It smelled. Bad—really bad. In fact, I thought I was going to be sick. But the kids of this neighborhood in Mexico didn’t seem to notice the stench surrounding them. They held our hands as we climbed up the dirt hill to their small “Bible clubhouse,” made out of old garage doors. As I looked around at what these kids considered their play area and home, I saw trash. I smelled trash. It was a dirty, stinky, rotting dump. But the kids were smiling. They were… happy.
Our church group played games with them, told a Bible story, and fed them breakfast. Later, as we piled into our car to leave these precious children, we asked a little girl if she would like to take the leftover milk home. Since there was no running water or electricity in the dump, we asked her, “Do you have somewhere to keep this cool?”
“Yes,” she replied excitedly. “My family would love the milk! We have a hole in the ground where we keep things cool. I can put it there.” We handed her the half-full milk jug, and her face glowed as she carried it home.
I watched her walk away and then sank into the seat of our air-conditioned car, tears welling up in my eyes. Their refrigerator was a hole in the ground? How could these children be so happy in such circumstances? I replayed the day’s events in my mind: their passion for learning about Christ and their genuine love of others, and I realized that their joy didn’t come from possessions. Their joy came from knowing Christ. He was all they needed.
The joy of the poor surprises and baffles American Christians. But why?
Could it be because we believe happiness is only achieved by fulfilling the American Dream?
Our culture promotes the American Dream of success and prosperity. Materialism drives our society. We think more is better, that wealth proves success.
Little by little, I had begun to interpret through the lens of the American Dream. But then, as I dwelled on mission experiences, I wondered if the American Dream was biblical...