Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dude...I'm angry

So this week i think denial has moved to anger as i process Pornima's loss and probably the fact that it touches on all the other injustices that I encounter daily. I have walked past the place where she used to stand multiple times this week looking for her, hoping that I would see her and all that has happened would have only been a nightmare. This anger has compelled me forward so hard that I am accomplishing alot (negative energy producing hopefully positive things) and thankfully not hurting anyone in the process...because basically i am not angry at anyone but at systems of injustice, at fatalism in the culture that surrounds me and at my own powerless to stop it. I am angry that Pornima's son will not be going to school--if you pray, please pray that this changes, i am angry to be away from my sister when she is hurting, i am angry that i helpless to change anything much.

This afternoon i crashed and just felt weary and tired and almost all the anger left. I think and hope this is God's grace. I feel pretty confident that I want these feelings to leave and love to replace shed that hard protect wall that has been keeping me sane and let God love me so that love can flow better to others. Because as they can cover a multitude of sins. Goodness knows i need my sins covered and forgiven. I guess when i feel this spent the only place I can turn with my emptiness is Jesus. He seems to have been taking the heat with some of my sadness and anger and hurt over so much injustice and suffering. I hopeful for His continued embrace in the coming days until all this anger is gone and love and mercy find their way back.

Jesus have mercy on me and on the world!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sabbatical Planning

So i am taking a few days break to plan my Sabbatical in 2011...this means I will be taking a 6 month time of reflection and rest after 10 years with WMF. I have been looking forward to this opportunity and priviledge for a couple years but have never really made the time to think about it let alone plan for it. So today when I really sat down and wrote everything out, i started to cry. I started to cry because the thought of leaving my friends and sisters at Sari Bari for 6 months seems like too long, maybe even too selfish a thing to consider. My spiritual director has been encouragin me over the last year to remember that I need to take care of myself in order to offer my best to these friends and sisters. This is what i am trying to keep in mind because i know this to be the truth. In 2009, I took a 3 month leave of absence becausei was so burnt out--i had to leave because i was not taking care of myself and i do not want to see that happen again in the next ten years. So i am trying to look at this as an opportunity--something that can be both a gift for myself and my community. I would love to have your prayers as I plan and dream and prepare the SB community for this temporary departure. Pray that God would be preparign my heart and an acutal way for it to happen (there are alot of details to be worked out!) So i am back to dreaming and planning and maybe that pain in my heart with subside--but maybe it is not supposed to...

May 2010 Prayer letter

Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4

We lost a friend recently. She was killed in her room by a customer. The why’s and how’s are still uncertain but what is certain is that she is gone from us. Her name is Pornima and she was our sister, our friend and a part of the Sari Bari Family.

She began her journey to freedom with us at Sari Bari three months ago was still in the middle of her period of training. (During training the women are given 6 months to transition out of the trade. This is an important part of allowing them to make the choice for freedom. They can bring closure to the past and break ties with old customers while gaining confidence and an understanding of their value which ultimately gives them the strength and courage to leave completely. We have seen about 90 percent of our ladies leave the trade permanently.) She had only begun to the take first steps toward the ownership of her own freedom. And her ability to have it fully through her own hard work in the midst of a safe and loving community. The day before she died was particularly important as she poured herself into completing her first blanket and completed more than she had in day than she had the weeks prior. She even surprised herself and was talking about how amazed she was at what she had accomplished. Pornima was cremated with her almost completed blanket as sign of the freedom that she experienced in this lifetime and the hope of freedom in the next.

Her loss is deeply impactful for our community and each person within it. We mourned for her together the day of her death, each coming to pay their respects at the uncomfortably open crime scene. Afterward, we all returned to Sari Bari to pray and share and listen to stories of Pornima and the personal stories of loss, hurt and hope from many of the other women. Sari Bari remained closed for the rest of the day as we pursued the details of laying our friend to rest as quickly as possible ( a process complicated by the circumstances and the police, red light area and family politics that played themselves out in the aftermath of the loss our beloved sister.) We continue to mourn in the days following and I am sure we feel the loss and mourn our friend in the months and years to come.

There is nothing good about Pornima’s death or how she died or even how her life was spent up to that point. Her life was a long legacy of suffering and strife that led her to the brothels of Songacchi. But as I reflect, I find comfort and hope for Pornima because now her suffering is finished. Three months at Sari Bari brought her a taste of the goodness of a loving God. She celebrated Easter with us in the days before her death and came to know that the Redeemer of the world was on her side. No more sacrifice or offering needed to be made for her sins because the God of the Universe has offered up His Son as the final sacrifice. Though she was not able to experience the fullness of freedom in this lifetime we trust that she is experiencing true freedom in the presence of Jesus at this very moment.

Pornima is gone and we are left to mourn her loss and figure out what to do in world without her presence and her cocked smile when she greeted us on the street before joining us at Sari Bari. I will miss her shy approach as she called out “Didi (big sister), is it okay if ….?” As we have mourned, we have been comforted, by one another, by the new enthusiasm and drive that we see in the women who lost their dear friend, to make sure freedom does not slip from their grasp. We have been comforted by simple cultural acts of purification as we all went for a swim in the Ganges right after the funeral (you can read more about this on my blog and we have been comforted by many of you in our extended community who have poured our your prayers and encouragements. We have been comforted by Psalm 34:18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit and Psalm 142. Ultimately, we have been comforted in these days since the marking of the death and resurrection of our Redeemer by the spirit that prays with us and for us, encourages us and upholds us.

For Pornima True freedom has been granted earlier than we expected. And the rest of us will continue the fight for freedom with fervor and compassion for those who remain in bondage and alongside us we find more than 50 women who believe in the cause of freedom not only for themselves but for their sisters still trapped in bondage.

From one who has been comforted,


Thursday, April 08, 2010

Let there beauty for these ashes...

Pornima's body was cremated today and we know in our hearts that she has been given her True freedom and entry into the promised land earlier than we expected. Her Body was accompanied by her Sari Bari and Freeset families as well as her mother and son. One of the girls commented, that Pornima would have been so encouraged to know how very well loved she was by so many people. Pornima was wrapped in her Sari Bari blanket, it was a marker of hope and the freedom that Pornima has received in the welcome embrace of Jesus. We ended the time with prayers and the rememberance that one day we will see pornima again, whole and restored. We hope, believe and pray for beauty out these ashes in our loss of Pornima...for each woman at Sari Bari, their children and their families.

We all wept and cried together and then we followed the bengali tradition of taking a bath in the Ganga (Ganges). I have never taken a bath in the ganga before but i have to say there is something pretty healing about jumping in the water with other mourners, sisters and friends, washing away the tears and starting anew. It is like after experiencing the death of a loved one, you have the opportunity once again to be reborn, to be refreshed in the water (even very dirty water that makes you wonder whether you should take a z-pac as a preventative measure.). There is alot of religious rituals connected to this practice but i have to say, i celebrated the bath with the Sari Bari women as something that heals, remembering that Jesus makes us new, washes us clean and restores life.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

What violence has beset us this day

What violence has beset us this day
Of all days, this day was most unexpected
Most vile, violent and cruel
Because it is the day after hope still lingered in one woman heart
Yet is lingers no longer with her end
Today is everyday and the today no one wanted
Today is for weeping over violence
Weeping for freedom lost
Where no freedom can found
Powerless, fearful silent
Offenders protected
Shame for such injustice is heavy on us all.
Three months of freedom tossed like her body
What violence has beset us this day.
We all are her. She was us.
Part of us left with her.
The violence committed, indignity
Against her, against us all.
She flesh of our flesh, bone of our bone
This sister gone.
Her fight for freedom was violently wrenched from her grasp,
We will fight on remembering.

For Pornima. Completed three months of training at Sari bari.
Died: Today

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Sari Bari Bags are on Sale

visit Sari Bari to buy a bag before the email goes out and they disappear!


I was going some of my stuff yesterday and I found this reflection that I wrote just two weeks after the start of Sari Bari in 2006. Pretty cool after celebrating Easter on friday with more than 50 ladies who now have freedom!

The new life of three women has begun with the advent of Sari Bari. Three women now have freedom to begin a new life that was never before possible. Now it is more than possible…it is a reality. We celebrated the beginning of the new lives of these three women with birthday cake on Saturday. This is something that started with celebrating the life of one girl in Sonagacchi who left the trade and now will become the beautifully regular celebration of every new women employed by Sari Bari.

It was exciting and beautiful to be with them as we sang happy birthday for them and with them as they celebrated not only their own freedom but the start of freedom of the other 2 women working alongside them. It was a sweet celebration of new life on the floor of what is now Sari Bari in Kalighat.

These first two weeks have been full of new and good experiences. The ladies are amazing and they are working so hard…it was hard to get them to stop for the informal education we hope to have built into all our training sessions. We want to make sure that they have basic literary, nutrition education, budgeting and team building games to round out their training but they just want to keep working on their blankets. Most of the time it just feels normal and maybe like I might be in a little over my head but so good.

I also started learning how to make a Sari Blanket and if you know me at all you will know I wanted my Sari Blanket, even though it is my first one, to be perfect and beautiful. I thought I had picked beautiful and fun sari’s to make the perfect blanket. But as my work progressed I realized that my Sari had all these holes and that I would need to patch them. Hey no problem, the patches add to the coolness I thought, but then there was not left over fabric to match my sari so I had to patch with another color that did not quite match…I was tempted to think that now my Sari blanket was ruined. And then I started to think about it…this sari blanket that I was working on is very much like me and in fact very much like all the ladies I am working alongside. It has the appearance of something good and the potential for great beauty but there are holes and the holes while they make it imperfect they do not make it any less beautiful. The holes which require patching, even patching with a color that does not quite match, make the Sari Blanket even more unique and beautiful. I just realized that I want my life to be perfect but it is not…I imagine the ladies we work with feel the same way…they want beauty and wholeness for themselves and their families but this has not been something available or even attainable. But the fact of the matter is just because there are holes, brokenness and imperfection in our lives does not mean that these things can not be patched, healed and redeemed to make something even more beautiful. That is the kind God we serve, one who patches our holes and calls us beautiful…a God who will heal my brokenness and the brokenness of these ladies and make something new.

This is our vision for Sari Bari that God would take the lives of these women just as they take these old thrown away Sari’s and make something new. We started making Sari Blankets in a business that we call Sari Bari but this week God started making things new in the lives of three women. He started the redemption process and I believe we can trust the end result will be beautiful.

I was able to pay them yesterday for the first two weeks of training and it was so beautiful to see their faces and see their responses as it was again affirmed for them that a new life is started and that there really will be freedom for them. They had their first budgeting class yesterday taught by Kiran and it was a really rough go…it is really the first time that they have been asked to intentionally figure out their money and consider how they can pay their debts and even save some money. It was not easy for them to consider how they could actually make something like a budget work but I believe and hope that they can be successful at managing their money and living on the money they make without taking additional loans. They do not yet know that we will be paying off their loans (they can pay us back at no interest—some of them are paying the equivalent of 120 percent a year) and I am so looking forward to the day when I can tell them their debt will be paid and they will be free from it’s burden in the not too far off future.

Please keep these women in your prayers. They have a long, hard and most certainly amazing road ahead them. Freedom will require a fight that they will not have to fight alone but still it will not be easy. They need you to fight on their behalf in prayer.

So thanks for praying for us and for them. We feel it and we most certainly need it!