Monday, September 13, 2010

A Whole New World

Written on Saturday, September 11, 2010


Yesterday was one of the best days of my life. Spending the day with my new Compassion child, Stefanie, was amazing. I did see some hard things during the day, but I gave myself permission to feel the joy fully because I knew what was coming next on the agenda.


This morning I woke up with a bit of a weak stomach. I knew we were visiting the city dump and the people who lived and worked there. I wanted to see it - well, sort of - but I was very nervous. I had a mental image of myself wandering through the homes in sackcloth and ashes and wailing at the top of my lungs. I wasn’t sure what that was going to do for anyone. I was also a little concerned about losing my breakfast in front of the team. That was a real possibility. My mom and sister have both been down that road before and I didn’t want to complete the humiliation triangle.


Our team got on the bus and immediately started chatting away. Somehow we got on the subject of weird foods and I was repulsed to the point of nausea by something about sheep brains on toast. I could have gone my whole life without hearing that, I thought. Moments later I was asking Shaun Groves to sing along to A Whole New World, which was playing on the radio. (Remember Aladdin and Princess Jasmine?) Shaun still hasn’t blessed us with his vocal talents and we’ve been giving him a hard time.


It wasn’t long before we arrived at the settlement on the dump. Why would anyone want to live on a garbage pile? That was the question on my mind and you’re probably wondering, too. The people who live there don’t pay any kind of rent or taxes on the land. They only pay for power and water. It is very cheap, but they pay a high price in countless ways. The families who live there arrived in desperate situations. Eight years later, they are still living in dwellings made of tin, cardboard, and blankets.


We had a very tough visit with one family and then began walking to another home. On the way, I saw a light-headed girl Annabeth’s age in the alley that we were walking through. She was very dirty and was playing with a filthy plastic doll. She never turned her face to me, so of course I pictured my daughter’s. I could have gone my whole life without seeing that, I thought. Ironically, within those few minutes we heard A Whole New World playing on a radio again.




We went deeper into the dump to see where people sort through garbage to find things that can be sold. The trash went on for two kilometers. I looked up and saw one of the most horrendous things I’ve ever seen. Circling above us in the sky was a whirlwind of vultures. Hundreds of vultures. I could have gone my whole life without seeing that, I thought.

We ended up driving to a cemetery where we could look out over the dump and get a better view of the settlements where 20,000 families dwell. The cemetery itself was fascinating. All of the graves were above ground, so it was just tomb after tomb after tomb. I’d never seen anything like it in person. It was ironic that the dead were housed better than the living people we’d just met.




A short walk took us to a cliff that overlooked a sea of filth. Below us, trucks were driving in and out and men were unloading trash at a frenzied pace.



The tombs were all around us and vultures were resting in groups on top of them. Hundreds more were circling above our heads. I was so thoroughly freaked out that I hid under the overhang of a sarcophagus. I could have gone my whole life without seeing this, I thought. I feel like I’m in hell. Thankfully, because of Jesus, that was the closest I will ever get to it.





I was desperate to get back in the van. I couldn’t take any more. The smell, the horror flick reality, the freaky birds, the desperation, the children living in the dredges of a sinful world. Stick a fork in me, I was done. When we finally returned to the van, I pressed my forehead on the back of Ann Voskamp’s seat and cried.


What if I had gone my whole life without seeing that? What if I anesthetized myself so much with wealth that I was convinced this wasn’t so? It needs to be known.


My original title for this post was “To Hell and Back,” but I didn’t think anyone would stick around to read it. If you’re still here, please stay with me because I want to take you to the “and Back” part.



It was time to visit the Compassion Child Development Center that serves the children who live on the dump. We were put to joyous work right away, serving lunch to the children and workers. The children eagerly approached the serving area where Lindsey and Lisa-Jo filled their bowls with rice and soup and Ann ladled lemonade into their cups. I was in charge of handing out tortillas. Dos o tres tortillas? I asked. The tortillas were very warm and so was the atmosphere. My sadness and hopelessness began to fade as the joy of doing something to help took its place.







Our leader, Patricia, brought bags of shoes to be given to the children in this community. I had brought a few of Annabeth’s shoes from home and stuffed them in the bag with the others.





At one point I heard someone calling my name and motioning for me to come. It was a mother holding her baby girl who was wearing Annabeth’s black mary janes. Oh, thrill of my heart! She was absolutely precious and medicine to a homesick mama’s heart.



We were invited to visit each of the classrooms and interact with the students. There were boys and girls ages 3 to 16 spread throughout the building. As we walked through the halls, it was like a breath of fresh air. The church was clean and spacious. The children had room to play in safety, under the watchful eye of loving adults.






We entered the room with the teenagers. Most of them were boys. I was thankful to see that because boys in these neighborhoods are very likely to join gangs. The child development program is a HUGE deterrent for them. We had met a handful of strong, godly fathers during this trip and seen a big difference in the disposition of their children. I have hope that these boys will grow up to lead their families in strength and godliness.



Before we left, we had the pleasure of hearing the pastor’s testimony. He said he had lost seven years of his life to drugs. When he was 21 years old, he came to faith in Christ. He sought out a church and during the altar call, he laid on the floor and surrendered his life to God. When stood to his feet, the need and desire for drugs had been completely taken away. Now he only needed and desired God. He has been a pastor for ten years. His wife is a doctor. Can you imagine what a great team they are? The pastor has a heart for the people of this community because he knows what it’s like to live in desperation. He knows what it’s like to live in redemption.



God is at work in the desperate situations. Honestly, when we were in the dump today I couldn’t see Him. I was blinded by buzzards as Satan hissed in my ears that God is not powerful enough to deliver these people. That He must not really love them. But when we walked in the doors of the church the lies were dispelled. We saw the salvation of our God.


Did you know that on average, 500 Compassion children around the world give their lives to Christ every single day? Isn’t that mind-boggling? You can be a part of giving spiritual, physical, and emotional hope to a child living in a desperate situation. Please consider supporting a child through Compassion International. If you'd like to change the life of a child from Guatemala, click here.





41 comments:

Lauren said...

Oh, Amanda! This brought tears to my eyes!! I can’t even imagine!!! My hearts cry is that the Lord would allow the doors to be opened for me to go on a Missions Trip someday. I’ve never been on one and have ALWAYS wanted to!!! I’m sure your life will never be the same!

Beth said...

I got to the hissing part and just fell. Isn't that just like Satan to make us think our God is not powerful enough?
Thanks for posting this. Praying for you and those sweet people in Guatemala - both native families and those helping.

Jessica said...

Amanda, you have me in tears!

I cherish a letter from our Compassion child's mother that says "I'm very thankful for God...and through the help of Compassion, my son changed. He knows God and gets closer to Him."

Our Compassion child thinks he is the one being blessed when I believe Compassion has blessed me with him!

Marc and Charity said...

Wow. I love the pic of you and the girl wearing baby janes. Thank you for sharing you journey in words and pics...I'm sure your heart is overwhelmed.

thegypsymama said...

Oh girl, please accept my abject apologies for the sheep's brains graphic. We South Africans are a strange bunch. Some stranger than others though :)

Missing you and your sweet, beautiful heart already!

~Lisa-Jo

Lindsey Nobles said...

This is beautiful. I hadn't made the connection about the dead having better homes than the living. What an aha reading this. Hope you are snuggled up with your two little ones.

Tara G. said...

Wow...we've been into villages here that seem so poor and yet there are place like this dump... Loved the photo of you looking at the baby with the Mary Janes- precious!

Laura said...

I have so loved "going" on this trip with you. Your heart is one of a kind and seeing you become ruined for the ordinary had been so challenging to my own heart as well.

In 5 weeks I will be in Guatemala with 9 others, including my 11 year old son. We can hardly wait to walk the places you have been and meet out Compassion kids too. I know we will be ruined for the ordinary too.

I am praying for your heart today as you jump back into life in suburbia. Asking God to be near to you as He calls you to the next step. You are a treasure Amanda.

jennyhope said...

Wow. I really needed to hear that and see that.
I was searching for a child in Guatemala to adopt and was shocked at how many more boys were listed than girls.
I drove by a church yesterday that had "selfville" in the title. I thought Lord...how many of us live right smack dab in the middle of selfville where it is ALL about us...or so we think. It is so easy to lose vision.
So glad you went and so glad you can be a voice to a girl like me.

Kelly said...

So hard. Especially as a mother - it's SO hard to think of children not living like ours.
Thanks for showing the HOPE that Compassion can give even in the most hopeless of situations.

Michelle said...

Amanda, I offer my deepest thanks for going on this trip and taking us there with you in spirit. Compassion has changed my life and posts like yours are fuel for the fire my heart has for this organization.

Thank you for the good work you are doing, in Jesus' name.

Tabaitha Kaye said...

That was so hard to see in the pictures, and I can only imagine how difficult it was in person. Thank you for serving and investing in their lives.

Melissa, Multi-Tasking Mama said...

Thank you for your honesty and transparency during this trip. My heart is bleeding for those kids and their families and I know that your posting and your heart have made a difference for the least of these, whose lives you witnessed. May none of us forget that God's people need help all over the world.

Shaun Groves said...

I miss you, Amanda. I'm singing A Whole New World right now just for you...in my head ; )

If anybody wants to see a video tour of the project Amanda wrote about here, check it out: http://www.youtube.com/user/CompassionIntl#p/u/8/peHLIDci2bo

And, if you'd like to see what it's like to walk for a few second through this neighborhood, go here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esy2Ob3QIF0

(It's gang territory so there are very few people in this footage.. They stay inside as much as possible.)

Thanks, Amanda, for spending so many words on the children of Guatemala this week.

-Shaun

Kristin said...

Thanks for sharing this reality with us. Strangely enough, my husband I decided to sponsor a little girl (who is about my daughter's age) from Guatemala a couple weeks ago. We got our information packet from Compassion this week, the same week I was reading you blog and Shaun's blog. I love how God arranged that timing so I could be even more excited about what He's going to do through this new sponsorship -- both for the Guatemalan girl and my family. Thanks again for sharing.

Heather said...

Thank you for sharing your trip with us, Amanda. And for sharing yourself and the Love of Jesus with the children there. None of us will ever be the same.

Kelly @ Love Well said...

Amanda, your eyes saw for us. I read a comment on one of Ann's post where someone said, "You now bear the pain of God." It's true.

I will continue to pray for God's work in Guatemala -- and for you, as you process back at home.

Melissa said...

Amanda,
Your posts opened my heart to a whole new world... Our family just poured over the Compassion site... Precious little Sindy from Guatemala will now be a part of our lives. She is the same age as our daughter. Thank you for obeying the Lord so that lives could be changed. There are not enough words to express the gratitude I have in my heart at this moment. ~Melissa

Teri~Facedown said...

Thank you for this Amanda! Thank you.

Tracey said...

I had to leave this post 3 times and catch my breath/dry my eyes. I could hardly read it, I don't know how I would have reacted to actually see it. Thanks for helping us see.

MEGAN said...

THANK you for sharing this with us. We won't all have the opportunity to visit Guatemala, so I'm glad you could go and document it for us! When I feel like whining about my 2 bedroom/1 bathroom home...I'll think of these pictures and thank my GOD for blessing me as much as he has.

Beth said...

Amanda, brought back so many memories from last summer. I was in Guatemala at Casa Aleluya. This was a Christian orphanage (even they don't call it one) with about 400 children from infants to college age students. It was life-changing and you do have a crisis of belief because you wonder how you can ever come back and look at the abundance we have and not feel guilty.

I am ready to go back.

Leslie Young said...

I'm done. Dang, I'm glad y'all are home. I couldn't take any more. I sponsored little Sruthi in India after your sister blogged from there, and just sponsored a sweet little boy from Guatemala. Thank you for telling their stories.

Amanda said...

Leslie, thank you for bearing with me. And THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for blessing the lives of these two children.

Jill said...

What an amazing story to read. Love this post! It is my favorite, you are a wonderful writer. I will be going to Cambodia over Christmas on a mission trip and hope to document it, but your writing is incredible.

The Johnsons said...

"I wanted to see it - well, sort of ..." Thank you for saying this. In reading everyone's blogs I felt wrong in having my heart pulled to go see the desperation. Wanting to be broken so Christ can put the reality back together. That doesn't even make sense but I hope you understand what I'm trying to say...

I know I don't get what it was like to be there and away from your family, but I hope you know how much the trip has meant to so many people. Here and there. What you were part of - it blessed us all. Thank you.

Emily said...

Wow. What a powerful post! It has been such a blessing to read about your experience on this trip, and oh, how the Lord has been working on my heart (in a variety of ways) as I've read. Thank you for going to Guatemala and loving people and sharing with us!

Emily said...

I have been to the dump in Guatemala on a number of occasions... Seeing your pictures brought back so many of the memories... I remember seeing toddlers rummage through garbage... I remember the vultures circling overhead... It's tough stuff. It's hard to see that kind of poverty and then come back home to a comfortable life where we have so much!!

Thank you for going to Guatemala and sharing what you saw and experienced with your readers. God used you as HIS VESSEL over the last week.

Will be praying for you as you return to your life in TX and process all that you saw and experienced in Guatemala.

Charissa Steyn said...

Thanks for sharing lady! Loved your honesty and insight into this post. Isn't our God beautiful- He is so good! I love how He is working in every corner of the world, where we would least expect it!

Lindsee said...

Amanda, thank you for the sacrifices you made to be in Guatemala. I know being away from your family, and living with "strangers" for a week is no small task. Know that your words and your heart blessed me this week! I've had my eyes opened multiple times to the poverty around us (even here in Houston) and every time I'm still sick at what I see, yet so humbled. You were a blessing to those kids this week!

Glad you're home safely and with your sweet fam!

Love you, friend!

Nickie said...

I can't read any of the accounts of this trip without the tears rolling down my face. I never realized just how bad it is in other parts of the world. I don't know how, but someday I pray the Lord will find a way for me to not only go on a mission trip, but to help even further by sponsorship and anything else He has in His plan. I don't have money, in fact I can barely pay my bills... but I trust in God and know that He is taking care of me. I have it so much better than these people, these children. My heart breaks. God will show me how to help, and when He does I will listen.

Ann Voskamp @Holy Experience said...

Amanda?

Your tender, beautiful heart, it shone and it broke and it fused with Christ's this week, and witnessing your grace, hearing you quietly cry in the seat behind me, talking to you when I could hardly breathe... you were a gift to me this week.

You were a gift to hundreds of Guatemalan children -- a gift to beautiful Stephanie Shalom and her family -- a gift to the body of Christ, the Kingdom of God and His work in this world.

Thank you. Just that. With everything my heart can muster. Thank you.

You are soul beautiful....

Very quieted, very small, very grateful...
Ann

annalee said...

God's love and hope has touched my heart in a new way through your stories from your trip.

Jeannie (HAPPY HEART) said...

Tears... Oh Jesus, how we need you. Praying for all of you.

Peter and Nancy said...

This is a fine, heartfelt piece of writing -- thank you for sharing your journey with us. Come, Lord Jesus.
Nancy

JayCee said...

Job well done, Amanda!

~S~ said...

Two teams from our church go to Guatemala every summer. I had heard so much about the dumps. I can't even wrap my head around it. We have nothing to complain about here in the comfort of America.

My favorite part was seeing that precious little girl in Annabeth's shoes. I know that must have brought so much joy to you!

And lastly, you look beautiful on the mission field. :)

Marla Taviano said...

Thank you, Amanda.

Allison Morrison said...

Thank you for your willingness to go Amanda! Our son is adopted from Guatemala so we have a heart for it already, but we say a whole different side of it through your eyes. We can never truly appreciate what we have until we see what others do not. And when we see what they don't have it makes it hard to come back to our abundant life...God Bless

Kristen {RAGE against the MINIVAN} said...

Wow. Powerful, Amanda. It is so hard to see stuff like that, but to contrast it to the work God is doing to bring redemption was beautiful to read. Sounds like you had a life-changing trip!

Carrie said...

I was just reading this post, and I freaked out inside because I know that lady in the picture with the shoes. She is my good friend's mother! When I knew the Bloggers were coming to Guatemala, I wondered if you would run into her. I wanted to meet up with you guys (I live in Guatemala) but it didn't work out.

Thanks for your posts!