We had to use a small taxi with a hatchback door for today’s feeding at the city dump. This made orderly feeding a little more difficult than working from the back of a pickup truck. Apparently there had been little to no food in the garbage today and the group was more hungry than normal. It was also obvious that a number of them were high on glue. That is the cheap and easy way to control hunger pains in the dump. Unfortunately it is very harmful to the brain. Today I recognized one young man from three years ago. He was high on glue back in 2008. He is now barely aware of what is going on around himself. I am not sure he knows where he is anymore.
I stepped to the back of the taxi after the hatch had been opened and stood to help them form lines. The hatch lid was too short for me and I had to stoop to get under it when I needed. That became a problem because some of the young men tended to push one another for the food line. Normally three lines form. But the men’s line became five wide with certain young people pushing one another and struggling for a front position.
The rowdy crowd caused me to stop and ask Rick if we should even continue with devotion or just stop and feed them. He said to resume and I did. I found myself having to stop for each garbage truck that came up the hill. Their engines were straining from the climb to the plateau of garbage.
After the devotion was completed, two young men got into a shoving match. The next thing I knew they were pulling knives and a fight began. It was fairly clear that one of the young men was high on glue. The other subdued him and pushed him away. The man who was high returned and pushed himself back into the line. I thought, where will this go from here?
There were only four of us serving: Rick, myself, Michelle the cook, her friend and the Taxi driver who was a Christian. Michelle prepared plates and handed them to Rick and he served the three lines in a set order. Damas (ladies), ninos (children) and caballeros (men) were each given a plate in that order. Rick would say in the name of Jesus as he handed each plate. They would come to me for bags of water. Rick had his back to the lines and the shoving continued. Rick just made light of it as if they were in American football. The men laughed and eventually settled down.
I connected with the children and ladies who came to me for water because their lines were on my side of the car. Eye contact, a smile, and a pat on the shoulder seemed to touch each person’s heart. Then I noticed some of the older men got in the children’s line to ensure they got food. Rick wisely made a joke about one and said he sure would grow up to be a giant if he is only a child. Then he laughed out loud. All those in hearing distance chuckled and made comments. It released the tension.
There was one older lady who shuffled up next to me and to seek a plate of food. She was much frayed and showed the effects of age. The wrinkles on her face spoke of a hard life that has been chiseled from many difficult circumstances. But she looked at me and smiled with a deep abyss of gratitude. Her crooked smile melted my heart and changed the concern that had built in my mind about the rowdy young men. Some stepped aside to allow her entry. You could readily see a lady of grace who looked past the circumstances and could understand the anxiety displayed by the others. She took little note of it and thankfully took her plate and bag of water to the side and began to eat.
When all the food had been dispensed a few of the rough men were sitting on the hood of the taxi. I thought to myself that this could be a problem. They seemed aloof and distant. I wondered if they were planning to try and rob us. The Taxi driver had asked them to get off the hood and they ignored his request. I noticed a couple of times them trying to open the doors while we were feeding from the back. You never know what their thoughts might be. Thankfully they slowly moved away as we got in the car and cranked the motor.
Rick said that this type of rowdy behavior is not normal. I found myself breathing a sigh of relief as we drove down the hill. Today I saw the heart of our Lord in a fresh way. The poor who live in the city dump know that the Lord thought of them today.
I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: Psalm 40:17
The Cambridge Paragraph Bible: Of the Authorized English Version (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2006), cxix.
Filth of the dump!
Today started with a horror story plastered all over the television. A still photo of wreckage and an unrecognizable body with a rescue worker in the foreground was the screen. Commentators spoke of the tragedy. A Central American Airlines airplane crashed into the mountain side this morning at 7 AM. All fourteen were killed instantly as the pilot made an error and descended too quickly in the mist and fog. This mountain peak is on the direct approach into Tegucigalpa, Honduras making it one of the most dangerous airports in the world. A plane is about fifty feet above the peak when it is gliding onto the runway below. The sensation of tight turns and quick plunge can take your breath away as you see trees and brushes race by for several seconds before you touch the runway. In addition to the critical approach the runway is shorter than most.
Fourteen people entered eternity in an instant and touched the face of God. It is happening in many ways all over the world as you read this story. Somehow tragic accidents cause us to pause and reshuffle our priorities momentarily. Then we return to our harried routine. There is so much to do and so little time.
Today’s trip to the city dump went off smoothly after the robbery of last week. One of the youth pastors I met last night came along. His name is Daniel and he was a former leader of the MS13 gang in los Pinos. His story is so amazing. God changed him from a killer to a lover of people. His face lit up and he screamed out Danny as I walked up. He gave me a strong handshake. The joy on his face spoke volumes.
I stood in the back of the pickup truck as people began to gather. One older man, a Christian, began calling others to the truck so they could hear a story from the Word of God. Trucks honked at him as he waved and called out to others. I noticed the smell was more pronounced due to some rain and drizzle earlier. Wet garbage seems to smell more pungent.
Over a hundred gathered as I began telling a story from the New Testament. Some removed there hats in reverence as others struggled for a position near the back of the truck. What caught my eye was their attentiveness to the story and the connection they made to Jesus Christ and the meal they were about to eat. As they came through the line several said gracias Jesus!
Most interesting was the attendance of the five men who robbed Rick Beck last week. They came and ate food but made cynical comments to Rick as he gave them water in the name of Jesus. Equally interesting were their ski masks and dark glasses to help hide their faces. Apparently they were not happy that the camera was taken back by other men in the dump. But they did come back. Hopefully they will learn to give and love instead of steal and hate. Join us in praying for those five that they may come to know Jesus.
I saw Juanita (she is on the left) again today and she had here fifteen year old daughter Bessie (on the right) with her. Both of them were working the dump for the family meal tonight. You can clearly see the mountain of garbage we are standing on and two workers behind us. Juanita’s home is on the small ridge over my left shoulder. They make that walk from the dump to their home each day. Thankfully they no longer live in the dump as so many do.
We were able to take a quick picture with one of our driver’s cell phone. The feeding had finished and people had returned to sorting garbage as trucks continued to arrive. Words seem so inadequate to depict the experience of watching people live and work in a hellish dump. I noticed one lady who found two small melons and held them above her head like a trophy. She smiled big at me and waved them as she hurried to put them in a safe place.
Jesus said, when you have done it to the least of these you have done it unto me. Thank you for coming with us to touch the lives of others. We plan on returning to the dump again tomorrow.
Gehenna (Greek word for Hell in the New Testament) was a common refuse dump and a place of perpetual fire in the Valley beside Jerusalem. This illustrated the awfulness of the Lake of Fire. Jesus spoke of Gehenna in Matthew 10:28
28 nAnd do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather ofear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in 8hell. (The New King James Version)
Today we visited the city dump of Tegucigalpa, Honduras to feed the inhabitants and workers. I have been here many times over that last seven years. The smell, vultures, cows and bustling rush of garbage trucks coming in and out of the area. When you step out of your vehicle you are standing on a mountain of garbage. Immediately around me were emaciated dogs and filthy dirty workers who rummage through the garbage seeking food, plastic, bottles and other items to sell. It is their home!
They know the missionary Rick Beck who has been coming to feed them for years now. I could hear his name spoken repeatedly as many quickly gathered in line to get some healthy food. I gazed the horizon to see dozens of make shift houses made of plastic, cardboard boxes and pieces of wood gathered from the pile. I thought to myself that the population of the dump has grown since my last visit.
I stood and shared a short devotion with the crowd, prayed and began to dispense the food and bags of water. Constantly young men were tapping my shoulder for aqua. They would tip their head and a toothless smile was followed by a sincere por favor. I would return their smile and pat their shoulder. In less than thirty minutes a couple of hundred had been feed. They expressed thankfulness for the small gesture of food and love.
Rick was taking a video to show others (in America) the real picture of life in the dump. He violated one of his own rules. He got too far away from the vehicle and he was alone. Five young men came to him and wanted their picture made. Then they said give me the camera! Rick resisted and said you don’t want to do this. I am here to help you as they grabbed at the camera. One of them pulled a machete and waved it over his head. The five knocked him to the ground and groped for anything he had on his person. Rick held tight to the LCD screen on the side of the camera as they broke it and pulled it from his hand. At the same time they found his telephone and grabbed it.
Rick continued to say that he was there to help them as they ran away from the scene. Drivers of garbage trucks looked on as they drove by. Rick returned to the vehicle a little stunned but also very calm. Over seventy-five people gathered around Rick asking him what had happened. They brushed the dirt and garbage from his back as they listened intently to the story. They were surprised that Rick wasn’t mad and vindictive. Rick said he would like to have the camera back because the video will be used to seek funding for future visits to the dump. One key man said I know who they are and where they stay. We will get it for you . . . wait here. The ten men ran off in the distance.
One of the ladies asked Rick if he would even come back again assuming that this incident would stop the feeding ministry. Rick quickly said, yes, Danny and I will be back next Monday and Tuesday. He raised funds to feed you and we will do that. You could see amazement on their faces. You could tell it caused them to pause and consider the small blessing from God that had come.
I talked with Juanita who works the dump each day. She has five children and lives in a small hut outside the dump. I asked her what she was seeking each day in the dump. She said food for my children. She opened a feed sack to reveal bits and pieces of food she had scavenged that morning. She is one of the key ladies in the dump and her kind heart was obvious through her missing teeth. One of the visiting ministry construction teams had put a roof on her simple home where she cares for her children. Then I noticed a small girl standing next to Juanita. I asked her age and she said ten. Her belly clearly showed signs of having delivered a baby recently. It broke my heart. There is no telling which man is the father.
We got in our vehicles and proceeded to the entrance of the dump when the ten men came running toward us with the broken camera. Rick was surprised. Maybe the video was still on the chip and could be used. He and I debriefed the experience over the next hour while driving in Honduran traffic.
I have never visited the Crematoria (city dump) without remembering Jesus’ reference to hell or gehenna. Hundreds actually live there in the twenty-first century. I prayed that their eyes could see Jesus through our visit and behavior. I also look forward to our visits next week.
n Luke 12:4; [1 Pet. 3:14]
o Is. 8:13; Matt. 5:22; Luke 12:5
8 Gr. Gehenna
 The New King James Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1982, S. Mt 10:27-28
Four decade veteran of youth ministry in churches, Youth For Christ and now is the Founder and Executive Director of Deeper Still Missions. Danny and his wife Cathy spend most of their time mentoring missionaries in Africa, Europe, Central America and North America. Future opportunities include South America and the Asia Pacific area.