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.
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.