Christmas eve we visited another slum. I unfortunately have no idea where we are when we visit all of these places. Our hosts are very gracious in taking us from place to place by any number of buses, taxis, trains and car. I would like to get a map of the city so that I can see where we are and where we have gone to.
This slum that we visited lies along a section of train track. This style of slum is very common. There are walls that run along the outside of the train tracks to keep the tracks separated from common traffic. The people who live here use these walls to become a part of their home. They use a mix of tarps and wood to create a half of a tent. So picture a home that is half a tent running maybe 10 feet by 8 feet. I sat in one with five members from my team and the wife of the family that lived there. She had a tv blaring in the corner and from her spot told us about her life. She shares the space with her husband and two kids who are 7 and 6. The husband works as a trash collector. As we chatted a train roared by shaking the tracks and causing us to pause in our speaking.
A bit later, we had another opportunity for one of us to chat with another family, so I went out with a translator to meet two ladies who were sitting with kids. The one was the mom of the two boys – one 4 and one a year old. She smiled and moved on to care for her kids. I sat to talk with the lady who was still there. This lady (I apologize for not remembering her name) invited her husband to come over. As we sat, they too share their story of living in the slum for 7 years and having in their family a daughter who is 11 years old.
Their story is one that has no hope. As is common for many of the people who live in the slums, they came from a village looking for a better life in Jakarta. Most have no education and can find work that is no better than being a laborer. This husband was also a trash collector. They have no dreams for themselves. No dreams for their children. Education is very limited. The little money they have goes to food. Who can pay for school when all you can do is pick up trash and maybe have $1.50 every day to feed your family? This particular family used to have a dream. They wanted a business. Not a big one. They wanted a cart on the side of the road to sell food. Even the little dreams that they had were not big. They have such little hope for their lives.
I had to be honest with them when I shared about myself and why I was there. There is nothing I can do to help them. I can only keep sharing why I am there – to make sure that they know that their creator loves them. He has dreams and passions for them and my life is never full filling if I keep that knowledge to myself. I could chose to stay in my world that has no knowledge of people who live along train tracks, fearing being kicked out of the only place they have to live. But why would I do that? Why stay in that bubble and keep true love – saving love – to myself? I am so much more fulfilled by true love when I can share in this story. After all, I know I don’t have the power to save, but I do have the power to see my creators’ world and help share His stories with others.
My creator knows this story. He was born into it and knows how to conquer hopelessness. He can bring the happy ending to this slum story.