Driving “home” today, my friend and I notice the sun setting over the mountains. We are in (literally) the middle of nowhere Honduras on a road that could be mistaken for a path – at best. When the road forks, she chooses the “wrong” way purposefully in hopes of photographing the beautiful mountains.
Nothing prepares me for what I see next.
Smoke. Trash. A dump.
And a family.
We decide to turn around because (honestly) we are alone and not quite sure what to expect. As we turn, I look closely at the family and realize…it’s our family. It’s the family we’ve spent almost two days with as we built their widowed mother a home.
It’s Ritzy – the little gal Hannah has hugged and fed and played with. It’s Maria. And her sons. And Reina. Hannah has been to their home. We’ve loved them – worshipped with them – served alongside them – shared a meal with them.
We suddenly understand: It is not the “wrong” – but His way.
We pull up to the dump. They see us and come RUNNING. Smiles. Jumping. Waving. So excited!
We get out of the truck – met with hugs and holas and buenos dias.
My friend has sawdust on her pants; Ritzy bends down and begins to clean her pants (no, the irony is not lost on either of us that she’s in a dump and worried about the dirt on our pants).
My friend begins to ask the mom, Maria, about the dump and how they make a living there. My Spanish is iffy at best, so I begin to share snacks and hugs and high fives with Ritzy and Reina. They know I have a phone with a camera, so they motion for me to take their picture and let them see it. (They LOVE looking at pictures of themselves and their family.)
I get my phone out and give it to Ritzy so she can scroll through the images. Then, Reina asks me to take her photo with her “sombrilla”- her umbrella. I frame her in my phone screen and suck in tears and a sob.
Reina with her umbrella. With the smoke from burning trash. With trash at her feet. With the beautiful mountain view. It’s overwhelming.
I take sweet Reina’s picture, and she wants to see it. Muy bonita! (Very pretty!) I tell her. She smiles, and I see contentment and joy that I may never understand.
My friend prays over them. We hug each of them tightly and head toward the truck…
And I know…Jesus turned us the “wrong” way. He used His creation – His splendor – to draw us toward His people. He wanted us to know this family more deeply. To step outside our comfort zone and walk into their lives more fully.
He wanted us to see their smiles and pride as they showed us their “territory” – the part of the dump they’ve claimed as their own. He wanted to tell me…
Sarah, I do NOT live in a box. Your ideas about what it takes to be joyful and content are NOT my ideas. Your ideas about the “good life” are yours alone influenced by culture. Your ideas about “good’ and “bad” aren’t necessarily mine either.
Because here’s the truth, friends. I wanted to pick all of them up, drive them out of that dump, find them a new home, and try to make to their lives better. But, as I drove…I considered my definition of “better” – they were smiling and laughing and working. They were together as a family.
Do I wish they didn’t have to live and work in a dump? Yes. Are my ideas and my way of life better than theirs? No.
They know joy that I do not know. And they thank Jesus for each and every gift, depending on Him in ways I have never ever had to. I am in awe of all I learned from them.
Thank you, Lord, for showing me yourself today. In the most unexpected way. In the least expected place. May I never forget Reina – or her sweet umbrella posing proudly in the dump. And may I never forget, Lord, that You discern my and Reina’s going out and our lying down; You see Reina and me when we sit and when we rise; You are behind and before us, hemming us in; the darkness is as light to you – whether in a Honduran dump or in a house in West Virginia. (Psalm 139)