Filthy, disgusting, rotten, garbage... everywhere. The stench, the 100 degree weather, the mist, the animals, if it weren't for the barefooted children it would have been way too much for me to handle. There was one little boy, maybe five years old, uncomfortably carrying his malnourished baby sister as he walked towards us over one of the heaps. A few little girls were skipping excitedly- wearing dirty mismatched high-heeled sandals that they had obviously found in the waste. In the distance we could see some men and women digging through the wet debris with their bare hands. As Westerners, we were repulsed by the scene, but as Burmese refugees, this was life.
In May of this year I visited a team of students for a couple weeks in Thailand.
Upon arriving the team took me to a place that at this point in the trip had been their "favorite ministry", it was a big disgusting garbage dump that was inhabited by a wonderful community of Burmese refugees. From my understanding, these precious people were kicked out of Burma, but then not welcomed in Thailand. So Thailand allotted them this land to live and work on, and they were welcome to stay as long as they maintained the place.
That is what we as a team witnessed them doing, they were living and working on this dump, and everyday when the garbage trucks arrived to dispose of the newly acquired trash, the refugees would race over to the fly-invested pile and begin sorting all of it by hand. The sight was disturbing, and yet through it I experienced an unexpected revelation of God's love.
That night as I laid down to sleep I could not shake the images that I had seen. Then I began to have what felt like a dream, though I am aware I was very awake.
I imagined myself walking into the dump and witnessing again the horror of their lifestyles. Then in my dream I began to run to the people and tell them about the United States, "You do not have to live like this! It is possible to dream of being somewhere else. Someplace clean! Where your children can be healthy! You can rest and not fear death all the time!" Then I started pleading with people, hoping they would listen to me, "In America it is beautiful and we have water.. and fruit.. you can play, you don't have to work all the time! You could experience that if you wanted!"
Then I imagined the people looking at me, they were so totally immersed in their own lives they hardly responded. One of them turned to say, "Sorry I am trying to find myself better shoes that my friend has. I am trying to make a name for myself." Then I looked down at her muddy mismatched shoes and was appalled as I tried to figure out how she could really mean what she just said. I watched and saw that the people were all piling up their trash, trying to get the biggest piles, striving to outdo their neighbors. The men were trying to collect more trash and do it faster than the others, the girls were trying to get the more sparkly trash, everyone was lost in their worlds of garbage and no one would take a minute to listen to my cries. They were all preoccupied with what they could see, they didn't dare listen to my explanation of how things were where I was from. I shouted "This is trash! This is death! People are sick! You can choose to get out of this! Please listen!"
Then in my dream I felt like I was interrupted by God Himself. He showed me that what was happening in my dream is exactly what happened when Jesus came to the Earth from Heaven! He came from this beautiful place full of love and peace and made His way into our dump of a world. He pleads with us to listen as He offers us healing, hope and points out the devastation of our state of life. He offers us a different way of living, lovingly inviting us to trust Him, and we say, "Sorry Jesus- I am too busy piling up my trash, trying to be better than everyone else, making a name for myself here in this dump." Then we are off, leaving Him behind, as we get busy storing up homes, cars, money, status, people, and chasing after an array of empty things that lead us to empty places.
Isn't that amazing! We get so consumed by the here and now, that we do not even respond to God when He offers us a Way that is far greater than anything we could ask for or imagine. We get bound by comparison and greed- always seeking to be the best in this life, while disregarding the reality of eternity.
In Phillipians 3:8 Paul says,
Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ. (New Living Translation)
Walking with Jesus is inviting Heaven to this Earth, daily living out the prayer
"Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on this Earth, AS IT IS IN HEAVEN."