever changed the way I viewed the cause of at-risk children around the world. It was as if all of a sudden poverty and despair had a face and it was the face of a child.
About six years ago, the government of Nicaragua sealed off the Managua garbage dump and the people that lived off it were pushed into houses nearby. But without education and jobs those houses were little better and many of the most desperate ended up on the streets. Recently I heard that other garbage dumps around the country had become places where the poor gathered to scavenge and survive the best they could, on the trash and refuse.
On my last trip to Nicaragua, Scott Carson of Christ Church in West Monroe Louisiana, and RFC Board member, David Lantrip, and myself scouted out one of those garbage dumps for future ministry. That evening laying in bed in the Best Western hotel, I couldn’t get the children we met that day off my mind. The dream of Project Samuel Nicaragua was to be able to offer a future to children that had no way out of poverty and there in the Cuidad Sandino garbage dump, I met some of those children. All of a sudden, the dream had a face again.
In the United States politicians would tell us how bad we have it and we buy their negativity… hook, line and sinker. But on our worst day we don’t face the desperate circumstances these little children face…and they do it each and every day. I came back home under a cloud of depression as I thought about all the things I have in my life. Its been a tough year. And although I have wanted to give up many times, my year doesn’t even compare to a week in the life of people that scavenge the garbage for things to sell, to build a shack with, to use as furniture, or to even eat at times. I have felt abandoned and rejected before but nothing can compare to the abandonment and rejection that they feel on a daily basis. Yet life has been this way for them for so long…they don’t even know it can be different. In one sense ignorance is merciful.
I have returned with a greater determination. Whereas others might give up…I am determined to press on. My call is still the same as it was back in 2005 – help as many children as I can. The gospel should bring solutions to poverty and children deserve to live prosperous and safe lives. We are completing our first Staff House and recently laid the foundation to the second. It will cost only $11,000 to build that second staff house. I believe that there are people that will read this article and say…I can pay to build that house. I believe that there is someone that will partner monthly…someone that will go on a trip…someone that will visit the garbage dump.
I have visited the trash heap of Cuidad Sandino and instead of trash…I found children. This ought not be…not in the world my savior died to redeem.