So Thursday…the day to end all days…I hate to say what a favorite part of the trip was…but if I HAD to then this would be the day. It began like Wednesday and we went to the office to do devotions with the team and it was on a story in Matthew about preservation. I honestly needed to hear it, because it was about not giving away parts of yourself to fools or pigs (something like that) and it was saying to keep what is holy holy and to use discretion and discernment when opening yourself up to people. That is a hard lesson to learn for someone who wants to give to people all the time. It’s true though, because Jesus didn’t waste his time on people who weren’t ready to accept the gospel. It’s worth it but it's also worth it to be careful when you get berated all the time for what you believe. I think that could be especially true for the team in Calcutta. They are in a city that does not know the one true God and they are often ridiculed and not accepted for what they believe and try to express, so I think it was also good for them to hear. After that we sang “Amazing love” (another favorite of mine). We then headed off to meet with Badisha’s parents at our hotel.
A short back story on that… Julia works for an organization in Atlanta that deals with asylum cases and this woman who is from Calcutta but living in Atlanta because she married another Indian who has a work visa here. It was a very abusive relationship and she got out but now her visa expires in April and her parents and family all live in India still but she doesn’t want to go back because of the stigma associated with getting a divorce there and she would not have many opportunities if she went back. So it all just happened to work out that Julia needed some papers from the parents but it would take too long to ship them and we just happened to be going to Calcutta (God thing) so we could meet the family and get the papers from them in person. It was supposed to be just a quick drop off but ended up being an hour and a half of meeting over coffee. At first it was just a standard talk about how we were liking India and what kinds of things we were seeing or wanted to see. The family didn’t speak great English but it worked out fine. But at one point the mother grabbed Julia’s hand and started crying and was just saying that she had no idea what the man was like and that if they had any idea how crazy he was, they never would have sent her there, and just pleading with Julia to help her only daughter. Needless to say…Julia started crying too and then so did I. It was just really apparent (in a society where that’s not necessarily the norm) how much they cared for their daughter and how much it pained them that she was so far away and they couldn’t really do anything to help her. It was just really emotional and especially coming off of an entirely emotional trip that hadn’t been given any attention by me as of yet. I will say that after that point, it was downhill on the emotions.
Moving along though. After we left there we were off to Caligat to visit Sari Bari. That is an organization that employs ex ‘line workers’ and or their children to make things out of old sari’s. It started 5 years ago with 3 women and has grown to employing over 70 people. The woman Melissa who works there has been there about a year and has a commitment of 3 years to be in Calcutta. She was amazing. I say that in general for what she is doing and what she has given up to be there. But she is amazing because we spoke for an hour and a half and it was mostly her talking. Sometimes things like that could be boring, but I was held in constant attention because she is in love with what she does. She loves the work and believes in it and speaks with a passion about it that can keep you enthralled for hours. It was so inspiring to hear someone talk like that about their work. It’s what people say all the time that they want, a job that they love to do and enjoy doing. Don’t get me wrong. She told about the hard times and the struggle of being there and being away from her family all the time, but for the most part, what undescribable joy she experienced there. She said that it’s hard to talk to people at home sometimes because they don’t understand the gravity of the life that she has given up (she wasn’t sounding like “I’m so awesome for doing this”) but also the immense joy that she feels being there at the same time. It was just really great to be there and to see the women and to see the possibility of change and a flicker of light in an otherwise dark city. They have also opened up different locations in the region and even one prevention program near to try and combat the problem of trafficking in high risk areas.
We left there and went back to the office to meet up with Tricia (Vic’s wife) to go to Sonagachi to Love Calcutta arts. Biju’s wife Anna works there right now and she was going to be our tour guide. It is a very similar concept except they make different product but still out of old Sari’s. It was great to see a different place doing the same work, but also to see another side of the problem. We were lucky to be able to see the progression while we were there of what IJM does and the resulting work of other organizations from aftercare homes to the women having jobs afterwards.
After that we headed back to the office and met up with the men. They had a really great end to the training and the relationship building aspect of it was so key to the whole process. They weren’t eating dinner, and Julia and I had been invited to go over to Liz, Aimee, and Kari’s apt to hang out so we opted for that. Their cleaning woman was also making them dinner so we were going to get a home cooked meal that I was looking forward to very much. We had a truly amazing meal per usual, and then Liz made this chocolate sauce that we had on some ice cream to top it all off. We had such a great time at their place hanging out with them and just talking and getting to know each other more. I think I may have already mentioned this but I love getting to know people, and especially people who are ‘doing’ things for the kingdom. I think the coolest people I have ever met are the ones I have met abroad who are doing different kind of work but all have such a cool story of how they got there and what they want to do later. All that being said…I do love the people I know at home too ☺
We stayed there pretty late and then got a cab back to the hotel to get ready for our last day of touring. I wasn’t honestly looking forward to it very much but it ended up going really great and a nice way to end the trip.
Friday Mar 4
So Julia and I had high hopes for getting up at 530am and going to the flower market…but needless to say that didn’t happen. We had to get up at 7am anyway to go and see Khushboo before she went to school because we wouldn’t see her again. She was wonderful, and so sad to see us go, but we took lots of pics and gave lots of hugs as well. She is a precious girl that I have come to enjoy as much as I could in one week. We went to the office after that to do mastergame (essentially trivia) and devotion. Jay was doing devotion and had asked us to all say a little something about what our time had meant to us. He was speaking from Romans about Paul and the church in Rome being mutually encouraging to each other. Also, he was talking about how he was wanted to get to Spain but from all accounts we don’t think he ever made it there, but that perhaps God put Spain on his heart to make him write a letter to the Romans, which then ended up being an extremely important part of the New Testament. He made the connection that maybe some things are on our hearts, but that it’s for the purpose of getting something done in the present and not even about the actual thing. When it was my turn, I said that I had this image of India (having never been) that it was this dark and Godless place, but that being there and seeing the work IJM was doing in the city, and the flicker of light that it produced was extremely encouraging, as well as the individual people that were there and actually being the hands and feet of Jesus. I also referenced a devotion that I read the night before about a command that Jesus told Peter in John 21, to “feed my sheep”. These interns and employees are feeding the sheep in real and tangible ways and it was so great to witness that and to be able to pray with them and for them in all they are struggling with. We were told that there was going to be a mission that night to rescue a Nepali girl who was 16 and had been spotted in a brothel in Sonagachi. We got word when we touched down in Germany that the mission had been successful and they got that girl and one other and arrested 2 pimps. It’s so crazy. So after devotion and mastergame we went and packed up our stuff and headed off to explore the city. We went to the Victoria Memorial, New Market, and Hogg Market to do touristy things. It was a nice day with the guys and being able to be with them during the day since we hadn’t pretty much the whole week.
For dinner that night Vic wanted to take us out to dinner to the Hyatt for our last meal. To say that was a change of scenery is an understatement. It was beautiful, even by American standards. We had a wonderful meal and it was the 4 of us, Vic, Tricia, Biju, Anna, Catherine, Aimee, and Kari. The time spent with them was great and really nice to get to kind of decompress a little bit. Everyone but Biju, Anna, and Catherine left after dinner and we hung out in the lounge of the hotel for a few more hours because our flight from Calcutta wasn’t leaving until 230am and we didn’t want to get to the airport that early. When we did finally tell everyone goodbye and head to the airport, I was exhausted. I hate goodbyes and especially in places that I have truly come to enjoy the time and people I am spending time with. We boarded the plane and I was asleep right as we took off. I slept for a good 4 hours and it was great. The sleep schedule never really got easy there so it was just more of when I’m tired, I take a quick nap. We flew 10 hours to Germany, and then had a 3 hour layover, and then boarded for another 10 hour flight to the states. I was really tired of sitting by the end of all that.
We arrived at 4pm Saturday and Ash came and picked me up and we spent the next 4 hours talking and catching up. I’m really fortunate that I have someone who genuinely asks how it was and wants to hear the long version. We went and had dinner with my mom and brother Chris. After that I needed to pack for Colorado and I was pretty much falling asleep so it was time to finally go to bed, in my bed!
I’m looking forward to the time away from home, but still home in the US to begin to process a little and be able to be MIA from “real life”.
I don’t know that I am ready to write or process, but I’m sure it will come.