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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Rich (04/26/12)

TITLE: Out of the Dump
By Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom


Riley bounded up the bus steps, pausing at the top to scan for an available seat. Her eyes met Kelly’s. Forcing a smile, Riley flopped into the seat next to the biggest complainer on the trip.“Today sounds like a blast.”

Rolling her eyes, Kelly smirked. “If you think going to a dump will be fun, you must live a boring life.” Riley leaned back as she listened to Kelly rant. “I came on this stupid mission trip because my parents made me. If they knew we would be traipsing around the city dump…”

Riley slipped her ear-buds in and pushed play on her IPOD to drown out the rest of Kelly’s tirade. Her eyes closed as the bus bumped along, and Riley reminisced about her first week in Nicaragua. She pictured the kids’ faces when the group painted the local school. Riley easily saw God at work here. Everyone appreciated their help and the local children were ecstatic to spend time with the older kids.

The bumping of the bus jarred Riley. Her eyes flew open and her nose crinkled at the smell. The chaperone, Mike, stood up and waved his hand. “Listen up. Remember, even though we are at the city dump, it is home for the people here. Today’s goal is to notice how these families worship God and how it differs from how we see God.”

As Riley stepped off the bus, the heat and the stench of rotting garbage assaulted her senses. Her heart dropped as she scanned the mounds of garbage and saw children playing on top of it. Silently, she wondered how anyone could see God here. This place depressed her.

She tried to absorb everything. In her heart, she knew no matter how many pictures she took, the people back home would never totally understand what she was seeing and smelling.

Her stomach lurched as she remembered how Mom wanted to throw her a going-away party but she refused because she didn’t want her friends to see “the dump” she lived in. Her cheeks burned red as she realized these people lived in an actual dump, but instead of shame, the kids were eager to grab her hand and show her their “casa.” They’d think Riley’s run-down house was a mansion.

Kelly leaned over and whispered in Riley’s ear. “Look, those little kids are running around barefoot. What are their parents thinking? They could get cut on the broken glass.”

Shaking her head as she gritted her teeth, Riley reined in her emotions. “Kelly, they’re barefoot because their parents can’t afford to buy them shoes.”

Shrugging her shoulders, Kelly answered, “It’s not like shoes are expensive. Mom bought me these because she didn’t want me to ruin my good ones. They only cost a hundred bucks.” Tears filled Riley’s eyes, Kelly would never understand. She wondered, once again, why Kelly came on this trip.

A little girl squeezed Riley’s hand. She chattered in Spanish as they toured the dump. Riley didn’t understand anything until she pointed and said, “El caballo.” Sure enough, there was a horse walking around the dump, sticking his nose into the mounds of garbage looking for food.

Eventually, everyone ended up near the middle of the dump to meet Esther. Riley saw she had piled up scraps and built a little house for herself. She learned that Esther had lived here for forty years, raising her children and grandchildren.

Smiling broadly, Esther motioned for them to gather around. “Please let me pray.” Everyone bowed their heads. “Thank you, Lord, for bringing these precious people into my home. Watch over them and keep them safe. Amen.”

Kelly leaned over and cupped her hand around Riley’s ear. “Watch, now she's going to ask us for money or food. These people live on handouts, instead of getting a real job.”

Riley turned her back on Kelly. Just then she heard Esther’s voice. “Please may I ask a favor?” Kelly snorted knowingly. “A photo, so I can remember your faces when I pray for you.”

Riley turned and faced Kelly. “Don’t you get it? She prayed for us! Us -- who have everything! She didn’t ask God for food or anything for herself.”

Swallowing back tears, Riley placed her hand around Esther’s. As she looked into her eyes, she wondered why she thought it would be difficult to find God here in the dump. For in Esther’s eyes, Riley saw more of God than she had ever seen before.

Author’s note: This is a fictionalized version of my daughter, Lydia’s, Mission of Peace Trip. The dump and Esther are based on things she actually saw. Riley realizing she had seen God in Esther’s eyes is Lydia’s epiphany. Project Chacocente is a charity that is working to get the families out of the dump. If you are interested in learning more about this project go to outofthedump(dot)org

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This article has been read 594 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Marina Rojas05/03/12
This was a great rendition of how these poor souls live so happily in the dumps of South American countries....and it touched my heart so much.

I loved the part of the young woman comparing "her dump" at home to the real dump in these children's lives.

You have made me realize how rich I really am.
Amy Michelle Wiley 05/03/12
Beautiful story. May we all realize how much we have.
Dannie Hawley 05/04/12
Terrific article, so full of life and trruth. I think our young adults would have a different take on life if part of their high school education included a trip to a Third World country before graduation. So many have no idea how most of the world lives. Thanks for sharing this so beautifully vivid account.
Sandra Renee Hicks 05/04/12
Hi -

Thank you

This is indeed a rich piece.

GOD truly ministered...
C D Swanson 05/04/12
Wow - totally powerful! Nothing more to say. I really am impressed at this entire entry and the realistic MC. Great job.

God Bless~
Hiram Claudio05/07/12
Back in 2010, I was in a similar situation while on a trip to Kenya, visiting a dump in the captital city. It really does change your whole outlook. I thought the line about Riley's remembering how she didn't invite friends over because she thought she lived in a dump was golden.

A very well crafted piece with a beautiful message. Nice work!
Genia Gilbert05/07/12
This is a great combination of fiction and truth. More than that, it's a wonderful illustration of spiritual truth. Being grateful for our "riches" and having compassion on those in desperate situations shows the heart of Jesus. Good writing.
Glynis Becker05/07/12
Great job! Wonderful reminder that God is everywhere, even in the dump, and that He wants us to be there helping and ministering too.
Janice Quimby05/07/12
I loved your article. It was very touching and moving all the way through. You did a great job of showing us about the mission field and how some people have to live. Thanks for your story.
Graham Insley05/08/12
I left my red ink pen at the dump; i didn't need it anymore.

Excellent job. Thank you for sharing this.
Colin Swann05/08/12
SO interesting!
Wonderful story/account!
Loved it!
Ada Nett05/08/12
A very well-written account of the poorest being the richest in the treasures that really matter.In a paradoxical perspective, even a dump can be a palace when the Kingdom of God is in its midst.
Edmond Ng 05/09/12
A moving story that touches the heart. How often we fail to realize the riches we possessed until we see those who do not have even the basic essentials. May we do our part to meet the needs of the many, not just physically but also spiritually, and share with them the riches the Lord has given us.

Thank you for sharing this, Shann. God bless.

Leola Ogle 05/09/12
I loved this story. My own children have gone on mission trips to third world countries and have seen and ministered to families living on the dump sites. It gave them a great appreciation for how blessed we are. Thanks for sharing. God bless!
Hiram Claudio05/10/12
Congratulations on a wonderful story and the well deserved "Highly Commended" recognition.
Genia Gilbert05/10/12
Congratulations on your EC! It is a great entry, and you deserved it.
Edmond Ng 05/10/12
Congratulations on getting Highly Commended!
Genia Gilbert05/10/12
Shann, I meant to say Congrats on your HC (but I think it could have been close to an EC)
Amanda Brogan05/10/12
I always enjoy Riley's adventures, and this one is especially touching. Her heart and compassion and sensitivity toward the voice of God really shine through. And the fact that it's based on a true story makes it even more special. Makes me wonder if there was a real, live "Kelly" in your daughter's group ...

Congrats on getting Highly Commended! Wonderful story.
C D Swanson 05/10/12
Congratulations and God Bless~
Theresa Santy 05/10/12
Oh, this one touched me deeply. My eyes are still wet! I love how you showed perspective from the mouths of the three main characters.

You moved me. I'm heading over to outofthedump.org now..

Congratulations on your placing!
Danielle King 05/10/12
Congratulations Shann on your HC. This is a wonderful and moving entry.
Beth LaBuff 05/10/12
That must have been a powerful, life-changing experience for your daughter, Shann. I loved your message that shines through.
Beth LaBuff 05/10/12
And super congrats on your "highly commended," Shann.
Donna Wilcher05/10/12
Congratulations Shann! Well done!
Leola Ogle 05/10/12
Congratulations Shann! So pleased for you! Good job!
Carol Penhorwood 05/11/12
Congratulations, Shann, on such a deserving story. It is profoundly moving and I hope you are able to share this widely. Perhaps this mission project could use your story in their marketing? We are so very rich.
Carol Penhorwood 05/11/12
Congratulations, Shann, on such a deserving story. It is profoundly moving and I hope you are able to share this widely. Perhaps this mission project could use your story in their marketing? We are so very rich.
Kathleen Langridge05/11/12
Shann, so beautifully written, expressing and exposing heart matters. Congratulations, well deserved.
Kathy Stevens05/12/12
Congratulations on your HC. Well done, you took me right along with you.
Sherry Castelluccio 05/14/12
Congrats on your EC. You've really earned it with this piece. I'm sincerely moved by your writing and the story you've shared. Wow. Well done and bravo!