Tag Archives: shanty

DPM Update – 2006 June – Asia #7

6 Jun

The Little Palace in Shanty-Town

What an experience!!!  First, a little setup to this story: A very poor American single mom, who is a good friend of ours, sent Debbie a small coin purse bulging with coins that she had scraped together. She asked us to ‘sow’ this somewhere in the world when we travel.  Debbie brought the coin purse and asked all around for a widow with children who was a lover of Jesus.  While our family was in Cebu, Philippines a friend said that she knew just the right widow.

For years this widow’s husband had suffered with depression.  He tried to kill his pregnant wife but she ran and escaped.  One child was in school and two children were at home at the time.  The 29 year old wife returned to find her husband, dead.  He had hung himself from the rafters in front of the children.  A heart wrencher!

So this morning our friends escorted us to a dumpy area this widow called home.  It was among some of the poorest of the poor in Cebu. We came to a community of run down buildings and streets filled with kids and pot-holes.  We parked and then snaked our way between some very close buildings to a community hidden from the street that one would have to call shanty-town.  It was like stepping back in time.  The only thing I’ve ever seen like it was in Cuba.  Dark, narrow corridors of mud/concrete-chunk paths wound between shacks that were made of anything available.  Inhabitants of these shacks looked curiously out through glass-less windows and smiled as we walked within 2 feet of their living quarters.  Get the picture: we’re walking over chickens who’s legs are tethered to stakes in the ground, momma dogs with nursing pups are yipping at us, etc.  As we proceed we enter a swampy area.  The murky and smelly liquid is literally a cesspool.  Garbage and trash of every description fills or floats in this slurry.  There is a very distinct odor of rank-ness – fortunately a little breeze keeps it from being too overwhelming.  As we continue, we find ourselves on a raised walkway of earth and rocks.  When the earth walkway ends we are forced to climb up a walk-board with cleats onto an elevated rickety wood and bamboo walkway which continues to snake past shacks that are suspended about three feet above the liquid filth on bamboo poles.  We passed just a few living quarters we come to the doorway of the widow’s home.

All shoes came off to enter and inside we found a surprisingly clean abode.  Its approximate size was about 14’x14′ with a simple second story loft.  This abode housed 15 people; Grandma, Grandpa, Mom, 4 children and the rest are made up of extended family members.  The house feels warm, inviting, and tidy, yet extremely spartan.  Building construction is of any materials that you can imagine.  And remember we’re just 3 feet above the cesspool.

After a few greetings from our host, who pastors many in this community, we were free to ask questions and try to find a way to comprehend the life they live here.  Soon Debbie shared the story of the coin purse.  They both cried (and even the host cried) as Debbie told this widow about another very poor single mom’s deep desire to bless someone even more needy than her.  The widow said (through an interpreter) that just last night she was literally crying in prayer asking the Lord for a breakthrough in finances to help her children.  She told how she had pondered working longer hours just to scrape together a few more pesos.  It was a God moment!  Divinely appointed!  Heaven really hears… and was responding to earth in the most relevant of ways.

Sometimes I am saddened by how much of Heaven it takes to make many of us Christians happy in God.  But here, the most meager of gesture of heaven is the greatest delight to simple people.  I think I know why Jesus so loves the poor of the earth.  They are simply dependent and immensely grateful.

We sang a few choruses.  All joined in.  Grandma and Mom and others cried.  Our hearts were plowed-up with a most wonderful rending.  I think an old hymn says it well, “Heaven came down and glory filled my soul”.  I’m sure that those sweet refrains of worship wafted out over shanty-town to curious ears who probably longed for a taste of that glory, too.  But Jesus was saying today, “Little widow woman, I’ve heard your cries, and I’ve come to your house today”!

We prayed and laid hands on them all.  We invoked the abiding presence and favor of the Lord upon this little refuge that exists in the middle of a pain-filled world.  More tears… and agreements of “Yes, Lord” attended this wonderful connection between heaven and earth.  Warm heart-felt hugs followed and expressions of love flowed freely.  Overwhelming compassion forced our money right out of our pockets.  It was a most delightful giving.  We took some pictures of this occassion for others to see later, but this most vivid experience will never be erased from our memories.

At that, we bid farewell, and made our exit back through the narrow winding makeshift walkways and paths to the street.  The widow’s whole family followed us as she exclaimed several times, “God is so good to me!!!!”  I don’t think anyone could have remained unmoved at such raw expressions of simple yet profound gratitude.  We couldn’t… our hearts were nearly erupting with desire to stay with them… and hug each of them all over again.  It was SO difficult to leave.  Love was on full display in this dark fringe of society.

We finally managed to get into our car and leave the family as they all waved, huddled together in one group hug.  It was quiet in our vehicle for quite some time… our freshly love-pierced hearts were raw with the emotion and wonder of what we’d just experienced.  Gentle tears continued to flow softly.  We only regretted that our flight required that we leave that holy place and holy moment so hurriedly.  On that day, a very poor widow’s little shanty became a palace that Jesus surely calls “home”.  God truly loves the poor.  

Even though brief, that window of access to Heaven’s heart has continued to take its toll on our hearts, minds and souls to this day.  Because such wonderful ‘plowing’ of the heart is rare, we sincerely hope to return.