A few years ago, a pastor friend of mine went to Guatemala City Garbage City to minister to the residents there. Yes, there are residents who live in whatever shelter they can make of scraps they find in the largest garbage dump in Central America. They have families, children and generations who have lived and died in their cardboard shelters. My friend was surprised when he got there and talked to many of the people, for he went there to bring encouragement and Jesus to people who live in the saddest of conditions. What he found was Jesus and joy as he had never seen before, and he was given encouragement. What can we learn from a culture of “Rag Dolls” who live in such extreme poverty? They have something to teach us and we need to learn, which is a point I want to make?
To understand what my friend saw in this garbage dump, we must enter a conversation he had with one of the residents. When he talked to this family man with several children, he saw love and joy like he had not seen in the USA. So much of our country’s happiness is derived from our things, our comfort, and our financial security. This man had none of those things, and yet he had this great smile and joy that radiated out. My friend asked this man:
“I need to ask a question of you Juan. I see in you and your people so much joy and laughter. I see you readily sharing what little you have with us and others. In fact, I’ve never seen such joy and generosity even in my own country. I just don’t understand. You and your people are so needy, but it doesn’t seem to affect you. How can this be?”
Juan answered, “You are right my friend, you do not understand us. If you did you would understand that we are only dependent on God. We are never needy, for God supplies all our needs and He has never failed us.”
When I heard this story I was struck with the truth of the scripture Jesus gave us in Matthew 5:3. I heard a real life example of a poor man, a rag doll of society, teaching me how being dependent on faithful God gives a joy that I cannot find otherwise. I heard about a man not defined by his wealth or poverty. I heard a poor man telling me where the treasure of the universe is found. Why would I be surprised, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven and that makes them rich? I said to myself, “I want the Kingdom of Heaven, and if it is found by my being dependent on God, then I want to take that path.”
So, what can we learn from the impoverished and poor people of the world? What can we learn from the immigrants who want to enter our country and live here? What can we learn from uneducated migrants who work fields, or factory workers who work from daylight to dark and only earn enough to get by? Why is it they seem to have less but live better? Why, in spite of their hard work and the weariness from back breaking jobs, they can still have time for their family and friends and to enjoy life? I think we can learn a lot if we will learn to listen to them and respect who they are and what they have to say. Maybe they will learn from you and me as well, if we open up communication lines with them?
Let me ask you to open your eyes to the many “hidden people” that we tend to tune out. Show some respect and ask them what makes them happy? Respectfully get into their perspectives. I think the respect thing will go a long way with building relationships with them, and who knows God may want to speak to you through them? Wouldn’t that be worth the effort? Remember… Hebrews 13:2.