On Saturday I saw poverty. They didn't warn us.
Saturday morning after a much needed deep sleep after a busy day of travel, we woke up and joined the rest of the group for breakfast. We then started sorting all of the supplies and bags.
We went out to lunch at a place called Rustica. Live music and a colorful buffet of Peruvian food. I felt like a local. Not really. From there we split the group in two and headed out to our different locations.
It was so nice to be able to see the city in the daytime. Our bus was really old and wasn't the smoothest ride ever, which made it a lot of fun. Every now and then I caught a glimpse of some very broken down houses scattering a brown hillside. I leaned over to Courtney, pointed and said, "Looks like the slums are on the hillside over there." Next thing I know we're driving up the hillside right into the middle of that same community.
I've never seen anything like this before except in movies and documentaries.
It was poverty; real, dirty, sandy, smelly poverty. I heard one of our translators mention that it gets worse the higher up the hill you go. We kept driving...up. All of the sudden the smell of waste (human or animal waste I didn't know) filled the bus. It was bad enough to make you gag. Then the bus stopped and one of our trip leaders rose and said, "Ok guys this is our stop." Can you believe that?! They stopped at the exact place it smelled the worst! The nerve. Then it hit me, we were probably in one of the worst parts of this community and it is right where Buen Pastor Community Center (our final destination) is located. It was a bit of a reality check.
We got off the bus, walked over to the front entrance and our leader began telling us what we were going to do. I found myself not listening to her, but rather I was focused on the joyful singing coming from inside the community center. I had kind of a Grinch moment when he hears the present-less Whos singing on Christmas morning. I looked around at their broken down homes and realized that they don't need "things" to be joyful. They're going to sing loud regardless.
We walked in and all eyes turned on us. The music director got their attention and they started singing again. They were singing worship songs. I caught words like "Jesus," "Dios," and "Gloria." As we stood there and listened to the 200+ kids sing to God in the middle of their slum I realized how big God really is. I look at Courtney, standing four people over from me, and she looked back at me with tears in her eyes. I realized I was crying too.
I thanked God for letting me see this beautiful sight and hear this beautiful sound. I thanked God for these children who were setting an amazing example for me by lifting high the name of the Lord in the midst of their broken situation. I call it broken; they call it life. I have so much to learn...
Danny and his wife Courtney are from Tampa, Fla. and traveled with Buckner on the Joy FM Shoes for Orphan Souls mission trip to Peru in December.