Saturday, December 18, 2010

The scheming Swindlers

"The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church's prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament."

Soren Kierkegaard

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New Mailing address

Some friends of ours are now willing to receive mail on our behalf so if you wanted to mail anything to me, my mailing address has changed to the following for personal letters and packages :)

Sarah Lance
c/o Peter Burrell
Swapandeep Apartment
520 Dum Dum Cossipore Rd.
Flat No. A3 Surer Math
Kolkata, India 700-074

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

January 2011: Sabbatical Letter

Dear Beloved Friends,

The New Year always opens doors for the possibility of new things, the possibility for renewal and second chances. I celebrate the gift it is and that it has been to be among these women , in this community and in the place of Kolkata for these many years and look forward with longing to coming years and the possibilities of God creative imagination for us. I just spent the last hour looking at the Sari Bari five year plan I wrote in 2006 and I was amazed to see that at almost every point (which mostly at the time felt impossible) we have seen the dreams become tangible realities.

This year (April 2011) marks 10 years with Word Made Flesh. During these years I have been stretched beyond my limits, and embraced with love beyond my imagination as I have sought Christ among the most vulnerable of the world’s poor in service and partnership. My heart has expanded as my vocation has narrowed from those who have been marginalized by poverty to the girls and women who find themselves in unspeakable situations of injustice while bonded in the sex trade. My desire is to continue moving forward with deepening commitment to relationship with God, with community, with the women of Sari Bari and their sisters who remain in the sex trade and with the extended work of the Kingdom in the world.

I am humbled and encouraged to share with you the news of my upcoming sabbatical as the next step in the journey toward long term vocation. Word Made Flesh provides time for Sabbatical up to 9 months after six years of service. This offering of Sabbatical is a reflection of God’s desire for not only the land but the people to rest from their toil every seventh year. (Exodus 21:2-6, Exodus 23:10-11, Leviticus 25:1-7, 18-22, and Deuteronomy 15:1-11, 12-18)

Almost 5 years ago when we started Sari Bari, I knew that it would require at least a 5 year commitment to see staff developed, vision shared and a sustainable foundation laid . This coming February, we will celebrate our 5 year birthday, marking what God has done in and through so many lives that now have freedom. Though I have been eligible for sabbatical for several years, I wanted to wait and to honor my commitment to Sari Bari and to the women and have the permission and support of my community, including all the ladies at Sari Bari. I have been so encouraged by their support , understanding and the opportunity to not only be sent out but also welcomed back at the end of my Sabbatical.

Sabbatical will be an extension of my vocation while I not only pursue times of spiritual formation, reflection and rest but also pursue some creative endeavors that will not only inspire my heart but will be an offering to the Sari Bari community as I hope to return full of creative ideas and design skills for new and amazing products that will bring freedom for more women. Under the direction of our community care department, I have invited 2 community members, Upendra and Beth, to be apart of my sabbatical planning team. Together we are setting goals and dreaming the possibilities of what God will do not only in my heart but in the hearts and minds of the staff as they take on more ownership and find a deeper calling to their vocations. I would so appreciate your prayers for all of us as the Sari Bari Community and the WMF regional community prepare for this creative absence.

You have been a sustaining force as you have journeyed and prayed with me and for me over the last 10 years. I am humbled and blessed to have such amazing partnership and to be connected to such a beautiful body of believers. I will be sharing more in the coming months and would love to hear from you if you have any questions or concerns. You can email me at

Much love,


Next summer I am coming to Portland, OR for my Sabbatical and I am looking for some help finding a few things. The dates of my sabbatical time in Portland will be from Mid May 2011 to December 2011.

1. A place to stay: I am not sure what my financial situation will be on support/part time job but I am sure I can offer something for rent. If you know of anyone with a room and bathroom (acess to a kitchen would also be awesome) that they will be willing to offer for 5-6 months for low or no rent please let me know. I would be willing to work for room rent if that is an option.
2. A fun job: In order to pay the costs of being on Sabbatical, I may need a part time job. I am hoping for something fun like working as a gardner, farm hand, set painter, Home Depot, or anything different from what I currently do in Kolkata. If you have any ideas or connections in this area please let me know.
3. Access to a car: I already have the wonderful offer of a bike to use while I am in Portland but I also may need a car from time to time. If you have or know of a car that could be shared or offered for periods of time while I am on sabbatical please let me know.
4. Camping stuff: I hope to have time to camp and hike and just “be” in the beauty that is Oregon, if you have or know someone who has camping stuff that I could borrow periodically while I am staying in Portland please let me know.
5. Church Recommendations: I am hoping to connect with a good church community, if you know one or two let me know!
6. Community: Last but certainly not least, I looking for community, a space to celebrate and mourn, a place be myself and celebrate and encourage others.

Now you ask, what exactly will Sarah be doing on Sabbatical? I am planning on taking courses at the Oregon School of Craft and Design and also at a local artist guild to learn weaving. These things will not only be life giving for me but also will serve the future purpose of Sari Bari as I continue in the role of Creative Director. The theme of my Sabbatical is beauty and I hope to spend my energy to create beautiful things as well as take advantage of the beauty of my surroundings.
Looking forward to this adventure!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


Being at Sari Bari means practicing the art of hospitable interruption. Ten, twenty or thirty times a day, a woman will come to door of the Sari Bari office and call "didi, oh didi, ekta katha ache." (which means Sister, can i have a word). Most the time, the answer is of course. Sometimes I want to say no, because mostly these entrances come with conflict, family problem or heart breaking story, but love stretches far in listening ears.

so on monday, one of the Sari Bari women, a daughter, came in and immediately began crying, she was broken and hearing her story, i was broken. She has struggled and work very hard to keep herself out of the trade. Her mother worked in the trade and does even still but this woman, a mere 23, is a mother of 2 children and her husband left yet again for another woman. The most painful and tragic part is that he, her husband, said he would come back to her if she started working in the trade. She was and is devastated. I am devastated for her. She cried (i waited till later for my tears) and I held her.

I have a few responses: first, if i see her husband on the street, my urge would be to do physical violence (i won't) but that's my first human response to a man who has deeply, hurt my friend.

second, i am in awe of this woman and her strength, her desire and ability to maintain her resolve in the face of a future where the sole responsibility for raising her children will be hers. I celebrate her strength and a God who has given her the ability to stand in the midst of such a painful adversity. Pray that she would continue to be able to stand.

Finally, something she said struck me deeply (I have heard it before many, many times) , more deeply that ever before. I woke up this morning thinking about it. She said, "I am never going to leave Sari Bari, i am going to stay here forever and raise my children and make a good life. Where my family is broken i will find family here...this will be the place i build my life."

hearing this and continuing to reflect, i am overwhelmed. Because when i think of India and Sari Bari i would probably not use the word forever. I am committed, yes. i have no leave date in mind. I am here to embrace and be embraced by these women in this time and place. But forever? Sari Bari for many of the women is their future--it is their vocation--the creation of beauty (beautiful things and the blossoming beauty of who they are), to walk in freedom, to embrace hope and be fed by the hope they experience in the lives of others. For many of them it is forever.

so where is my forever? to be in Kolkata forever feels limiting, scary and impossible but maybe it is this place and among these people that i too might find the same possibility, hope and freedom that so many women at Sari Bari have found. I pray that i will have the courage to continue to let them lead me.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Advent Reflection from Melissa

Chaos. Advent Day 5.

2 December 2010

Except for a few hours of Christmas music and sitting near Sarah’s Christmas tree on Thanksgiving Day- I haven’t thought of Christmas at all. In between hectic schedules, visits to the hospital to stay with my sick friend, Bangla lessons, and trying to clean up my bedroom (at least a little) - I haven’t taken a moment to sit with the mystery of God entering into our world, into my world.

Christmas feels far away. There wasn’t an Autum season to signal the coming of winter. There isn’t any snow (and there won’t be). We haven’t been able to decorate our flat yet. No evergreen tree with colorful lights. No advent candles have been lit. No space to breathe it in. And I wonder, how do I connect with the coming of Emmanuel this year? What does it look like to wait., to breathe deep, to long for his coming?

God with us. It melts my brain just a little. God entering into my world. Understanding the entire scope of my emotions. He comes as hope, even when I can’t see it. He comes as peace, even when my world is anything but peaceful. He comes as rest, even when rest seems impossible. This is what we celebrate. God becomes man. And it changes everything. I don’t understand it all - but I know it’s true.

Into my chaos, He comes.

Come Lord Jesus, Come.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Finding Restoration, Hope and Purpose

This morning for devos at sari bari, I asked a couple of questions. What has happened in your life since you came to sari bari? What are the dreams you have for the future? What do you hope will happen through Sari Bari in the future? The responses were hesitant at first. But they came with power and meaning. They spoke of finding freedom for the first time. Being able to see a future for themselves, wanting safe places for home and family. Jiya said that she hopes that there will be a Sari Bari in every red light area in Kolkata and 300 Sari Bari’s in India. Laxmi remarked that so many women are wandering in darkness still, they do not even know that they can have freedom. Her desire is for them to know what she knows for herself. Dreams we have dreamed for the women are now becoming the dreams of the women for the other women. At the end I asked a few more questions…how many of you have learned to sign your own name since you came here? More than half the women raised their hands. Clapping, clapping and losts of smiles. How many of you have learned to sew since you came here? More clapping. Again more than half the women—the rest knew something of how to sew when they came. And finally, how many of you have received freedom since working at Sari Bari? Almost every single woman raised their hands. Rousing applause.

Can we get an amen!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

December 2010 Letter

Dear Friends and Family-

I am sitting down with a cup of coffee and a little Christmas music (way too early to be playing it but I am anyway) and reflecting on the gifts and sorrows of the last year. I am remembering, as the season of advent approaches, that Jesus came as a gift and took the burden of our broken humanity on Himself. I feel like I have been a little absent this year from you my friends and partners who have made my journey in Kolkata alongside the women at Sari Bari possible and for that I am sorry. I think I am coming back around to myself as I have begun to let the floodgates open and let out my sorrows, laments, questions and even my great joys. If you are interested you can find my laments and ponderings on my blog ( but right now I want to share some of the The Good and Surprising gifts of 2010:

· Remembering and rediscovering that I am not forsaken, that we are not forsaken, that the good God who loves us remains present even when we do not feel it.

· The opening of Sari Bari in Canning—our first prevention unit. The opening of this third unit was almost a surprise, it happened so fast and with such amazing support that I remain in awe of what God does through His people. Also loving that our dear Shaleha is now the Production Manager and rocking it.

· Our little Gita (now a woman of 22) got married in October. Gita started with us when she was 17 and in many ways is really like a daughter to me. I have the wonderful honor to give her away on her wedding day.

· Speaking: I mostly feel a little like Moses, like I am not sure what to say, how to say it and if it will make any sense at all. But this fall I was able to speak at the Eighth Letter conference in Toronto, Ontario and at the Trafficking, Prostituion and Sex Work Conference in Toledo, Ohio and felt like both went really well. Thanks to all of you who prayed, encouraged and cheered me on!

· Community: in the darkest of nights, the most painful of losses, the most profound of joys, I have the gift of being able to share life with Beth, Upendra, Radha, Shela, Kyle, Melissa, Sheila, WMF peeps in Asia, the amazing teachers and friends I have in the women at Sari Bari, the Servants community in Kolkata and all the WMF (Fleshies) around the world.

· Relishing and rediscovering the joy of dreaming for things I may never see!

A gift you can give: We celebrate Christmas every year at Sari Bari and every year we give the women new clothes (usually a bright new sparkly sari—they love it) and also provide small gifts for the women’s children and husbands. The Christmas parties at Sari Bari are a family event! We have some many women this year we are not sure how we will be able to afford Christmas so our community decided to invite you, our friends and family to participate. We can provide nice gifts for the women and their families for the cost of $25.00 per woman, if you are interested in celebrating Christmas with us by sponsoring a gift for one our women, we would love it, they will love it! You can donate on the WMF website ( or by mail at. WMF, PO BOX 70 Omaha, NE 68101, designate the gift to Sari Bari Christmas.

I wish you and all those you love a very Merry Christmas! Celebrating with you once again the coming of Emmanuel, God with us!

Much love,

Nothing is impossible

Recently, I posted this quote on my facebook--still can't get it out of my brain:

'Now I'll give you something to believe. I'm just one hundred and one, five months and a day.'

"'I can't believe that!' said Alice.

"'Can't you?' the Queen said in a pitying tone. 'Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.'

"Alice laughed: 'There's no use trying,' she said; 'one can't believe impossible things.'

"'I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.'"

–Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

Now in wonderland here are the 6 impossible things that the queen was talking about:

1. Theres a Potion that can make you shrink.
2. Cake that can make you grow.
3. Animals can talk.
4. Cats can dissapear.
5. Theres a place called Wonderland.
6. I can slay the Jaberwockey.

So now I am thinking what are the six impossible things that have become possible in the last 5 years:

1. Staff in Kolkata lasting more than 5 years on the ground
2. Sari Bari itself--started with no money, no skills, no idea what we were doing
3. Freedom from the sex trade--businesses here here employ about 1-2 percent of the 10,000 women in this area--previous to 2003--zero.
4. Former Madam being one of our best seamstresses and one of our best advocates for freedom
5. Kolkata no longer is only about death and destruction--Kolkata is also a place for new life in the making
6. Poor/at risk girls who may have ended up locked in room for 7 years with out pay or escape are making a life and future for themselves in the Prevention Unit.

I am sure there is more but that is a pretty good start on the impossible becoming possible in Kolkata.

6 more impossible dreams for the next year:

1. We would be able to buy the entire property of Sari Bari in Sonagacchi.
2. We would be able to employ 150 women by the end of 2011.
3. That we could make inroads into musharrabad for our next prevention unit.
4. Professional counselors for after care
5. The people of God in india to take a legimate and active interest in being apart of giving freedom to women in the red light areas
6. still imagining...want to dream with me?

A few words on Cambodia

heavy, sad, broken, thankful, devastated, sick, hopeful, scared, ashamed


Too many children working on the street to support themselves, their families
There were almost no gray hairs: the average age in cambodia is 15
Lots of pretty solid amazing NGO's doing work for women and children
There are child protection trained taxi(tuck tuck) drivers
Justice takes too long
Restoration takes time, money and commitment
vulnerability of the children, and people in impoverished circumstances to those who will exploit
late middle aged american guy who seemed to have bad intentions (took his photo on my phone in case i actually observed anything-- i did not)

Scribbled words while visiting S-21, prision where only 7 of 20,000 prisoners survived:

To blame God for suffering is easy. To take ownership of our humanity and own our part in the creation of suffering for others is almost unbearable. It is men and women who create suffering for other men and women. We serve suffering on platters to one another. We hope those those who have suffered greatly in wars, genocides and personal traumas will receive our leftover sympathy, receive our neglect of the imago dei in their personhood.

Can we really fathom wars fought by children? Can we forget them? Can we reframe them so we remain without accountability in restoration? Generations lost over and over. Everyone plays a role--torturer or tortured, victim or oppressor. How easily we forget our humanity our vulnerability...Monsters fear us. I am not innocent of these abominations, these tragedies happening in my lifetime--this blood stains my clothes.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I wait

For you alone, O God, my soul waits in the silence, for my hope is in you. Psalm 62.5
Those who wait for God, shall renew their strength. Isaiah 40:31
Happy are those whose hearts do not condemn them, who have not given up hope. Ecclesiates 14.2

"All that you give can sometimes rob my innocence"

there is not this easy path to hope
hardwork, hard hard labor of waiting
not for lightening bolts but flickering light under the door
my broken heart condemns me sometimes
rather than hope i blame God
for taking my oblivion
sins of omission that steal my joy
i let them
i wait, i wait
i sleep it off
I wait
i cry
I rage
I hate
I wrestle
I am defeated
I wait
I see light flicker
I wait
I hope
Compassion grows
before becoming fatigued
i wait
for God.

Friday, October 15, 2010

November 2010 Reflection

"Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." Lewis Carroll

Sometimes, I get confused. I have my head down, avoiding eye contact, wanting to avoid the pain I might see as I wend my way through Songacchi on my way to work. I am overwhelmed by the suffering—I can only focus on the filthy pathways contrasted again the painted toe nails and impossibly high heeled shoes that that line the lanes in front of me. My mind is full of the suffering of people I love, the women and men that we have lost and the heroes at Sari Bari who continue to face problems at home. I begin to believe that this suffering, this broken reality is all there is, and hopelessness takes hold my heart.

I have recently been reflecting on Jesus on the cross and the scripture that stands out most clearly is Jesus words directed at the Father, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I have never reflected deeply on this verse but recently at a conference as I listened to author and activist Peter Rollins reflect on the cross I was struck with the similarity of what I feel, to what Jesus himself, felt on the cross. Jesus felt the absence of God’s presence as he took on the sins of the world and he cried out—God where are you? Why have you left me alone?

I feel this way when I walk into the suffering of the women at Sari Bari and their counterparts who remain trapped in the sex trade. My God, my god, why have your forsaken us? This is the part of me that is looking down, grasping only the worldly realities, the broken people and experiences that have framed the reality of life in Kolkata, India. My question is God, where are you?

God did not create suffering. God created perfection, a garden of beauty in which we could have dwelt. Humanity chose destruction. We choose to live in a forsaken reality. I choose to let my own sin separate me from God. The most profound experience of God is to understand it pains God deeply that we choose destruction and that we choose to separate but He allowed us to do so anyway. And then God pursues us, the beloved, into the depths of darkness. Jesus was God, allowing himself to understand humanity, to enter into a reality of separation. It must be nonsenscial for God to understand why we continue to choose destruction over perfection. Jesus, as God, tasted destruction and then embraced it on the cross. When Jesus cried out “my God, my God, why have your forsaken me?”, he was at that moment enveloped in the darkness of the sins of humanity, and though I am sure God the father was present, Jesus could not see or feel the presence of the Father. Our sin isolated Jesus from the experience of God, a part of himself. In a sense, God rejected himself for us and took on the one thing that He could not stand to embrace, our sin—the thing that brings us destruction. God bridged a path into things that He did not create or intend for humanity.

Why do I feel the absence of God in the presence of those who suffer? Maybe it is because God did not create suffering. It is creative endeavor of destruction that I as a human being embrace in both large and small ways. If we question whether God is good, maybe we are asking the wrong question. The question is are we good, do we do good? Where is God in suffering? God is present though we may not feel it, but we cannot know what God must experience when He enters into destruction with us, and how that impacts our ability to understand who God is, in the reality of suffering and the wrenching He must feel as a parent and creator, when humanity chooses against God. Humans create suffering for other humans. People buy and sell other people. Men and women lie, cheat, steal and objectify. God created a garden. We have created hell, a reality of separation between what God intended and what we experience.

So when I stop being confused once in a great while and I cry out in less a powerful way, where are you God? Why did you leave?

God answers, I am here among you making the impossible possible. More than 7 years ago, before Freeset (, before Word Made Flesh and Sari Bari, there was a reality of impossibility. Women were not leaving the trade; there was no place for them to go. God was waiting for the beloved, those who call on Him, to be hands and feet, voices of hope and encouragement, to respond.

I think God sent Pornima to be with us Sari Bari, so that she would know His face, when she entered into His presence. God did not prevent her death but created an opportunity for her to receive love, hope and the gift of eternity.

Sari Bari started with 3 women in 2006 and as we enter 2011, have seen more than 70 women have freedom…this is the impossible becoming possible.

Sari Bari itself was not a creation of person but the collaborative effort of many from the beginning, no one person can take credit for anything that has happened. Kristin Keen, had the idea. I was able to contribute tactical, administrative, creative energy. Upendra Prasad Saha and Gita Mondal have been such foundation leaders and visionaries that we know we would not have seen what we have seen without their presence and unique gifts. Others along the way, Beth Waterman, the entirety of WMF staffers who came before, Kyle Scott and most profoundly the women of Sari Bari themselves are the intricate parts of an impossible reality, a reality in which we can only give thanks to a God who has not forsaken us.

I hope enter into the next year with a full heart ready to look up and see what God is doing, where God will enter into suffering, and where God will make the impossible, possible. And when I feel forsaken or wonder why God has not intervened in yet another broken reality, I hope to remember the miracle of the past that has created a fertile ground for my weak faith to grow.

With HOPE,


Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Sunday, September 12, 2010

This is not a movie...

if i ever get accustomed to what i see in sonagacchi and do not find that it breaks my heart and destroys me, that is the day i should leave here. Spent some time tonight with my friends in the gach over tea and sodas and snacks. Walking from one friends room, where i just encountered 3 new girls under the age of 18, i was so discouraged. But the brokenness of what we encounter the lanes of the red light area did not end...walking down the lane their were more little girls standing the line, new faces, i have not seen, men crowding the lanes, looking the women and girls up and down, making their choice from among the many who do not have choices.

I do not want to get used to what i see here. plain and simple, injustice upon injustice, exploitation upon exploitation. I still find it all very shocking and dumb founding. I once had a team member tell me that it was not a big deal visiting one of the harshest, saddest rooms we visit. She said she has seen it before on tv and in movies. I was dumbfounded, this is not the movies, these are real girls with real stories being exploited before our eyes. God forgive us if think having seen it before it should not move us to our knees, break our hardened hearts and cause us to take action. I have been living a long time and though i have seen it over and over, I still find it appalling and so devastating...because it is real and a true reality for so so many women and girls around the world.

The friends i was visiting were from Sari Bari. Beautiful markers of HOPE in the midst of devastating injustice, they give me hope and reason to continue, to not let my heart hardened and say i have seen it all before. I live in the tension of two realities, the freedom and hope that sari bari acts as the medium to achieve in the lives of the women and the horrifying injustice and the reality of the blatant bondage in which so so many remain. This is the tension that all of us in kolkata work, marking the hope of Jesus our redeemer, risen, alive, transforming people and culture and remembering the suffering of the Christ, the who is with us, with each and every one of the devastated destroyed little girls who stand the line on sonagacchi tonight.

may the prayers of the saints be heard tonight on behalf of these children newly traded and these many forgotten women who lost their childhoods many years ago . Jesus have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Video Introductions to Sari Bari Prevention Unit

Translation of the last conversation: What is the purpose of work at Sari Bari? The answer freedom. Why do we work for freedom? Because the lives of the women have so much value!

Hopeful to end trafficking...that's what i said!

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Waiting for Justice

I don’t know what to do sometimes…my reality as an observer to the reality of the red light district is painful. I see things I do not want to see and know things I do not what to know. The responsibility is tremendous and far too much for even a community to carry. My spiritual director asked me this week what I thought God was trying to tell me. Because I had told her that I am having a hard time listening. The circumstances of the last weeks and month, tell me that I am not in control, they I never was in control, that I cannot prevent pain and its affects, that I am not alone but sometimes I feel that way, they tell me that I must endure injustice because cannot stop it, they tell me that I am helpless in the face of most things. If this is what the circumstances tell me, then maybe God is at work in those circumstances…telling me that I am helpless in the face of most things.

Yesterday, only one of the many days in this week that affirmed this truth, was particularly devastating. I currently have little or no emotional margin. Sickness, death, injustice and HEAT have made recovery through intentionality difficult. I am basically trudging, with love on good days and impatience on bad days through this season in Kolkata. As I was saying, yesterday was confounding, wrenching and horrific and I still don’t know what to feel about it because it affirms and destroys me.

As I was leaving Sari Bari on very late lunch break I encountered something I have never encountered in progress in the Gach: A girl being sold on the street. There was a big crowd, mostly men surrounding the girl so I could not see her. I saw the man selling her, well dressed (slimy, wretched man—my thoughts), and I thought why? I knew what was happening because a woman walking the opposite direction told me. The men were fighting…I did not stick around to find out the details. I keep asking myself if I should go in there and grab her or if I needed to protect the 50 plus women who work at Sari Bari by doing nothing. I did nothing. You can and should judge me for this…I am judging myself. It all happened so fast and I was so stunned that I could not think clearing what to do really. I think I was not really thinking about myself but in the aftermath, I wonder if I was…confronting this huge injustice would have meant the end of my time India (because the powers that control the red light area would have made it impossible for me to stay), maybe the end of Sari Bari because in the aftermath the red light community would have ceased to trust our community. The reality is that I walk this lane through the red light area every day, from my home to Sari Bari and back. The lane is infamous…big scary madams sit outside buildings, that we are not welcome to enter as they protect their financial investment and prostitute little girls. I smile at these ladies but I am afraid of what would happen if crossed them. I actually love these ladies and want to see their freedom and the freedom of those little girls but I am not foolish enough to believe their own woundedness and anger is not powerful enough to destroy me. It is darkness powerful enough to destroy me and Sari Bari and the freedom it provides, as it is certainly destroying life after life within the walls of those brothels.

I came home last night and I tell my friend Ranjana what I saw and how powerless I felt and she says, I have seen it many times and also did nothing…your hands are tied, there was nothing you could do...those men would have killed you. So I asked Rajana to tell me her story again. (Rajana began staying with me this week until we find her a room near us). Her story breaks my heart, sold as a little girl when her hair was still short, by little girls who worked alongside her washing floors in a rich man’s house. She was sold by her friends for a mere 100 USD. She was held against her will for weeks before being raped by a fat old man (her description) drenching the bed with her blood and innocence. She says that from that moment forward she became a bad woman. As she told her story, I wanted to hold her and tell her she was anything but bad, that she was beautiful and beloved. But she kept sharing more and more horrible and sad details about being held against her will, never receiving any money for the work she was forced to do on an ongoing bases for customer after customer, being sold many times over as virgin because her own small childish frame betrayed her. After she told me her story, I was numb with sadness and I hugged her and told her I was sorry and I went to bed and then woke up thinking about it.

I woke up thinking about the girl who was sold and all the ways I could have helped her. I woke up thinking that her reality was about become Ranjana’s…a story, that if I told you everything would make you gasp with unbelief as you thought of your daughter or sister or friend. Questioning, I ask myself why I did not risk my life and everything I have and love, for her life. And then I came to my mind this morning, why didn’t I go back to the office and get enough rupees to buy her freedom myself—I could have bought her freedom, saved her from Ranjana’s fate and the fate of pretty much everyone women and girl we know. I am deeply ashamed of my helplessness, deeply ashamed that I was paralyzed. I am appalled at the grotesque ability of men and women to commit evil against one another and at the same ability to not respond when we witness injustice—literally women being sold into slavery before our very eyes….my very eyes. I am crying and have been crying much harder and telling God to forgive me.

There are things that I see and know, that I know I would not understand if I had not seen them myself. Talking to Beth, I know this is true…you cannot know unless you have seen it and experienced it. Just like I cannot know what it is like to sold as a sex slave and live a life beyond that trauma…I will never know. The tears I cry and that I can’t cry for these women will never compare to the tears that they have cried and the flood of tears that they still hold inside. There are stories and situations that compel me to choose other than what I have been raised to believe…to say yes to people and relationships, rather than reason and law. Sometimes, my law abiding nature, causes me to feel ashamed but I will do the wrong thing for the right reason because I love someone. I feel like I did the wrong thing yesterday. Because I love the Sari Bari ladies deeply with my whole being and I would give my life a thousand times over in order to see what has happened to them never have happened, I chose them. I chose them yesterday but I also walked by a little girl being sold into the sex trade…oh dear Jesus please forgive me. This day destroyed me and probably will destroy me in the months and years to come.

Yesterday, my only hope came from a conversation with Gita. She is our Director of New Programs and will be the founding Manager of our prevention unit in Canning, West Bengal. She shared a conversation that she had yesterday with young girl who will come to work for us next week when we open the prevention unit. The girl asked why it has taken so long to start; Gita has been visiting for almost 3 months. The girl said “while they have been waiting for us many girls have left for Kolkata looking for work and many girls have been sold into the sex trade…why didn’t you start sooner.” Gita said, “I am sorry we did not start sooner. But we are starting now and we are going end the trafficking of girls from Canning.” Gita said WE ARE GOING TO END THE TRAFFICKING OF GIRLS FROM CANNING. Gita, beautiful, passionate, strong, 22 year girl, woman, hero, is going to bring LIGHT into the darkness and HOPE to what has truly been a hopeless circumstance of the young poor girls of canning. And she is bringing with her another HERO; a woman has gained freedom from the sex trade and will do anything to see that it does not happen to other girls. Gita, my friend, sister, and tiny Bengali hero will be doing what I could not do yesterday, she will be actively preventing girls from being sold into the sex trade by giving her love and providing employment that will literally save girls from this horrible fate. This gives affirmation of all that we hope for by starting a prevention unit.

These things all happened on the same day, Friday, June 4, 2010. A dark horrible day, a little girl was sold into the sex trade and her future is uncertain. A day of continued promise because of Gita and Shaleha, many, many girls will never face this reality. And a day where I again question, God what are you saying, are you saying from these circumstances I am helpless, that the world is dark and evil and i am not in control,because I sure feel that way…and as I acknowledge my broken state, I ask God so what are you going to do about this? Will you please make this injustice right? Will save that girl? Please… And I wait.