14th May – Kelly
When I first saw people living on the rubbish dump, I wept, like really deeply wept. It was like something broke within my soul and hasn’t ever quite repaired. It was a visual representation that this is not how the world is meant to be. I spent a year in the Philippines and India and sadly the sight of children play on rubbish dumps filled with plastic containers (that could have come from the takeaway meal I bought years before), seeing families live on the edge of these dumps, scrounge through the remains for a meal and burning the remains (and inhaling toxic fumes), was all to common.
I remember during this time reading the verse from Matthew 6:25-26:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”
And asking (aka crying / yelling at) God how can this be true, how can I believe that you are a God that provides, that says not to worry, when children are not only foraging through rubbish dumps but living on them. I thought if God wasn’t going to fix this all, then I needed to. But where on earth do you start? I can live as sustainability as possible, donate as much money, carbon offset my flights (so I feel less terrible about flying) and I can tell as many people as I can about this problem…. but, over the years God has been gently reminding me…. Kelly, the system is broken. This isn’t my design for the world. In the time that the passage in Matthew was written people shared what they had (more than now, anyway!), excess didn’t look like eight cars for one person, they didn’t have a rubbish problem and didn’t have multinational companies screwing over developing countries. The system is broken. And that breaking of my soul will never be fully healed, fully renewed until the world is put to right.
I believe that God speaks in all sorts of ways and that gentle reminder came through reading a booking called “No Impact Man” (one mans year-long experiment to have zero impact on the environment) and recently watching a documentary called “The Story of Plastic”. Both these speak to the importance of personal action (which I do believe is very important) and systemic and structural change, they are both interconnected. Advocating for change to the system that leaves people living in rubbish dumps. Calling for corporate responsibility so that multi-national companies put people and the earth first, not profits. If we partner with God to set the world to right, the we follow the agenda that says every human is of infinite value and as the passage speaks of should have their basic needs met.
The challenge now when I re-read this passage is how can I participate? And how can I be more like Jesus? I am slowly learning it is through not only the way I live my life and the personal choices I make, but also the importance of advocating against oppressive systems and structures. Why? Because when I decided to follow Jesus and live by the greatest commandment to love God and love my neighbour; I realised I have a lot of neighbours in need and some live on rubbish dumps in the Philippines.