While we were at Tanza, the other half of the team was at San Mateo. Their visit was much tougher.
The day before, a 5-year old girl that lived in one of the houses that was just built by Lighthouse Bible Church this past summer is dead. She had an asthma attack and didn’t have a nebulizer.
Simple medicine. Cheap medicine. $4 a week medicine. Completely preventable but too poor to get the medicine.
There is a mixture of hurt and anger among us. This is a delicate situation. TMP is going to pay for the funeral arrangements. The family desires a glass casket (“Catholic style”) to honor their daughter.
I can’t completely get my head around the trash dump culture in the Philippines. Poorest place on the planet. Conditions unlike anything I’ve ever seen. No begging. Never have seen it in the dump. Never been asked for one thing by one person in the dump.
They will talk and laugh and play. They will tease and hug. They will ask questions and listen. They will not beg. They will not be a bother.
TMP would have rather paid for the medicine but how do you communicate this to the family without dishonoring them? How do you ask the questions why didn’t the family tell somebody what was going on? Why didn’t they let their pastor know and let him contact Trash Mountain? How do you explain to a family that asking for medicine isn’t begging?
There are no easy answers.
We all get back together for lunch at Tanza 1 site. The team from San Mateo comes over and we have fried chicken, rice, stir fry vegetables with quail eggs. It still feels incredibly awkward being served more food in one meal than most of these get in a week. The flip side is to refuse to eat, to insist that they eat it would be an insult of biblical proportions. We’d never recover from that kind of mistake. So we eat. And the food tastes amazing.
Meals here are an event. We sit and eat and talk. And laugh. There is something in this culture that makes mealtimes feel like…dare I say – communion? There is something deeper taking place when we break bread. Somehow by eating together, we are no longer two different cultures trying to figure the other one out. We are family. Loved by God. Committed to one another and to Him.
It sounds mystical and weird but it isn’t.
Okay. It is mystical but it really isn’t weird. It’s just something that I miss in my busy, hurried life in the states and I find my soul longing for on trips like this.
After lunch, we drive 2 minutes to the new Tanza land. It’s a 300 meter walk but it’s safer if we drive. We big Americans stick out like crazy here. It’s 4.9 acres that we will build a school, an aquaponics plant, and another worship location. It’s beautiful but it needs a ton of work and clearing. Pastor Stanley can’t contain his excitement. He’s practically bouncing around like a little school boy.
The dream is taking shape. Slowly. Surely.
We head back to YMC. It’s getting dark.
I keep coming back to that girl in San Jose Dump.
No one is coming.
We pass hundreds of churches here in the Manila metro area. Some big, many small. A few rich, a lot are poorer. When people here learn that we go to trash dump communities to help build schools and churches, many look at us like we are crazy.
Some of it is judgment. They are there because somehow they deserve it.
Some of it is ignorance. They can’t imagine that these places really exist.
It’s the same way in the States.
But we are coming. We aren’t many. We have limited resources. We are a bit of a mess ourselves. We aren’t perfect but we are coming.