Article submitted by Julie, Field Coordinator in SE Asia
One of our first visits was to a slum community where people have made their homes in … of all places … a cemetery. The idea of living in a cemetery seems very strange to most of us. It is a necessity for these people. We walked along the outer edge of this community, where a body of bright green stagnant water was no doubt an excellent breeding ground for mosquitoes of all types.
Along the banks, we passed one tiny cement block shelter after another. Old women, young mothers with tiny babies, and small children stood in the doorways watching the visitors pass by. Most of our group couldn’t speak their language, but I was thankful I could at least speak to them for a little bit.
Once we left the small pathway past the green water, we returned to the side of the strip of dwellings that faced the cemetery itself. A few monkeys were tethered to trees. Geese and goats roamed freely through the area, lying down to rest wherever they wished. Plastic bags and other rubbish could be seen everywhere.
The graves at the edge of the cemetery were in such close proximity to the shelters that in some cases, people used the fences around them as a place to dry clothes. Tables were set up right over some of the grave sites. In a couple places, I saw broken-down seats from old cars placed among other graves as a sort of open-air living room. As people step out of their doorways, those reminders of death were right there only a step or two away. In some cases, I am pretty certain that there were actually grave sites inside their dwellings.
I am struck with the thought that we were seeing life in the midst of death. At the very least, we were seeing people living in the midst of death.
Thankfully, we did not see only the sad living conditions of the people. We also saw a group of medical professionals – a doctor, a dentist, a nurse, and a pharmacist – who give of their time to regularly visit this community and others like it to offer free health care. By giving of themselves in this much needed manner, with no strings attached, they share the love of Jesus with these people who are dearly loved by God.
As they do, they also reflect the One Who is THE LIFE in the midst of death.