At the base of the pile, pieces of car doors, washing machines and construction debris look like an avalanche of trash, only steps away from a congregation celebrating Easter Sunday.
The pile plunges 20 feet deep, as the view of the New Life Worship Center fades behind the tree line. County and state authorities are now calling for a removal of the debris, before the congregation is allowed to build a new community center.
But lead pastor Juan Wilder said estimates to remove the mess have now reached $800,000, a sum needed to move a mountain dumped illegally by others.
“We know who is behind this, someone who lives near here, but we need concrete proof,” Wilder said, as the congregation marched from the sanctuary into the sun to see the pile. “Unfortunately, we don’t have that photographic evidence, and now this is our responsibility.”
Parishioners discovered the accumulating trash in 2013, and now have until the end of the month to decide how to remove the mess. Bulldozer tire tracks are still visible in the dried mud nearby, after the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority removed tons of trash from its adjacent property servicing the Blue and Silver Lines.
“It's almost like, you get hit in the gut, it takes out your breath,” said former New Life pastor Sullivan McGraw, describing the prospect of raising hundreds of thousands of dollars. “What I saw was an obstacle, a hindrance, that kept us from fulfilling the vision that God gave us to build on this property.”
The church hopes to build a structure on the land that houses literacy programs, GED classrooms, and an assisted living center. Congregants are now asking the public for help, a plea to donate time and resources to help tackle the problem.
“If there's someone that's listening that wants to come forward to help or take responsibility, we'd be more than happy to take the assistance,” Wilder said. “Because we need it. It’s that simple.”