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.