Witnessing in Manila Garbage Dump

By Doug Nichols

It was in the early 1980s that Aries, a Filipino coworker, and I were standing at the top edge of the Manila garbage dump, in those days known as “Smoky Mountain,” nearly ten stories high. Below us lay a village which was home to 15,000 people who eked out an existence at the dump.

It was early morning, around 5:45, and the sun was just coming up. Aries and I had met at the dump to pray. We were asking God to assist us and the other team members in effectively reaching these extremely poor people with the Gospel of salvation in Christ.

As we prayed, an old man approached us. He had begun his day’s work, scavenging at the dump. He was gathering aluminum cans to resell, but was too weak to carry many at the same time. He asked if we would guard the cans he had already gathered while he looked for more, and we gladly said yes. I guess it is okay to guard cans and pray at the same time. We continued to pray.

The old man came and went with his tin cans as Aries and I discussed and prayed about evangelism and church planting among the poor. After our prayer time, the old man approached with another load of cans. Since it was now daylight, I could see that he was really quite elderly. He was not wearing a shirt, had wrinkled skin, and was very skinny.

It is respectable in the Philippines to ask older people their age. I greeted the man, commented on the fact that he was up so early to work, and politely asked his age.

With a big smile, he answered, “Oh, it’s wonderful that you asked. Today is my birthday! I am 78 years old today!”

Aries and I gave our congratulations and then broke out singing “Happy Birthday!” As we finished, we shook his hand and gave him a hug. He was so excited and thanked us very much for being so kind to him and singing for him on his birthday.

We then asked him if he was prepared to go to heaven. He did not know what we meant. We proceeded to share the Good News of salvation in Christ. After some time, this early morning can-gathering old man, this garbage dump resident, turned from his sins and in joy trusted Jesus Christ as Savior!

What a place to receive Christ— on the top of the Manila garbage dump.

The old man then invited us to his little shack to meet his wife, son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren. During the next several weeks several in his family also trusted the Lord Jesus Christ.

I guess you could call this event “From the Dump to Glory”! All this came about as the result of a simple prayer meeting on top of a dump and in the process guarding a few dirty cans for an old man.

Anybody could have done the same.