Just because something is labeled as “trash” or “junk” doesn’t mean it’s not salvageable.
What do you do with your trash? If you are like me, you try to just get rid of it any way you can.
Growing up, we would put it on a pile near the corner of our land and burn it. That is, until some report came out claiming we were making holes in the ozone, so we stopped it — sort of. Now it is pushed out to landfills, recycling plants, and the like. Yet it still is just trash, and we discard it and think nothing of it.
However, I found a story about two men that were helping to give trash another chance. On the edge of Cateura, Paraquay, Favio Chavez, an environmentalist and church choir director, and Nicolas Gomez, a trash worker and skilled carpenter, are helping to turn a mountain of forgotten materials into an orchestra of music. It came from a deep desire in Chavez to start a music school to help the kids of Cateura find hope in their often hopeless situations. With the help of these men, they are turning wash tubs into bass drums and old pipes into saxophones. While other musicians are tuning up their priceless mahogany cellos, these kids are tuning up combs, wires, and paint cans to play a recycled violin.
This extraordinary group of instrumentalists was formed in the garbage-filled slums in Paraguay’s capital, Asuncion. The Cateura district has been the home, or what we could describe as home, of the poorest in Latin America. Many of the residents, mostly children, scavenge the rows of rubbish and pull out items that they sell at pennies per pound to help earn some money to eat. Now they are making music for millions.
Since their story broke, maestros came to tutor them, organizations worked to sponsor them and people from the United States have enjoyed listening to them. They have played with Stevie Wonder and for the Pope. They are called the “Recycled Orchestra of Cateura” or “The Landfill Harmonic.”
Others would say it is a miraculous story from trash to triumph. I would call them an incredible picture of grace. Why do I say that?
Let me ask you this question. Have you ever felt like the rubbish described in the story above — discarded, devalued, unloved, forsaken and forgotten? If so, I have one word for you: Rahab.
During the last month, I have been preaching through the book of Joshua and was reminded what grace looks like in the life of this woman. If you read her story, you will see she was a woman living in sin, a pagan walking in darkness and a Canaanite destined for destruction. Yet God reached out to her and saved her and her family from the coming wrath of Joshua and the million-plus army of Israel.
You know the place: Jericho. I bet you also remember the song from Vacation Bible School. To call Jericho a bad place would be to call Florida’s summer “tepid.” It was filled with debauchery, child sacrifices and hundreds of other deeds that created a darkness that permeated the castle walls. Yet within the darkest of hearts there was one that had a spark of faith: Rahab.
Imagine the surprise of the two spies to hear her words when she hid them from the King’s men: “…for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (Joshua 2:11). Imagine finding faith in a brothel. That is what the spies found and that is what you can find in your mountain of mistakes and piles of painful decisions that checker your past.
Long before she came face-to-face with the spies, Rahab came face-to-face with God and the answer to her question, “God, am I worth saving?” God moved heaven and earth to get to Rahab. He would have done the same for the rest of those within Jericho but no one else was looking or asking. My friend, if the God of all the universe was willing to do that for Rahab the harlot, why would He not do it for you? You are not too far gone, too bad, too messed up, too…anything. Her story can be your story.
It was not just from trash to triumph, but from the house of shame to the hall of fame.
In Hebrews 11:31, she is listed in Heaven’s roll call of saints. After Jericho, she married Salmon of Israel and gave birth to a son Boaz. Boaz married Ruth and gave birth to Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse who was the father of King David. Joseph, who married Mary, was of the house and lineage of David. Mary gave birth to Jesus. Imagine that. A woman with that past found in the crimson line of our Lord. That is what brings the greatest hope for us all.
Five of the eight times Rahab’s name is mentioned in the Bible, she is called “Rahab the harlot.” Her previous profession became her redemptive confession that God does not make junk, only a masterpiece in progress. The primary question is, are you willing to give God the junk in your life and let Him make it an instrument of His righteousness? If you do, you will be tutored by the greatest maestro in all the universe to play the most majestic of musical pieces: the song of salvation. Are you ready to turn your landfill life into something more?
Dr. Daniel Middlebrooks is the Senior Chaplain of First Call Church and the CEO/President of Chaplaincy Care, Inc.