Amidst news Prince Charles has the virus and that Spain and Italy are being particularly hard hit right now, and need our prayers is the sight of people dropping on the streets of Indonesia where lock-down is out of the question. There is no escape for the poor of Indonesia where people are living hand to mouth, who can’t afford to NOT work or their families will starve. So today I have a story to share with you. From a man called Wayne who visited Manila in 1986 with YWAM.
It wasn’t long before we reached the top. I’d never been up here before. Day after day I’d mixed with the people in their poor excuses for houses, chatting freely about life, sharing both laughter and pain, but never had I gone to see why 10,000 people lived on this grotesque accumulation of stinking, filthy, rotting and disease-ridden rubbish.
As we reached the top I looked around. Between the thick banks of wafting smoke I could see for miles. It was a great view of Manila. But the people about me weren’t interested in the scenery, and I suspected Jeremiah hadn’t brought me here for the view, so I turned instead to a large group of squatters, scratching their way through the freshly dropped rubbish, searching for anything that might prove of some value for the scrap dealers.
A rubbish truck tipped its load and then chugged away, and the groups scurried over to rake through the garbage with their metal hooks. Picking up wood, metal, bottles and plastic, they dropped the scrap into large cane baskets strapped across their backs, before the bulldozer came to heave the rubbish over the edge.
We stood in silence. I turned to Jeremiah and asked him how often he visited this spot. “Not often,” he replied. “I don’t like coming here.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“See over there – look at those men. Do you recognize any of them?” As I looked closer I realized I knew 3 or 4 of those scavenging. They were local men I had come to know over the weeks. They all attended a Bible study group where I had assisted Jeremiah. “Have you noticed that none of them has acknowledged us? Not one of the men we know has smiled or said hello to us. You know why that is? It’s because they’re so ashamed to be here. They hate what they have to do for a living. It’s humiliating. But they know that if they don’t scavenge, their families will starve to death. They have no choice.”
Over the days and weeks that followed I found myself burning inside with the pain and injustice that the people were going through. As a follower of Jesus I realized it was not sufficient just to feel bad about the hurt and misery of others. I was compelled to do something about it. That was what compassion meant. I re-read the accounts of the life of Jesus and began to understand how much time he spent responding to people’s needs. His was not a life of cheap talk.
After returning home, I gained an increasing awareness that our time, money, and abilities were not primarily for our own benefit. Following Jesus meant that we were not free to just spend our resources how we wanted – it was for Jesus to decide how they should be used. I also gained a deeper compassion for people around me. It was a catalyst for substantial change in my own life.
While we are all going through the “stretching” and “testing” of lock-down. Think about those less fortunate, who cannot shut themselves off from the danger of the virus and are at risk, due to extreme poverty in countries like Indonesia or because they work for essential services. That have to maintain a level of contact with others. Please hold them up in your prayers.