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500 Feet and Counting…

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The nature of the work and some of the areas we work in prohibit us from taking many pictures

*Names have been changed

Eight years ago God laid “500 feet” on my heart. I wasn’t sure what that meant at the time but set out with my daughter to begin washing the feet of the beautiful daughters of God that had been lied to and abused by people who only wanted to please their basest desires. The Kingsland pedicure procession began. Our teams have become known for these pampering sessions where we just sit at the feet of ladies and share the love of Christ just as He did with His friends. Many are the stories of how God has used those moments spent cherishing those He loves.  I am not sure how many feet we’ve gotten to but I know that 500 has probably been surpassed.

Our team set out for a busy red-light district in the city. We wandered through the catacomb-like walkways where small flats were tucked away in every possible corner. We were on our way to see some beautiful women that we have come to love over the last several years. They are women who have found Jesus and are changing that brothel district by learning to love their neighbors and care about their spiritual condition.

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news,

On the rooftop we met our friends who had brought their friends. Lives that had been broken by the demand for prostitution were now sitting with us. All still living in the brothel area, some with new jobs and some still struggling and hoping not to return to the life that had held them captive for so long.

Among the beautiful feet on this rooftop in the middle of the high traffic red-light area were two friends who were bonded together by common life stories of living as sex workers. *Pria found out she had cancer and as she recovered from surgery, missionaries from Russia found her and walked with her through her complete healing of cancer and as a result she gave her life to Jesus, the ultimate healer. Over time she shared with her son and three months ago they were both baptized as believers in Jesus. *Pria shared with her friend, *Puja who then also accepted Jesus a little over a year ago and now holds a church service in her home. Last week *Puja’s sister accepted Christ.  I asked *Pria what was different now that she knows Jesus. She said that her whole life had changed and that He makes her think differently and live differently. She understands what Jesus has done for her and doesn’t want to keep it for herself.

Sitting next to these friends was *Neha. When it came time to choose the color for her toes she said that she was a widow and wasn’t allowed any color. There is a practice among many hindu and village women that dictates that when a woman is widowed (at any age) she may no longer wear color or jewelry or anything of beauty – she is to wear white (the color of mourning) for the rest of her life following her husbands death.  Neha was tricked into moving here by a promise of domestic work. Once she arrived she was forced into the brothels. She determined then that no one would ever make her work as a sex slave and took on the life of a crazed woman. She said she made her hair crazy and let people think she was insane so that she would not have to sell her body.  She takes in laundry and dishes to clean for the nearby women as a means to earn a living.  Today she experienced the love of Jesus and heard about the living water that he offered to a woman that may have been a lot like her, the woman at the well.

It was dusk as we walked back out to the main road. Women were just beginning to line the alleyways and the streets. Each will be working tonight even as I write this blog. We spotted two friends as we made our way out and stopped to share our love. One has returned to the life of prostitution. It’s hard to understand the harsh reality that demand and extreme poverty can easily pull someone back into this work. But sprinkled in between brothel rooms are champions of Jesus who are carrying His light. They have found the perfect hope of Jesus and they are reaching into the darkness and saying, “no more.”

God of the Universe

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There are times in Kolkata that you feel like you could get lost and never be found. So many unmarked tiny side streets and alleyways that lead to more crowded tiny streets can leave you overwhelmed. The villages on the outskirts of town are no different.  We traveled to one of those villages today to teach school at New Hope School.img_2248-1

We are studying the universe at school this week and that there is a God who holds it in His hands.  Today we noticed three brand new children who arrived together, a 10 year old big sister with her twin 5 year old siblings.img_2284-2As we began to color paper suns and moons it was clear that they hadn’t even held a crayon before. Mita, the school’s director. told us that the children, before starting school, were left to themselves all day long while their mother worked outside the village as a domestic helper. The father had left years before. It is hard to imagine a 10 year old caring for two busy 5 year olds 6-9 hours a day, feeding them lunch and watching them as they play in the streets that meander off from the main road. But today they sat in school. Today they learned. Today they heard about a big God that is the King of the Universe.

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The main path into the village is dotted with shines to gods of varying degrees and purposes. Morning offerings of fruit, flowers and incense lay before them in hopes of some kind of blessing. But in the midst is New Hope who, year after year, continue to share about the God above all gods. The challenge shows on Mita’s face, but so does the crazy peace of God that she continually displays to the villagers.

In the afternoon we went back into the city to visit an aftercare home that cares for minors who have been rescued from sex trafficking, some very young. The home is nestled into a neighborhood of narrow streets that could swallow you up if not for someone to guide you. Much can be hidden there, including a young teen who was recently rescued from an apartment operating a brothel. One of our team members shared her own story of how God transformed her from hopeless to hopeful.  A lot of what she said could probably be inserted into many of their own stories. God was glorified as she she told His story through the grace shown in her life.img_0171

There are a lot of ways to get lost in this beautiful city and there are even those that would take advantage of that. But the God of the universe sees each and every one. He has appointed strong believers at strategic places to carry the message of His hope and freedom by living in hard spaces and addressing difficult, tangible needs.  Tomorrow we will continue to walk alongside these heroes and offer encouragement and a reminder that they, too, are never out of God’s sight.

 

Thanks Kingsland

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Our team has arrived.  For many of us there has been about 2-3 hours sleep in the last 36 hours.  Being 12 hours ahead of our inner clocks, we arrived on a Kolkata Tuesday morning. In an effort to reset those clocks we headed out to New Market for a couple of hours shopping and lunch at what has become a Kingsland “welcome to the city” meal at Nazaams.

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Nazaam’s – our favorite first day lunch place where we feasted on naan and Kathi rolls (like a fajita – only indian and even better!)

 

The excitement and readiness to join God in His work here is evident on each face in the sweet attitudes.

“As I was getting ready to go it seemed overwhelming and I couldn’t picture it or make it seem normal. I realized I am working on a team with God. That changed it for me.”

“The privilege of carrying the gospel weighty and I don’t want to take it lightly.”

It’s 5:22 PM and the team has just met to finalize tomorrow’s plan, check supplies and get our heads around the mission ahead.

IMG_2239As our families and friends back home are waking up and getting ready for Tuesday in America we are going to say goodbye to it and crawl in bed for the first reclined position we’ve had since Sunday.  Thanks Kingsland, for sending us. We count you as part of the team as we need your prayer covering in order to accomplish all that God has sent us here to do.