DAY 8 OF THANKFULNESS: A FEROCIOUS STINK
Quite without any warning, I stepped out into my mudroom to begin a load of laundry only to be assailed by an overwhelmingly ferocious stink! The odor smelled like a paper mill had experienced a sewage explosion of apocalyptic proportions. I opened the outside door, only to find that the smell was getting into my mudroom from the great outdoors, the great outdoors that now warranted a house-sized can of Lysol.
Who knows what the cause could be. Yes, the kids might have missed an egg or two and our free-range chickens could have some eggs that were getting nice and ripe, but it would take more than just a handful of poultry bombs to stink up the whole outdoors. Maybe our sewage system is having tummy troubles? Who knows. I'm hoping it is just some factory somewhere having major odor issues. After all, there is one several miles away from here that sometimes shares its dog food aroma with us.
Regardless of the cause, I know the smell is only temporary. Even if it IS our sewage system's bowels getting all funked up, it can and will be fixed.
And that got me to thinking about today's post on thankfulness. I can be thankful because I do not have to smell putridness every day. It is an anomaly, not the norm. I won't smell it so often that the odor no longer even registers on my olfactory scale.
But sadly, that is not the case for everyone in the world.
Until just a few years ago, when I started reading online missionary blogs, I was unaware that there are people who actually live in dumps or if they don't live in the dump themself, they live right by it and pick thru the dumps daily for food to eat and stuff they can sell.
Then, when we visited Swaziland nearly three years ago with Children's HopeChest, we were able to experience one of these dump communities first hand. On the outskirts of Manzini, there is a huge, city dump. Daily the trucks come and deliver rotten bananas, moldy cheese, used hygiene products, plastic bottles, dirty diapers, and fly-infested meat scraps. And everyday, children and adults scramble over the piles to dig thru the rubbish in hopes of finding something to assuage their aching hunger or give them something they can somehow make a little money off of by selling it or repurposing it.
Can you imagine?
Can you imagine that you are a young child who lives just opposite the dump and every day when you see the yellow trucks arrive, it is the signal for you and your friends and siblings to run across a busy 4-lane bypass to see what you can find to eat?
Can you imagine that you are a widow raising several children, caring for a sickly relative, and don't have any opportunity for employment due to the circumstances of your life so you have to rush over to the dump and hope and pray you'll find something that you can sell and get enough money to buy some medicine and a teeny bit of food?
Can you imagine that you are an abused, teenage prostitute with your baby on your back, who survives off the sex business you participate in with men who smell like the dump because that is where they spend their days? And maybe all that they pay you for your body is something they dug out of the rubbbish heap?
That is the day-in and day-out reality for scores and scores of people who live in the squatter community next to the Manzini dump. And sadly, there are untold numbers of other garbage piles and dump diggers across our world today.
So on this Monday, I am thankful that this smell will only last for a short-time on my farm.
But if I only stopped at being thankful that I don't have to put up with this smell every day, then my thankfulness would be very shallow and selfish.
If my gratefulness doesn't motivate me to do something, then I'm not thinking like Jesus would want me to think.
First of all, I do need to thank God for the blessings that He has given me, but then I need to ask how God wants me to bless others through my blessings.
I see over and over again in the Bible that God gives so we can give to others. He doesn't prosper us so we can just be materialistic, comfortable, selfish jerks. He blesses us so we can take care of His precious orphans, widows, sick, and hurting. He blesses us so that we can show the love of Jesus through our deeds, not just through our talk.
When we are blessed, we need to pray and then DO! We need to pray that God will show us the hurting. We need to pray that we will actually care for those in need. And we need to pray that He will show us how we can help. And sometimes, we need to pray that He will give us the strength to do what He has called us to do. Because, to be honest, sometimes we don't like what He has told us to do.
Sometimes I hear people say, "well, I'm not called to that ministry". And at times, that is a valid point. We are not all called to be pastors. We are not all called to be doctors in a jungle hospital. We are not all called to be translators of the Bible in a faraway land. But we are ALL called to care for the orphans and widows. We are ALL called to give drink to thirst, food to the hungry, clothes to the naked, care to sick, help to the stranger, and comfort to those imprisoned (Matthew 25: 31-46).
Caring for those people is NOT an option. It is a command to all who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ.
And saying we don't know those who are sick or hungry or impoverished or in prison or naked or homeless is not a valid excuse. In this day and age of the internet, we are all just a few keyboard strokes away from connecting to ministries that need our time, money, and prayer. Or pick up your phone book and look in the yellow pages under non-profit organizations. Or ask your pastor. Or, or, OR! There are unlimited ways that we can find those in need and help them.
If God knows we are willing to obey Him and serve His "lost and least", He will be faithful to connect us to those who need us. He is never going to tell us to do something without providing us a way to accomplish His command.
So today, I thank God for the nasty stench permeating my farm and home. I thank Him for reminding me of those who live off the dump and others both in my city and across the world who need me to love them, who need me to do something about their plight.
By the way, if your heart is drawn to the people of Manzini who I described, you can actively be a part of changing their world so they don't need the dump to survive. Children's Cup and Children's HopeChest have carepoint and a sponsorship program that is working to break this community from the bonds of extreme poverty, illiteracy, and hopelessness.
Go to this website to find out what you can do: http://fiftyfriendsforswaziland.blogspot.com/
You can also go directly to the Children's HopeChest website and sign up to be a sponsor. At the directed website, put "MANGWANENI" in the notes field. Here's that link: http://www.hopechest.org/sponsor-a-child/
My friend Erin wrote about our visit to the Manzini dump, you can read about it here: http://biscotti_brain.blogspot.com/2008/02/swaziland-manzini-dump.html