We arrived in Kalighat, a large red light area in Kolkata. People filled the streets and were lined up by the hundreds to give alms to Kali. Gyatri met us on the corner – we recognized her by her bright sari and peaceful smile – it was in stark contrast to the frantic faces of the others on the crowded streets. She had a different look on her face than the scores of others who lived there.
We followed her through the busy streets and through the tiny alley. We stepped over the two foot high threshold that keeps the regular flood waters at bay. She welcomed us into her 10 foot by 10 foot square house. Her bed sat high off the ground and she invited us to sit. It was such an honor to be asked into her home, a home that she has dedicated to the Lord and uses for weekly house church amidst the brothels. We sat and waited for the women to arrive.
Meanwhile, expecting to have about 30 children, a room was rented to have a children’s service while the women had church. Brenda, Barbara, Stephanie and Kelsey piled into an even smaller room with all of the children. They made crafts and music shakers. Apparently this was the first time they have ever done a craft during church. It didn’t matter that there was no air, no slick pictures for the children to see and not an inch of room to move around – they sat intently listening to Mrs. Barbara tell about Jonah being swallowed by the big fish. The highlight for our team was to hear them sing “Telephone to Jesus.”
Back at Gyatri’s house the women piled onto the floor. As Rachael led in worship songs the women lifted their voices and sang. There is not a better sound than to hear worship to the One True God amidst the brothels of Kolkata. Can you imagine twenty one women whose lives have been affected by the brokenness of poverty and the sex trade singing “there is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain?” Then the testimonies came – oh the testimonies. One shared that a family member who practiced black magic had put a curse on her husband. She said she had learned about Jesus and began to pray. She said that she had seen the power of Jesus break the chains of darkness in her home. Another told of being abused by her husband. Her mother-in-law threw her into the streets with her baby who eventually died from exposure to the elements. When that wasn’t enough she was sold twice into the brothels. She came to know of Jesus because of those represented in Gyatri’s houe. She now knows freedom and healing and because of that she has forgiven her mother-in-law who now calls her on a regular basis.
Gyatri’s house is small and simple. It has five shelves and one small cabinet. The shelves were empty except for a few prized possessions, a bottle of shampoo, a toothbrush and toothpaste. On the wall hung her “life board” that we made together this summer at our worship arts camp. It was made with trash and depicted a life that God had taken “from trash to treasure.” There wasn’t much in the way of material things but Gyatri has taken her little and offered it to God so that women can come and learn of the hope that she has found in Jesus.
Gyatri’s life is one that stands out as a trophy of grace for me. She has taken all that she has and given it back to the Lord withholding nothing. Pray for more women to find the peace of Jesus by coming to Gyatri’s house.