Saturday, July 10, 2010

This is Africa

Imagine with me if you can, the most disgusting, vile and inhuman place on earth you, your children or any children for that matter could conceivably live. Picture the surroundings. Smell the stench. Hear the sounds. Take it all in. Now throw it out, because whatever you have pictured doesn't come close, can't give true justice to the dump; a place countless children inhabit in East Africa.

My mind races as I anxiously ponder the right words to help paint this picture clearly. As I recall the stench of rotten trash, the aroma of human excrement wavering in the muggy air, starved dogs aimlessly wandering the mud soaked land, all encompassing a community of orphans and some of the most impoverished people I've ever encountered in my time here on this earth, tears stream down my face. I close my eyes and I can see the children walking barefoot, covered in mud, in urine, snot caked under their nostrils, digging through trash to find any possible remnants of food. I see their hands reach out to be held. I close my eyes and I can see the desperation in their charcoal eyes, the bones protruding under their hole-filled clothes. My mind flashes back to the lunch my team shoveled quickly on our bus. Peering out the window watching curious faces stare longingly at the rice we gulp down, my heart is ripped open. I rush back to help feed the children only to return back to the street five minutes later in shock; a three year old street orphan shoving rice in his mouth, rice he got from the trash we had just thrown out five minutes earlier. For the rest of my life I will never forget that picture. I will never forget his little hands, the speed at which he shoved the rice in his mouth, how he almost choked on his tiny hand because he couldn't get it in fast enough.
I feel the lumps in my own back as I imagine sleeping atop trash, I feel the ache as I picture tears streaming down the face of a child who longs to see his mom and dad again; hating AIDS and the destruction it causes. Just when you think your heart can't take more, you hear stories of rape among young girls; imagining life for the child that grows within her belly, conceived during the most evil of acts. Just when you feel relief coming, you trample over piles of human excrement, realizing you have just stumbled on the public bathroom..
After you take that in..then you travel through the community doing home visits to families. As you push through the garbage, trample through the mud and pouring rain, ask permission to enter the home, more horror awaits you. I shudder at what else could have been seen were electricity even an option. Flies swarm, dirt and grime cover every surface, babies huddle in a corner in oversized torn shirts; I listen while a mother describes her life through tear soaked eyes. Focused not on the tiny mud-built shack that houses countless people, I turn to the mother. As water spills out of her eyes she re-lives the death of her husband only a week prior. Eighteen years of marriage, only 38 years old, life at a screeching halt before it had even began. He was the only source of income and his only source of income consisted of sifting through the dump to find scraps, hoping to sell what he could to provide enough food to sustain his family one more day. As she continues to wail, frightened at what the future holds for her and her family, tears begin falling from our eyes. For twelve dollars a month, her rent is paid, can you fathom that? Every house we entered, every hand we held tight, every child we scooped up into our arms, was another example of Gods clear calling in James 1:27. "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

Survival is an art here; it's a skill that has been learned not by choice but by force. This is a community that not even it's neighbors will go near. They are outcasts, forced out of the eye of people within distance to yield at least some minimal relief. It captured my heart. It stole my affections. It's a dump, but God is the God of this city. He has a plan and purpose for these people and I intend to do whatever I can, inspire others to do whatever they can to move boldly to help. Once you have seen, you are responsible. We have seen. But now you have heard.

This is Eastern Africa...

More to come soon...

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