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 It all started with a haircut

It was our first overseas missions trip and I was as green as the grass.  I had spent the week in a fog, somewhere between thinking I was doing some good and all-out “tourist mode”.  I knew about three words in Spanish and had used them extensively, even when I had no idea what I was responding to.  The people, the sites, the smells, the traffic…it was all completely overwhelming.  And I had no idea how I was going to get on the plane and go home.


            On Thursday, our group went to the city dump.  I had been hearing about it for months—how our group was going to go to the “dump” and wash hair for the people who lived and worked there.  My North American mind couldn’t conceive of people actually living in trash, and I had worked out a picture in my head of what I would see.  Neat sidewalks, with small houses.  Garbage piled neatly in cans.  People sorting through it for recyclables, carefully putting back what they didn’t use.


             I am not sure that there are adequate words for what we drove into.  It had been raining, and the bus windows were open.  The smell was overpowering.  My stomach rolled and I had to steel myself not to retch.  As a leader for this group of young people I had an example to set.  The door opened and our leader bounded off enthusiastically, calling out to familiar faces and motioning for us to follow him.  The kids looked to the leaders and the leaders looked to each other.  Slowly, we rose and headed for the door.


            I stepped off of the bus…and was ankle deep in wet, slimy trash.  A dead dog was almost touching my foot.  My stomach was rolling and I was struggling to breathe.  I headed toward the small clear space that had been set up for us with two of my high school students holding my hands.  Looking around, I realized that the “houses” were made of trash.  Cardboard, tin, plastic…whatever they could find that might give them some shelter.  Babies and small children played nearby…in the trash.  Tiny babies were placed in boxes near their mothers so that they wouldn’t crawl off and drown.  Or worse.  Packs of wild dogs roamed, looking for anything they could eat.  Parents had bags tied to their waists and if they found food that looked like it might be edible, in it went. 


            I couldn’t wrap my brain around what I was seeing.  Babies.  In the TRASH.  Small children.  In the TRASH.  My heart was breaking and all I could think was “Lord, what are you DOING?” 


            Little did I know that our day in the trash would change my life, and my family’s life.  We spent two hours there.  I held babies and small children.  I washed hair.  I held the hand of a little old lady—she didn’t speak my language and I didn’t speak hers (well, except for three words…one of which I found out later wasn’t even a word) but it didn’t matter.  I touched her.  Something no one had done in forever.  I didn’t run for the hand sanitizer, didn’t immediately grab for the wet wipes.  I just held her hand.

            My husband and I came back.  Not quite five years later, with our three children in tow, we came back.  He is now the Regional Director for the organization that started it all…and he’s directly responsible for the dump.  It looks a lot different now, but it’s still a place of desperation.  But now it’s also a place of hope.


And it all started with a haircut.

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Added On 04/30/2015 
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