Monday, September 07, 2009

Update and Visit in Oct.

Dear Friends- I hope you are all well and have enjoyed your summer! We have had a super busy summer here in Kolkata and Sari Bari has grown as we opened the doors to a second Sari Bari Unit in a second red light area. We are super grateful for your support and for the support of the One Million Can Campaign which made it possible for us to open this second unit and remodel a run down building in the red light district.

I believe in miracles in everyday life and it is unlikely that anyone could convince me women having freedom from the sex trade is not a miracle and does not require the direction hand of God in action, breaking chains and setting women free. Even as I write today, 22 women got their first paycheck at our new Sari Bari Unit in Sonagacchi. One of them called, practically shouting with joy to tell me how happy she was and how all the girls were laughing in celebration their first paycheck. They celebrate the gift of promises kept, hard work paying off, freedom tasted and they will come back for more.

The Kolkata community continues to live in the space of dreams for our friends here being realized not in just small ways but in large, “can’t believe this is real”, ways. Thanks to the gifts of the One Million Can Campaign, Sari Bari has seen our dream of opening the unit in Sonagacchi become a reality. We opened the unit on one of the darkest lanes in the district and while it did take us 9 months to get the contract, during the construction process we received so much favor. We have been welcomed into the area and girls continue to come every day asking for jobs (We currently have a waiting list.). Most of our new women in training came through the doors out of relationship with each other not because of previous connection to our community. However, two women who have joined us have impossible stories and we see the miraculous in their presence among us. We know Sushmita because she was the owner of one of our friends and when she came through outdoors we were surprised, and yet a month later she is still here and learning what freedom means to both have and give to others. She is not allowed to keep girls as a condition of her work and it will be exciting to see how God uses this woman of influence in the area to bring about His purposes. Our friend, Jamie, stopped me on the street more than three years ago for tea, and brought me into a room filled with very young girls, among who she was one. Over the years, we have become friends with many of the girls in that room, we have taught literacy, and been invited to eat with them. We talked about other work with Jamie many times and there was one instance, when she was at my house in the last 6 months, where a taste of what was possible became real for both of us. Freedom was possible. So it was especially exciting when Jamie joined us at Sari Bari and brought along several of her friends. She is finding freedom not only for herself but making freedom possible for the women around her. These two women now among the 22 that work in the new unit are a marker for our community of what God has done and what He can do through our presence in Sonagacchi.
God has done great things, making lives new, and bringing light into the darkest places. As a community we were profoundly moved as we prayed scripture over the SB Sonagacchi unit. Each person brought a word or scripture full of promise, full of hope, full of the truth of who God was, who God is and who God will be for us as a community among our friends here in Kolkata. We all often have the feeling of, “is this real”, “can this be happening” and I hope that feeling does not go away. Because that feeling, leads us to Jesus, and our own powerlessness to make any of it happen without God’s divine direction and leading. We are all thankful to be here now, awaiting God’s continued direction as we walk forward, alongside our friends on the Exodus road to freedom and the Promised Land.

Personally, my first year as Regional Coordinator has been super full, comprising of itself of the loss of a Field Director and multiple staff members in Nepal, bi- weekly calls with Field Directors, 2 visits to Thailand, 2 visits to Nepal and one visit to Chennai and lots and lots of time reflecting on policy conversations as the larger WMF community grows and reforms itself in new and I believe healthy ways. I feel like I have finally found my footing and am regaining balance as I try to manage Sari Bari, being the Field Director and also a Regional Coordinator. I think all that was needed was time and growing and deepening personal connections with the staff throughout Asia.

I am more at home in my life here in Kolkata than I thought could be possible. There are certainly ebbs and flows of weariness, energy, joy and sorrow but mostly there is deep sense of purpose and calm in my life here in the last 6 months. I am so grateful for my time away from Kolkata because it has allowed me to refocus and at the very least pick out some important practices and rhythms that make life fuller and most sustainable.

I began meeting with a spiritual director 6 months ago and it has really been a gift to have someone listening with me to what God is speaking. I also began attending an Anglican church just before Easter this year and it has been a super centering and important part of my weekly practices. As we sit in the cathedral, the beauty of the place, the sometimes volumous silence marked against the Eucharist prayers sung by the congregation, the presence of the Holy Spirit, a still small voice so to speak, though the word and song my soul feels restored.

I feel like my listening and actually doing what I hear, has been a gift in relationship as I struggle to lead an evolving community and a struggling region. There has been many times when my intent has been to bring the hammer down and all I hear is wait, listen, and pray for them. My nature being one that both hates conflict and yet needs resolution often leads me into some hard situations but I think I can safely say that when I have been obedient to the ‘still small voice’ things seem to go better than planned and I guess I am seeing the fruits of the gentleness and patience that I have prayed for many times in recent years.

I will be back in the states briefly this fall to attend two conferences, one in Ohio and one in California. While I am in California, I am hoping that I can borrow a car from Oct 3rd to Oct 12th from someone living the LA, Pasadena area. I am also looking to borrow some camping stuff, a tent, a stove, a couple of sleep bags for a little camping in between conferences. If you are willing to help me out with either of these things please let me know.

My itinerary is as follows:

30th Sept: Depart Kolkata
Oct 1: Arrive Toledo, Ohio for Prostitution and Trafficking Conference
Oct 3: Depart Toledo, Arrive in Los Angeles
Oct 5: Travel to Carlsbad California
Oct 7,8,9: Not For Sale Conference in Carlsbad, CA
Oct 10-12: Time in Los Angeles with friends and family
Depart for Kolkata

I hope to see a some of you during my brief visit to Los Angeles.

Much love,