Grace at the Garbage Dump is the honest, reflective journal of one young American, seeking to make a difference for Christ in the world, and learning basic lessons of discipleship—humility, servanthood, risk-taking, patience, love, and the value of small things.
Zink is an engaging writer who tells stories well, and stories are the heart and soul of the book…. Zink excels at both drawing you in compassionately to the individuals and analyzing the social and political structures that contribute to an unjust world that leaves some living short lives on a garbage heap.
The book would make an excellent study in a Christian Education program, if only to help people from the one-third world understand the desperate needs of the rest of the world….
Making sense of mission is our important new challenge as disciples of Christ. This book’s greatest strength is that it puts real flesh and real blood on what the missio dei looks like on the ground today.
I highly recommend Grace at the Garbage Dump for your personal reading, if not for your church book club or any Christian education class from high school and up. In particular, if you are in a denomination that talks about the conservatism of the churches in Africa, this book is for you and yours. What does it mean to be the body of Christ with limbs across the world? A body with limbs that are dying from AIDS, TB, and malnutrition? A body that is schizophrenic about social issues and divides against itself? We cannot undo that we have been made one in Christ because it was not our doing. Thus, we are God’s mission- a mission of relationship and reconciliation. The goal of that mission for us, according to Zink, is to learn to spot grace. Everywhere. Even at the dump.
“I’m not sure I actually ended up giving all that much, or at least in a very effective way,” Zink said, because people still died, students still dropped out of school, and poverty was just as rampant in Itipini when he left as when he arrived. “But, I left with lots of hope for the future, if only we could begin to be honest with ourselves about ourselves and truly engage with those who seem so different than us, whether just down the street or halfway across the world.”
He wrote “Grace at the Garbage Dump” as an invigorating call to seize the passion of young people and respond to the challenges of the time in an active and engaged way.
And some people saw Grace at the Garbage Dump before it was published, and had this to say:
“One part travelogue, one part coming-of-age story, one part spiritual autobiography, and one part reflections on poverty and what it means to help and be helped by those in need, Grace at the Garbage Dump introduces us all to Jesse Zink—talented as a writer, honest as a Christian thinker, and smart as an activist—exactly the kind of voice we need.”
A Generous Orthodoxy
“Jesse is well placed to reflect and write on the missional challenges in a context that looks and feels God-forsaken. We, however, know that there is no such place untouched by the grace of God. Yet the missional challenges in this part of Mthatha make hope dim.”
Archbishop of Cape Town, primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa
“Grace at the Garbage Dump adds a vital young voice to the vocation of Christian mission and illustrates the life-changing power of a ministry of presence. Jesse’s willingness to be vulnerable and stand in unfamiliar terrain surrounded by the swirl of an alien language and situation is a witness to the courage born of faith and testifies to the truth that God throws no one away. All people, whether their homes are in a mansion or on a mountain of trash, are precious to God.”
Director of the Tutu Institute for Prayer & Pilgrimage, author with Desmond Tutu of Made for Goodness
“Jesse is an articulate, passionate, and sophisticated young scholar and activist for God’s global mission of restoration and reconciliation, who brings a unique and refreshing perspective to the realities and study of Christian mission in the world today. I can think of no more exciting study of Christian mission than Jesse’s book. It is a welcome resource to the many people who are looking for a meaningful and contemporary presentation of what God is up to in the world today.”
Episcopal bishop of Connecticut, former Angus Dun Professor of Mission and World Christianity, Episcopal Divinity School
“Grace at the Garbage Dump is a vivid and honest journey of exploration and spiritual depth. It is a heartfelt glimpse into what it means to cross a border, leave a comfort zone, and reach into the lives of others. Living in the midst of such vulnerability, Jesse Zink gives voice to beauty, despair, joy, and sorrow. What emerges is full of dignity, life, and meaning.”
Episcopal priest, interfaith advocate, and author of Pilgrims of Christ on the Muslim Road