They Came Over The Hill

These posts are usually meditations with a point. However, last week several of us visited Tijuana for a mission trip. In addition to serving at an orphanage with children (from 4 to 20), we also visited an active landfill. The experience was overwhelming. I’ve changed literary styles for this meditation.

The scene was eerie, much like a movie about an apocolypse. 

Our van was stopped by security where we were questioned. Allowed through into the landfill, we parked near some newer cars. Some sort of business was transacted there that I do not wish to know.

We grabbed our two boxes filled with 100 ham and cheese sandwiches and three packages of bottled water. 

We are outside Tijuana, Mexico. It is desert. Hot, even in March. Dusty, with spirits blowing mini-dust storms as if impeding our way.

The dirt and dust dried out our sinuses and became grit in our eyes.

We hurried beyond the cars, across a road and over a rise. The scene below was beyond belief. Hundreds of people. Maybe 500. Maybe more. Sorting through the days droppings from the parade of waste trucks. Hoping for enough valuable material or recyclable stuff to get paid to make it through another day.

They saw us. Over the ridge. I looked up. Men with hoodies and neck cloths protection from the dirt. Coming toward us. At first, admittedly a little fear. But there was no harm.

We offered a sandwich, a bottle of water, a blessing “Dios te bendiga”.

Each one offered a grateful “gracias” in return. I have even witnessed these people sharing during my past trips. They often look out for each other. A spark of humanity and God.

When we had given the last of our offerings, we hurried back to the van. Escaping the sights, the smells, the dirt.

Had we 400 more sandwiches, we would not have had enough. When asked why even bother, I responded, “It’s like the story of the starfish thrower. We can’t help them all, but those we do help appreciate it. And out of their misery and slavery, perhaps they hear the blessing of God.”

One little church was built in their little tent city on the other side of the hill. The people who built the church and visited on Saturdays had led one man to salvation by the power of the Gospel. That’s one. It’s a start. Just like our sandwiches. A start.

Just like back home. We can help one. Maybe we can’t help everyone. But one at a time. That’s not unlike what Jesus did. One at a time.

It was the juxtaposition with the bright and happy kids cared for by the orphanage that was most shocking.

Why do we go on these trips? 

We are called to coviction about how great we have it. And how great to burden and calling to share what we have. Not unlike the rich young man in Matthew 19, where he proclaimed that he had followed all the comandments since he was a youth. “Sell all your possessions and give them to the poor, then follow me,” Jesus replied. We gave only a little, but we were reminded about how great the task is that remains.

Our hearts were enlarged by the experience. May we always retain the perspective of life in the spirit.

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