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 (www.princessslightbringer.blogspot.com) 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 (https://secure.groundspring.org/dn/index.php?aid=26156) 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.