Children growing up near the city dump are being loved and cared for by our brothers and sisters in Christ in Guatemala City. During our recent visit to Guatemala, Reggie Quimby, Teman Knight and I saw firsthand the ministry we have with our Baptist partners in that major Central American city. Our primary reason for the visit was to teach and train the pastors working in the various 300 or more Baptist churches of Guatemala.
As our group shared in the excitement of what the Lord is doing in these pastors’ lives, we had an added treat. We made a visit to the city dump to see the ongoing ministry with former prostitutes and drug addicts, who also are mothers of the children in the daycare, located across the street from the city dump. We marveled at the way people’s lives were being impacted by those caring believers reaching out to them in the name of Christ.
This fact reminded me that Jesus died on the cross near the city dump, called Gehenna or the Valley of Hinnom. In ancient times, Baal worshippers sacrificed children in this valley for their pagan gods. Later, it became the city dump for the refuse of Jerusalem and the makeshift burial grounds for dead animals and criminals. Gehenna became synonymous for hades or hell. It was a despised place known for terrible eyesores and awful smells. People did not want to live near the city dump.
The death of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection from the dead gave hope to the most hopeless of the first century and those of the twenty-first century as well. The women and children living near the city dump have an outpost of hope where they receive the message of God’s saving love. The Lord and His love are alive and well in the most deplorable of places: the city dump.
All Christians everywhere can minister in the most unlikely of places. It does not have to be a literal city dump to have this kind of ministry. Actually, everywhere becomes destitute when the love of Christ does not rule and reign. Sometimes the most successful looking people feel like their lives are nothing more than city dumps. You don’t have to be poor and destitute to be down and out and feeling hopeless.
I will never forget seeing the eager eyes of little children at the daycare, near the city dump. I will always remember the winsome smiles of women who have found hope for their lives through the ministry of caring believers. They are learning to cook and to sew. They are learning how to care for their children. More important, they are learning that God loves them, even though they live near a city dump.
C. T. Studd, a well-known English missionary to China, Africa and India, once famously said “some wish to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within the yard of hell.” In the days of Jesus, the Valley of Hinnom or Gehenna meant “hell.” It was their city dump. The believers in Guatemala City have taken the call to minister “within the yard of hell” very seriously, and so should we.