Returning to my comfortable home after a trip into the lives of homeless children on the streets and slums of the developing world always entails a fair amount of reverse culture shock.
I am immediately hit by the cleanliness and order of things, the ability to sit down just about anywhere and not feel like I need to be power-washed afterwards.
I next notice the brightness of my familiar surroundings.
Slum abodes are typically dark hovels inside and are set closely together so that they dwell in each other’s shadows. It is a labyrinth of darkness. In stark contrast, both natural and artificial light flood my home and open expanses on two sides of the house provide the feeling of space and luminosity.
They are two fundamentally different worlds: light and clean, dark and dirty. I have a foot in each of them.
The slum community, or favela, just outside the Projeto Vida Nova in Sao Paulo, Brazil burned to the ground recently. It was previously a jungle of corrugated tin and wood scraps. The city required that bricks be used for the re-building effort. As you can imagine, bricks are a lot more expensive and harder to come by. During construction workers’ lunch hours, or through a ‘special understanding,’ street boys would slip in and take bricks from adjoining worksites and cart them up the hill towards the slum.
(Image: Street boys stealing bricks)
The city ordinance also required that these new dwellings be built in straight lines so that police could look down the thin avenues for suspicious behavior, including drug and flesh sales. The shanty occupants wouldn’t have it and soon intentionally erected buildings that would block sight lines. Darkness tries to repel the light.
(Image: New construction)
New cubes were going up using stolen blocks; new beginnings occurring with sinister intentions and actions; new crooked lanes canopied in secrecy forging through drug dens and brothels. It is in these dark, secretive cubes and corridors where the mega-issue resides. It is here where orphans are created, abandoned and abused.
(Image: Light hits a child in an opening where a new home is being built.)
He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings deep shadows into the light. (Job 12:22, NIV)
The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John 1:5, NIV)
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9, NIV)