The following story appeared in Moody Monthly magazine back in 1993. It describes one man’s remarkable discovery at a place called Smokey Mountain near the Philippine capital of Manila:
“A gigantic man-made mound, perhaps 100 feet high, ran on before us for a mile of more. Wisps of smoke rose from fissures all over the sides and top of this municipal dump and landfill.
“‘Five thousand people live on that mountain,’ the guide said, ‘and off it, too.’ He meant they made their livelihood from scavenging useful garbage. As we walked up the side, acrid smoke stung our eyes; the stench of rotting garbage was overwhelming. Shacks made of plywood or tin lined the main street, with smaller shacks squatting farther away on the sides of the mountain. The trucks dumped fresh garbage at the top of the mound. My eyes followed the cascade of refuse down the side of the mountain to where the bulldozers were working below. Scores of women, men, and children scattered ahead of the bulldozers, then swirled back in the wake, working rapidly with homemade stick-rakes to find some salable treasure in the refuse.
“Then the guide took me to a larger shack that had a cross on it and the words ‘Baptist Church’ painted underneath. The guide asked if the pastor was in. A stocky small man appeared with that typical warm Filipino smile and cordial greeting. Antonio startled me with fluent, articulate English.
When I inquired about his education, I learned that he was a graduate of one of the most prestigious seminaries in Asia.
“I thought, ‘This man could be the pastor of any major Baptist church in Manila. I wonder why he’s here.’ So I asked him and heard a remarkable love story.
“Antonio, as a young seminary graduate, had volunteered for missionary work at Smokey Mountain. But the day came when his denomination discontinued work at the site. Antonio had a choice–take the pulpit of some established church or throw in his lot with his adopted people, live by faith, and love them to Jesus. So he moved on the mountain with his lovely wife and together they cared for a growing flock and raised their four daughters.”
Regardless of what we might think of this man’s theology and denominational connections, I believe we would all have to say that he was a man who made a great personal sacrifice to serve Jesus in the way he understood Him. Few people today would be willing to do what Antonio did.
While I’m not convinced that God would have all of us give up our jobs and homes to go and serve Jesus in a landfill in a foreign country, I do see something in this story that this man Antonio understood, perhaps better than we do.
It is expressed in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 16, verses 24 and 25: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.