“How long have you lived here?” I asked the young Filipino girl standing before me with a baby on her hip.
She smiled, exposing her decaying teeth. “All my life.”
All her life. Here, in one of the most despicable, degrading places for a family to raise a child. A cemetery. But not the type you and I are used to. There’s no neatly mowed lawn, lined with perfectly symmetrical rows of headstones.
There are no flowers gently placed at the head of each gravesite. In fact, it’s hard to tell where one grave ends and the other begins. To say this cemetery is in disrepair is a gross understatement. Garbage lines the muddy streets. Broken headstones and cracked open tombs slant along the moldy, muddy slopes that have been beaten down by far more rain than they can handle. Small stone statuettes are scattered throughout—cement angels kneeling—not out of reverence, but rather a sort of submission to the macabre of it all.
A 20-foot tall wall lines the cemetery. Upon closer inspection, you find that the wall is made up entirely of tombs…stacked one on top of the other. The wall of the dead.
Amidst the crow of a rooster and the bark of a stray dog, you hear the giggle of a child. Little boys and girls skip along the gravesites, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the entire site is covered in death. This is their home.
Hidden along the massive wall are openings the size of small doorways…perfect for a Filipino. An average American might have to duck to enter. Beyond these doorways, are homes—more like shacks made of scraps of wood and tin. It’s not unusual for a family of six or seven to call one of these shacks home. It’s where the young Filipino girl was raised…and where she will raise her baby. It’s beyond heartbreaking. No child should be raised here. No baby should have to breathe this moldy air…walk barefoot through this garbage. No child’s bed should be just on the other side of a wall from a corpse.
Compassion International is here to bring life to the cemetery. By teaching these children about their Heavenly Father, Compassion is giving Filipino boys and girls a chance at new life. It’s the very heart of the Great Commission. Because of Compassion’s ministry, some of these children will not spend their entire lives hidden within the wall of the dead. Nor will their children. This is truly light in the darkest of places.
We all live in cemeteries, I suppose. We are all skipping among the dead through this world of broken homes and hearts. The question is: what are we doing to bring life to the cemetery?