Gehenna: La Mosca

The Valley of Hinnom was a ravine south of Jerusalem where fires were kept burning to consume the dead bodies of animals, criminals, and refuse. Its proper name in Greek is Gehenna. We translate it into English as hell. This place, the Valley of Hinnom, is what Jesus pointed to in order to communicate to his disciples the reality of suffering of those forever alienated from God.

In the North Western corner of Santiago, the second largest city in the Dominican Republic exists the desperately impoverished community of Santa Lucia (St. Luke) popularly known as La Mosca, The Fly, on account of the enormous number of flies that thrive from the environment there. La Mosca is nestled at the base of a perpetually burning mountain of trash. When Jesus communicated the reality of hell, he would have pointed to a place just like this.

The scenic overlook of La Mosca. On top of the trash in the background there are garbage trucks with people and children lined up behind them waiting for them to drop their loads so that they can go through it looking for food, materials they can use, and items they might be able to repair. Dozers go back and forth spreading out the refuse. Hots spots fire up, burn themselves out, smoulder, and then fire again. Some days, when there has been no rain for a while, the smoke gets very heavy and saturates the entire barrio like a fog.

The people that make up the community here are among the poorest of the poor in the Dominican Republic. The perpetually burning heap serves not only as a source of income and of food for this scavenger community but also as a playground for their children. They race up and down the hillsides, often bare foot. They ride the bulldozers as they push the trash over the edges, maintaining the dump. Sometimes unsuspecting scavengers are injured and even killed by the cascading trash pushed over the hillside’s edge and sometimes even children fall prey to such accidents.

This mother and her children descended the hill side to cross the foul water in order to return to their home to sift through their findings in the trash. If you look closely you will see that the mother is wearing flip flops and the children have no shoes.

The mountain of trash is surrounded by a moat of sorts. The water at the base of the trash heap is a fermented toxic mixture of broken down trash and raw sewage. It is a poisonness brew that also allows for the breeding of the worst kinds of mosquitoes, carriers of dengue fever and likely malaria. Next to it are homes with children who play in the water as if it were a stream like one that might flow in your own back yard. Smoke often hangs in the air, leading to asthma and a variety of other respiratory illnesses. It is a place of profound suffering and despair. Disease, addiction, crime, illiteracy, and malnutrition reign supreme. La Mosca is a torment for those that live there. It is truly a place characterized by hopelessness.

Well, it was characterized by hopelessness but that character is changing little by little thanks to the efforts of a pastor courageous enough to look through the darkness of that place through the flies and the smoke with the foolishness of the Gospel in his heart envisioning the seeds of hope that might be planted and nurtured there. Thanks to the faithfulness of a supporting church in Kentucky willing to partner with his passion, Jonas de Leon has been further equipped to share the Gospel in deed as well as in word. The deed manifests itself through the provision of a fully functional feeding center able to reach out to 120 of the children in the worst need in this community, giving them six hot meals a week, education that was previously unavailable, and the hope and power of the Gospel to transform their lives and the lives of their families. Thanks to the faithfulness of Jonas, the partnership of Crestwood Baptist and the members of their congregation with his ministry the presence and influence of the ministry there is growing.

Now that we have a secure facilities to work from we are able to send more and more teams into La Mosca for medical clinics, sports and childrens' ministry, all under the auspices of Jonas' ministry. His credability is growing as is the respect and attention he receives in the community. Before the feeding center he would often have doors shut in his face. Now, on account of his care for the communitiy's children he is often received with open arms and gratitude. Suspicions are being laid aside, the Gospel is moving forward, and the Kingdom is finding expression even in the most dire circumstances. Hope has come to knock on the doors of hell, demanding to be let in. And now hope is there.

Get a Glimpse of La Mosca Here: