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In Our Own Words

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Today I asked the team to sum up their thoughts about this trip in a sentence. With all that we have experienced on this trip it was a tall order to whittle our thoughts down so small, but here is our attempt:

“A rewarding collision of joy and pain.”
• Brenda Debor

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“As hope arises darkness hides.”
• Lauren Debor

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“Amidst the darkness the light shines forth like the dawn.”
• Jaclyn Miles

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“There is hope for oppressed.” • Sue Ephraim

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“I go because I am being obedient to Gods commands. To be a light in darkness, to be hope in despair and to share the knowledge of the glory of God!”
 • Melissa Crowder

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“I truly felt God among the laughter and joy.”
• Patricia Simpson

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“I am overwhelmed by the open arms of laughter love and hope.”
 • Sterling Greene

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“Jesus is here and He is revealing Himself through the smiles of His believers.”
 • Rachael Soroski

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“God’s light can shine in the darkest of places.”
• Jan Moore

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“I came to be a blessing but I’ve been blessed.”
 • Cheryl Rothell

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“My heart aches to see those who have not yet seen rescue but when I meet those that have I see God’s power to do the impossible.”
 • Kay Smith

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Tomorrow is our final morning of work at New Hope. Then we head home. My heart aches to stay but also is ready for the home I love so dearly.

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Your Light Will Rise in Darkness

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Mukti means “freedom” in Bengali. The Mukti Network is a network of women who are our heroes. These women serve on a daily basis in some of the darkest of places — yet these places are full of light because of them and the God they represent.

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This was our second annual Encouragement Retreat for this compassionate network. This year the theme was based on Isaiah 58:10, a verse that speaks of your light rising in the darkness when your life is poured out for those who are oppressed. Our friend Vinita Shaw of the Disha Foundation was our special guest.

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Aroma
We chose Ibiza Resort just outside of Kolkata as the retreat site. This turned out to be a blessing beyond what we even imagined. Some of our friends in the network had never stayed in a hotel before, several had never seen a bathtub. We worked hard to treat them like the beautiful daughters of God that they are.  2 Corinthians 2:15 says, “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” so we made custom scented body lotions for the women!

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We led worship and offered special sessions based on encouraging Scripture passages. During free time some of the ladies zip-lined across the lake, paddle-boated and tried their hand at archery. Time and time again they thanked us for blessing them with this refreshing retreat.

Sunday night we found out that the game Bunko is universal and we are all alike when it comes to winning a game. We laughed and enjoyed our time with our international sisters.

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After an interactive prayer walk with creative prayer stations we closed our retreat by releasing sky lanterns. The lanterns represented their lights that would rise in the darkness and affect generations to come.  We prayed with our sisters and said  “until next year…” And we can’t wait!

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One of The Greatest Privileges

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One of the highlights of my year is the day we get to spend with the ladies of Sari Bari. This has become an annual “spa day” that they look forward to as much as we do.

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We began the day in two groups at two locations. We wound our way through the congested streets to our locations. We were honored to be able to do some of the firm’s busy work while the ladies cut, sewed, and  finished  bags and blankets of impeccable quality.

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All of these women are identified as “self rescued” — women who have sought after an alternative way to make a living. Many still are forced by finances to live in the same place they used to work but they are now, because of Sari Bari, able to make choices and plan for a future filled with hope.

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At 1:00 PM the work stopped and it was party time. We shared lunch sitting around together on the floor learning more about the ladies. Then it was on to spa time. A few were still a little apprehensive about us washing their feet but most knew and remembered that this was “girlfriend time” and a time for us to make them feel like a princess, a daughter of the King. We told them that Jesus did this for his friends and now we wanted to do that for them. We laughed, broke out in spontaneous songs, painted nails and toes, made feather hair clips and just loved on each other.

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While rubbing lotion on tired feet I was overwhelmed with emotion and the thought that this is one of the greatest privileges that I have ever had. To tend to the tired sore feet of one that has known hardship that I will never know. To know that this act is just one more reinforcement that what Sari Bari is teaching them is true — that they are beautiful women worthy of love and care. I have no words to describe the deep joy in my heart.

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We shared henna Bible stories about women that Jesus showed great value to; the woman at the well and the woman who was healed by touching the hem of Jesus’ garment. In a culture such as this it is important for the ladies to hear that they are considered of great worth by Jesus, the Son of God!

I’ll let our pictures speak for themselves. Tomorrow:  Mukti Network Encouragement Retreat! Pray for us as we minister to some giants of faith.

Beautiful Trophies of Grace

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This morning we met with our friends Navin and Matilda who have given a home to children rescued from Kolkata’s bustling and dangerous railroad stations. We have been amazed to see their growth and maturity. Whatever they are teaching and however they are doing it should be packaged and sold. Actually the wonderful children are beautiful trophies of grace and the power of God.

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We listened to Dipnakar who is in 6th grade. With the poise of a preacher he delivered a message to us. He read Scripture and expounded on it like it was second nature. Just three years ago he lived at the train station. He has a mother but she does not care for him. He found a way to get food by working for a man (at age 7 or 8) who made him deliver a cheap grain alcohol to customers. He was even encouraged to drink it. Navin and Matilda took him into their home and now he excels in school and is very happy and healthy.

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This afternoon we had a great time with the girls of the aftercare home. We taught them to cook some of our favorite comfort foods — southern biscuits and gravy and also salsa. Once they understood our version of biscuits (that’s cookies to them) I think they enjoyed it quite a bit.

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After a  class on study skills to help the girls with their schooling we shared storied from the Bible using henna patterns.

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Yesterday we had the girls design a puzzle piece that was unique to them. Today we reminded them of how special they are and how God had out them together in this time in this place and we presented the finished art project to them. They were very proud!

Tomorrow we will be in two red light districts doing our famous “spa day” for the women who live there and are working on new skills to get out of the brothels. Can’t wait!

Our team is doing well. Everyone is working so hard and really investing into the lives of the girls. No one waits to love on them, they just do it naturally. What a wonderful representation of how Jesus loves.

The Writing On The Wall

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Our day was centered around the aftercare home for girls that have been rescued.  It was a joy to return and see the faces of those that we love.

Many of you may remember the story of the two girls that arrive two years ago on our first women’s justice trip. We have told you of their progress and how they have grown. Both have completed the bold act of testifying in court and telling the truth in the face of their traffickers. They are very proud of themselves…what a long way they have come!  Their paper work will be complete soon for their return to their home country.

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We played fun games and laughed with them. They were told about how unique and special they are, how God has made each of them with abilities and ideas and personalities that are their very own. We talked about how when God puts us all  together He is able to make beautiful things happen. Each girl was given a puzzle piece and asked to decorate it in their own way. Tomorrow we will put the entire puzzle together and make a large art piece for them to hang on their wall to remind them and the girls that come in the future that God fits us all together perfectly.

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This morning we visited a second location for the aftercare home  that will soon be open in April. It will be able to house 10-12 new girls with hopes of expanding soon. Kingsland has partnered with this home to get the renovations completed.  While the builders worked around us we were able to go in and pray over the building and for the girls that would eventually reside there. We realized that those girls were probably somewhere being abused today at that very moment. We prayed that God would send encouragement to the girls to know that He is on the way.  Because the walls will be plastered and painted soon we were able to write prayers and scriptures on the wall.  We prayed that these scriptures would surround the girls and even though they will be unseen that the truth and the prayers underneath the paint will be  like an echo of our prayers today.

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Our plan this morning was to plant a garden at the new location but the building process prevented the ground from being ready for us.  In November I spoke to Little Cypress Mauriceville Baptist Church and told them about the beautiful girls at this aftercare home. The sweet people of the church took up a collection and asked that I take it to bless the home. When I heard about the garden plan I knew this was just the perfect project. While we were not able to physically plant the garden ourselves I was able to leave the funds for the plants with Smita, the director of the home, along with two garden stones that will be placed there to remind the girls that there is hope in Christ and that because of Him they are allowed to dream again.

Tomorrow we return and teach cooking and study skills! But first we will spend the morning with the Hope Of Life children;  these are children that have been rescued from the railways. Our team is doing well and ready for another great day.

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Beauty From Ashes

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Today our team woke up refreshed after almost 36 hours with very little sleep. We were ready!

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We started our day with Ifte, a tour guide with Calcutta Walks. We did a three-hour walking tour to learn more about the wonderful city where we are serving. We learned a lot from his guidance but also just from observing the people. One thing that we all loved was the idea of “adda” or impromptu visits with friends. We stopped and sat on a “roake” which is a porch of sorts. People began to build them onto their buildings or homes in order to give weary visitors a place of rest. Now they have become places to sit and visit and enjoy one another’s company — or “adda.” We all decided this is something we don’t do nearly enough of.

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After a short tea break we headed to our first service assignment. We visited Destiny Foundation. Destiny teaches girls who have been rescued from sex trafficking. They teach them to sew, a very sought after and needed skill in India. Our afternoon with them flew by. We made crafts with them and bought some of their beautiful merchandise. Our team practiced our first henna storytelling. We shared that these stories are from the Holy Scriptures. They heard the story of the woman who was healed just by touching the hem of Jesus’ garment and the story of the woman who poured out a bottle of expensive perfume to wash Jesus’ feet.

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To hear stories of women and know that JESUS found them valuable speaks volumes. It tells of their worth and value in the Kingdom of God. We decided a little impromptu concert was in order so Rachael Soroski shared a song and just had everyone in tears. She sang about how God brings beauty from the pain and ashes of our lives.

Tomorrow – Mahima home.

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Kolkata, January 2014

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Our team of 11 people, 22 checked bags, 17 carry-on bags/purses and one One Direction pillow is on its way to Kolkata. We have arrived in Dubai and will leave shortly for Kolkata.

Our group of ladies is excited to begin work. We hope to carry with us the the message of Psalm 12:5 that God sees his daughters in bondage. He knows you, child that is in poverty and danger. He cares and He is on His way!

Pray that we will be Jesus to everyone that we meet.

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