Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Favorite day in Kolkota: Howrah Station, Kali Temple, dying people and brothels

 Why would my favorite day include such brokenness and idol worship that my title mentions? It's not that I delight in the latter but rather I delight in the hope that exists in such dark circumstances. I am so glad that upon our arrival to Kolkota, we were introduced to JIAC, where exactly sex workers now have the opportunity to learn about Jesus, learn how to read and write, learn English and work in an honorable trade (jewelry making). In addition, we went to the Children's home, where homeless children have been rescued to a good home. Seeing the women at JIAC and the kids at the children's home allowed me to see the hope that exists for those who continue to be in a hopeless situation of homelessness or prostitution.

Something that I learned about myself here in Kolkota is that I love to be at the beginning of the process; in the dark and hopeless circumstance. Most of the team likes to be in the nurturing part of the process; being with the children at the home and with the women at JIAC. I admit that walking into dirty slums and brothels is not comfortable or pretty but there's something about it that stirs my heart. I am just so impressed with how Jesus shines in the darkness. This is why I love working with ex-offenders, the homeless and going into slums and brothels; because I see the light of Jesus shining in the darkness. The darker the place, the more I want to go there to see Jesus shine His truth and hope.
This is what we did on my fave day:

  • Went to Howrah station to connect with the kids who live there. Had a great time with them. I longed to know how to speak Bengali so I could connect with them even more. I don't know if I'll have the opportunity to see them again because our schedule is so packed. They told me that the next time I come, they want me to bring a downloaded movie on my playbook. That made me laugh. It's so cute...they want to have a movie day!
  • Next, we went to Kalighat (area surrounding the Kali temple). Walking down to the temple, about 90% of the stands we passed were selling idolatrous merchandise. We finally arrived to the Kali temple and witnessed some people sacrificing at the outer court. 
  • Right beside the Kali temple is Mother Theresa's home for the sick and dying. We went in to greet the people in there. My heart was pierced when I saw a dying women groan with pain. I have volunteered in hospice before and it brought back sour memories for me of seeing people die. Now that's a job I cannot do, to help the sick and dying. 
  • We then walked to the brothels. We visited one lady who is not a prostitute anymore because Jesus has redeemed her. She was sick, so we prayed for her in a small house/room that we later came to find out was a room for rent for prostitution. Yet, Jesus' presence was there as we prayed over this woman and we sang worship songs. As we were leaving Kalighat, it was pouring rain. We saw sex trade workers under umbrellas, waiting for clientelle, despite the rain. 
  • We ended our work day with some street chai and rashgula. 
  • We came home, got ready and celebrated Monique's (the missionary we're working with) birthday with her friends and family. It was an honor to share this day with her. She is so loved. 

I came home so stirred up. I prayed to God that he would use me in the dark places, like the ones we visited. I loved this day so much, it made me not want to leave India. I was also thankful and amazed that despite the long day under the sun and out walking, I was not tired. My health in India had been extraordinary! Praise Jesus. I was so concerned about my health before coming to India. God has surely and faithfully taken care of me.

Thanks for reading this. Keep praying for our team and this wonderful ministry in Kolkota.

 Here are some pictures of the day:

Friday, July 26, 2013

Kolkota updates, reflections and observations

In the past few days, our India missions team has had so many special opportunities. I'll attempt to share a few as well as my reflections and observations. 


  • Our team shared a devotional with the ladies at Jewels In A Crown ( JIAC ) about the love that Jesus has called us and empowered us to have toward other Christians. We were told it was a timely word for them.
  • We taught an English lesson, going over the alphabet and teaching them the English words for our body parts. We also taught them the song "head and shoulders". They loved it!
  • Went to a church care group where I was invited to share my testimony. 
  • Here's one of my favorite parts of the week...going to Howrah Station (2nd busiest station in India) to look for and connect with people who live there. These people are mostly children who beg or steal or scrounge to survive. Some have families and some don't. That day there wasn't many children because there was lots of military men around; so the kids get scared and hide (to avoid getting beat or mistreated). Because there were hardly any kids around,  we went to a slum. There, we met many kids and played with them. Because I didn't want to exploit anyone,  I didn't want to take their picture,  but to my surprise, they love getting their picture taken. 

  • We led a chapel service at the slum school. Our message was "you are fearfully and wonderfully made" (psalm 139: 14).

I answered a few emails yesterday which I was avoiding because I want to concentrate on the mission and because I simple don't want to deal with business. It discouraged me to read the emails because it reminded me of some unpleasant businesses I will go back home to face. I felt like I didn't want to go back to Canada. I am falling in love with the work that is being done here. I also feel so comfortable here. These missionaries and this ministry is truly seeking to feed the poor, invite the outcasts and shelter the homeless in the name of Jesus. Yet all these things I also attempt to do in Canada. I realized that maybe I feel like being here more because it's all new and exciting for me and no hardship has presented itself. Am I trying to run away from the trials that surface in the ministries I'm involved with back home? 
On another note,  I have become interested to learn more about some things I've encountered here in Kolkota: eunuchs, airplane glue addicts, slums and brothels. I. Have always been interested in evangelizing in and to the darkest places. maybe this is why the latter subjects interest me. 

From the first day,  I noticed so many men. This isofcoursea male dominated society. However,  these are also the effects of gendercide (the abortion of females) which is common here because boys are a blessing and girls require theparents to provide a dowry (monetary/asset gift) when she marries. A dowry is very expensive for poor parents to give;  for this reason, many girls are aborted.
On another note, a simple observation I've made about myself is that I love to teach. I forget this often but when the opportunity comes up your educate, I get excited.

Thanks for following what we're doing on this trip. I share what I do be because I like to, to encourage others in mission and to update my supporters. Thank you. Continue praying for us please. 

Sorry for spelling mistakes and random bold print. It's hard to blog on a playbook!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Day 2 in Kolkota- the ladies, the children's home and my insecurity

In the morning, our team visited the women's group at Jewels In A Crown (JIAC).  We were impacted by the redemption we witnessed in the women as they worshipped Jesus, read the Bible and learned English. These women have been rescued by Jesus and his faithful labourers from the sex trade and shown the way of life in the Son of God.
In the afternoon, we went shopping for Indian clothes, so that we could fit in and relate to the people we will encounter.
Next, we went to one the ministry's children's home. The home was in a village. We had to walk on muddy trails that did not have any mercy on our clean feet. This was very unpleasant for me. I felt like such a city girl. The children we visited have been rescued from the train station were they used to try to survive by begging or doing menial tasks for money. Some children were orphans and some had parents that were not able to care for them (ex. due to alcoholism). At their new home, they are cared for and educated by people who love and serve Jesus.
It was on this day that I was impacted most so far. Although the children touched my heart, the ones I was most impacted by were the house parents. They were so kind, loving, godly and persevering. They shared with us about the struggles that they went through yet they were not discouraged by them whatsoever. But rather, they said "these are only trials that come to life, but Jesus is greater than those and we keep our focus on Him". I admire them more than they know. It encourages me to be faithful in ministry. Jesus, let me serve You faithfully till the day I die!
The last thing I want to share is that on this day, from the morning, I was struggling with something. My whole team was white, while I was the only brown person on the team. Many of them are stared at and served very well here in India. Because I look Indian- yet it is noticicable that I am not from here- I do not receive that special treatment. I felt torn. I was flattered and happy that I look Bengali, yet I felt left out because I was not treated like my teammates and I could not relate to their experiences. It bothered me so much. I prayed and asked God why. Could it be that I also wanted to be admired? Did I want to be viewed as special, like them? I don't know. Maybe it's something I'm not ready to admit but I knew it was wrong. I prayed throughout the day and it got better. I was viewing it as a disadvantage. It also brought up a lot of things inside of me that reminded me of negative experiences in Canada because of being a minority. I cried and confessed it to the team that night during our debrief. Instead of viewing it as a disadvantage, I had to remember that God can use by brown skin. The 2nd person who told me I looked Bengali on the first day said "the women will be so happy that you look the same as them. You will be able to relate to them". Those were such positive words. I had to remember those words and pray that it would be true lest my India experience would be ruined.

1st day in Kolkota

Before arriving to Kolkata, our India missions team arrived in Banglore. Although we didn't leave the airport, we got a little taste of Indians culture and weather. As soon as we arrived at Banglore airport,  I was reminded of El Salvador, which is where I'm from. The airport was simple, small and not as full (as I expected it to be). We boarded our plane, and I was so excited that we only had a 2 hour flight ahead of us. I kept looking out the window, hoping the plane would go faster than usual. My anticipation was high and I couldn't wait any longer!  Finally, when the plane was landing, I had a high and distant glimpse of Kolkata. There was a lot of greenery, colorful buildings and many cars. When we finally landed, I looked At the land and I shed a couple of unexpected tears of relief, joy and gratefulness to God for this opportunity.
Once again,this airport reminded me of El Salvador. Our team picked up our bags and began to look for the missionaries who we are partering with for the next few weeks. We finally saw them and they greeted us each with a red rose. We got in the van and began driving to our guest house. I was so excited I forgot I was tired.
Kolkota reminded me so much of El Salvador; the palm trees, the heat, the crazy traffic, random farm animals on the street and poverty. Of course, Kolkota's poverty is worse than El Salvador's. Maybe it was the fact that Kolkota reminded me of my country that I felt at home; I felt so comfortable.
We toured different parts of kolkata that day, including the Ganges river. We walked the city's streets while our white team members were starred at and pulled at by poor people begging.
Our whole team was warned repeatedly of the culture shock we would experience. We waited the entire day for the shock to hit us...and nothing. In my experience, I felt so at home and comfortable, I did not experience that shock to my senses or my cultural norm. I think this was a blessing and a positive experience.
Lastly, I just want to share that twice on my first day in Kolkota, I was told I look Bengali. I laughed because I knew this would happen!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Will my body betray me?

In 2 days, I leave to India.
I am so excited but to be so honest, sometimes I feel my excitement is overshadowed by worrying about my health.

Yesterday, my nieces and I had just come home from being at the mall. I was so fatigued when I came back, I felt I was going to pass out. My 6 year old niece asked me if I wanted to play outside with her. I said "No, the sun makes me tired.". Then my niece said "You're always tired". I almost teared up when she said that because she was right.

One of the symptoms I feel all the time is fatigue. After the simplest tasks, I get so tired. Fatigue, along with other symptoms like sleepless nights, migraines and rare pain is a bit of what I experience.

Many times, I make plans to go out with friends or go to an event and I have to cancel because of how my body feels. It's so unpredictable and it's so frustrating.

I have truly been afraid that my body will betray me while I am in India. If the heat gets to me here in Canada...how much more in India? I already have problems sleeping in my own bed....how will I sleep on the plane or a different country? If I get so weak here form the simplest tasks, how will I be on the go for 3 weeks?

I cry just thinking about it. I have been praying so hard that my health will not hinder the mission. Hmmm...did I just say that? hinder the mission? Whose mission is this? Jesus' mission. What can hinder Jesus? Nothing!

Last night, I had a hard time falling asleep. Sometimes, when I can't sleep, I begin thinking of the word of God and the characteristics of God. I become so comforted when thinking about such things that I fall asleep. Last night, I feel asleep remembering the powerful miracles of God; opening the Red Sea, healing lepers, raising the dead. God is so powerful. The Bible says that He is the same yesterday, today and forever. I prayed last night "God, if you were powerful enough to do that (the miracles) than why am I doubting that You will intervene if my health were to go wrong during the missions trip?

God, help me to trust in you. You are creator of my body and therefore Lord of it. Please protect me and my teammates' health. Lord, that You would take over any health concerns. You are powerful God. We're not going on this trip because it's convenient for us; we go for You. Have grace on us, cover us with protection and give us good health. That You would prevail in this. Keep my eyes on You and help me to keep trusting in you in this aspect. May Your Son be glorified in all. Amen. 

Friends, if you'd like to know about what to pray about for me; this is it- my health. Please pray that I will have good health and good sleep while in India. Thank you.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Preparing a lesson on "Healthy Sexuality in God's View"

I have been waiting for this week to come. In 6 days, I will be flying to India for my first missions trip. The reason why I have been waiting for this week to come is because I will be using this week to prepare for India; praying, lesson planning, researching, etc.

Just a few weeks ago I was informed that I will be teaching a lesson on "Healthy Sexuality in God's View". The missionary has considered the gifts, areas of interest and passion of our team members and applied it to how we will minister on the missions trip. So, according to my particular interest on the topic I will be teaching on and my ability to teach, I will be doing just that.

For those who don't know, our team will be working 2 groups: 1) Women who are/have been in the sex trade and 2) Children who may (or may not) have been orphaned and beg at the train station.

I just sighed after typing the latter. It's going to be intense. I know it.

Now, the anxiety I'm feeling right now is about the lesson I have to teach on. I have taught on the topic of sexuality before, to youth and girls...but not to women in the sex trade...in India. It's a little intimidating.

Can I be vulnerable with you?

What if I don't teach according to their context?
What if the lesson sounds judgmental?
What if I don't validate what they have gone through?

These are just some of the 'what if's' I have been asking myself. I cannot depend on myself, I need to depend on God the Holy Spirit to teach through me.

Lord, please teach your truths through me and the rest of our team. Let us be bold in declaring your truths but also loving, wise, understanding and creative. Let us not fear. Help us to be confident in your truths. The Bible (Isaiah 55:11) says that Your Word does not return void, so I pray that Your Word will be be sprinkled in the women and children's hearts and that Your Holy Spirit would do the work of germination in them. That fruit would grow, fruit that would multiply and glorify Jesus, according to John 15. 
Jesus, be lifted up with our words, deeds and motives as we prep and as we go to India. Amen.