Today we visited Payatas and met Marivick, the Philippine Mother Theresa.
The day did not lend itself to shooting video for a couple of reasons. First, security. People in general are warm but there is still a huge crime influence in these neighborhoods. Drugs, theft, human trafficking, prostitution, and violent crime happens on a daily – sometimes hourly – basis. A bunch of big white guys with cameras kinda puts everybody on edge when they don’t know who you are or what exactly you are doing there.
Second, it’s a nightmare acoustically and visually to shoot in Payatas. Between the chickens and dogs and children and karaoke machines – there is sound bouncing off of everywhere. It’s the strangest thing – every dumpsite has had multiple karaoke machines in them. And people use them all the time. It’s one of those scenes that just doesn’t quite fit what you’d expect.
Payatas is divided into 8 sections. Marivick lives and ministers in section 2. The old Payatas landfill is right across the street from section 2. Marivick tells us that landslides and sinkholes were common in the old landfill, killing thousands of people back in 1991.
I did some research on this but the highest death toll I could find was 200. And it’s happened multiple times. I’m not doubting Marivick at all on this. I just think it illustrates the reality of life in the trash dump communities. They are the least of these, the forgotten of the forgotten. Even at 200 deaths, it didn’t warrant a blip on the radar.
Marivick has a small shop of knick-knacks just off the main road. She wears her pink pants and home made t-shirts with messages like – “I am blessed to be God’s” or “Jesus loves me.” When asked how she is doing, she smiles. “Better than yesterday.”
Her mission is crystal clear. To put God’s word in these kid’s heart and help them get as educated as possible. She has a brag wall of those who graduate. She “sells” pencils and milk and food for memorized Bible verses. She is currently raising a precious little girl named Emily. We all call her “Darling.” Her mom gave her to Marivick when she was 5 years old.
She leads worship for the children in the neighborhood on Saturday morning and then another service for their parents on Saturday afternoon. Why the separation? Because somebody has to stay home to make sure they aren’t robbed. A reality of living in Payatas.
On a tour of the community, we see the after effects of a botched abortion – a child with missing legs and arms.
We head back to the ‘compound.’ We are bringing in the 4 pastors that Trash Mountain specifically partners with in these areas, the men and women we’ve met over the last few days. Over pizza and cokes, we’ll laugh, tease, hear each other stories.
I’m impressed by their warmth and tenderness. It’s the exact opposite of what you would expect given the conditions they live in. I’m humbled by the lives they’ve chosen to live. Each of these pastors could have left for more lucrative positions. They minister in contexts so extreme, words and pictures fail to do it justice.
I left Western Hills for one week. I’m sure my family missed me but life went on. They’ll have services, they will be good. I’m not going to be missed all that much. And even if I am missed – no one’s life is in the balance if I miss a week. The same can’t be said for these pastors. They are Christ in these places, the only Christ these communities ever see.
Tomorrow we gather as many of these pastors and leaders as we can to worship and train with each other. Marivick will be there. So will Pastor Nixon and Pastora Cora, Pastor Stanley and Pastor JoeMar. I’m not sure any of us feel real comfortable in the position of teacher to these heroes. But that is something we will have to deal with tomorrow.