Sunday, January 15, 2017

clinic, commute, and daily life near the garbage dump

Guatemala City has one of the largest garbage dumps in Central America.  And, there are thousands of people living in communities around the garbage dump who try to make ends meet off of things that come out of the garbage dump.  Whether it's by going into the dump to sort through the trash, or helping sort garbage, or using the garbage to sell or use in some way to sustain their life.  
There are things that I get use to seeing, but every time I drive to the clinic it's hard not to be overwhelmed by the sights, sounds, and smells.  This is normal life for so many, but there are many things that feel so completely abnormal.  Life goes on as usual, kids playing, women cooking, clothes hanging out to dry, and neighbors gathering in the streets.  And then there are other "normal" everyday things, kids sniffing glue on the corner, a drunk father stumbling around the streets before passing out on the sidewalk, children dressed in filthy rags playing with garbage, piles of garbage lining the streets, and malnourished street dogs everywhere.

As I serve at a clinic, called "Corazon de Amor", in one of the communities surrounding the garbage dump, I'm regularly overwhelmed by smiles that can often cover up so much hopelessness and despair.  Many patients carry heavy burdens when they enter our clinic.  There is no medicine that will help them, except for the healing love of Jesus.  And while I feel like there is so little that I can do,  it's been a privilege to be there, offer a listening ear, pray with patients and share Christ's love with them, and just treat them with respect and offer them my time.  One patient in particular, we'll call her Maria, came very depressed, dealing with the recent death of a family member, and had given up taking care of her health and managing some chronic diseases.  We talked about some ways to deal with the depression and got her signed up for our upcoming Diabetes Class.  She was very willing to come and listen, but struggling all the same.  Each week we could see her smile and joy returning, and her health improving.  Even though she had to do some traveling, she made the class a priority and came every week.  Why did Maria make that class a priority?  Only partly because she wanted to learn more about diabetes.  Mostly because we made time for her, and it made her feel important.  It was only 2 hours once a week, but that was enough to make her feel loved and cared for.
This family has crossed my paths many times over the past 2 years.  Not too long ago little baby Julia was in my constant prayers as the mother talked about selling her.  After visiting the family in their home, it felt even more concerning.  It's just hard to imagine a newborn living in a dirt house surround by filth and even chickens running around, and the chaos of a family trying to just survive moment by moment.  Thankfully, this little one is currently healthy, growing, and seemingly loved by her family.
I only live about 5 blocks from the clinic, but I can easily get discouraged before the day even starts as I travel those 5 blocks.  I pull out of my garage wondering if a car will be blocking me in or a drunk man passed out on the sidewalk.  At the first corner I get to, it's a very difficult and dangerous street to cross.  There are cars, buses, and motos zooming in front of me across 3 lanes, and then cars, motos, or garbage trucks attempting to also turn onto the same busy street meaning I often have to dodge them while dodge the other cars.  AHHHHH . . . here's a little video of the intersection:

Then I have to cross another busy street that is not quite so difficult, unless there are cars parked on the corner blocking my view - then it's near impossible.  After crossing that street, the next two intersections are easy, but that's when my heart and mind begin taking in the overwhelming sights of life around the garbage dump.  Just as I begin to process it all, I have to turn onto a side street that has metal poles at both entrances and I have to drive through them always hoping I don't scrape the side of my car.

I usually have to wait for dogs to move out of the way or wait behind a street kid who is high and stumbling down the middle of the street.  Once I arrive to the large blue gate, I get out of my car to ring the doorbell.  This should be an easy step, but it's one of the hardest for me.  Once I step out of the car there is a horrible smell and flys everywhere.  I watch my step to make sure I'm not stepping on a place the dogs have used for a bathroom, glass, garbage, or dead rats to reach over piles of garbage and ring the doorbell.  I wait for somebody to come open the gate while occasionally having to move my car which is blocking others from going down the street.  Then, i'm in the gate, a sigh of relief as I drive into the courtyard/parking area.

Sometimes I have a hard time releasing the stress from getting there and switching gears to loving and caring for the waiting room full of patients.  I always want to be grateful for the opportunity that I have to enter the lives of others, even for a short time and serve them - it's a privilege given to me by the Lord!!!  And, my short trip there gives me a glimpse into the daily stressors that those living there face all the time.  I get to leave at the end of the day, but they don't.  


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