By Kim Daniels
There’s the ocean.
Then there’s the vast shore that stretches for miles and fades into the colored haze of the distance.
Then there’s the winding dirt road that leads up into the bluff.
Then there’s the stench that’s inescapable. And when you look to see where it’s coming from, you see the hill of trash. Literally. Gracing the top of the bluff with it’s presence, is a hill of debris, rotting food, and disease filled waste. And less than a mile beyond that, is the settlement of Canchamana.
The wind of the coast carries the stench right over the bluff, down the valley, and into their homes. And because of this, the children are sick with the flu, and make their playground among the disease.
The people of Canchamana are a people without an identity. Before the earthquake, they lived in Tambo De Mora, but after the excessive water damage caused from the tsunami, they can’t go back to rebuild.
So they’ve taken their herds of cattle, goats, pigs, chickens, and even watchdogs (about 40 strong) and moved to a piece of private property a few miles up the road in a town called Sunampe. They aren’t receiving any aid, because they did not hold residency in Sunampe before the earthquake, and because they’ve moved from the jurisdiction of Tambo De Mora. For this reason, there’s not much that can be done for them by that town either.
No one wants to claim them and take responsibility for them… they are left as a people unaided.
Every day, a truck comes to buy their cow and goat milk at a fraction of what its worth, just because they know the Canchamana are desperate. They live in tarps/bamboo houses, and rent themselves out to work in the fields for 12-15 soles a day ($4-$5).
Back in August, they rented the property they are currently on for 1,000 soles (about $600) for a year.
And remember that trash hill? Its an illegal dumping site. (And by the way, there is another people group living on top of that hill amongst the trash who wait for the daily drop so that they can sift through it and come out with treasures of recyclables to make a living.)
The people of Canchamana have very little. But from the moment we got there, they offered us everything. When we asked permission to stay amongst them for the next three days, they responded with nothing but excitement and enthusiasm.
Within 20 minutes, they had set up a shade-shelter out of bamboo thatch that would’ve taken any of us Americanos about 5 hours to build, and they began figuring out when they were going to feed us. They asked, and we told them we would love to share dinner with them, but that we would take care of our other meals.
But every morning, they brought us breakfast.
Every afternoon, they made us lunch.
And every evening, we ate dinner that they prepared for us.
As Gretchen said, “Its always the people who have the least that give the most.”
She’s right. And as Matt said, “We saw the Kingdom of Heaven in how they opened their arms to us.”
He’s right, too. The Kingdom of Heaven was manifested in how they loved us… and we expected to be the ones to bring the Kingdom to THEM.
After we arrived, we all asked the Lord what He would have us DO while we were there. Honestly, we weren’t quite sure of our purpose in being there for the first few hours. But when we prayed, the Lord let us all know that He had us there to BE with them. Not to fix their problems. Not to barge into the government buildings and demand change on behalf of the Canchamana. Not to come up with $40,000 via The World Race blogs to help them buy their land. No, our purpose was the BE with them. Build relationships. Share some meals with them. Love them.
So we did. We spent time with them and heard their pain. We lived among them, experienced their lives. They said that some other missionaries had come to see them, but had stayed no more than a few hours before packing up and leaving. They were ecstatic that we were staying.
They killed a goat for us to eat, gave us hot cow milk with cinnamon and sugar, vegetable soup, and fried goat cheese biscuits… and so on Thursday, we are going back to Canchamana to bring them a traditional American meal: pizza and coke. We’ll sit around sharing stories, we’ll pray for them, we’ll have a time to share Jesus with each other, teach them some Scripture, and do our best to just be with them. I’m so thankful for this past weekend and all that I learned.
Kim was raised in Southern California, and lived there for 15 years. She moved to Houston, Texas and spent six years there, three of them at Houston Baptist University studying music. She transferred to Hope International University in Southern California to finish her BM degree in Worship Arts while working on staff at Mission Viejo Christian Church. In January 2008, she embarked on an intense pilgrimage around the world.