Saturday, July 09, 2011

on "be"ing here...

Sitting here in my sweet neighborhood in Portland, OR, minutes from great food and drink, enjoying the quiet. Yesterday, first time in a month, I felt a little lonely. Still looking for a church community and still letting my introverted socially ackward nature get the best of me most days. (except Monday’s when I go to a Drink and Draw …it’s a bar where you can draw costumed models) I think I knew this would happen…the tired restlessness of facing the next step of letting going is overwhelming me. Pursing beauty and rest easier and harder than I thought.

Harder…even rest takes discipline. So does creating and seeking/seeing beauty. Creation takes commitment, discipline, willingness to fail or maybe willingness to allow what is created to not be appreciated (learning to let this false sense of internal disapproval go is hard).

Easy…this Oregon, beauty is everywhere. I live in a comfortable beautiful home.

Sabbatical so far has mostly been good days. Discovered that though I longed and hoped for a trip to Italy at the end of my sabbatical to discover beauty there…it is not worth working 10-20 hours a week. So no real part time job for me.

My first week of just “be”ing…opened my eyes. I began to write and sew and the flood gates began to open. It was then that I saw a job would destroy the possibilities. So I may help cater a few weddings—there is no commitment—I can say no. And I got accepted as an extra this summer/ fall for Portlandia (just google and watch theYou Tube clips to see what it is). If they call it will be fun and surely something to tell stories about and maybe an opportunity to use my socially ackward return to American culture in my favor. And Italy will happen another season but not this one.

I’ve got sweet memories created and stored away after getting to spend birthday’s with two of my nieces. Holding new niece number 4 is not any less special that holding niece number 1, 2 or 3. They are all simply gorgeous and amazing.

On overdoing it: it’s me Sarah Lance and yes, sometimes I can go a little crazy and over do it. I admit it. And admit to you now that I have not one but two stress fractures in my left foot…due to increasing my mileage too fast when training for the Portland marathon. So I am wearing a boot for the next 3 weeks—one week already completed. So even my marathon will require slow…looks like I will be walking most of it. So so slow and simple is how I am keeping it. Joined a gym and I am swimming my way to fitness or at least trying to…

I am getting into snail email and loving being less connected on email. If you want to write me a letter you can do so at the following address, and I will write you back!

Sarah Lance

2803 SE 48th Ave

Portland, OR97206

I am not blogging much here but you can find me at during sabbatical and see what creative endeavors I am up to…cooking, sewing, thifting and gardening etc.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Last Prayer letter for awhile: June 2011

Dear Friends and Family-

A few days ago, I was in the midst of saying goodbye to my dear beloved friends and sisters at Sari Bari, my community and my life in Kolkata. I was flooded with emotions, broken heartedness, fear of the unknown future, doubt if taking Sabbatical was the right choice. Now sitting at my dear friend Daphne’s home, having spent a couple of days getting loved on by Jared and Julie Landreth, the feelings have lessened but still linger and I wonder what I am supposed to do with all these feelings.

I have spent a good part of the last 10 years in Kolkata where if I am honest, everyday has been a battle. A fight for justice, a fight to love, a fight to give mercy when I have been hurt, a fight for a seat on a crowded metro or even a fight simply not be cheated or taken for a ride by a local taxi driver. As a fighter or at least one who has had to fight to survive life in Kolkata, I have been very well equipped with weapons of war. I have a clenched jaw and a hard face that appears without my permission and a struggle to trust, a healthy fear of men who stand too close and some sweet evasive moves to ward off potential harm both physical and emotional.

As I was getting ready to depart, I reflected to Beth that I think this may have been the hardest year of my life. It began more than a year ago when I transitioned out of the field director position and the strain of the transition was hard on relationships. And then almost exactly a year ago our friend Pornima was murdered and her loss was followed by many other losses. Our community has engaged one trauma after another in the last year. I think we are all ready for something new. Ready for a little more life, a little more hope and a little more space to be renewed by the presence of Jesus.

So my hope is to be an intercessor for my community even as I Hope to receive the gift of sabbatical.

When I departed Kolkata, I told the ladies, when I departed the USA ten years ago, there were many hard goodbyes and since then my mind and heart remember with joy all the people, family and friends, whose presence I miss in my day to life. And now, so many years later, it is the women of Sari Bari, my community in Kolkata, my dear friends Upendra and Radha, the names of the women at Sari Bari and Kate and Emma whose names will be coming to mind and whose lack of presence will be felt deeply over the next 8 months. I find this turn around in perspective to be a gift. I am thankful to built such beautiful relationships in India. And just as I have been drawn to return to the states to soak up the love of family, in the same way I will be drawn to return to India because that is where my heart has planted itself and grown new roots.

A week before my departure, I was able to covenant with the Upendra and Beth and with the community for the next two years. And I am thankful to have been sent out with promise and to be able to return renewed and re-visioned and maybe even made new myself.

I have new email for sabbatical and I would love to hear from you about your life and what God is speaking. My email is and my cell is 541-530-3116.

Thanks for giving me the gift of this time and many thanks to all of you who sent cards and gifts to help me get off to a good start!

With love, Sarah

Monday, May 02, 2011

Overturning idols

I sat down with a couple of people recently and as I looked around the table, I thought wow, we are all broken people. Of course, we all understand this in theory, but the practice of understanding and welcoming the brokenness of others, especially people who we look to as leaders is an almost impossible task.

I grew up as the daughter of a preacher man and probably have seen more than my fair share of the underbelly of the church. And the "Church" is the one place where in truth we do hope that broken people will gather. And where real broken people come together, real brokenness in relationship follows and so on the other side we hope do real healing and reconciliation.

I am guilty. Guilty of forgetting that people who have led me, people who have walked with me are broken, imperfect and perfectly fallible. Being surrounded by brokenness, even creation groans and writhes in destructiveness, I am looking for something better, something less broken, more perfect. So guilty, I confess that I have put people who are leaders in the position of being that something better, that something less broken. In fact, they are not less broken, maybe they just have more responsibility and maybe sometimes they handle that badly.

I lead people, have led people and sometimes, I do a crappy job and have done it pretty badly with my brokenness spilling out in all my sloppy need and sin. I need grace, I desperately want to make right my offenses, I want to be forgiven. I want to lead people well but sometimes, I fail.

Yet, I struggle to forgive the debts of those who basically broken like me but hold positions of power, I simply can not get over that they are not more perfect than I am. I have made them demi-gods. Given them power in my life and expected that they would use it well and i fiercely hoped that they would not fail me. They did fail me. They have failed me. Many leaders from childhood till now have in fact hurt me, wounded me. Should i expect less or more? People who lead are broken, they are me, human, frail, fallible and destructive at times. Hopefully, they are also vulnerable and transparent, if in fact we will let them be...

The failings of leaders, parents, bosses, pastors and priests bring us to questions about God. Questions that come mainly because we presume these people of position to be better than us, to be more like God than us. Some leaders fail us because they present the possibility with their behavior and words that they are not fallible...they deceive us. But we know its not true and we eat their deceit because we want good leaders, we want people who have our best at heart, who love well. We in part do not want imperfect leaders, we want lower case g...gods who give us something to believe in outside ourselves. So when a leader fails, it is not only their brokenness that is revealed but ours. And because our lowercase gods are reflecting badly on capital G..God and our general opinion of the creator of the universe drops when people who call themselves godly fail, maybe we should let those who lead, be people too, maybe we should ask for and demand their vulnerability, maybe they should be given the freedom to ask for and demand our vulnerability. Maybe we could all be a bunch of parts connected in a body that all have different jobs, sometimes body parts will fail and the rest of us should maybe compensate till that part heals. Maybe capital G, God is enough god to go around.

The Violence of Love, Oscar Romero pg. 43

We must overturn so many idols,
the idol of self first of all,
so that we can be humble,
and only from our humility,
can learn to be redeemers
can learn to work together,
in the way the world really needs.
Liberation that raises a cry against others
is no true liberation
Liberation that means revolutions of hate and violence
and takes the lives of others
or abases the dignity of others
cannot be true liberty
True liberty does violence to self
and like, Christ
who disregarded that he was sovereign,
becomes a slave to serve others.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Kolkata Community Prayer Requests

Continue to pray for our Sari Bari ladies, many continue to wrestle with health issues, family problems, and depression which often carries over into the work environment. Please pray for peace to rest on them and for holistic healing to engulf their lives. Pray also for our staff as we seek new and creative ways to love, mediate, and advocate on their behalf.

Please pray for one of our ladies’ daughter. She is currently looking for a safe place to board her so that her daughter doesn’t have to live with her in the red light area.

Pray for Sarah as we send her out to begin her 9 month Sabbatical. Pray for renewal and refreshment as she enters a new season. Pray that all her needs will be provided for extravagantly. Pray also that she will be surrounded by a loving and embracing community as she moves to Portland for these next nine months.

Pray for Radha, that she will walk in strength and wisdom, that her body and health would stay strong, and that she could continue to lead the KG Unit with love and a heart of service.

Pray for all of our WMF staff’s children. Pray for protection and health and clear minds as they study at school.

Pray for Shela’s husband as he walks through some difficult times in his job. Pray for their marriage and strength for Shela as she loves and supports him.

Pray for one of our KG women who has struggled to come to work for some time. Pray that she will know how much she is loved by our staff and that she will have the courage to return full time to work.

Pray for two of our SB ladies’ eyes. One woman recently had cataract surgery on her left eye and is now recovering, pray that she will have no complications and can return to normal life rhythms quickly. The other woman is taking medicine for similar cataract problems, pray that the medicine would work and she would have a clear check up in a few months when she returns to the hospital.

Pray for our ladies and staff as they say goodbye to Sarah for nine months. Pray for peace to cover them as they process how much they will miss her during these nine months.

Pray for a miracle in the cotton industry! There has been a cotton strike for some time now, and we have had a difficult time getting the supplies we need. Pray that the strike would end quickly!!!!

Pray for Upendra as he leads and serves the WMF community and Sari Bari. Pray for wisdom and rest and he takes a break next month. Pray that God would renew and guide him both at work, in his marriage, and within his family.

Pray for our field as we offer hospitality to many visitors and teams throughout the summer. Pray that even with so many folks coming through, that we would be renewed and rested. Pray that we could experience the gift of stability even with so much transition!

Pray for each of the WMF staff members as they take their quarterly breaks in the next two months. Pray for rest and peace to cover each of us!

Pray for all the women in the Canning Prevention Unit. Pray for their families and the many problems and worries each of them face each day. Pray for Gita as she counsels and serves these girls.

Pray for Gita and Rafique as they prepare for their baby to arrive in the fall. Pray for health for the baby and for Gita.

Pray for one of our newest Sari Bari ladies, pray that as she begins the journey to freedom that she would grow in confidence and determination. Pray that she would have the strength to work through these six months of training and discover the powerful family that Sari Bari is.

Pray for the auction Sari Bari is hosting to raise money for office computers and new sewing machines. Pray that there would be an amazing response and that Sari Bari would be provided for in abundance!

Pray for Kyle as he manages the finances and production in the next months.

Pray for Beth as she leads and serves the field, pray for peace and joy to cover her, and that she would lead from a posture of humility, love, and wisdom.

Pray for Brooke as she returns from Bangladesh at the end of the month. Pray for her transition into our Kolkata community and for her formation year to be a time of discovery and purpose.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Pain of Healing

Today is Tuesday. Two weeks ago, I had an accident. The biggest part of the accident was that I lost myself in my thoughts, ruminating, worrying. The result was shocking and very, very painful in the moment and hours following.

In my life in India, if I want to take hot shower, I have to heat the water with coil that I plug into the wall. You leave it for 20 minutes and walaa…hot water. So that morning, it was about an hour before I got around to showering and I did the usual and mixed the super hot water with the cold water for a nice warm bucket bath. The bucket full of hot water sitting there unmixed side by side with the mixed bucket water…Caught up in my thoughts, about half way through my shower, I without realizing my mistake, I pulled a large mug full from the hot, hot water and poured it over my left arm and chest. The realization of mistake was to say the least devastating…BURNING! I could not make it stop. In the moment, a scream escaped my lips and then the sobbing started and I could not stop. I do have a shower head in my bathroom and immediately turned on the water, naturally cold, to stand underneath. Probably, several minutes later, I realized I needed help and ran from the bathroom to get my phone and promptly ran back to stand under the water. Stilling sobbing, I called around till I got friend and coworker, Sheila on the phone. Though apparently she could not understand me, she dropped what she was doing and ran to my house. I grabbed the cold packs in my freezer and waited under the stream of water till she arrived. Being that I mostly red at the moment we could not gage the damage and Sheila ran home to get some burn salve. Not sure how long I stood under that cold water but I never wanted to leave it, I hurt so bad. Sheila arrived again and made me get out the shower so she could put on some good old straight from the USA Amish burn salve. It helped a little and my sobbing eased as I lay down and Sheila began calling doctors to find the best place to take me for help.

That day was pretty traumatic and remains mostly emotionally unprocessed. My initial response was simple one of being thankful that it was not worse…could have been my face, my eyes, my head. It was that posture that I engaged as I smiled through visitors and sweet and encouraging phone calls. I was in denial. I ultimately ended up in the hospital, in an operating room getting a very fancy dressing and very thorough cleaning of my burns. Sheila estimated that I received 1st and 2nd degree burns over 15 percent of my body which would constitute serve burns because of the sheer surface area. My few days of denial was okay, helped me get though some very awkward and painful moments. The blistering, the grossness of the daily evolving dying of my skin was something to be in denial about for as long as possib le. The next few days when the reality set in, I missed a vision trip I planned to Mushirabad to explore the opportunities of a second Sari Bari Prevention Unit and I was alone a lot as I attempt to rest, recover and heal. Four days alone without more than 15 minutes of people time was enough to make my head spin and being locked down with the internet as my guide, I realized that my burns would take weeks, not a few days to heal. Those were not great days…they were the dark ones before the dawn so to speak. Late last week hope emerged in glimmers as the dead skin began to peel away and new skin, fresh and very sensitive emerged. Today, two week later, I am almost new. I still have some open wounds that have to be dressed every day, twice day. I still have unrealistic expectations about healing even though I know the realities—one to three weeks at least. And at the two week mark I am 80 percent all better, right on track with being whole again in three weeks.

My body may be finished healing in the next week, I do hope so. But I am not sure when my heart and mind will be finished. I have been drinking my coffee cold, if I have been drinking it all, cooking has been an act of will and I do not foresee hot showers in the near future. I have not written about this before now because basically I have been ashamed. I did this to myself, it was an accident, but an accident caused by my own carelessness, by my stress and worry. Writing about it is supposed to be healing, I hope it will be. The pain of the burns was horrible, maybe the worst pain of my life even worse than shattering my wrist but I think the pain of healing has been worse. The initial pain faded in 4 or 5 hours but every day since there has been pain, struggle and discomfort…reminders of that first hurt. The progress has been hard to mark because it only points me to the reality of how I was hurt, how that hurt happened and what I could have done to prevent it.

For the last week, with my extra time in recovery, I keep thinking about the healing process. How in almost every situation, we expect it to come fast. But the reality is that healing takes time. I think not only of my own pain but of the times when I have caused pain and how that also takes time to heal and it basically sucks for everyone. There is no good side to being a jerk and then asking for forgiveness, you just have to wait it out. Hoping for the best and praying for forgiveness while changing the behaviors that cause the hurt. So many hurts are long in the healing. A very long time, sometimes eternity might be just enough time. In some areas, we have to choose our healedness every day. In the case of my burns, I have to keep believing in the progress and that one day I will be without these wounds and new scars that mark me. The wounds and the scars will disappear and I will be new again, in body, heart and mind.

Still healing and thankful to be healed.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

God Sets the Lonley in Families

I am not a mother, I have no children of my own. I am not even married. I am a graying single woman who is surrounded by more family, more sisters, and more children then I could have ever dreamed.

I have been given the gift of coming from a beautiful family that raised me well, cherished me, called me smart, a princess, a woman of compassion, my parents told me I could do anything, be anything. I believed them. And this family that I was born into loved me enough to let me go. They sent me here to India, they are sharing me and prayerfully upholding me. They are my Aaron and Hur. And here I am bewildered and amazed by the gift of more family.

It's true that God sets the lonely in families. I see it happening everyday. I see women come through the doors of Sari Bari and find something they have been longing for, a safe place, a community, a family. We are a unique family, heavy on the x chromosome but thankfully cherish the few who carry the y chromosome ( they redeem the whole lot with their presence and because of who they are among us). We are a family that mourns the losses in our midst, a family of hope addicted crazy dreamers who believe that impossible is possible, a family that spends most of its time just being together, working alongside each other, supporting, listening and moving forward one step at a time.

today, we celebrate the 5 year anniversary of Sari Bari and they many beautiful, amazing women who are the core of our family. I may being graying but I am so not alone and so very thankful to celebrate our life together this week as we travel to a hill station (a short 8 hour train ride and 5 hour jeep ride away) to mark this moment in time, to remember all that God has done and to look foward with Hope to future whose seeds have been planted but have yet to bloom.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

It's a good story

A good storyteller doesn't just tell a better story. She invites other people into the story with her, giving them a better story too.
–Donald Miller, A Million Miles, in a Thousand Years

Dear Friends and Family-
In the last ten years, I have been invited into many stories. I have been invited into the lives of the people of Kolkata and some of the journeys have been short and some of them long. Each of these stories has deeply impacted me, changed me, formed me into who I have become and who I am becoming as friend, a woman, a seeker of justice and freedom and a follower of Jesus.
When I began ten years ago, I was welcomed into the story of Mother Teresa and the women of the Missionaries of Charity, who have given their lives in whole hearted service to the poorest of the poor. I spent years discovering the heart of God in the broken bodies and minds of the destitute whom I been given the opportunity to serve, love and care for at the Home for Dying. These beloved women(MC Sisters) taught me a new way to pray, a new way to serve and new way to mourn for those who found themselves with no one to stand beside them in their times of most desperate need. I remember being invited to sit with Sister Georgina to pray beside a man who dying and we prayed until he slipped into the arms of God. I remember caring for a woman with AIDS with touch and songs and I remember her reciprocity and God’s affirmation of how He saw us both, as His beloved daughters, not separated by language or culture or class. We were His and held together by His embrace.

As I continued, I made many friends whose stories led me and challenged. There was Martin, a gentle Irish man, whose compassion and commitment taught me about humility and grace. Martin truly is one of the few people I have ever met that reflected Jesus almost perfectly.
My friend Maya welcomed me into her home and heart in the early days in Tollygunge. She fed me, stretched me as I struggled through my Bengali and my culture shock. Maya is my oldest friend in Kolkata and as I joined her story, I also joined the stories of her children who are now becoming adults and overwhelming me with just how old I am now!

The WMF community in Kolkata has grown and changed and evolved over the last 10 years and I would not be who I am without the Brotherly love and friendship of Josh, Kyle and Trever. They protected me, challenged me, inspired me and hugged me every night when they left my house. My beloved sister Kristin, cofounder of Sari Bari, was my back up in so many ways. She taught me that No can sometimes be the most loving answer. She showed a way of passion and compelling love that still drives and impacts me. She held me and knew me in my deepest brokenness and loved me anyway. And there is Bethie, so much more than a little sister, a partner whose heart holds the key to opening so many doors in the lives of people whom she serves Sheppard’s and upholds in prayer. Kyle Scott has been an anchoring presence of peace and service and example of just how redemptive a good man can be in a place where all the brokenness of males surrounds us. And now, Melissa, Sheila and Brookie offering something new…I am excited to share in the coming years with these beautiful women.

Pinkie’s story brought me back to Kolkata with a desire to give my life here. I met her in 2004 and her tragic story brought me to my knees in lament before God and spurred the passionate desire to never have to walk away from a young girl trapped in the sex trade by poverty with no choices, ever again. The end of her story is unknown to me but I hope and pray that she found a way.

The words that came from the story of a man who spent thirty years in Bangladesh still move me to tears. “Dream for things you will never see.” And I do, I do.

Some my favorite stories are the ones connected with the Birth of Sari Bari. We were invited into the story of Freeset, Connextions and At the Well who gave us encouragement, place, and vision for the first stumbling steps forward. Out of these first stumbling steps, I was given relationship with Upendra. He is brother and friend. I am pretty sure he might be a super hero; God has given him the gift of being able to accomplish the impossible in India and his joy in doing it is testimony to his character. I have also been given beautiful friendships with Radha, Shela and Gita. Sharing in Gita’s story has been something like the joy of being a mom and watching your children blossom and grow and do impossible things with grace. Last year when I walked her down the aisle on her wedding day was one of the most important and beautiful days of my life.
And of course the story that I love to tell and the story that I love to be a part of is the stories of freedom that come out of the life journey’s of the women at Sari Bari. They have invited me into their stories with such trust and love. I know them as sisters, saints, teachers and heroes. We have shared the highest highs and the lowest lows together as family. I have watched as Jamuna, a friend for three years prior to Sari Bari, trapped in one of the worst brothels I have ever entered, become an advocate for the freedom of other women as she makes her own freedom journey. The gift of watching so many of the women at Sari Bari blossom, grow and find new life has been something that I struggle to give words. I never could have imagined that so many would become managers, trainers and heroes for other woman. They now led us forward as they invite new women into both their stories of loss and into their stories of hope and restoration. I have sat by Ranjana’s beside begging and pleading with God for her life and have seen God save and restore her. I have mourned alongside Ranjana as she lost her husband to HIV, shared my home with her, even as she taught me quiet lessons on faith, waiting and receiving. I have mourned the loss of Pornima alongside the women at Sari Bari and I jumped into the dirtiest river I have ever seen, to share in the washing away of the tears after the funeral. In the last 5 years, I have seen more than 80 women celebrate their first freedom birthday on the day they entered Sari Bari for training and just a few weeks ago 2 women who have been with us since the beginning , marked their 5th freedom birthday and 8 more celebrated 4 years! We have celebrated birthdays, retreats, graduations, births and freedom together. These women are now deeply apart of my story and I am so very honored to have been invited to be a part of theirs!

I celebrate the journey and I celebrate being invited into the stories of so many amazing people. I celebrate you, my friends and family, who have journeyed with me, visited me, upheld me and my community in prayer, and also been so generous and faithful in creating the opportunity for me to be here with your support. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

I am looking forward to the stories of the next ten years of stories in Kolkata and looking forward to my upcoming Sabbatical which I am sure will be full of opportunities to join in new stories and invite others into mine!

With a spirit of thankful celebration for all that God has done in and through these many stories,