Monday, January 16, 2017

India Day 10: The Darkness Shall Not Overcome

This post is part of a series from a Discovery Trip to visit one of Partners International's partners in Kolkata, India. JKPS works in community development, social justice, adult education and with children at risk. Resources like bikes, clean water wells, monthly partnership with a local pastor go a long way to enabling this vital ministry to the Bengali people.

Tonight, we walked near the brothels of Kalighat. The streets bursting with people, it carried a very distinct feeling from Nicole and my own journey early last week. Where that was an isolated journey as aliens into a foreign world, this was an area where you could easily overlook the presence of the brothels entirely.

Peer a bit deeper down one of the alleyways, however and the shadow of the insidious underbelly showed. The women of this area are older than Sonagachi, in their thirties and forties, and so command less work and lower prices. Smita shared that they work for approximately 50 rupees (1 Canadian Dollar) for thirty minutes.

All around the area were religious images, idols and shrines. Down the street is the Kali temple, overwhelmed by worshippers in town to visit a Sundarban Island temple that is only accessible this time of year. The air thick with the smells of cooking and the smells of cramped spaces. People rub up against you and slide past as you walk down the street. Young children, under the age of five play in the full streets by pulling one another on top of plastic bottles, fashioning skis for their feet.

Through it all, the value of these women touched our hearts. Where we only saw 25 women on the street, nearly a thousand work in the area, in the alleys hidden from sight. They give their bodies to make a living, often out of necessity, rather than choice. At their age, some of have resigned themselves to the life that has been dealt to them. They are poor in so much more than money, but in spirit and heart.

It is always a bit surreal, coming to the end of such a monumental trip. Only ten days ago, the team landed in Kolkata after 25+ hours in the air early in the morning. The time all blurs together, with unique, significant experiences piling up one after another. Each of us will be processing the ways that the Lord has worked in our lives for months to come.

Through it all, there are themes that stand tall. It is evident in our time here the deep love that the JKPS and Mahima staff have for each other and for those they serve. They truly embody the family of God here in West Bengal, and for our brief time here have welcomed us with open arms as brother and sisters to fellowship with them.

There is a transparency and vulnerability in each of them that is humbling to us as guests. They have interrupted their regular lives to usher us around their country, opening their hearts, ministries and vulnerabilities to us.

As I reflect back on the past ten days, I am nearly overwhelmed with the huge work that is left to be done here in West Bengal. The sheer immensity of it is crippling when confronted all at once. Yet like an experienced climber tackling a cliff face, you must take it one hold at a time. Each step moves you closer to the top, and living in the moment is the only way to survive the trip.

Thankfully, none of us goes into the climb alone. We have One who has mapped out the path for us, securing anchors to keep us from falling. The Lord is overseeing the entire expedition, watching over each minute detail to see the Kingdom advancing.

Whether it be the Sundarban Islands, the young men at the Bible Training institute, the young boys in the Premanand Boys home, the girls at Mahima, the medical camps, the many national workers around West Bengal or the work at the Ashaloy Center in the brothels... the Lord is at work. Each has a vital place to play in the broader picture, and each is a massive task in its own right.

More than anything, this trip has given each of us a complete picture of the Kingdom at work. Today as we walked through Love Calcutta Arts and Freeset, we saw the need for businesses offering exit points for women working in the trade. Freedom Church showed us the true essence of worship from those who really grasp the concept of captivity. These and so many other ministries make up the complex web of healing that these women need.

As we leave late tomorrow evening for the long journey home, we carry with us a piece of India. We carry the banner of the Church here in West Bengal with us. Where they have opened their hearts, ministries, homes and lives to us, we have seen a glimpse of heaven at work in our own lives.

Lord, would you use what you have shown us to spark a fire in our own hearts, our own churches to respond to the needs in our communities? Would you use it to advocate for the broken, the forgotten, the lost? Would you prompt us to remember our Indian brothers and sisters in prayer, and to journey with them in the battle they fight every day?

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

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