Gleanings from garbage

Christina | Serbia

Christina from the United States reflects on lessons learned about valuing people the way Christ did, while cleaning trash and volunteering in a refugee camp in Šid, Serbia.

A group of us sat chatting around a circular table after a simple meal together. We had few things in common with each other, representing nations spread all across the globe. The two things we did have in common were loving Jesus, and having spent time cleaning up rubbish at the nearby refugee camp in Šid, Serbia.

The leader of our group shared how a few weeks prior he'd spent the day cleaning up disgusting filth, only to be invited to preach at a nearby church the following morning. From a position of lowliness to a place of reverence in a matter of hours! As he was preparing to preach, the thought came to his mind that very few people are in this position, gaining powerful lessons from the humility of cleaning another person's filth.

I've found it interesting that when I'm serving tea and soup in the tent or playing with children, people from other organisations or the refugees approach me and are interested in conversing. I'm from the United States, I've studied at a university, I've worked various jobs, travelled, and I have a family they'd like to hear more about. But when I don the gloves, grab the dustpan and broom, it is like I become an entirely different person. Most people don't acknowledge me, eye contact is avoided, and few words are spoken. I have become the lowest of the low at the camp in that moment.

At times my pride is insulted, and I am angry that I'm treated differently. But most of the time I like to try to redeem the humanity of a person of lowly stature. I greet them, I smile, I am funny, and I watch how their demeanour changes. The porta-potty cleaners have become my friends and I'm always excited to see them. Most people don't acknowledge them or even look their way. It's almost like we are afraid of what is unclean, as if it will contaminate us or our reputation.

When I think about Christ, I think the picture of becoming a trash cleaner in a refugee camp fits His leaving heaven quite well. The things I've seen and had to do are unmentionable in most circles. Christ in all His glory, perfection, and holiness came to our vile, sin-ridden planet to live among us in suffering, need, and brokenness. He chose humility not just at the cross, but with His entire 33 years among humanity.

As we wrapped up our discussion at the table that evening, the leader shared that rubbish cleaning has been one of the most powerful times of worship for him. In fact, the song: "Here I am to worship, here I am to bow down..." plays on repeat in his head. What a picture of worship: bowing down to clean the filth of another... a sweet picture of Christ! May we all have chances to be more like Him in His humility.

An OM project, called ‘Safe Passage’, focuses on meeting refugees at their initial entry points, providing information as well as water, food and essentials. To give to OM’s relief efforts, or for more information about how to get involved, please contact your local OM office.

Published: Wednesday, 09 March 2016
Credit: Christina
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