I stood in the unusual roadway that we followed, which leads into the dump. No doubt the path was created by a bulldozer running over the mounds of garbage. Standing alongside our team, surrounded by trash, I was surprised by our environment. Nothing could have prepared me for this. Mountains created by bulldozers were topped with every imaginable item; toys, plastic, cardboard, wrappers and objects that had been deteriorated beyond recognition. Pipes released methane from the invisible decaying ground below. And the dirt beneath my feet was mixed with the trash so visible all around us. This was a lot to take in.
Our team had come to Tijuana to offer love and kindness to the poorest among the poor. We reached out to the local Mexicans who were hard at work sorting through the high mounds of garbage. They were looking for items of value, recyclables, items of use – some of which they kept, some they used to build shelters, and some they salvaged for money. We were interrupting their hard work and inviting them to a meal, a celebration for them complete with white table clothes, flowers, candles and their favorite dish – beef tacos. It was hard for them to interrupt their work. But when these precious ones paused we shook their hands, prayed for them, and invited them to come.
Here I was on the road, surveying the astonishing landscape with people all around, as I looked down between my feet and saw jewels on the ground. Flattened into the dirt was a gem-ladened earring. It sparkled. I thought, “Why is this here? There’s nothing wrong with this.” I realized that perhaps it was something that no one valued anymore. It was a simple wire, laced with sparkling plastic beads. Maybe someone threw it away because it was flawed, or maybe it was flawed because someone had thrown it away.
Jesus, the Treasure-Hunter
Sometimes we end up in the “garbage” through our own choices, and sometimes we got there because of the choices that others have made, that hurt us. But God. Jesus looks at us and He sees captivating beauty. Our surroundings never put Him off. He doesn’t base our value on a worldly standard or the condition in which He finds us. He enters into the garbage dump of our life and invites us to dine with Him. Jesus has found His treasure there. He has set a feast for us. He offers His own body and blood as the contents of this life-giving meal. It is designed to sustain us for a life time. But more than all of this, He’s offered us fellowship with Him: a warm hand, a loving heart, companionship that will change us from the inside out.
Treasures are often found in the most unlikely of places, but they are always visible for those who are looking to love.