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Just a few years ago, Leadership Journal did an interview with Saul Cruz, who along with his wife founded Armonia (Harmony) Ministries in Mexico City. They minister to hundreds of poor people all over Mexico today, but they began their ministry by planting a church on the edge of a vast garbage dump.

Starting the church had its challenges. In particular, the people had a difficult time trusting Saul's leadership. Although Saul is a gifted strategist and thinker, he often appeared aloof. His education prepared him to be a psychologist, a family therapist, or a college professor, and by his own admission, at that point Saul was "unwilling to plunge into the pain and poverty of his people."

But all of that changed one Sunday morning when someone burst into their worship service with a frantic need: the local sewage system had started leaking and then flooding the street. As the sewage continued to gush, the street was on the verge of collapse. The crisis also threatened to sweep away dozens of nearby homes. To make matters worse, the city wouldn't respond for at least three days.

Saul and a local engineer organized the onlookers and church members to stop traffic and make sandbags. After working frantically for nearly fifteen hours, by three o'clock the next morning they had finally stopped the flow of sewage. It was cold and drizzling, and Saul was shivering. Exhausted, covered with mud and sewage, Saul and his church members emerged from the pit and walked back to the church. Some of the women had heated water so the volunteers could wash off the filth.

As they gathered together, Saul started to cry. "I'm sorry," he said, "but I need to pray. I need to thank God, because he just saved us. He saved you. He saved me. Can we pray?" Then Saul put out his hands as they all held hands and knelt to pray. By the time they had finished praying, Saul had earned their trust, becoming their leader and their friend.

Later on, Saul would comment, "People need to see you're for real -- that you really care for them, that you're even ready to put your life on the edge for them."

("Dumping Ground: An Interview with Saul Cruz," Leadership Journal, October, 2007. From a sermon by C. Philip Green, The Church's Concerns (or priorities), 1/20/2011)

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