Josh Steed's Blog
Author of "Faith & Football"

Your Trash and My Sin

I recently was blessed with the opportunity to go to a summer camp in Mobile, AL, with a local church. My wife and I took our two teens and loaded up for a week of fun and learning. We signed up to do mission work throughout the day and we were split up into groups of other teens and adults for 4 hours a day while doing the mission work.

My group was supposed to spend each day inside a gym at an inner city boys and girls club for sports and recreation time with the local children who came out each day. On the first day however, there was a local election taking place in the building so we had to move our ministry across the street to a small playground. While at the playground, a local woman walked up and started engaging in conversation with us. The lady seemed to be either crazy or on some sort of substance that had her all messed up. She started talking to me while outside standing around the playground and watching the kids swing and climb. She was making many off the wall statements and every once in a while she would turn around in anger and begin to cuss out loud at me and/or the rest of the group. She made a few verbal threats on our group and she was getting pretty worked up with anger so our mission group leader decided to talk to her and explain to her that we were going to have to leave the area if she did not stop acting so irate. She turned around and walked straight at me with a large plastic cup and slammed it in my chest, breaking it and turning around cursing me. I just stood there and held my hands out to her and asked if she was OK and told her that we were there to be a friend to her. She then asked me if I wanted to have a “mixed baby” with her! The mission group leader decided to load all the teens in our group back up on the buses and go somewhere else for the remainder of the day. One of the other ladies in our group asked the irate lady if we could please pray with/for her and to our surprise she agreed to let us. Me and two other ladies placed our hands on her shoulders and said a short prayer for her, asking God to help her and to comfort her and for her to realize how much He loved her. The lady opened her eyes and thanked us and told us to go out and minister somewhere else and to return to her the next day.

We left her and drove around to another location in the inner-city, several miles away. We pulled up at a large government-run housing project and got out. We unloaded all of our supplies for lunch and started making sandwiches. One of the little boys that lived in the projects saw us and came out to greet us and I asked him where his friends were and if he wanted to play with us? He asked me to accompany him through the projects from door to door inviting his friends to come play with us. Me and one of the teens in our group took a tour of the projects and found several kids who wanted to join us on the playground between the buildings. By the time we got back to our group we had several kids with us and we were all ready for fun time. We played “Simon Says”, we jumped rope, we through the football, we threw a frisbee. It was very hot and there was little shade in the open area and we quickly ran out of water for our group.

After a couple of hours of watching this group play with the kids and watching the little kids run around and jump on us in playful delight, I found myself wanting to get away from it all for a little bit. I sometimes need a few minutes to just be alone and talk to God privately and process my feelings. I asked a lady outside for a trash bag and she gave me one of those huge yard-size bags. I slipped away from our group and walked around to the spot where we had eaten lunch. I just wanted to make sure we picked up our mess completely before we left so I walked over and checked out the scene. I only found one piece of trash from our group so I picked it up and started walking back to the back side of the projects where the rest of our group was still playing with the kids. As I walked I looked down at the grass all around me I noticed that there was trash everywhere! I decided to pick up one small area of grass that was surrounded by sidewalk on all sides. It only took about 10 minutes to clear the area but then I looked up and there was even more trash in the grass leading back to my group. I just started picking up the “big” pieces at first and when I would finish, I would go back and start getting the “medium” size pieces. I began to get overwhelmed and the heat was steadily climbing. I had not had any water in over an hour and I was wearing a black t-shirt too! I just kept on picking up trash and walking and really lost track of time. I went around each building and almost wanted to cry one time when I looked up and saw a large open area between two building that was covered with litter. I just stopped and prayed and said, “Lord, why am I doing this? I didn’t create this mess and no one will ever appreciate my work today. As soon as I pick up one piece it seems like 5 more pieces hit the ground. This isn’t fair! Why am I the one picking up this trash for people who don’t even care?” But I just felt compelled to keep on collecting my garbage so I did.

About that time a lady opened her door from her apartment and shouted down from her balcony, “Hey! What are you doing? Why you picking up our trash?!” I didn’t know exactly what to respond and since I was in prayer at the time, I gave her the response, “I am hoping to tell someone about Jesus.” She looked at me and turned her head sideways and asked, “How is picking up trash going to help you tell someone about Jesus?” I responded, “Well, your trash is sorta like my sin! I made a big mess of my life with sin and wrong choices but Jesus came along and cleaned it all up for me, even though I didn’t deserve it or do anything to earn it! He just does it because He loves us!” She interrupted me and said, “Boy, You CRAZY!” and started laughing as she shut the door and went back to her air-conditioned apartment. I just smiled and thought to myself, “Lord, is this trash really like the sin in my life that you continually choose to clean up? Do you ever get tired of us making a huge mess of things and not appreciating your sacrifice to clean,  it up?” I confessed, “I am sorry Lord for my wrong choices and for having such a crappy attitude about the hot sun and the trash I’m picking up. I know this trash is nothing like what you do for me each day and I am sorry for not treating your sacrifice with the appreciation and respect that I should. Please help me to be more mindful of the trash I throw down and not willingly litter up my life and expect you to by the janitor. Thank you Lord! I love You.”

I walked back to my group and they saw the trash sack I was dragging so most of them joined right in and started picking up the playground area and when we left the projects that day, it looked better than before we came. I was so proud of the teens in our group and I shared the conversation that I had with the lady on the balcony with our group. They laughed at the story but its a lesson I will not soon forget…Your Trash and My Sin are more alike than you might think. God bless and thanks for your time!


4 Responses to “Your Trash and My Sin”

  1. great story!!!

  2. thanks for posting this Josh! what a great story! thanks for letting God use you to pick up trash but to also convey a wonderful message!

    The Strykers were such a great group this week! we had some great kids and also some great adults. Everyone really taught me about love this week and how important it is to love everyone, no matter what they do. Have a great week!!! 🙂

  3. Wonderful story!

  4. Very powerful. Funny how things work out when we let God take control. Sometimes the outcome is far different than what we expect. My best memories come from the mission trips I went on as a teen. No matter what I gave it seemed like I got so much more in return. The feelings and emotions are hard to describe. Thank you Josh for sharing!

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