The Garbage Church
Elder and Pulpit Minister
White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ
“We are planting our new church on the city dump! No, you heard me correctly, not near the city dump, but ON the city dump.” Can you possibly imagine someone seriously working on a church plant with demographic studies, population mapping, and cultural research coming to the conclusion that the best place to build their church would be on the city dump? If I were planting a church, I couldn’t see me getting to this conclusion, but I know a brother who did just this and I want to tell you how and why he did it.
I recently went on a follow up trip to Haiti to check on the relief efforts from the recent earthquake down there as well as to encourage our fantastic World Radio speakers and provide some leadership training. I saw firsthand the destruction of the earthquake and ongoing struggles of the people of Haiti. In the capital city of Port-au-Prince, I saw the amazing work of World Radio speaker Jeantyrard Elmera as he led the rebuilding effort of his church building and the school that meets there. I also saw his leadership in helping to lead hundreds to obeying the Gospel as people look for answers for their shattered lives. The church there was the first organization in the city to have their school back in operation. We saw over 500 children K-12 in the morning and over 100 nursing students in the afternoon learning how to build a better life. Every night there was an evangelistic campaign where people were hearing the Good News and being baptized into Christ.
Up north, in Cap-Haitien, I witnessed earthquake damage, just not as extensive as what I had seen in the south, which was closer to the epicenter. But it was here, in this place, that I witnessed the work of another great World Radio speaker, Lucner Pierre. Not only was he spearheading relief work, preaching and leading a 900+ member church, but he was actively planting churches in the surrounding areas, because it is so difficult for people to get around. It was here that I was truly amazed by the church plant that I call “The Garbage Church.”
I guess every city or town has “the rough part of town” that people tend to want to avoid. In Cap-Haitien, it was an area where land meets sea. This marshy area is where the Haitians dump their trash, rubble, and anything they deem unworthy to remain in the city. The trucks drive out and dump the material in the marsh and it is literally filling in the area. People are moving in to live there as soon as they can! Because of abject poverty and also natural disasters like the earthquake, thousands of people have no means to purchase land, so they just squat in this dump with a tent or a homemade lean-to. You just can’t imagine what it looks like having people live in a place like this.
It was here, in this setting that Brother Lucner decided that if people were living here and needed the Gospel, he would go there and baptize them and build a church. While we were touring this place with our crinkled noses and shocked eyes, Lucner was singing songs with the gathering kids and making plans for the coming Sunday service that would be held in the only solid structure in this place - the church building! This building has no walls, just concrete pillars holding up a tin roof, but over 400 people pack in among the rooting hogs, swimming rats, and crunching garbage to sing praises to God and teach the Word of God every Lord’s Day.
I hate to admit it, but I was thinking that I would never be comfortable here in this place doing God’s work. I was blessed to see a brother who is able to look past the conditions of the surroundings to see the condition of the seeking hearts. I came home appreciative of what we are blessed to have here in America, but more richly blessed in knowing that there are our brethren out there who will build the Lord’s church in places I would never even imagine was possible. I am forever changed by having visited The Garbage Church.