“…and those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” Isaiah 35:10
Near Paraguay’s capital city, Asunción, Cateura is a slum alongside a landfill. The villagers survive by recycling items from this landfill. But from these items something amazing and beautiful has emerged–an orchestra. The Recycled Orchestra of Cateura, also known as the Recycled Orchestra, is an orchestra composed of children from Asunción, Paraguay who play musical instruments made from scrap materials collected from Asunción’s Cateura landfill.
Violins are made from oil cans with bent forks as tailpieces. Saxophones come from drainpipes with bottle tops for keys. Cellos are made from tin drums with gnocchi rollers for tuning pegs. But the orchestra didn’t start with recycled instruments. Around 2006, Favio Chavez, an environmental engineer in Cateura, decided to teach the children music. His classes became so popular that he ran out of donated instruments. He asked a talented carpenter from the community, Nicholas Gomez, to make instruments from stuff from the landfill. Thus the Recycled Orchestra was born.
The orchestra has toured many countries, lifting the sights of the young musicians and changing their lives. “The world sends us garbage,” says Chavez. “We send back music.”
Violins from landfills. Music from slums. This is symbolic of what God does for us. The prophet Isaiah envisions God’s new creation in chapter 35. Barren lands burst into blooming flowers (vv. 1-2). Deserts flow with streams (vv. 6-7). Impoverished people become whole to the sounds of joyful songs (vv. 5-6, 10).
The Recycled Orchestra gives the world a glimpse of the future, when God will wipe away the tears of every eye and poverty will be no more.
(Google “Recycled Orchestra of Cateura” for videos of the orchestra performing.)
by Jan Lee
Loving God, help us to turn the poverty in our lives into something beautiful. Amen.