“Did that really happen?”
On the third day of our mission work in La Mision, Mexico, we broke from the typical rhythm of the week, and headed north toward the border city, Tijuana.
We traveled along Mexico Highway 1, the international extension of the Pacific Coast Highway, not knowing at all what awaited for us at our destination.
Our mission for that day: to pray and provide food for the people living in the “Old" Tijuana Dump - the slums of Tijuana. I place the term ‘old’ in quotations because supposedly the dump shut down about 6 years ago. The catch, however, is that the owner of the dump recently reopened it for income and now uses certain portions of it - some directly next door to the homes living in the community - to dump garbage.
Take a look at the gallery below. If you are reading this post via MailChimp, then click on the link to read the post online to see the gallery of our visit to the dump.
You may be wondering why people live in a dump - literally on top of the trash. Let me clarify this before I share what happened there.
For many of us, when we finish using everyday used household items, such as plastic bags, cardboard, plastic, containers, paper, whatever, we consider them no longer valuable, so we throw them away. In doing so, the recycling and refuse centers of America receive this garbage, recycle what can be used again for corporate income, and then dispose the unusable contents into a landfill. The income from a single piece of item is trivial for many of us, which is why very few of us actually recycle that can of coke for a nickel.
But for others without any means of provision, several nickels can mean the difference between food and hunger.
Thus, several of the poor of Tijuana live either near or literally on top of the dump. They collect what fresh garbage they can from the trucks each day, turn them into a ‘trash lord’ who receives the trash and collects the majority of the payment from the refuse centers, and then the ‘trash lord’ pays a small wage to the collector.
In the worst scenarios, the "trash lords" pay them in drugs in order to hook the poor into bringing them trash to receive another fix.
It is terrible, dangerous, back-breaking work, and some have been doing it for years as their only means for survival.
Whole families, neighborhoods, church networks, community centers, and soccer leagues exist on top of the dump. The people cook over open flamed trash piles, tolerate methane gas smells - and explosions - go the bathroom in pits, and often live in 1-2 room (total, including living area) shanties made of materials found at the dump - usually only 100-150 square feet in area.
Walking through the dump sobered all of us to the reality of the poor.
Our mission while in the dump consisted of providing “dispenses,” bins full of household items and food, such as toiletries, band aids, potatoes, watermelon, seasoning, and more - items that either sit in our pantry for years or can be found for cheap at a local grocer. We carried six dispenses to 6 different households who live close by one another in the dump.
The second house we visited lived a man named Cesar with his wife, Rosie, and children. One half of our team walked into their tiny home, and we immediately noticed that Cesar was laying completely still on his bed. He did not acknowledge us, nor did he even look like he was breathing!
He looked sick, so we wanted to pray for him. We asked Rosie why he did not wake up. She told us that while he was working on a construction project 3 days prior to our visit, he fell and severely injured his back and legs to the point of near paralysis. She asked that we pray for his injuries and pain so that he can heal and get back to work to provide for his family for whom he loves.
Several of us prayed for Cesar. We stood over him in the bed and asked for the healing power of the Spirit to fall upon Cesar.
We only prayed for a couple of minutes. Many of us did not even know what to say. In fact, some of our students prayed for the first time ever out loud while praying for Cesar! We felt so out of place, so overwhelmed, so incapable, and so ill-equipped. What could we possibly do for this family other than simply take them to the Lord and offer them the kind of hope and peace that only comes from Jesus?
In some ways, what else should we do?
We left and visited another house for a couple of minutes, did the same, provided them with a dispense kit and prayed for them.
We left that house, walked toward the road, and to the left of us stood Cesar and Rosie! She held his arm around her shoulder as he walked around the front area of their home. They looked at us, smiling and crying, thanking us for our prayers of healing.
We looked at each other, and we wondered, “Did that really happen?” Was he faking it? Was he really that injured? Did we really just witness a miracle?
I stood there in disbelief, wondering all of these questions. I looked to Rosie and then to Martita, who was walking us around the dump. Rosie stood in tears. Martita, who knew this family well, stood also in total disbelief with what she saw. The reactions of these two women confirmed to me that Cesar was not faking it. Indeed, he was lame, and now he walked!
We witnessed a miracle of Jesus right there in the middle of a dump. He healed a poor, lame man, who was unable to work and provide for his family. I saw this with my own eyes and write this story to testify to the event that happened there on the dump that day. Several kids saw this with their own eyes - some perhaps unbelieving - and now can testify to the miraculous power of Jesus. There’s no other way to explain how a lame man could stand up and walk after only 5 minutes. Simply put: simply Jesus!
God hears the cries of the poor. God considers them close to his heart. I believe that God dwells with the poor in that old, dirty, forsaken dump. He draws near to them, and may they never be forgotten!