Day 3 in Kolkata: Pain and Darkness

March 16, 2010

Hi,

Thanks for your patience in our backlog of daily reports…

First, the bad news:
– Catherine got hit by a cab.
– James slammed his finger in a cab door badly. Twice.
– Bob & Anna were interrogated.
– our group was detained by the Metro stationmaster.
– we’ve got our first case of food-related icks.

And now, the good news:
– it was just the cab’s side mirror that whapped Catherine.
– James’ finger is on ice, and trust us – his irreverent humor wasn’t bruised in the process.
– Bob & Anna were trying to resolve a Metro ticket issue, and they had to simply endure the Kafka-esque bureaucracy of the Indian system that kicks in anytime anything goes wrong & needs to be fixed.
– same thing happened with our entire group 24hrs later, and we argued our ways our of it by simply refusing to pay an exorbitant “penalty.”
– the ick might be all out, and is being treated w/antibiotics; still, pray for healing & strong immune health for all of us. Germs begone, in Jesus’ Name!

Ok, in all seriousness … These past 2 days have been … (There r almost no words.)

Yesterday … After a.m. devotions, we headed over to Freeset for devotions again with the FS team and others. There is a team here from New Zealand doing construction on the second FS bldg. There are also other folks here: admin, computer, design, accounting staff. We met them & shared a word from Matthew w/them. Then we went downstairs to share a.m. devotions w/the FS women. It was something to see Annie (Kerry Hilton’s wife) lead 170 women in praise and singing. It’s hard to know who is singing in faith or not … But surely, if there is power in Jesus’ Name, then singing it back to Him even unknowingly stirs Him up, knocks on His door, invites Him to come & enter into the place He most desires to inhabit – their hearts.  That is our prayer for these women: that they’d come to know Him, truly Him, only Him.

After lunch @ this awesomely cute place called Ricky’s (Indian), we came back to meet & work alongside the women.  We walked around the 3 floors of FS, watching women sew, screen-paint shirts, cut patterns, trim threads & pack bags for shipment. Fans spin overhead, busy hums of sewing machines thrum the air, chatter & joking & laughter punctuates frequently. “Namuska,” we greeted each woman as they looked up from their work to say hello to us … At the end of our tour, we agreed: how could they have come from where they’ve come from, and still smile these wide, shining smiles that DO reach the eyes? What could bring this change? Freedom for sure. Come, Lord Jesus.

Then, Mina sat & talked w/us.  Mina is a woman, perhaps about 60yrs now? Hard to tell b/c her face is both hardened by horror & by strength. (Not incidentally, that is the way of most things in this city: this awful thing AND that beautiful thing; they always go hand in hand, & it’s confusing as all get-out…) She was grabbed as a little girl from Bangladesh, trafficked into the Sonagacchi red-lite district, “rescued” by the police b/c she was legally too young to “walk the line” (stand on line to take sex customers), then grabbed again by someone who came and bought her back from the police. For who knows how long, she worked in the trade … Somehow she “married” (unclear whether this was an actual marriage or a long- term boyfriend who used to be a loyal customer (he was, after all, about 20yrs older than her) … But this man would break down the door of her brothel to try to bring her out & home. He died just a few months ago, and her grief for him is still raw, chafed often by the fact that his family rejects her for being a former worker.

Mina thought up FS before the Hiltons ever landed here from NZ. She used to go back into Sonagacchi, trying to educate the young women about HIV/AIDS, etc. She envisioned a BUSINESS model that would give these women womething to do other than sex-work. She desired education, a wage, pension, health insurance, childcare for these women. She has a goal of 10,000 women to rescue from Sonagacchi. And then the Hiltons came to Kolkata, managed over 4yrs to earn her trust, and she’s been w/them ever since. She, to this day, goes into the district to talk w/ the girls, tell them about FS, and bullies the Hiltons to do more, try harder, sell more bags. We said to her, “we are so inspired & encouraged by FS,” and she said to us, “then sell more bags for us.” Mina is something else, truly.

Kerry let us know that tho she didn’t give all details, her coming into the trade was horrific. One can only imagine what happens to a new, virgin 12yo girl when the brothel is trying to initiate & desensitize her. Yes, for a moment, let your imagination go to that awful place & let the bile rise to your throat & taste it – we all did.

Yet, tiny little Mina stood before us, a giant among humanity… Personally, she reminded me of Anna the prophetess who believed & believed that she would see the Christ before she died. And she did, in faith, see Him enter the table as a little boy- her waiting paid off. And so Mina believes & believes, and I suspect God will show her amazing miracles before He brings her Home. Her faith right now is weak & her anger @ Jesus for taking her husband is strong. But surely, the Lord will honour her grief; He can handle her anger; and His patience for her to re-see His grace is endless. Pls pray for her tonight … Mina …

Mina has no children. But she has an endless number of daughters here @ FS. They actually would not exist but for her.

In the evening, James, Becca & Sharon went w/Kerry & Mina into Sonagacchi to see for themselves. The good news: they saw clearly the difference b/w the women now @ FS & the women still working the line. The bad news… Only 1st-hand descriptions will suffice.  But don’t worry – Kerry & Mina are powerhouses of protection, guarding us very well. Moreover, we prayed for the 3 that went out, and will do so for other groups that go out tomorrow evening.)

An overarching pain & darkness: there is a distinct lack of looking out for each other in this country. And esp in men’s eyes, there is something that looks like a lack of soul. Even when they stare at the women on our team, and stare @ our body parts, it’s almost like they don’t know what they’re looking at. A person here, for whatever reason, simply doesn’t have enough value such that people recognize that that set of breasts belong to a human being; that that being crawling on the mud is a human being; that that one who could be helped with a relief program, caring volunteers, a social-work system if anyone cared to start one, is a human being. It is frightening to be in a land of such empty darkness.

We’ve determined that it is a spiritual issue.  We talk a lot about spiritual warfare, praying for nations, etc. That has never been more of a reality than now, here. Oh pls, pls, if you’ve never had an interest or a care for India before, GET ONE NOW. And pray!!!!!!!!!!! This nation, this city NEEDS JESUS’ LIGHT like no other we’ve known or seen.

Last night was hard. Exhaustion was heavy on us. Even after all these words, there are no words… Pls take the care to ask us when we return, ok?

Onto day 4 …

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