Friday, February 27, 2009

Quote from Kyle's Blog

Here is thy footstool and there rest thy feet where live the poorest, and lowliest, and lost.

When I try to bow to thee, my obeisance cannot reach down to the depth where thy feet rest among the poorest, and lowliest, and lost.

Pride can never approach to where thou walkest in the clothes of the humble among the poorest, and lowliest, and lost.

My heart can never find its way to where thou keepest company with the companionless among the poorest, the lowliest, and the lost.

~Rabindanath Tagore (1861-1941)

Unanswered Prayers

i am surrounded by broken hearts and unanswered prayers. Rupa stands the line before 9am waiting for rice and meat in exchange for the outstanding price of her own sexual exploitation. I walked through the gach to talk with the landlord of a potential property this morning, seeing her there so early broke my heart. i smiled, she smiled back in her empty way. I wonder has Rupa stopped praying? have her prayers gone unanswered so long that she has stopped praying. i think i would have stopped long ago, in her worn sassy shoes. resigning myself to emptiness, a broken heart to match a broken body. fatalistic resignation to what has been forced and stolen. the life breath shallow as if dying. if she can no longer cry out, who will cry out for her. where are the answers to my prayers for her...have i prayed long enough, hard enough for God to hear and respond. her prayers remain unanswered and i imagine if she still prays, it is not for freedom but for survival, existence, her daily food and not much more. it is not enough, it will never be enough. let the kingdom come now, today in this minute and hour for Rupa. teach me to pray harder, without ceasing...because I know Rupa is only one of 10,000. One prayer still unanswered among thousands. Here in the Gach O God, have mercy. Hear us and answer our calls for mercy.

For my beloved

the explosions,though deafening bring light
bright and high above your crowded lanes
your busy streets, pungent with grief and garlic
your people warm, wondering, humiliated, proud
many hate you but you have stolen my pumping blood filled heart
i seek to escape your embrace but cherish being
welcomed into your life, your heart of stone
if i look down i see your filthy broken body
but seeing into the skies, there is growth, greenness
your eyes are pools of deep brown beauty aching
the markets and people full of color
dancing, parading color in life and death
i long for your beauty to be revealed
hearts to be broken for your losses
dreams to be realized, prayers answered
beloved friends, sisters, daughters of your darkness
finding freedom, life hope, making you better than you are
i see you my beloved.
i see you.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

lost in translation

The translation of language is difficult. In so many way you are not just translating words but whole concepts and ideologies into the understanding of another culture. I think I understand why "lost in translation" is a common phrase...some things are almost untranslatable. From culture to culture, from rich to poor, from poor to wealthy, from educated to less educated, from east to west, there are many barriers beyond the words. So I am wondering how to bridge the gap as I literally have spent my day translating from english to bengali. How do we bridge the gaps? Fill in the spaces that are left when there are no words? I am asking a bigger question than language, i am asking how do we cross cultures? How do we serve cross culturally...submitting the presuppositions about who we are and what we can offer and posturing ourselves with humility, service and submission. The only thing that translates clearly is humanity, in grace, through love can meet at Christ as a center point. This presupposes faith so minus Christ only our humanness binds us and even that is a good starting point for the beginning of translation. these are very unfinished thoughts...just trying to figure some stuff out in both the literal and the in the imagination.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Why can't it be simple?

straightforward, knowing the right answer, simple! Why not? I am a black and white idealist living in a gray crappy reality. Lord have mercy today!

Monday, February 09, 2009

The Politics of Pain

I have a dear friend who says that my pain and your pain can exist in the same space. My pain does not negate your pain and your suffering does not negate my suffering. This is a beautiful offering in friendship but so difficult to see happen in real relationship, in community. Living in a community, that seeks to be present to those who suffer, makes this even more complex. Because often when we walk through the doors of our homes, we are carrying not only whatever fear, frustrations, and sadness that has been our own for the day but the sadness, anger and suffering of the city we have emerged from after a long day. We carry the burdens of the relationships that seem be more weighty because there is so little hope for answers to the questions they face, in terms of injustice or justice, poverty and broken social systems. So how do all these things exist together...well, whether we want them to or not, they do exist together. its really just a matter of our response to one another's pain, our response to the suffering of the city that has cloaked us, our response to the 100th time we hear about a friends struggle in the same bad situation that seems to have no way out. The problem of all this pain existing in the same place is that we often end up feeling isolated and that maybe no one truly understands us...the thing, our pain, which should press us into one another for support, understanding and love, often leads us to remove ourselves from one anothers pain and to deny our own.

We think in levels, whether we want to or not. is my pain greater or less than my neighbors? is the pain of the women at sari bari more significant than my pain? Can i burden them with my pain when i very freely admit that their suffering is deeper and more profound than mine will ever be? We think we can negotiate around one anothers pain...that's what makes it a political. The levels and qualifiers for our pain and the pain of those around us do not allow us to enter into to each others pain and we play the game of letting some else be in pain while not admitting our own pain. Or we feel our pain is more significant and we demand, in word or in action, that others not be in pain or we withdraw all together. There is a great freedom in allowing our pain and our suffering to exist together with the others around us as my friend Kim encourages. When we allow this to happen we find that we have something to offer even when we are in pain and there is something that we miss out on receiving when we remove ourselves from those who are suffering.

I actually do not always want to enter in incarnationally, with compassion, into the pain of those around me, and certainly not into the pain and anger that exists in Kolkata, but when i remember that all these things can exist together, I find freedom to be as i am and to let others be as they are, in the moment, in pain or not.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

A little greeting for Sunday.

Yes, this is a bad angle for me but still fun to do anyway! Happy Sunday!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Learning the hard way

I pretty much do not have a problem learning things the hard way. If i fall flat on my face, well then i know that there must be a better way to do it next time and i will generally keep trying until i get it right.

The hardest thing about learning things this way, is not really how it affects me, but how it affects those around me. I can see how my leadership has helped to cultivate some good things, even great things but i can also see how my failures have set up bad patterns for others. And how my bad patterns got picked up along the way and made mantra. I am a workaholic and i see that as a bad least not sustainable for the long term. And I can see how that exhibits itself the staff sometimes and how in falling flat on my face in that area of my life has brought others along with me in the hard lesson. And now we all need to pick up the pieces and start over...

I can see how my choice to let need to govern my decision making has affected the freedom of a number of ladies. There are many factors but its no fun to learn the hard way that just because 19 ladies want a job and freedom from the trade that you need to meet them all right then and there with a job. Especially if you do not really have the staff or the space to support them well. Because what happens is we go from the ability to give our best to giving the bare minimum because that is all we have left. And offering freedom and new life to others is maybe the one place you do not want to have learn the hard way and fall flat on your face because the negative consequences have the potential to affect so many. We had a staff meeting today and talked about what has happened with this group of trainees. We have never had this rate of attrition and we could all point to decisions we made and places that we got lost along the way in the way that we supported, cared for, corrected and followed through with this group of ladies. We can not know what the difference might have been if we had only taken 10 but we can still be thankful for the 12 that are still with us. But it not a lesson i wanted to learn the hard way again, not for my sake but for the sake of these beautiful ladies that God has entrusted into our care.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Moving forward in Hope

We celebrated the lives of 8 women today who completed training. Six months of learning, transitioning, yearning, letting go of the old has brought these beautiful women to today's celebration. Today we marked, as we love to do, freedom and new life in the lives of these women who are now apart of our family. It was a beautiful day. A beautiful moment to mark the place where something powerful has happened. A journey which began six months ago will now have the opportunity to go deeper, to continue the conversion from hopelessness to HOPE, from self loathing to dignity, from shame to confidence. We hope that these 8 ladies, now as full time employees and sisters at sari bari, will be covered in grace as they continue on the journey of exodus to find holistic freedom. If you pray, pray for mercy, pray for their protection, pray for their hearts to be filled with confidence and their faces to be full of the dignity that is their as children of God.

In marking the celebration, this week has also been a marker of the losses. When i left for the states in mid October, we had 35 ladies working or in training;16 full time ladies and 19 ladies in training. Over the last months, due to sickness, addiction and other factors that we are still trying to understand, many have returned to the trade with only 12 of the original 19 trainees still moving forward toward freedom. As of today we have 24 full time ladies and 4 more still in training (these 4 have only one more month before we celebrate their move into full time employment at sari bari). Pray for those who have returned and pray for the new ladies that we will invite into our family in march when we begin another training.

And in all this these things, we still move forward with Hope, trusting that Hope will not disappoint us.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Five minutes

Tuna aka Dipunkar Pal stopped me today as I was on my way to a meeting tonight. I said I could not stop I would be late but he said "Just five minutes." He wanted to have dinner and he did not want to have dinner alone. Tuna has many friends, tea companions, and dinner partners. He has been a friend of the WMF community for countless years. He has his favorites...Jared and Josh and Chris (he prefers male friends i think) but He remembers all who visit. He still talks about David Chronic as his goatee. He is a gentle artistic soul and I love him a lot.

So I stopped and said okay five minutes knowing that there is no such thing as "five minutes". We went to Khalsa a favorite Sudder Street dive with tasty food. i had tea and tuna had dinner. He hurried because i had told him i only had short time. But i wish, my first response had been "okay, sure", so that he would not have hurried. It was more than worthwhile twenty minutes of my day shared with a friend who did not want to eat alone. I was late to my meeting but it did not really matter...they waited and understood.

It is good to be reminded that sometimes it is all about those "five minutes" of being present to a friend. Being "with" as opposed to hurrying to what is next on the list. "Five minutes" means more than the time I gave, it means I love you and you, a child of the Most High, are always more important than the task.

So today I am thankful for "five minutes" and thankful to acknowledge that those were probably the most important minutes of my day. Thanks for dinner Tuna, anytime!

Monday, February 02, 2009

when small beasts take the day

I could write about my struggle to get to work on time after staying up too late playing with the video on my computer (thanks princess leah! i love it!) or the mass chaos of the overcrowded metro on the way home (it was riotous but everyone was laughing so still almost fun), or how fun it was show pictures from my time in the states to the ladies, or how amazing the staff here are and how much they have grown as leaders in the last several months but no...

I am so grossed out by the rat that ate through the candy and coffee gifts I lugged across the world for my friends here in Kolkata that i can not really think about anything else. I mean he did not even want the coffee, he just had to put bite marks in it so i would not be able to give it to my friends or even feel willing to drink it myself. its just so wrong, such a waste! crazy that something so small, really can steal such large quantities of food with impunity. I mean in our experience a 2 pound rat can make off with 2 lbs of tomatoes, 20 tortillas, a couple of chicken breasts and a loaf of bread while you are still in the room. You never know what hit you. the small beast has definitely taken the day. he gets blog space today but tomorrow i may stop being a pacifist!

oh and just now, he is back...i just chased him out of my room! He is definitely at least three pounds maybe more! Seriously, now i am never going to sleep!!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

A little tour of my little house...

The starting point

The starting point for my day, pretty much everyday, spoken or unspoken is Lord have mercy. Sometimes my prayers for the day may not move much beyond Dear Lord please have mercy. We live in a world that cries out for mercy, certainly it may not be with a loud voice in many cases, but definitively the cry though it may be silent, unspoken or whispered is for mercy. When i worked at the train station in Kolkata bringing the sick and dying from that place to the safest place I knew, the Missionaries of Charity Home for the Dying, i encountered alot of suffering, alot of blatant injustice and alot of death. Much of the death felt unjust, it felt needless and hostile. Once as i knelt to help a man who lay dying on the train platform, thousands of people walking by, a man stopped. He did not stop offer his help only his theological assessment of the situation. He said, this man deserves this, he deserves to die alone on the train platform. He is paying for his sins. I was indignant with rage. Yes rage. He said we should leave another human being alone to die in the midst of a teeming humanity that somehow, according to this man's theology, deserved not to die in this manner because they were going about their day and this man had end up here alone to die. The thought for that day was yes, maybe he is right, maybe he, the dying man, is sinner receiving just repayment but if that is case then this is what we all deserve. And Lord help us if we all get what we deserve or if we deserve everything we get in this lifetime on this broken planet, in this world of darkness. So the starting point for my day everyday, is Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy on me. Lord have mercy on the dying man and on the one who accuses him. Lord have mercy on us. I do not want to see the day that i get what i deserve in repayment for my sins. A little mercy can go long way in the healing of the world. Lord have mercy on us.