La Chureca is the largest open air dump in Central America. It's also the home of some 1000 people (50% of whom are under 18 years of age). These people literally live in the dump. They find their food in the garbage. The look for anything that can be recycled in order to sell it for cash. This is their home and it's also the place where I had one of the most mind numbing experiences of my entire life.
It's difficult to describe La Chureca. I've posted pictures (which I'll talk about) but what you simply cannot explain is the smell. It's the type of smell that causes you to not want to take another breath. It's a combination of rotten trash, feces, urine, and death ... and it stays with you the rest of the day.
Our team went here to share the love of Jesus with people. We fed them. We gave hugged them. We shook hands. The language barrier kept us from having really indepth conversations but we were able to say "Jesus te ama" or "Jesus loves you."
I was so proud of our teenagers. When we first arrived at the dump, the look on their faces was one of absolute disbelief. We couldn't believe that people actually lived here. That babies actually lived here. And, honestly, there was a bit of fear. But, as soon as our truck stopped, our kids got out and just started loving on people. No fear. No favoritism. Just love. It was so cool to see.
There were a couple of experiences that brought me to tears. First, I met a young lady who was obviously pregnant. By the looks of things, she'd be giving birth any day. As I was trying to communicate with her as best as my very basic Spanish would allow me, I kept on thinking of my pregnant wife. This lady is going through everything that a pregnant mom experiences, except she's doing it in a trash dump. I was heart broken.
Then I also saw a mom carrying a naked baby around. The baby looked to be the age of our baby girl. When I saw it, I immediately started to cry. I just couldn't believe or understand how this could be happening and how this little baby even had a chance to survive in this type of mess. I was completely broken over that.
But, in the midst of all of this darkness, there was some light that was breaking through. Maria was a lady who felt led to start a school in the dump 2 years ago. She lives in Managua but really didn't know that people lived in the dump until she saw something on the local news about it. That news story ignited a passion in her that lives to this day. She would travel (by foot) 5 miles one way from her home to the dump to share the Gospel with the people there and to pass out food. She felt led to start a school and that school is also now a church. The church building (which isn't much by our standards but by "dump" standards is simply AMAZING) was built because of the tithes of the people in the dump who go to the church. Where did they get the money? They would rummage for anything they could find in the trash, sell it, and then tithe 10% off of it. That money built the church. There is also a man named Pedro who raises pigs in the dump. Any time his pigs give birth to a litter, he always gives at least one of the pigs to the church. The church then either sells the pig for money or uses it to help feed people in the dump. Kids are getting an education and people are hearing the Gospel in this dark place.
I'm still processing this experience, but I know it's shaped me and given me more of a passion to help people and point them to God and it's done the same for the kids on our team as well.
This man looks out over his home in the dump.
These three boys sit outside their tiny home in the dump. The youngest boy that you see on his hands and kness in the picture is the "nake baby" I mentioned above.
This man carries a load of items he rummaged for in the dump.
Some of the pigs being raised here.