Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Finding the joy

This past week has been a hard one, and after a particularly hard day one of the Freeset volunteers asked me how do you keep going?
The answer is I find the joy
So I thought I would share with you all some of the things that bring me joy
1) I find joy in the smile of a new girl just starting in our training programme as she tries to sew her first bag
2) I find joy as I walk home from the market and have my eyes covered from behind by one of our ladies saying "guess who"
3) I find joy in watching our ladies worship
4) I find joy in ladies who have seen that I have been to busy to eat so share their spicy puffed rice with me
5) I find joy in the lady that rubs my back during devotions
6) I find joy when one of our ladies who is sick in hospital grasps my hand in trust that I will make it all better
7) I find joy in my landlady who sees me come home tired at the end of a long day and presents me with a plate of curry and rice so I don't have to cook
8) I find joy in the spontaneous belly laughs that happen many times a day

You see amongst the hard things there is always joy to be found.
Some days you have to peel back the sadness and the trials but the joy is there
I am thankful for this community and the joy it brings

Friday, November 4, 2011

Visiting the Village

This week I left the city for a few days to head to a district where a good chunk of the women I work with are from. It is not only a trafficking source but also a destination.
I visited the main town as well as three villages.
It was interesting, heartbreaking, anger inducing, but most of all hopeful.
We are looking at starting something new in these areas to stop girls from entering the sex trade.
Two things stood out to me on this trip.
The first was a family. We are talking a mum and two girls 12 and 8.
The mum has been involved in the sex industry for the last 10 years she was trafficked into the area. I have the opportunity to sit down and chat with her. When I ask her if the kids go to school she answers, no how could I send them to school, I have no money.
We chatted for a little while longer, but this family stayed with me the next day and the next day.
I was looking ahead to the future of her girls. Her 12 her old daughter just starting to enter puberty; no school, no opportunity for school, no hope of a job, daughter of a sex worker. What will her future be? Unfortunately she will most likely follow the path of her mother, what else is there? What else does she know?
We are looking at starting work in these villages so this girl and girls just like her don't have to be sold. It's exciting and it gives me hope, hope for this girl.

The second thing that really stuck me as I process all that I saw was the utter evil in human nature. That people could do this to other people. In one village we went to, the girls serviced customers in a shack with only three walls. There was no mattress on the floor no door. For this the girls must pay 200RPS a night. That is more than what I pay for my home.
It is horrific and twisted that others are making so much money of another humans indignity.
In the main town of this district there are a group of older ladies who have been in the trade for many many years. Their situation is even more disturbing, they don't have any place in which to service customers, they must go into the field and do it there.
As I sat and chatted with these ladies men came and went taking a lady into the field and returning 5 mins later. It was sad, and it made me angry. These are real women, with real feelings. How could someone do this to another person. These women had all drunk a lot of alcohol by the time we sat to chat with them, no doubt to mask the pain of what they had to do to be able to eat the next day.

As I was reflecting, processing and praying through what I saw and experienced I came across Psalm 5: 1-3 and I made it my prayer.
Listen to my words, Lord
consider my lament
Hear my cry for help
my King and my God
for to You I pray
In the morning Lord you hear my voice
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait expectantly

God let your kingdom come.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I'm moving in

So I found a house and after 5 and a half months of living in Kolkata I am moving in.
I am excited about this new transition, but it is a little daunting as well. I will be moving from a fun lively social flat of foreigners to a small one room place on the outskirts of a red light district.
I guess most people would be thinking, why on earth would you want to do that. Isn't it enough that you live and work in Kolkata!!!
Well yes and no.
I really want to be able to build some good relationships with the women I work with, not only during work hours but outside of work hours, and with the women from my community in general. I know that I will never be like these women. There will always exist barriers to our friendship, but I want to do my part in removing some of the barriers that do exist. It is a hard concept to explain because it is so backward to the Western mindset, but I feel that this is the path God is taking me on and so I am following. A little unsure with lots of excitement at what is in store.
I am taking a step downwards, to try and live a little more simply, to learn from my friends and neighbours and in my learning build relationships and share of love and of hope and of freedom.
I look forward to inviting friends round to mine for a cha after work. To sit and chat with my neighbours to do life in community. To have a home that my friends feel comfortable to just drop by and say hello.
It is amazing the road that God takes us on. 10 years ago I had plans and dreams and none of them involved India, red light areas or simple living. But today I am excited about my little house, I couldn't think of anything else I would rather be doing. I love the women in my community and am excited and privileged to be able to do life with them.
Until next time........

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mukti - Freedom

I see you one in a line of hundreds

Forced to stand for sale

No longer seen as human

Rather a product for purchase

I stop, I say hello

We talk

I move on

Your next ‘customer’ awaits

How different is my life to yours

All I know is freedom

All you can see is captivity

Yet our lives collide

I want to come and make it right

Snatch you from that place of horror

And never let you return

But I can’t

Instead we offer choice

Some come running

Others are scared

What will you do?

There is a battle going on

But take heart the war has been won

I leave you in the hands of the Father

May you find peace

May you find Freedom

It is found in the arms of Christ

Thursday, July 14, 2011

It has been about a month since my last blog, and my heart is still in the same place.
Love hurts
In the last few weeks I have seen so much pain and suffering, and while in all cases it has not affected me personally it has affected friends and my community.
Because I love and feel so much a part of this community I stand along side my friends in their grief and it is hard. Love still hurts.
As I stood next to *Rika(name changed) as she cried out at the loss of her brother, my heart broke.
She had lost her older brother the protector of the family, she was already a widow and now no more brothers. I have had the privilege of walking through the grieving process with Rika and her family and it is hard.
I was able to pray for her family - my first making sense Bangla prayer - It has opened up relationships with other members of her family.
There has been other tragedies still to raw to share in a blog, but the feeling remains love hurts.
We gathered as an expat community last night to share and pray amongst the suffering and someone said that they now have a fuller appreciation of the suffering Christ.
How much more must His pain and suffering have been.

I find it so hard to articulate the goings on in my heart.
I am beginning to grasp what this long term journey is going to look like.
It is going to be about doing life with people about sharing in the joys and sharing in the sorrow and suffering.
It is going to be tough because love hurts.
I know this post sounds all doom and gloom but it isn't there is a joy behind the sorrow.
I am in the place God wants me to be, walking along side my community not because I have too but because I love them and you are there for the people you love.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Love Hurts

As I sit here and think about what to write on my blog and share with you all, I start to struggle. It has been an interesting last few weeks. A rollercoaster of highs and lows and I feel like I am just hanging on for the ride.

I have been hanging out lots with the ladies that work at our business. Visiting with them after work hours getting to know these ladies as friends rather than just woman I work with. I have the advantage of having a bit of language so have found myself in some wonderful conversations about life, love, God and everything in between. I find myself loving the women of this community in a way I don’t think I have ever experienced before. When you find yourself loving on such women your heart begins to ache at the hurt that has happened and the hurt that continues as a result of the life of abuse these women have suffered.

Mother Theresa says it well “True love is love that causes us pain, that hurts, and yet brings us joy. We must pray to God and ask Him to give us the courage to love."

I have started doing health checks on all of the staff at our business. Just basic sorts of questions assessing their general health and well being. It has been a little bit of an eye opener for me as to how much of an impact their past is having on their health today. All most every woman has something wrong with her. Ranging from anaemia to HIV.

When these woman are no longer just patients to me, but friends, woman that I love, I cannot help but have my heart broken over the struggles and hardships they face. That is what the last few weeks have been like. Building these wonderful friendships and then having a broken heart about the circumstances they are in, usually through no fault of their own.

But although my heart breaks, there are moments of joy and happiness too. After a particularly depressing day of bad health reports, a lady excitedly comes up to me saying I think I am pregnant where can I go to get a test. Her eyes were shinning with joy, and it warmed my heart to see such delight in a new life.

I am also excited about the future and getting to a point where we can start to make inroads on some of the more basic health issues, through education and understanding. I am also excited to continue building relationships and love on these women even if it hurts.

Luv you all


Monday, May 9, 2011

I walked past you today

Sorry it has been a while, I have been back in New Zealand and am now here in India.
Here is something I wrote in my first week in India after daily walking the streets of the red light district

I walked past you today
One among thousands but you stood out
Why, I am not sure
Perhaps it was your quiet dignity
Maybe the smile that masked the pain
I stopped to talk
and you greeted me with such a beautiful smile
but I could see the un shed tears in your eyes
As I spoke of freedom you appeared unsure
A place of freedom for people like me?
but I am so bad
All your life people have lied to you
You have been tricked, abused and suffered at the hands of injustice
It is no wonder you don't trust me or my words of freedom
I prayed for you tonight
You don't know but I pray for your freedom
You touched my heart with your shame and your pain
As I walk the lanes a sea of pain, I shudder
Treated as less than human
Used, abused, left to pick up the pieces and keep on living
I try to enter your world with my message of freedom
So naive as to what you must go through
But I do know my heart has broken for you
You and the thousands like you
May I never forget the pain I felt for you tonight
Pray that I will never loose sight of what it is all about
Pray that I will continue to fight for your freedom so that you may come to know the true freedom giver.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Two Sides of a Cricket World Cup

I was thinking yesterday how here in Bangladesh I live in a world of extremes. Situations of extreme joy and situations of extreme sorrow. An abundance of food and thousands who go to bed hungry. Extreme wealth and extreme poverty. Good health and terrible sickness.
What got me thinking was my mate Raj*. Raj is 8years old, he makes his living by selling stickers at Gulshan 2 circle. I walk through that circle at least twice a day so have got to know him and a few other kids quite well, and would call them friends. Raj doesn't try to sell me stickers now but just comes over for a chat.
I haven't seen Raj or any of my friends from the Gulshan 2 circle for a while. It is all to do with the cricket world cup. The government made orders about cars and buses being tided up, they planted numerous flowers, put statues up, erected giant cricket balls as well as big screens to watch the cricket on, and generally had the place spruced up a bit. It has quite an atmosphere about the place - especially when Bangladesh is playing.
Unfortunately for Raj, sprucing the place up meant he was out.
But yesterday I saw Raj. He greeted me with a big smile and a kemon achen (how are you), I responded by saying bhalo ache (I am good) and then asked where he had been as I had not seen him in a long time. He tells me that the police beat him and took him far away. He tells me it is still difficult now because of the cricket. He explains all of this with a shrug of his shoulders as if to say, this is just the way life is, before seeing a potential customer and running of with a dekha hobe (see you again).
It is a place of extremes here. As people enjoy the glitz and glamour of joint hosting the cricket world cup, we have people like Raj who are cast aside and treated as less than human. It is hard to see both sides. I sometimes feel guilty for enjoying the less crowded streets since the poor have been removed. I feel sadness and anger towards a country that allows this kind of treatment of it's poor, and I wait expectantly, praying for God's Kingdom to come in Bangladesh.

*name changed

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Reflections on a great week

This had to be the follow on from the last blog :)
I had a trip to Kolkata this last week just a few days to catch up with the team and have a few meetings.
It was wonderful to be in the place that will be my home and dream of possibilities for the future.
I have some concrete things I will be doing when I arrive at the end of April, all of which I am very excited about. I managed to catch up with a few friends as well.
I was inwardly dreading the return to Bangladesh after such a good week in Kolkata, but the week back here has been wonderful.

I have started a new module at language school which is medical vocab and lessons. It is hard work but great. Reminds me of my first few days at nursing school, trying to remember all of the body parts, disease names etc except this time it really is another language :).

It has also been fun to watch all of Bangladesh become so excited about the hosting of the opening ceremony of the ICC World Cup. They have been cleaning the streets ordering new paint work on all the buses and having a general spruce up. I watched the opening ceremony last night and felt proud to be in Bangladesh. What an achievement for them.
I think I was most excited about seeing the team captains brought in on a rickshaw each. Those rickshaws drivers looked so proud to be a part of the ceremony, and it optimised so much about Bangladesh. Ah you got to love it.

Well that is about it, it is hard to articulate what makes a week good, but it has been a good one. No stars on the start chart - see previous post if you are confused about this - Some good chill outs with God, and feeling super excited about the future.
Hope your weeks have been as good as mine.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Reflections on a hard week

So this week has been hard, maybe it is because I am in another culture shock cycle, maybe it is because I am sick of being in a classroom,or maybe it was from a bad day of harassment.
I had one very bad day on Thursday - loosing the plot and doing a lot of shouting and very close to swinging my bag (which contained at the time a very large heavy dictionary) in the direction of one man's head. Ah it's been a hard week.
Let me tell you what happened. I was walking down the street on my way to class and a guy walks past me and shouts in my face "whore". Not pleasant- however nothing to unusual. Despite being dressed in a very conservative manner all of the time I experience this sort of harassment on a semi regular basis. Some days it gets to you other days you can just shake it off.
About 30seconds later a car drives past, the driver stops and asks me to get in he wants my services for 2hours (use your imagination as to what he wants) after telling him no he repeated his statement again this time using some expletives. Again I said no. The third time he called me some very nasty things.
At this point I let loose with a range of expletives of my own letting him know just what a horrible person he is etc etc. I was simultaneously working out if I could manage to hit him in the head with my bag (and heavy dictionary) through the car window. Fortunately for both of our sakes the range of expletives I spoke made him understand that I was not interested.
This was the last straw I came home and was mad not just at the man but at the culture at life and everything.
I was trying to figure it out, and wrote in my journal trying to process through everything. Here is a little excerpt:
Sometimes this place feels too much for me. Who am I amongst it all? Who am I when people speak negatively into my life? Who am I when I no longer find my identity in what I am doing? Who am I when I am struggling with language? Who am I when I feel as though I can't do anything right? Who am I when I am no longer in control of anything.
Who am I? I am a beloved child of God, that is who I am. Regardless of what strangers speak into my life. This is my identity.

I feel like this is what made it seem so overwhelming. I lost track of who I was.
God is with me, he sees what is happening, he sees the hurt, he hears the mocking and He is there, walking me through it.
It is still really hard and I don't like the shouting but when I remember who I am and that I am not alone it is easier to process and deal with.
My flatmates and I have also come up with a star chart. Each shouting gets you a star, a particularly bad shout and you get a purple star worth 5 of the regular ones. Once we hit 50 stars we get a treat :)
We started last week and I am about halfway

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Prayer of Reflection on Romans 12:1-2

"Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God - this is your true worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will" Romans 12 1-2

God your mercy and love astounds me
It is so hard to grasp the idea of unconditional love
Help me to experience your love mercy and grace more fully

You call for living sacrifices
Today I offer my life afresh
Help me to see where you are active
and to be used by you

I want to worship you in all that I do
When life is hard may I praise you
When life is busy may I praise you
In the noise and in the quiet may my life worship You

I am so often tempted by this world
When I am tempted be my light
May your word be my weapon
Draw me closer

Your will is good, perfect and pleasing
Help me to see where you have been faithful in the past
Help me to trust you for my future

God you are good
You love me completely
Help me to love others as You love me
Continue to grow me and challenge me