• Great Missions Trips for the Familiy

  • Partners of Hope

  • Other FCI Blogs

  • Archive of Posts

Posts Tagged ‘Guatemala Dump’

Poverty in Guatemala

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

A boy wandering in the trash at the Guatamal City dump.

By MJ Zelaya-

As the trucks come into the dump working rush to sort through the rubble.Not only does Africa contain some of the poorest countries in the world, but there is also one country in the Americas, a very small country called Guatemala, where people exist and live in inhumane conditions.

And it’s hard to say this when you are talking about the country where you were born.

Poverty can be defined generally as a situation in which households or individuals do not have sufficient resources or skills to meet the needs of those individuals. In the national survey of living conditions in 2011, more than 13 million inhabitants, above 50% of the population in Guatemala live below the poverty line— with more than seven million people living in extreme poverty.

And it’s why thousands of Guatemalans decide to emigrate to other countries, risking their lives simply to seek better opportunities. Poverty in Guatemala is cataloged in two ways, from “poor” to “extreme poverty.” People living in extreme poverty live on $1 a day. That dollar is supposed to cover their basic needs, and in reality they have only one: eat to survive.

A vicious circle is created over generations that is hard to escape because you have such limited options: without education the new generation follows the same pattern… work hard to get the minimum to eat and survive, or die.

Children, like this girl are the most vunerable to poverty's effects.It’s a daunting but very real scenario. Just walk around the cities of Guatemala — you can see people in need in the streets, poor people trying to get by with God’s help, needing Him to be true to what it says in Scripture: give us today our daily bread (Mathew 6:11).

A lot of those who are better off try to indulge being islands, keeping to themselves — no matter what is happening around them, they are only satisfying their OWN needs and forgetting God’s heart — to help the poor.

And that’s why Forever Changed International supports those in need, working to meet the many needs Guatemalans suffer. Through outreaches in our missions program you can make a real difference. The many children and families we serve throughout Guatemala eagerly wait for Forever Changed International to bring teams of people to share Christ’s love with them as well as provide them with what we would consider basic living essentials. Soap and a pair of shoes can brighten the eyes of a 5-year-old boy more than you can imagine. Apply for a trip today!

Coming to Guatemala is a real eye-opener. The suffering will change your mind and your point of view. It will show you how many are truly hungry, and that you have been privileged to be born and raised in a country with a multitude of opportunities —a very different life to live. Even more so it will help you gain a kingdom perspective. One mission tripper put it this way, “Seeing their hearts for the Lord displayed with Dorie’s Promise children, the communities we visited and with our team was very impacting on us. Every person on our team has expressed the positive life experience our time at Dorie’s Promise has produced.”

A home in the ghettoBut poverty is affecting many things in our country: starving children are being exploited physically, emotionally, and sexually — a reason why Dorie’s Promise, our orphan home in Guatemala, is so important.

Dorie’s Promise Guatemala changes the lives of those most vulnerable to poverty’s effects – children. They come to us lacking the emotional, physical, mental, and, most important of all, spiritual fundamentals they need to break free from the cycle of poverty. You have the opportunity to lift a child out of poverty and into a loving home by becoming a sponsor! Sponsorship does more than just provide them with the basics of life – food and shelter.  Your sponsorship fills their life with love, hope, education, and care.

Mission Program Updates

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Missions Team - Von Hausen

My team has learned what it means to have compassion for others. The kind of compassion that enters your gut and compels you to do something.

By Pablo Villagran-

Mission Program Updates - Phot provided by Cayce DossettGod has been so merciful and faithful in every single step of this program. We have learned to give Him the glory for everything and in every moment. He has shaped this program into what He wants it to be. We have learned to trust the Lord and to know He is the pilot — we only have to enjoy the ride.

Teams have come with us and have connected with our kids here at Dorie’s. Our kids have learned to make friends and to trust people again. They love to have “missioners,” as they call, them around. They often come to me to ask if any are coming because they know they will be able to receive and give so much love and attention. Our mission program has become very important for the kids here at Dorie’s.

I would love to thank every person who came this last summer and loved our kids. Some relationships and connections impacted them in many positive ways.

Unfortunately, our missions outreach was affected by the news that the community of Linda Vista was removed from their territory. They had been fighting a legal battle for their land for more than two years, but in the end they lost the land— the buildings as well as about 100 families were removed. It was a tragedy for us. We couldn’t do anything about it, but we know that God is in control. Of course, the families were devastated. In past years, whenever there is an eviction, many people die trying to defend the land. But the Gospel was deep inside these people’s hearts and no one fought — they all left there in peace, not in tragedy.

For me personally it was a crisis. It marked my life. I have heard from a good friend that crises refine your life. I think it molded my character to have more compassion for the homeless and the poor. The community is waiting for the government to get a new place to start a community again. Many were touched by this place and the people. They are the most rejected people in my country, and that’s where we work. I believe Jesus would have done the same thing. So I thank everyone for how you have invested in this place.

Aside from the changes in some of these plans, we have seen how other doors are being opened to new opportunities to help others in need. We are constantly working to help and support places that are making a big difference in their communities:

Panaroma of Guatemala CityThe first one, is Casa de Pan (Bread house). This is a feeding center that helps 260 kids who live and work in the dump of Guatemala City. Pastor Mercedez has shown many people what it means to work for the poor and to have compassion for the one who has less. Years before, she used to be one of those kids who would dig in the garbage to find food for her siblings because her parents, addicted to drugs, were not providing. She knew her purpose in life was to help kids who live in extreme poverty.

The second one is hogar estatal (a state orphanage). They currently have 700 children but only the capacity for 400. The kids living in these conditions are exposed to abuse. The state of Guatemala at some point looks like it doesn’t know what to do with them.

Our program is focusing right now on their facilities. We want these children to have a nice environment to grow in, and we are working with the kids, teaching them the Gospel and how it has changed our lives … and it could change theirs!

The third option: Luz del Paraiso (Light of Paradise). Located in Palencia, it is a place helping 60 children with food and tutoring classes. But the children here suffer malnutrition, poverty, and violence in their home life. The program is run by college students. We support this place and the homes around it with different infrastructure and water projects. They just received a land grant, for the next 20 years, donated by the municipality to do their project. We will support them as much as we can.

Luz del Paraiso (Light of Paradise)We have also started visiting an abandoned school in a place call El Palmar, Palencia. We realize that because it is far away, the help doesn’t get there … but there are plenty of opportunities for us to help.

It is clear there are many places that need your support. You can donate to give to a community, water, educational, or health project, and we will use it in the best way.

And that “best way” is to come on a mission trip. Every single week is different. But God has called us to help the poor.

You might have the idea that you are coming to give so much, but in reality you will receive much more in return.

I think God is opening doors to us to help people in need in different places. He has given us a Kingdom vision so that we can work with other organizations for the sake of that Kingdom.

New Opportunities When You Serve With Us

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Mission Trippers working in the community of Linda Vista.

By Heather Radu –

When people come Dorie’s Promise Guatemala, they are always excited to meet our children. They bring a blessing as they interact with them, and I know they also receive a blessing.

the Guatemala, in the community of Linda Vista.We will always provide ample opportunity for mission trippers to get to know the children, but we are also eager to provide other opportunities for service. That is why we are so excited to announce some new developments with our mission program—and we think you’ll be excited too! We have three new ways to come and serve the people of Guatemala on your mission trip.

A wonderful new chance to serve the people of Guatemala comes in the community of Linda Vista. Linda Vista has a large population, yet many of the people there are squatters. Many live in makeshift homes and have a difficult time finding work and proper nutrition. Crime is a problem in Linda Vista, but we are hopeful that through the help we provide people will be able to build a better, healthier, more life. It is with great joy that we off our visitors the chance to come and minister in Linda Vista.

A boy walking on the tracks near the Guatemala City dump.Mission trippers will also have the opportunity to join us for a daily feeding at the City Dump. Many Guatemalans, a number of them children, make their living by sorting through the garbage for recyclables and other items. In this way they are able to make a little money for their families. It is a difficult life, as food is not always easy to come by. Many times the food that is available is not healthy, and children tend to suffer the most from this. That is why we are excited for those who come to serve with us to take part in this feeding. You will get to deliver healthy food directly to the people who desperately need it.

Our last new service opportunity will be for people to help us remodel the facility we own just forty minutes outside of town. It has always been important to us at Dorie’s Promise to provide the best possible facilities for our children, special moms, and our visitors. From time to time that means doing the hard work of remodeling. Every mission tripper should come prepared to clean, paint, or assist in whatever capacity that is needed. A beautiful facility is a tremendous blessing to children who have come to us out of poverty.

So please, come join us this year at Dorie’s Promise Guatemala. Our children will be happy to see you, and you will have the opportunity to fill the needs of some people who suffer from genuine need.

We look forward to you blessing us with your presence, and we hope that you will take a blessing back with you.

Reach Out Missions Program is Growing

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Reach Out Missions is Growing

By Heather Radu-

Missions Director Pablo and a team visiting the ghetto.We are so blessed by everyone who comes to Guatemala City and serves through our Reach Out Missions program. The resources we get from the missions program create a small but steady stream of support for Dorie’s Promise Guatemala, our orphan home in the city.

And today I have some exciting news! The Reach Out Missions program is growing, and I believe sharing that news with our friends is really important. The growth in this program helps our work at Dorie’s Promise in ways you can’t even imagine. Sponsorship is still the most important tool we have to raise money to feed, house, and care for the children in our home. But our short-term missions program plays an important role. Each week, we get a small but steady stream of people committing to come to Guatemala. From each mission-tripper’s fee, we receive roughly $300 to help run the orphanage. Believe me when I tell you that without this we would be in real trouble.

So let’s rejoice together over the growth of the Reach Out Missions program and thank God for this unique way to introduce people to our children and the work of caring for them.

Here’s a little history so you can see how God has been working:

2009: 60 trippers
2010: 130 trippers
2011: 216 trippers
2012: 370 trippers
2013: 313 trippers

This year, we are on track to hit our goal of 450 trippers.

We are close to our goal already but we still need a little help. If you’re thinking of coming, do it! If you know someone looking to come on a great mission trip, tell them about us! Click here to begin an application.

In one of Guatemala Cities ghettosWe’ve got new things in the works for our upcoming trips. Pablo has been working hard to identify some communities that are beyond desperate and that nobody else is helping. He is also looking at some regular lunch and dinner programs for those who work in the dump.

We think our 2014 trips are going to be some of our best ever! We’ve spent a lot of time planning and preparing, so please help us spread the word about our mission opportunities.

One note … Consider coming in August. We currently don’t have many people coming that month. It is the perfect time to come. Go on a great mission trip before the new school year starts!

Thank you again for being so supportive of our work with the children in our care and in the communities that surround our home.

P.S. Let me know if you’re interested in coming down this spring, summer, or fall. We would love to have you!

“I never could have imagined the impact…”

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Katies and Her Husband with Mario

Guest Post: By Katie May

My first visit to Dorie’s Promise was last October on a mission trip with a group from my church. I never could have imagined the impact visiting Guatemala would have on my entire life and of that of my family.

During our trip we built a playscape in the backyard of Dorie’s. While there, we also went on a few day-trips, to the ghetto and to the dump. I remember being shocked during our first trip to the ghetto. I couldn’t believe people lived like that. Yet when hearing their stories, I was amazed at their faith. The things they prayed for weren’t “things.” They prayed for good health, that their children would finish school, that their faith would be stronger — some asked for prayer to help overcome addictions. No one complained about their circumstances or even asked for prayer to change them. It was a level of faith and trust in the Lord that I had not seen before coming to Guatemala.

At the dump I got to spend time with the children living and working there with their parents. It was one of the best days of my life. These were the happiest children I had ever met! Our team heard the prayer request of a little boy who wanted to taste chicken. He said all he had ever tasted were the bones. We went to Polo Campero and showed up with boxes and boxes of chicken for the children — it was special to see how happy it made them.

A note from Katie to MarioMy experience at Dorie’s Promise was completely life-changing. I fell in love — one boy in particular, Mario, stole my heart. Once I met him, I don’t think I put him down. I would go out on the trips and then go right back to his crib to scoop him up.

At the same time, I can’t say enough about the special mothers. I was so impressed at how attentive they were to the babies. They took their time with each one — to snuggle with them and to be loved on. The children are just so well taken care of. One little girl, Dulce, was having medical issues, and her special mother was so emotional about it, saying how much she prayed for her. You can tell these women truly love the children, and the children love their special moms!

Leaving there was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I cried the whole plane ride and was just thinking of when I could get back!

Once I returned home, I struggled with the knowledge of the circumstances in Guatemala. It bothered me so much to know of all these orphans who needed homes. It angered me that adoptions were closed*. I shared with my husband all about Mario, and he assured me we could make an impact in his life not only through sponsorship but also in prayer.

I truly thought it would be a while before I could manage another trip to Guatemala, but after hearing all that I shared with him, my husband wanted to experience Dorie’s Promise for himself. We were back six months later to celebrate Mario’s first birthday!! I was so happy to see all the children again. My husband too fell in love with the children, Dorie’s Promise, and Guatemala.

On that second trip, we had the privilege of being there for Mother’s Day. They had a ceremony out back, and each of the children had the opportunity to get up in front of everyone to share about why they loved their special mothers. The kids had so many nice things to say, and there was so much love being shared. One little girl said she was going through a hard time and was thankful that her special mom was there for her.

One morning my husband and I got to Mario’s house early right at the shift change. While we were upstairs, we could hear the special mothers who were about to start the shift gathering in the hallway downstairs. They all began to pray together and sing songs of prayer. It was lovely. I can tell that being a special mother at Dorie’s means way more to those women than just a job.

Katie's husband play with the kids at Dorie's PromiseMy own children (Hailee, 11, and T.J., 7) now hear so much about Dorie’s Promise and want to visit as well. They refer to Mario as their brother in Guatemala. We’ve made some great relationships, and I know that Guatemala will always be a part of our lives.

After our two trips to Guatemala, we were moved to adopt. Knowing that we couldn’t adopt from Guatemala was so difficult to accept*. We would have loved nothing more than to bring home our sweet Mario or any other child from this country we loved so much. However, we moved forward with adoption here in the U.S. and have been blessed with an amazing little boy named Christopher. I’m thankful for the confirmation God gave us through our time in Guatemala that adopting was right for our family.

My experiences at Dorie’s Promise have changed my outlook on life. It’s opened my eyes to see how big the kingdom of God really is. In some way I always knew the Kingdom was larger than just our lives in America, but it’s easy to get caught up in your own bubble. When you have experiences like the ones in Guatemala, you can’t help but be changed.

I know we will be seeing you all again soon!

*International adoptions closed in 2008


The Challenge : Poverty in Guatemala

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

Can you imagine living on a budget of one dollar a day per person in your family?

What would you eat?

What happens when you need a doctor?

In one of the Ghettos of Guatemala City

By Arwen McGilvra-

A home in the ghettoIn Guatemala, nearly 8 million people live in rural areas, and of those, 57% live in poverty, which means they have a budget of about one dollar a day. When you talk to people here in Guatemala about it, they’ll say that it’s hard, but that you can survive. And it’s true, you can survive with one dollar a day.

But there is a catch: the truth is, survive is all you can do; these families don’t have the luxury of sending their children to school — they have to stay home to work with the family. Yet many families are able to bond and grow despite these conditions.

“I still can’t wrap my brain around it,” says Beth Godwin, describing the poverty she saw during a recent trip to Guatemala with Dorie’s Promise. “As much as I tried, nothing prepared me for what I witnessed. People, hundreds of them, including children, scrounging and tearing through GARBAGE in order to find anything to sell for food. How can this be possible just a short 3-hour plane ride from our comfortable homes and well-stocked pantries?”

How do these children living in the ghettos and working in the dumps grow up? Most of them just want to make it from one day to the next. Their greatest achievement is the next meal, or maybe a pair of shoes that fit.

Many people in Guatemala live on less than a dollar a dayRhonda Reinke also shared her experience with us: “The smell of the dump was nauseating even from high on the cliff. It was surreal. Yet it is the reality that some live with daily.

Even in the midst of this, there is hope.

Many agencies have projects in place in an attempt to create change, including the government, international aid, and nonprofit organizations from around the world. What’s unique at Forever Changed International and Dorie’s Promise is that we work in multifaceted ways to relieve the poverty.

We want to challenge you to join us in our efforts….

  • Poverty and unemployment lead some people to drugs, gangs, prostitution, theft … ultimately resulting in families living on the street. Children growing up in these situations experience more than just hunger — they face abuse, neglect, and hopelessness. These are the children we want to reach — these are the children who live in our home. Many of them come from these sorts of situations and would be living on the street without Dorie’s Promise.

We currently only have room for 40 children. If we are able to reach our goal of 100% sponsorship, we will be able to use additional gifts to expand our ministry to serve even more children!

  • Giving a water filter to a family in needSecondly, our water for life ministry provides water filters and pilas (a kind of sink) to needy families in the ghettos. Without water to clean your hands or your dishes, or for preparing food, sickness becomes a major problem. Not to mention the fact that clean water just isn’t available or affordable to those living in poverty. The water that many people drink is full of contaminants, and women and girls often spend much of their day collecting water and carrying it back to their homes. According to Gary White, co-founder of Water.org, the lost productivity of people collecting water is greater than the combined number of hours worked in a week by employees at WalMart, United Parcel Service, McDonald’s, IBM, Target, and Kroger.*

Water Filters The cost to provide a water filter for one family is just $40. The filter will provide clean drinking and usable water for a family of four for three months. In the past year we have provided 130 water filters to families. It’s good start, but we’d like to double or triple that number next year.

Pilas A pila is the main tool for washing and cleaning and holding clean water in the slums and ghettos of Guatemala City, where clean running water simply doesn’t exist. Now you can provide a pila for a family for just $50.

  • Lastly, we have our mission teams, groups visiting Dorie’s Promise Guatemala that have the opportunity to connect with our kids and be the hands and feet of the Gospel. Visiting teams help us install pilas and concrete floors and distribute the water filters. They experience the poverty firsthand and return to their homes to be ambassadors, raising awareness and funds, becoming prayer warriors and sponsors.

We invite you to join us. Check out our online handbook and then fill out an application online.

“I will never forget the time I spent in Guatemala with the Dorie’s Promise team. It was thought-provoking, heartbreaking, soul-stirring, and gut-wrenching all at once.” —Beth Godwin


Giving Water and Life

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

By Bradley Burck-

The Water in Guatemala is Contaminated

It’s full of the  kinds of waterborne illnesses we don’t even think about in the United States — diarrheal, intestinal heminths, Schistosomiasis, Dracunculiasis, Trachoma, and more. This is the situation faced by those living in Guatemala City. Fresh,clean running water doesn’t exist. Everyone knows that drinking the water is likely to make you sick.

The solution seems simple, buy bottles water or use a water filter to purify it. However,  those living in the ghettos and the dump don’t have that option. When you struggle to find enough to eat,  digging through the trash for a mouth full, bottle water is far out of your reach. Most families simply drink dirty water or boil what they have and take their chances.

Water Filters

Modern water purification devices are relatively inexpensive and easy to get in the United States. You would not think much of one if you saw it a store.  They are small but extremely effective in filtering contaminants. We are working with families in the ghetto of Maria Teresa Caballeros of Guatemala City to provide these life-saving water filters. A water filter provides fresh drinkable water for a whole family. Our missions teams visit the ghetto and the dumps several times a month to bring these gifts to families in need. With this practical need met doors are opened to share the love of Jesus


We go further than just delivering water filters we also provide families with sinks called pilas. Running water is unknown in the homes of the poorer families. The pilas give families the ability to wash their food, clothes, hands, and bodies with uncontaminated water.

Now you can help too!

What has God placed on your heart? The cost to provide a water filter to a family is just $40. Now you can provide a pila for a family for just $50. This $50 gift will impact a family for several generations. Please consider how you might be involved.

Consider partnering today by providing water filters and pilas to families in need.

Give online so a family can have fresh water today!


Mail a check to:

Forever Changed International

c/o Water and Pila Project
Forever Changed International
19215 SE 34th Street Suite 106-387
Camas, WA 98607

Meals for Miguel

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Forever Changed International

By Pablo Villagran-

To show the kind of impact a mission trip to Guatemala can make, consider “Meals for Miguel,” set up by college students from Alabama after they came here last Christmas season.

The group raised more than $600, which they sent to Dorie’s Promise recently to help us buy food.

Meals for Miguel originated with young people from Destiny Christian Center in Prattville, Alabama. In addition to their efforts, students from Prattville Christian Academy donated a large amount to the fund-raiser.

During their visit, the young members of Destiny Christian Center distributed food and clothing inside the garbage dump in Guatemala City.

“Our guide for the day was a boy named Miguel,” says Noah Crossfield, who organized the project. “He is the same age (18) as I am, which resonated with me. Miguel told us about his life and how he worked about 12 hours a day to help feed his family, which has five children.

“Then he told us the most shocking part: He only earned about 50 cents per day. I was blown away by this. I did the math and figured that equaled about five Ritz crackers a day for each family member.”

Taking inspiration from other, similar initiatives, Noah suggested students from the church “swap places” with the poorest people in Guatemala for a day.

They would only eat five Ritz crackers, then take the money they would have spent on food that day and send it to Guatemala. For instance, if someone normally spent $10 on lunch they would skip it so they could donate that money to Dorie’s Promise, says Noah, a freshman at Auburn University.

“It was a great experience,” he says. “It really put into perspective how much my giving can mean. When I know that one dollar given to Guatemala can buy two pounds of corn meal to make tortillas, it makes it seem like my gift does something really awesome.”

Anna Davis, another volunteer, also saw what the difference small gifts can make in the lives of the needy. She says the cost of a typical fast-food combo meal can go exponentially further in Guatemala—and besides, American students would benefit from skipping a burger and fries.

 “We can give a tremendous amount of support without really affecting our daily lives, says Davis, a freshman at the University of Alabama. “The lack of basic necessities in Guatemala is obvious and disheartening, but I had never realized how easy it is to help ease some of the strain. “Meals for Miguel showed me that we have no excuse to deny aid.”

In working on this project, Noah learned that the exchange rate means every dollar given in the U.S. equals about two dollars of food in Guatemala. Food bags costing $12 can feed a small family for a month, he says.

“I discovered that we actually raised enough money to buy food for a family for the four years that I’ll be in college,” he says. “That fact by itself made it totally worth it.”

Safe Passage

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

By Desi Stephens-

One of our partners in carrying out our mission in Guatemala is Safe Passage, a group that provides approximately 550 children with education, social services, and the hope of moving beyond their family’s impoverished circumstances.

We formed a working relationship in December of 2010, when a staff member of Safe Passage gave one of our mission groups a tour of the national cemetery and the adjoining dump in Guatemala City. It provided them insights into the reality of the extreme poverty faced by many residents.

Many families have lived in the dump or surrounding, poor communities for generations.

Many mission groups get a first-hand look at this situation by meeting a Safe Passage member at the school these children attend. The staff member shares the history of the organization and their work in helping children impacted by the dump.

Because of our partnership, a number of mission groups have donated school supplies to Safe Passage. They also have had opportunities to visit the Creamos jewelry shop, where women who have lived at the dump have the chance to make jewelry from paper goods.

In addition to selling their products to our groups and other customers, the women have an opportunity to learn job skills.

Dorie’s Promise has also benefited from this partnership. Safe Passage recently donated two washing machines to us and has given us extra food from their supplies.

Nearly every week Safe Passage takes the time to greet visitors on our mission teams and spend time with them. Ultimately, our joint efforts are making a long-lasting impact on at-risk children.

While no children from Safe Passage have entered the orphanage, we have extended our services to the organization’s social worker. If they feel that some of their children need a safe, loving home, they can use our services in working with the Minor Court to facilitate the transition.

Amilcar de Leon of Safe Passage credits the partnership with enabling them to meet many potential sponsors and donors.

The donations and school supplies they have received has helped reduce demands on their budget and helped them maintain their programs, he says. “We believe that because of these strong relationships we can work together to make a real difference in Guatemala,” de Leon says.

We agree. It has been a pleasure to work with Safe Passage as they have reached out to others and served us as well. As our partnership approaches its first anniversary, we look forward to seeing how we can strengthen relationships and continue serving the children of Guatemala.

Death to Life

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

By: Don McPhee

We are surrounded by death…

From on top of a huge cliff I stare below to the famous Guatemala City Dump, the largest of its kind in Central America. To me it appears as Hell’s marketplace. Hundreds race after the latest rubbish from city trucks. The trucks from the wealthy parts of town are the most sought after. Several entrepreneurs set up an umbrella and sell food in the mist of the trash, knowing there are many hungry workers nearby. Tents are visible and they act as warehouses for gathered supplies. Bulldozers scurry, layering garbage and dirt while pushing towards a river. There are many hazards of the job including being pricked by infected discarded needles, or being levelled by a bulldozer. We practise caution from our observation point, as mudslides are common, and tragedies have occurred as a result.

Immediately behind me is the Guatemala City Cemetery. To view the dump, we had tracked through the cemetery to the edge of the cliff. There is no better location for this graveyard as despair can be continuous. Location does matter as well when maintenance fees are not paid on a tomb, as the body is removed and conveniently thrown over the cliff into the dump; from grave to grave. The cemetery is massive, stretching it seems for many square miles. Typical decor includes a colossal wall of tombs with rows of slots for bodies, sealed with a headstone. Most tombs are sub-standard representing the final resting place of the poor. Green moss is common over the surfaces, and everywhere is the foul smell of death. Those that can afford it have a professionally engraved marking, while the rest have some encryption hand written in the cement seal. There are also some upscale tombs with roof peaks, steel barred windows, crosses, and marble decor.  We observe a huge structure reserved for relatives of one of Guatemala’s riches families. On this day there is a funeral and we witness a worker climbing a ladder to place the body in an upper empty slot. He then completes the task with a cement seal.

Up above and all around, flocks of vultures circle and perch. The ultimate symbol of death. They number in the thousands. They rest on the tombs. They take a break on the dead trees. They loop about looking for something lifeless to devour, not discriminating between a dog or human body part, or any other rotten remains.

And straight ahead, on the other side of the dump, lies a ghetto. The ghetto dwellings are called “cobachas” and are the best attempt for a home that can be made from discarded metal, plastic, and wood. Many have dirt floors. We saw our share while in Guatemala. Most furniture or appliances in these dwellings would not be accepted for the poorest of the poor in Canada, there would be an outcry. I never realized a white fridge could turn rust brown.  

Our next venture after observing the dump, cemetery, and the vulture guard is to visit one of these cobachas across the way. We will arrive with gifts and a chicken dinner for two families.  We race back to the truck and began our journey to the other side, our trusted guide, Joel, always leading the way with confidence.

Our entrance into the ghetto does not provide relief for our burdened hearts. Was this a community or just an extension of the dump? To its credit, it was at least a somewhat organized heap. Bottles, plastic, cans, and other materials are separated and usually enclosed in large cloth or plastic bags. But they are all over the place; on the sides of the street, in the homes, and throughout the alleyways. Apparently it is common to sleep on the stacks. Random pieces of litter spot the dump spoils. Packs of dogs are throughout. They are thin and sickly. I observe several drinking from polluted puddles on the streets.

The cobacha we approach is no exception. There are two families living and working in this dwelling. While honoured to be their guest, we are troubled by their circumstances. Masses of sorted garbage are both inside and outside the home. The residence seconds as a sorting facility for the spoils of the day.  My precious friend and missionary partner, Martine, is frozen in time at the entrance of the cobacha. She is still and staring, nervously holding the dinner in plastic bags high in the air, while dogs hover around her feet and flies target the exposed rolls. Her face says it all.

We venture into life. “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” Romans 8:6…

Things turn around dramatically as we meet the dear people, our people of fellowship. Regardless of their surroundings they have resolved to be happy. I am touched, as before we enter, a lady insists on sweeping the floor. I see no point in sweeping a dirt floor, yet, to her, it is her way of glorifying God with her best for others. She makes a path in the house and lays stools for us to sit. The first room in the house contains a rafter on the left where another lady is pleasantly engaged, arranging papers gathered from the dump. A number of scrawny cats within the mess are her company. We are all so impressed with everyone’s spirit of thankfulness. They are a content people. What a lesson to observe.

Martine is now fully active in the conversation, and has also made it her personal mission to minister to the ever increasing legion of cats at her feet by contributing a portion of her lunch. Not only do cats eat French fries, they are Lovin’ It! Joel indicates it would be very acceptable to throw our chicken bones to the dogs outside, which is easy to do when there is no door. If you thought dogs shouldn’t eat chicken bones, well don’t wake these dogs up! My daughter, Courtney, strikes up a special bond with an eight year old girl, Allison, and with her caretaker, a 20 year old Guatemalan princess.

In retrospect, I consider the economy of the dump. To these people it is hope and a way. It provides a means for 20,000 residents. It is a viable alternative to recycling companies. There is harmony in the practise. A system is in place for workers to access their portion of a truck load by laying hands on the side of the truck to claim their space before it unloads. There are no fights, and rights to a truck are respected. Legislation now prevents children from working in the dump. We were also fortunate to previously visit an organization called Safe Passage, and one of their ministries is to remove kids from the dump setting, and provide educational alternatives. All dump workers are licensed, and no entry is allowed on weekends or beyond the 12 open hours in the weekdays. The ecosystem includes a network of wholesalers and retailers of the recycled goods. This is their work, and they do it well, and do it with pride.

I had carried into the ghetto thoughts of hopelessness, while the residents were living life and peace despite their circumstances. While I thought we would be blessing them, they have blessed us.

A sign from above. “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” John 6:63b…

The lady on top the rafters smiles and gestures. Amongst the stack of papers she was sorting, she discovers a prize. She holds up her hand, and in it is a coverless but complete Bible. She lays it aside so it can be kept and treasured.