Tuesday, February 15, 2011

It's a good story

A good storyteller doesn't just tell a better story. She invites other people into the story with her, giving them a better story too.
–Donald Miller, A Million Miles, in a Thousand Years

Dear Friends and Family-
In the last ten years, I have been invited into many stories. I have been invited into the lives of the people of Kolkata and some of the journeys have been short and some of them long. Each of these stories has deeply impacted me, changed me, formed me into who I have become and who I am becoming as friend, a woman, a seeker of justice and freedom and a follower of Jesus.
When I began ten years ago, I was welcomed into the story of Mother Teresa and the women of the Missionaries of Charity, who have given their lives in whole hearted service to the poorest of the poor. I spent years discovering the heart of God in the broken bodies and minds of the destitute whom I been given the opportunity to serve, love and care for at the Home for Dying. These beloved women(MC Sisters) taught me a new way to pray, a new way to serve and new way to mourn for those who found themselves with no one to stand beside them in their times of most desperate need. I remember being invited to sit with Sister Georgina to pray beside a man who dying and we prayed until he slipped into the arms of God. I remember caring for a woman with AIDS with touch and songs and I remember her reciprocity and God’s affirmation of how He saw us both, as His beloved daughters, not separated by language or culture or class. We were His and held together by His embrace.

As I continued, I made many friends whose stories led me and challenged. There was Martin, a gentle Irish man, whose compassion and commitment taught me about humility and grace. Martin truly is one of the few people I have ever met that reflected Jesus almost perfectly.
My friend Maya welcomed me into her home and heart in the early days in Tollygunge. She fed me, stretched me as I struggled through my Bengali and my culture shock. Maya is my oldest friend in Kolkata and as I joined her story, I also joined the stories of her children who are now becoming adults and overwhelming me with just how old I am now!

The WMF community in Kolkata has grown and changed and evolved over the last 10 years and I would not be who I am without the Brotherly love and friendship of Josh, Kyle and Trever. They protected me, challenged me, inspired me and hugged me every night when they left my house. My beloved sister Kristin, cofounder of Sari Bari, was my back up in so many ways. She taught me that No can sometimes be the most loving answer. She showed a way of passion and compelling love that still drives and impacts me. She held me and knew me in my deepest brokenness and loved me anyway. And there is Bethie, so much more than a little sister, a partner whose heart holds the key to opening so many doors in the lives of people whom she serves Sheppard’s and upholds in prayer. Kyle Scott has been an anchoring presence of peace and service and example of just how redemptive a good man can be in a place where all the brokenness of males surrounds us. And now, Melissa, Sheila and Brookie offering something new…I am excited to share in the coming years with these beautiful women.

Pinkie’s story brought me back to Kolkata with a desire to give my life here. I met her in 2004 and her tragic story brought me to my knees in lament before God and spurred the passionate desire to never have to walk away from a young girl trapped in the sex trade by poverty with no choices, ever again. The end of her story is unknown to me but I hope and pray that she found a way.

The words that came from the story of a man who spent thirty years in Bangladesh still move me to tears. “Dream for things you will never see.” And I do, I do.

Some my favorite stories are the ones connected with the Birth of Sari Bari. We were invited into the story of Freeset, Connextions and At the Well who gave us encouragement, place, and vision for the first stumbling steps forward. Out of these first stumbling steps, I was given relationship with Upendra. He is brother and friend. I am pretty sure he might be a super hero; God has given him the gift of being able to accomplish the impossible in India and his joy in doing it is testimony to his character. I have also been given beautiful friendships with Radha, Shela and Gita. Sharing in Gita’s story has been something like the joy of being a mom and watching your children blossom and grow and do impossible things with grace. Last year when I walked her down the aisle on her wedding day was one of the most important and beautiful days of my life.
And of course the story that I love to tell and the story that I love to be a part of is the stories of freedom that come out of the life journey’s of the women at Sari Bari. They have invited me into their stories with such trust and love. I know them as sisters, saints, teachers and heroes. We have shared the highest highs and the lowest lows together as family. I have watched as Jamuna, a friend for three years prior to Sari Bari, trapped in one of the worst brothels I have ever entered, become an advocate for the freedom of other women as she makes her own freedom journey. The gift of watching so many of the women at Sari Bari blossom, grow and find new life has been something that I struggle to give words. I never could have imagined that so many would become managers, trainers and heroes for other woman. They now led us forward as they invite new women into both their stories of loss and into their stories of hope and restoration. I have sat by Ranjana’s beside begging and pleading with God for her life and have seen God save and restore her. I have mourned alongside Ranjana as she lost her husband to HIV, shared my home with her, even as she taught me quiet lessons on faith, waiting and receiving. I have mourned the loss of Pornima alongside the women at Sari Bari and I jumped into the dirtiest river I have ever seen, to share in the washing away of the tears after the funeral. In the last 5 years, I have seen more than 80 women celebrate their first freedom birthday on the day they entered Sari Bari for training and just a few weeks ago 2 women who have been with us since the beginning , marked their 5th freedom birthday and 8 more celebrated 4 years! We have celebrated birthdays, retreats, graduations, births and freedom together. These women are now deeply apart of my story and I am so very honored to have been invited to be a part of theirs!

I celebrate the journey and I celebrate being invited into the stories of so many amazing people. I celebrate you, my friends and family, who have journeyed with me, visited me, upheld me and my community in prayer, and also been so generous and faithful in creating the opportunity for me to be here with your support. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

I am looking forward to the stories of the next ten years of stories in Kolkata and looking forward to my upcoming Sabbatical which I am sure will be full of opportunities to join in new stories and invite others into mine!

With a spirit of thankful celebration for all that God has done in and through these many stories,