On a recent mission trip to Guatemala, I had one of those experiences that hits you in the gut – the kind that’s so shocking it numbs the mind. While visiting Hope of Life in Zacapa, the ministry took us to the village of El Remolino – a community adjacent to a large municipal dump. Our guides at Hope of Life told us communities like this exist all over Guatemala. There, generations of children experience a life of foraging for garbage. It is the only life they have known, and the same has been true for their parents and grandparents. Unless the cycle of poverty can be broken, our ministry partner explained, it will be the life these children’s children will experience as well.
While walking through the area, I met a young boy digging earnestly in the garbage. He said his name was Roberto. He is 12 years old. He didn’t seem at all bothered by the pungent smell of garbage and smoke. I was, and I had to fight the urge to cover my nose and mouth. Instead, I breathed in the thick, dirty air, hoping I could grow accustomed to it.
I asked Roberto what he was looking for. “Stuff. Anything,” he said. I was amazed how methodical he was at digging through the trash. Roberto told me he had just gotten out of school. I wondered how long he would remain in class. Due to sickness and the hard work, most find it difficult to stay in school. I wondered if Roberto would live The Trash Life or escape it.
I said a quick prayer for the boy and reminded myself that I could play a role in helping him. We all can. That is the mission of Cross – to empower ministry leaders serving in these areas and to help children like Roberto find new hope.