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“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”  -Helen Keller

A team like ours is a funny thing to think that we can put together ourselves. God knew exactly what He was doing.

Brenda– our strong and mighty leader. You took on the mantle of leadership of this team for the first time and and it is evident why you are the one God had lined up for this. Your passion for the people of Kolkata and your tender heart for those who have been abused and misused are packaged with your crazy organizational skills and love of a good spreadsheet. You have worked so hard for months on every detail. Brenda, well done! 

Barbara– your servant heart is the only thing that can outshine your beautiful, compassionate laughing eyes that draw children, and women alike, to you. Your love of preparation showed people that they were worth the time and effort. Your never-stop-give-until-it-hurts example inspired us all. 
Shirley– your wit and humor are your trademarks (along with the buzzard song). But you took those things and brought joy and laughter into every situation. People leave your presence feeling lighter. But your tender heart is not masked by this- it shines as bright as your smile. 

Kelly/Emerson– I have put you together because as a mother/daughter team you are unstoppable. Emerson, your laughter, willingness to help and sweet disposition were a blessing, not only to the ladies of Kolkata, but to your team. Kelly, your willingness to jump in and help with whatever was needed was a blessing. And together you helped inspire the mothers we worked with. They will always remember you together and will look forward to your return. 

Heather– your beautiful perfect hair in the midst of hot sweaty conditions was a wonder. But your tender heart is the most beautiful thing about you. You listen and hear a need. You don’t just let it break your heart – you do something about it. And you do much that no one ever knows about. You are truly invested into the lives of Kolkata. You’re the real deal, Heather O’laughlin. 

Ashley– anyone that will wake up to workout and choose to sweat for one hour BEFORE we start our 10 hour sweat day is a beast. And your mad jump roping skills- just too much! Your ability to sit and relate to the girls you met came from a big heart. A heart so big that when others’ strength was waining you kept going inspiring the rest of us to carry on. Your laughter and joy spilled over and blessed all who were near.

Sterling– a heart of mercy like yours is easily broken and you could choose to say, “no more, I’ve seen enough.” But you continue to say “yes, Lord.” You pour your love on everyone you meet and you are bold to share the love of Jesus. Your willingness to share the broken things that God has restored not only told of His goodness but showed the girls and the women that they, too, can be bold enough to share their stories.
Ryley– a girl like you can go anywhere and do anything. Your talents are endless. Seeing you own and take on the persona of the woman with the alabaster box was an anointed moment each and every time you shared it. Your story and the visual representation is etched into the hearts of the women with whom you shared it. You are beautiful, Ryley Rush, and watching you serve magnified that beauty even more.
It has been my joy and privilege to see all the Kingsland teams that God has allowed me to serve. Each one with a different make-up of specific giftings needed for that mission. Why God would allow a girl with no super impressive skill or education such a privilege I will never know but I will be forever greatful. India, I am not done with you. You are family and I’ll see you again. Kolkata, we love you. 

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Come Away

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Mukti – it means freedom.

What do you get when you pull 36 women out of the hustle and busy-ness of life and take them to 30 hours at a beautiful resort.

Sisterhood.  

This particular sisterhood has a common bond: the fight for mukti- the fight for freedom. 

On a daily basis they deal with the brokenness of the newly rescued, the broken, abused and stolen. They deal with the reality that a life in the brothels sometimes provides more food than the possibility of being rejected from job after job because of their lack of skills or education not to mention weight of carrying a reputation for which many have little compassion. Anger, fear, rejection, drug addiction, diseases, court trials -all are standard items of the day for the women who have accepted our invitation.

Our invitation is this – come away with us to be refreshed and encouraged. Sit with women who know the darkness you have to battle daily. Talk, relax, laugh and be reminded that you are not alone.

Enter ten women from America. 
We have no expertise in these matters. We have no more spiritual depth than they do and in all reality we are probably found lacking when compared to them. What we do have in common with them is our love for mukti- for freedom. And for these 30 hours our way of joining the fight is to be their encouragers and funnels through which God reminds them of their worth and that their work is not in vain.g
Just like Aaron and Hur did for Moses in supporting his arms so that the Israelites would prevail in the battle with the Amalekites we showed up to be the arm holders. Hopefully our encouragement and help to bear the weight will assist them in winning this fight for the freedom of the girls and women of Kolkata.

The Hope Brigade

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On the eastern edge of Kolkata is an area called Tangra. It is home to over 300 hide tanneries. Because of the dangerous conditions in tanneries many have closed and poverty is taking its toll in many sectors.  In the air is the strong smell of the tanneries that remain. You can see hundreds of hides stretched out to dry in the most curious shade of pale blue.

Thursday

We arrived at the compound. It used to be a leather tannery but now it bustles with children that go to a church sponsored school that is hoping to bring education to the poor community. Today a few smiling faces greeted us as they left school.

At the top of the concrete stairs and through two wooden doors we found them. We found the Jewels. They were not expecting us – we were a surprise. As their minds began to compute who these strange foreigners were, they knew – they knew it was their friend, Kingsland. The faces of Kingsland may come in different combinations but they know us and know the love that comes with us. We hugged and greeted and admired the pretty saris they were wearing. They knew something was special about today but they weren’t sure what it was. 

Today we were here to celebrate them. Seven women who have, within the last 3 years, come from a life of working in the brothels of Kalighat (a busy red light district) to confident, inspiring, skilled women who have found a new life and freedom in Jesus.

Today marked a day of sending, of commissioning, of celebrating the giant life altering journey they have been on. Soon they will be entering new jobs and reflecting the light of Christ in the world as they use the skills and lessons they have been taught. 

We opened the doors to the director’s personal home and invited the women to come inside. Again…surprise! 

We laughed, ate together, took fun pictures and celebrated all that they had accomplished. We shared tears as we listened to stories of where they once found themselves compared to the empowered women that they are today. The recognition from where that power comes was thick in the room.

They watched as one of our team portrayed the woman in the Bible with the alabaster jar. They found a sisterhood with this uninvited party guest who just wanted to meet Jesus and gave the most valuable gift she had in worship to the One who proved to her that she was worthy.

In servant sisterhood our team invited the jewels to rest their feet with us in sweet smelling waters where we washed the grime of the world away. We looked into their eyes and told them they are worthy of every blessing and that God had brought them to this moment to send them out to be world changers.

Worthy….it’s the word that we placed on their foot through a temporary tattoo as each team member prayed. There is a powerful connection that happens in moments like these. One that can only be attributed to the fact that, though we live continents apart, we are one in the same Spirit.

Saturday 

 Each week they invite their neighbors, women who share life in their red light neighborhood, to church in their home. They share about the hope that they have found. This week they have asked us to do a large gathering….one that is too large to have in Kalighat. 

With the boldness of Esther these ladies filled three buses with over 60 women and 40 of their children. We brought them to the place that once transformed animal hides, this place that now exists to transform the lives of precious women who do not know their worth. 

Our team assisted the women in making the ID cards for their children that would help to identify them should the worst happen. Mothers and children made crafts together and played games. 

This group of seven – this HOPE brigade – led the way. When once they would have been afraid to be so bold as to share their radical life change they took up the mantle of leadership. They shared songs, drama and a personal testimony. It was important to them that they be able to ask the women if they wanted prayer. 

They stretched across the front and our  team filled in on the sides. And just like that every woman came began to stand and move towards them. It was them that they went to first, we were there to pray and did so with many but it was so powerful to see these ladies be the leaders and be the ones that were praying for the majority of the women. 

Jewels of the greatest value, they are beautiful and ready to change their world. They have experienced transformation. They understand that it is their responsibility to share the hope they have found.  

In one small room in the corner of an old tannery these women have been transformed, collaborated together to see how to win their Kalighat, mobilized their group and have planted their first church. I know it will not be the last. 

 

A Gracious Invitation 

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Yesterday we were back in the small red light area of Kidderpore (or Khidupur). Of the women we worked with most are still in the life and Destiny works to give them options and hope for a future. After our time together one of the ladies invited us into her home! We learned that she was trafficked from another country. She has continued in the life that she was not rescued from….this is the story of so many here. Watch the video to see our visit:​​​​​​​​

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HOPE and DESTINY

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Today we traveled to the outskirts of town to visit with women who still live in the life but have run headlong into DESTINY – a team that works to teach them real skills and how  to dream of more for themselves.

The team tyedyed shirts and shared stories both personal and from the Bible.

In the afternoon we traveled to an area of town called Tangra to spend time with the ladies of Jewels In A Crown. Today was a day of commissioning as  many are about to be done with their training. We laughed and cried together as we celebrated all that God has done in their lives since they ran into HOPE in the middle of their red light area.

God is meeting women right where they live. Our team is grateful to be able to these women. Kingsland your team is doing great. Tonight we all read a little encouragement from home and are now headed to bed for a long awaited rest

​​Here is a video that will give to a glimpse into where we were this morning.

Ryley’s Thoughts

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Today Ryley Rush, Kingsland’s mission intern and super-hip blogger shares her thoughts on the day. Ryley’s smile, which is present at all hours of the day, is infectious and makes me want to sit by her and follow her around all day just to be sure I don’t miss the goodness she must get into!

By Ryley Rush

Day three was a full one.
Some started off with early morning mass at Mother Theresa’s main house, while others opted for a little more devotional & breakfast time before boarding our little bus.

Suitcases & supply bags in tow, we first headed to New Hope School for round two with Pastor Rudra, Mita, & their incredible family & staff. It’s always more fun for me serving at a ministry once the faces are a bit familiar & hugging on all the kids I’d gotten to know the day before filled me right up.


We set up a five-station health fair & ID document creation for students & local children to rotate through: photo, fingerprinting & de-worming medication, height & weight, wound care, & hearing checkup. The purpose of the medical aspects is obvious, of course, but creating the ID document was nearly as important. It’s terrifyingly easy for children — especially in poor areas — to be taken or separated from their families. We’re hoping that’s one small way families could guard against it — or, at the very least, find their children after the fact.


After New Hope, we ate lunch en route to Sari Bari to check in on the women there &, of course, do a little shopping.
We then headed to Grandma’s — a ministry for women “in the life” as well as at-risk children. Located in the heart of Sonagachi, one of the largest & most notorious red light districts in India, it’s an absolute light in the midst of utter darkness.
While some team members ministered to & lead a parenting breakout session, others — myself included — got to hang out with their kids. Two hours of ridiculous songs, jump-roping, & the world’s most intense game of heads-up seven up (if that’s even possible) had me laughing so hard I was crying. One of my happiest moments of the trip so far for sure.
As we left New Hope today, Heather commented that it was strange how close she felt to Pastor Rudra & Mita.
“After all, I’ve only known them for about 5 days,” she laughed.
Immediately, though, I couldn’t help thinking that maybe that was exactly how it should be.
Someone, somewhere (I wish I remembered a specific quote, though I’m sure the idea could be attributed to more than one person) once said that American Christians should be alarmed if we have more in common with non-believers in our own culture than believers in different cultures. How true — and convicting — is that?
So I loved the fact that our team felt such familiarity with Rudra & Mita, especially in the prayers we lifted together & time spent speaking life & truth over one another. After all, we are all inhabited by the same Holy Spirit — all a part of the family of God. Of course we should feel a connection — & how amazing, how comforting, how empowering is that?
In some ways, short-term mission trips can feel, well, so short-term. It’s always tough showing up to a place & people for just a handful of days & investing, then leaving abruptly once more. I’ve done it plenty, & it never gets easier.
Something about Heather pointing out that divine connection, though, was just the spoonful of sugar I needed to make the goodbye medicine go down.

The work does not stop when we leave. (Far from it, honestly — let’s be real, Rudra & Mita can accomplish plenty without ten crazy American women running around their tiny school building.) The same God that propelled us to come, though, is empowering New Hope School & every other ministry with which we worked in India all the time, every day. He is as sovereign & good in our absence as He is in our presence, & feeling the power of that unity, if only for a moment, gives me so much confidence in the work He is doing here & gratitude that we get to be a part of it. He’s so good, y’all.

The Road Ends At Hope

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This morning the team was refreshed after we all slept about 12 hours after a 25 hour trip. We set our sights on the little slum village on the outskirts of town called Udyan Pally.  For years we would walk the straight dirt and rock laden lane to get back to the school…many times during monsoon season the village would be so flooded  that no one could enter or leave.

When we arrived this morning to walk the half mile lane to the school we were pleasantly surprised to walk on a paved road. The little ramshackle community seemed a little more like a neighborhood.  I asked the pastor who had petitioned to have the road laid and he said an official had come out and decided they needed a paved road. The straight paved road ends just 15 feet beyond the door to New Hope school…just far enough to offer really HOPE to children and families in desperate need. 

At New Hope today we taught the children about the five senses. 

In the afternoon we boarded our vehicles and drove through narrow winding lanes to spend time at our favorite aftercare facility for girls who have been rescued from sex trafficking. The home offers hope and freedom in a safe place filled with love. Recently, in efforts at prevention,  they have begun to care for several young children whose moms are still in the life but want something better for their children. 

Sterling dug deep and shared a story of hope in the midst of unbearable hurt. It truly resonated not only with the girls but also with the sweet 20 year old translator who later shared her story with us. She was able to translate the pain and redemption in Sterling’s heart as if it were her own and hope’s voice was loud and could be heard through the tears. 

Ryley talked to the girls about false beliefs we internalize because we listen to what people say about us- even when it’s not true. “You’re chosen, you are His friend and you are loved.” 

Sitting among the girls were two sisters. The eldest was rescued from her mom who was her trafficker. When the girl arrived at the safe house she begged authorities to go and rescue her younger sister (age 12). During this time the mom had convinced the younger sister that the people who had her big sis were bad and were abusing her. She told her she must go to work as a prostitute to earn money to get her back. When the younger sister was finally rescued she was very angry at the case workers and her sister. She believed the false story she had been given and couldn’t believe she had been earning money as a sex worker to save her sister and then be brought to the same place. It’s been four months. She has turned 13 and has experienced the truth and hope offered to her and her sister and now understands that her mom had been lying to her and was, in fact, their trafficker. The mother is in jail awaiting her trial. The eldest sister has already suffered through an emotional and difficult testimony to the court as her mother listened. The youngest has yet to do so.  Sadly stories very similar to this could be told by most of the girls in the room. Girls who were stolen and trafficked and told they were only worth the money they could earn on their backs. But they are offered hope at this place, the place that sits at the end of the twisty, narrow, winding road.

Today we carried HOPE. Hope that sometimes shows up in the oddest of twisty, winding paths. HOPE, the kind that says there is another day and there is a future, is always just far enough and never out of reach when the source is Jeshu (Hindi pronunciation for Jesus).

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