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 www.princesslightbringer.blogspot.com) 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,