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Why India? – February 16, 2020

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By Guest Blogger – Stephanie Blyth

Stephanie Blyth: I’m often asked why missions, and why India. I’m not your typical missionary, and India is certainly not an easy journey. The answer is easy. This is where God has called me to serve and if you were here, you would understand.

For years I ignored His call. Always reasons that really made sense but in my heart I knew I was simply scared and not willing to take that step. For those introverts out there, you surely can relate to the anxiety of stepping out of your comfort zone. After I lost my dad is call got loud and most certainly clear. India was the place. What I was to do there was up to His will.

Romans 12:6-10

According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy,use it according to the proportion of one’s[b]faith; if service, use it in service; if teaching, in teaching; if exhorting, in exhortation; giving, with generosity; leading,with diligence; showing mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without hypocrisy. Detest evil;cling to what is good. 10 Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters.

We all have gifts that have been given to us by God. I am a mother of four very active boys, an engineer in the oil and gas industry, and to top it off, an introvert. I do well in small groups of people and much better if it’s people I know. Anxiety is real and incredibly prevalent in my every day life. But even with these challenges my heart longs to return to this place to use my gift. My gift is to love in whatever way possible. To simply be the hands and feet of Jesus. Through God’s grace, India has a way of breaking down my walls and anxiety. I can come here with a group of women that I do not know and work side by side with them to simply do His work.

So much of this trip I just feel blessed. I am so fortunate to teach science at a slum village school ran by one of the bravest women I know, Mita Singh. The honor felt to simply wash the feet of a woman that is still involved in the trade and listen about what burdens her heart through a translator. There is no judgement. Not by me and not by her (except maybe my paint work on her nails). I crave this time every year where judgment is left behind by women as it is all too common back home. Here we simply sit and enjoy each other’s company and I do my best to show her how much she is loved and valued by such a simple act like a pedicure. The stories are heartbreaking and far too many than there ever should be. One after another I hear of the darkness that surrounds this place. But the JOY…..that is indescribable.

We were honored this weekend to take a group of ladies on a retreat. These ladies are at the forefront of the battle against human trafficking. They are the social workers, the caregivers, the orphanage workers, the teachers, and a variety of other positions that are here giving it their everything to stop modern day slavery and abuse in God’s name. We spent the time with devotions, crafts, and just time together to share our stories and the pain but also the good. There is so much good in such darkness and such beauty in these warriors.

As we ended these two days, we were surrounded by these women to just pray. The feeling of the Holy Spirit that swept over this group and the love felt absolutely filled my tired soul and I hope theirs. While I certainly miss my family, to leave such a place is so incredibly difficult. There is so much need in this City of Joy and so many beautiful people I will miss. I ask that as we close this trip and this blog that your prayers for this place and these people continue. The need is great and I know overwhelming at times for those here for the duration. I also ask for prayers for safe travel and for this team. The mental toll of what and who we leave behind until next year will weigh heavily until our return.

Eat, Pray, Love – February 15, 2020

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My name is DeAnna Parsell and I am today’s blogger. This is my first trip to India as well as my first mission trip. I’m truly blessed to have had the opportunity to visit Kolkata with these special KBC women. Each one has moved me with their testimonies, personal life struggles, and experiences/relationships with the ministries we have visited. I think we have worked well together as we all have contributed differently with a common goal to spread love, prayer, peace and fun to those who endear so much pain, uncertainty, fear and sadness all too often.

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Today was an amazing day at the Mukti Network Retreat. The retreat was held at Vedic Village. The goal of this retreat is for KBC to host a fun and relaxing two days for the phenomenal women who provide services in freedom ministries for so many women and children in need. Words cannot explain what these women have heard, seen and experienced first hand, yet their faith and love for God our Father and their desire to serve our Lord keeps them strong.

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Our day started around noon with introductions, opening prayer, and lunch. After lunch the ladies painted picture cubes. This was followed by a beautiful bible story with Sterling followed by her emotional and touching testimony. Our next craft was earrings which the ladies seemed to enjoy. Walking around the room I saw some very cool creations. After tea and snacks we followed with a beautiful and wise teaching with Reagan. The women then had the opportunity to leave and relax for a bit or stay and play games. The day finished with free time, dinner and bowling.  There was also dancing and a lot of laughter!

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I’ve learned so much from this trip. It truly was life changing for me. I’ve realized that although personal struggles seem hopeless and dark, there is always light if you keep Jesus close. I want to embrace the good in my life and let go of bad…the anger that has consumed me. As our trip is closing, I feel so much joy from this experience. These women and children blessed me beyond what I can write in words, and I am so honored to have been able to serve and love them.

Crossing Paths – February 14, 2020

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Today’s guest blogger is Reagan Sinclair, Kingsland Missions Intern.

Today we returned to New Hope School. Although it’s a one room classroom, they have multiple teachers that each take a subject and rotate between the different age groups. There are multiple white boards around the room so that each teacher can have space for their lesson. While we were there, Stephanie taught on circuits. We all agreed that she should’ve been our physics teacher in school. We split up into different age groups, and each student made their own flashlight using a popsicle stick, copper tape, LED light, and a battery.

After school, we were invited to Rudra’s house to enjoy that Eastern hospitality and have a meal prepared by his wife, Mita. Mita is the headteacher at the school and Rudra pastors several churches. As we ate, he shared his passion to go out to the rural villages to work with the unreached people group. He is making the most of every opportunity to share God’s redemption with others, and together they bring light into a dark place.

In the late afternoon, we went back to one of the red light districts and visited a second location of a ministry we saw earlier in the week. The women made tassel earrings and rotated to receive pedicures. The Indian people have very strong bodies, because after many days sitting “Indian style” on the concrete floor painting nails, I’m really feeling it. And I’m only 28.

We were walking back to the bus when a woman ran up to our group. Remember this is a red light area, so we are very much on guard. However, as it turns out, we knew this woman. If you read Tuesday’s blog, you will learn about a woman that Sterling spent much time with that day. She shared hard things in her life, and Sterling prayed with her. This is a very large area, so it’s rare that our paths would cross again. But God has His ways. She and Sterling embraced many times and were thrilled to see each other. The woman walked us to our bus and waited until we drove away. I wouldn’t be surprised if they find each other next year.

I taught in a rural African village for five years but have recently moved back to the US. On this trip, I was hoping to figure out how to apply what I learned doing long term missions in a short term setting. If I’m honest, I was a little hesitant about all this. During my time overseas, I saw people with good intentions be harmful, and I was worried about unknowingly participating in that. In our first few days, I watched how the women lit up in excitement to see the returning members of our team. By coming to the same places each year, Kingsland has been able to build relationships and build a reputation of being trustworthy. One of the workers of a certain ministry told me that she really appreciated that we didn’t come with our agenda of how to end human trafficking or how to make their lives better. We simply came to love and to have fun. It’s for this same reason that another ministry said that Kingsland is the only group of foreigners that they allow. We’re not coming to start something and leave it; we are supporting the nationals who are already working here. This city is full of amazing people that want to fight evil in their city. We’re just here to visit our friends, support them, and give them a short rest from the emotions that ministry brings. On Tuesday, the coffee shop was full of ladies who just wanted to have a good time, and as it quieted down, hardships were shared and ministry happened. I believe a good work is happening here.

Shine a Light – February 13, 2020

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Hello! My name is Kalie, and today I have the privilege of sharing a snapshot of our day. I want to start by saying that today, February 13, is Shine a Light on Slavery Day!  How fitting for the End It Movement’s special day that we are in India on one of the many days we are surrounded by women who have been rescued from human trafficking or are still victims in human trafficking. I can’t help but thank God for allowing our trip to fall on this day.

Today was a good day. Long, but oh so sweet. It all started at 4:50AM when my alarm went off for the service at Mother House (former home of Mother Teresa), which starts every morning at 6:00AM on the dot. After the service and during their prayer time, we quietly exited the room because our schedule was very tight today and could not be late to board the bus for our next destination. However, when we left, the front gate doors were locked, leaving our team stunned and puzzled. Suddenly, a nun approached us with the keys and long story short, we were yelled at by a nun in a whisper voice. It was something we will never forget. We quickly walked back to the BMS and of course, had to stop for a 2 minute chai tea stop!

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After a bus ride to another part of the city, we walked about six minutes down a road in the Udayan Pally village where New Hope School is located. New Hope is a school that allows the poorest children in the village to attend school and receive an education. There were children as young as 3 ½ years old all the way to 14 years old.

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We had a science lesson about electrical engineering by our very own electrical engineer on the team, Stephanie! She taught the kids wonderful things about static and electric energy, and then the kids participated in the coolest experiment! They each received a balloon and rubbed it vigorously in their hair, hovered it over a plate full of salt and pepper, and watched the pepper quickly rise to the balloon. The kids were overjoyed and wide eyed at the experiment! Then, they made butterflies as seen in the pictures and used the energy from the balloon to flap the wings! One child in my group asked “Gum?” and pointed to the paper for the butterfly to be placed on, so I asked him why he needed gum. He replied by showing me a gesture to show he needed gum to glue the paper down. This really tugged on my heart strings. We take so much for granted in America, even the simplicity of a glue stick.

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Next, Stephanie taught the kids about circuits and each group built circuits by using a snap kit. They were able to see how the electricity flowed through the circuit to make the lightbulb turn on and the fan blow. Each time these happened, they would cheer loudly and clap with happiness. Stephanie really did an outstanding job planning the school lessons! Stay tuned for the description of the experiment tomorrow!

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At the end of the school day, the children all lined up in 5 single file lines for chapel. Deanna gave a devotional about how we are lights for Jesus and a life without Jesus is darkness. The kids all prayed together and it was a sweet moment seeing them praying to Jesus.

Next, we hopped on the bus to travel to Mahima Ashaloy! This is a community center for women who live in Sonagachi, one of (if not THE) largest red light districts in south Asia. They have weekly medical checks, counseling, dance therapy, music therapy, just to name a few. Here, Danae and I spoke about anger and stress management and healthy ways to cope when feeling angry. This really resonated with the women and about half of them opened up with personal stories from their friends and families. They asked good questions asking for advice and I believe they took away important coping mechanisms. After this, the women made tassle earrings and had a blast. Our dear friends and translators, Zeenat and Anita, were a huge help today helping us communicate with about 30 women on the terrace. Of course, they blessed us with chai and samosas which were delicious.

ashaloy

To wrap up a very good but long day, our team had dinner at an American owned coffee shop and café named 8th Day which was delicious. On the way from Ashaloy to dinner, my mind circled thoughts about the day. I’m amazed at several of the women’s faith after all they have been through, they’re still trusting that God has great plans for them, which He promises in Jeremiah 29:11. As for me, I’m having difficulty believing God has great plans because of recent events in my personal life, even though I know it to be true. It’s amazing how some of these ladies and all of the staff are so strong. It truly blows my mind.  Our God is doing great things here in Kolkata, the city of Joy. Please keep praying for the people here who are living in darkness away from Jesus!

Blessings,

Kalie

Touching His Robe – February 12, 2020

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My name is Sterling Greene and I am the guest blogger on tonight’s Kolkata Go Beyond blog!

This is my fourth trip to Kolkata and my ninth mission trip with Kingsland. If there is one thing I have taken away from all my travels, it is that a smile means the same in every language. A smile can go a long way between two people who do not speak the same language. So I smile a lot, because I only speak one language!

Today we spent the day with Destiny Foundation at two different locations.   Destiny was established about ten years ago.  Their mission is to empower women that have been trafficked by teaching them job skills.

The Destiny women are always so happy to see us! We have continued to go year after year, and as a result we have built relationships with them because of our consistency. When we enter the facility it is always such a precious time as we have all longed to see each other. We are always welcomed with huge hugs and joyful smiles.

I had the privilege to share the Bible story about the bleeding woman from Mark 5:21-34, and Danae shared her testimony. The women were intrigued. The majority of the women at Destiny are not Christians, but they are always so receptive to us and the words we speak about Jesus. They always have so many questions and amazing discussion. They always bless us with their questions and their desire to want to know more.  Today after the story, one girl asked, “I wish Jesus were still alive so I could touch his robe and He could heal me.”  That swung the door WIDE OPEN for a conversation about how OUR GOD is not dead.  He is alive and active and working in our lives every day.  When we speak to Him, He hears us.  He sees every tear that falls. These women sometimes feel forgotten by their gods that they worship as Hindu followers.  What a contrast!

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After our Bible time and testimony, we taught them how to make threaded earrings.  And of course we have our signature activity, pedicures! Feet are a big deal here and no one wants their feet touched. It is a cultural taboo that 1. They feel like they are sinning by having their feet touched and 2. Someone younger washing the feet of an older person is not okay. So many ladies were uncomfortable having their feet washed and cleaned today, but they allowed us to bestow our crazy American ways on them. It was such an amazing day full of so much love. 

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Ten years ago, I would have told you I would NEVER go to India! NEVER! It was the last place on earth I ever wanted to go. Today, I can tell you it is my second home. The hospitality of the Indian culture is such a heart warming quality that we as Americans have lost. I have a family here that is always welcoming. This city of Kolkata is amazing and full of so much good that we tend to forget because of the great darkness, but our God is BIG and is in the business of transforming hearts with His crazy love.

Abundant Touches of Love – February 11, 2020

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Today’s guest blogger is Sydney Farquharson, the Missions Intern for Kingsland Baptist Church.

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Today was an incredibly special, significant day. It was a day filled with heartbreak, laughter, meaningful conversations, delicious chai, and lots of hugs. As we spent the day in one of the darkest regions of India, I was reminded of Jesus and the genuine compassion that He had for the lost people around Him. “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest”’ (Matthew 9:35-38 ESV). I can only imagine how deep His compassion ran. I can only imagine how beautifully He loved those people. Today, I feel as though our team got a glimpse of the deep, heartfelt compassion that Jesus felt for the people around Him. Our hearts were stricken with grief as we encountered a group of women who live in the midst of darkness. At the same time, our hearts were filled with much joy in knowing that organizations like FreeSet prove to be a radiant light throughout the city. Thank you, Jesus!

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On this trip, the Holy Spirit has continually led me to pray for my team members in this way: that the Lord will grant us compassion for the people around us and that He will teach us how to love and cherish them well. I firmly believe that He is actively answering these prayers! Today, we were so privileged to be the only foreigners to enter “The Cup”. The Cup is a local coffee shop ran by FreeSet. We spent the majority of the day here. We gave women pedicures, engaged in conversations, and made sweet crafts with them. The Cup is located in a red-light district, and only women are allowed to enter. We heard numerous stories of hope, and this brought our hearts much joy! I was able to witness one of our team members, Sterling, give a local Hindu woman a pedicure. They laughed and talked as Sterling spent a substantial amount of time washing her feet. She proceeded to paint her toenails and put stickers on them. The woman delighted in these meaningful moments. She never ceased to smile! After this, Sterling found someone to translate, and began to talk with the woman. The woman mentioned that she prayed to God every day that she would lose her life. Wow – this broke my heart. Sterling’s heart was broken too, and she began to cry. She then shared her personal story of how Jesus changed her life, and shared the Gospel with this woman. They hugged and the woman mentioned that she did not want to leave. This was a moment that I will never forget! I am looking forward to the days to come. I am looking forward to see how the Holy Spirit continues to move in this beautiful city filled with many colors!

By: Sydney Farquharson

From Hopeless to Hope – February 10, 2020

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Hello blog readers!  My name is Danae Patterson. and I am the guest blog writer today. This is my 5th trip to India with Kingsland. I first came to India back in 2011 and instantly fell in love. Kolkata truly has a special place in my heart and the relationships I have made here will forever be a huge part of my life.

Today was a very busy and exciting day for the team. We started the day off by going to a temple in Kalighat called Khali. Kalighat is the second largest of the red-light areas in Kolkata and the temple was filled with people looking to see and pray to the god. We had the opportunity to go inside and walk through the crowded place. Needless to say, it was an experience that really pulled at my heart. The whole time I was inside, I was praying to the Lord for strength and for the lost people inside. Afterwards, I was talking to a team member about how we were feeling, and she said that if she could describe the temple in one word, that word would be hopeless. I felt that this appropriately described the feeling inside of me.

From there we walked to a rooftop terrace where we were met with ladies from JIAC and their friends. For those who don’t know what JIAC is, it stands for Jewels in a Crown. This organization was started by a Canadian couple who would teach the women how to make jewelry and would give them hope, new life, and surround them with the love of the Lord. Unfortunately, JIAC shut down due to personal issues and the ladies lost their jobs. However, we still keep in touch and love on them when we are in Kolkata. So today we got to see about 5 JIAC ladies and 35 of their friends and family on this tiny rooftop terrace. We fed them biryani, made bracelets, told them a bible story, and washed the feet and gave pedicures to the women. For me, today was extra special because I got to see my friend Soma. She is a dear friend of mine whom I met at JIAC back in 2015 and I look forward to seeing her each trip.

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After loving on old and new faces, our Kingsland team made our way to Sari Bari. Sari Bari is an organization that employs women who have been exploited in the sex trade or who are vulnerable to human trafficking and teaches them how to make handmade kantha products from recycled saris. Here one of our team members, Sydney, told a bible story and shared her testimony. Then she taught the women, and our team, useful self-defense training that could help in the future if ever needed. It was a joy to watch the ladies practice with each other. After that we had teatime and ate delicious samosas and visited with the ladies. We then were able to give them pedicures and teach them how to make earrings.

Today there were a lot of emotions felt and it was truly a day I will never forget. I am so thankful for my team and our amazing leader Brenda who works so hard and does so well.

Hope of Life – February 9, 2020

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One of Kingsland’s long time partners is Hope of Life, a ministry in Kolkata run by Nabin and his wife Matilda.  One day about eleven years ago, Nabin noticed that there were children left unattended at the railroad station.  He was concerned for the children, and he began visiting there every day to speak with them.  After a few weeks of visiting them, the walls started to come down, and they started to open up to Nabin.  He quickly came to a shocking conclusion.  The children were not just unattended, they lived at the railroad station….alone.  They had been abandoned by their parents.

There are several trash piles near the railroad area, and many of the children were known as “trash pickers”.  (For more information about this, I strongly encourage you to watch the Netflix documentary called “Tales By Light”, episodes “Children In Need” – Part 1 and 2.  Although the footage is not from Kolkata, the situation is nearly identical.)

Today our team met up with the kids from Hope of Life, many whom we had met back in 2012.  We gathered with them at a food court at a local mall.  I asked Nabin if they came to this mall often since their home was so close.  He said, “We have not taken the children to a restaurant in five years.”  This was a huge treat for them, and it was fun to watch them devour fried rice, chicken, Pepsi, and ice cream cones!

We were able to recreate a few pictures that we had taken the first time we met.  They are all grown up now, but many new ones have joined Nabin and Matilda.  We heard a few success stories, and some that have had heartbreaking endings as well.  Through it all, this family has remained faithful to their calling to save as many children from the dangerous life of trash picking and on the railroad tracks.

One great example of a life changed FOREVER is Soma. She has been with Hope of Life since 2011.  Lord willing, Soma will attend nursing school beginning in June.  I took the first picture below just days after she arrived at Hope of Life.  She and Pinky are both wearing head scarves.  Their scalps were so infested with lice that the staff had to completely shave their heads.  The second picture below was taken tonight, with those exact 4 girls, 9 years later.  I know it’s hard to tell from their faces, but they really were so excited to recreate this photo for me!

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Please keep Hope of Life in your prayers.  The work they are doing is so important, but entirely unseen.  Their staff could really use some encouragement, as the work is tireless.

God Appointments – February 8, 2020

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Have you ever had a schedule that didn’t go as you had planned?  One of the lessons I learned early on in planning foreign mission trips is to be as “flexible as a pipe cleaner” (thank you Kay Foos!).  Two years ago in Kolkata, the team learned this very lesson.  One of our ministry partners had to cancel our plans with them at the last minute because of major road blocks due to a political rally that made traveling around the city nearly impossible.  We obviously did not want to forgo an afternoon of ministry, but we really didn’t know what to do.  We asked Anita (our longtime translator) if she knew of anyone that we could see that wouldn’t mind a last-minute appointment.  She said that yes, she knew of an orphanage that, as far as she knew, no other church or organization had ever visited.

We arrived at this small orphanage without a real plan other than to hang out with some kids for the evening.  Our team always has a “little something extra” up our sleeves, and we whipped together a craft project and a few bible stories.

When we arrived at Pranjal that fateful day in 2018, little did we know that we would be forever changed by the kids there.  We started our time with them by exchanging names and playing an icebreaker game.  We all noticed how sweet the kids were right away, but we also noticed that they spoke enough English that we could easily engage and get to know them.  As the team hung out with the kids, I spoke with the director to hear a little bit of their story.  She said she had never really intended to start an orphanage, but God certainly had other plans.  She and her husband were both psychiatrists and were running a drug rehabilitation facility in the northern part of the city.  They realized that sometimes parents weren’t coming for much needed treatment because there was nowhere for their children to go while they were there.  They began started taking care of a few children for that reason.  Then they heard about a few girls that were in high risk situation; their moms were working in the red light district.  It is very common that mothers that work in the sex trade will also have their daughters working there eventually, usally around age 12.  They began gathering children from situations like this, and eventually they realized that they had started an orphanage.

Pranjal has a very small staff, but they are all so gifted in working with the children from these situations.  At one point during the afternoon, one of the kids asked if we knew any praise songs.  We told them to choose one, and if we knew it, we would also sing along.  What happened next was the closest thing to heaven that I have ever experienced.  The children all closed their eyes, lifted their faces to the heavens, and sang, “The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning.  It’s time to sing Your song again.  Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me, let me be singing when the evening comes.  Bless the Lord, oh my soul, oh my soul.  Worship His holy name.  Sing like never before, oh my soul.  I’ll worship Your holy name.”  From there we sang several worship songs.  By the end of our “worship service”, there was not a dry eye in the room.  The Holy Spirit was on the move in this place, and the joy we all felt from singing praises to our King was exhilarating.

Last year we visted Pranjal again.  This time we knew we had to plan something musical with these kids, and thankfully we had a musical team.  We had so much fun with the kids!

This year as we were planning our time in Kolkata, we knew we had to visit Pranjal again.  We started the afternoon by picking them up in a bus, which they thought was really cool.  Then we went to Eco Park to see replicas of the Seven Wonders of the World.  As we walked around and saw the Taj Mahal, Great Wall, etc, the staff member told me that the reason why they chose Eco Park was because he knew these children would never otherwise see these types of places.  To top off the night, we took them to Kentucky Fried Chicken.  American kids should take note of how these kids eat chicken.  They clean every bit off that bone!

We climbed back on the bus to head back to the location to drop them off.  As we were driving, the Lord clearly spoke to me that I was to speak a blessing over them.  I asked the kids if they knew what the fruit of the Spirit was, and they were able to tell me.  I told them that the FRUIT was evident in their lives.  It was very obvious that they received so much LOVE from the staff, and that they loved each other so well.  We could also tell that they were PATIENT and GENTLE with each other.  The staff have a unique policy to pair each child with a “big brother/sister”.  That means that a 14 year old boy may be responsible for a 6 year old boy.  They hold hands when they walk through the park, they sit together on the bus, they make sure they are served food.  You could also see them taking pictures as a pair, helping them up a slide, and generally looking out for their safety and well being.  I also encouraged them to continue showing JOY!  They really are some of the happiest kids I have ever met.

After I spoke with them, several of the older kids also wanted the opportunity to speak.  They each stood up in that bumpy, loud bus, and shared what they were feeling.  They all said how much they had looked forward to this day every year when their Kingsland friends would come, how much they talked about our times together, and how appreciative they are that strangers from around the world would come and spend time with them.  We reiterated that everything we did was for Jesus, and His great love for us has spilled out of us.
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And just like that first time we met two years ago, our time ended with singing.  “Here I am to worship, here I am to bow down.  Here I am to say that you’re my King.  You’re all together worthy, all together lovely, all together wonderful to me.”

Our bus could not make it down the narrow alleyways to the orphanage, so they had a little bit of a walk until they reached their home, and we had a long bus ride back to the BMS.  I’m pretty sure we were all thinking the same thing….God appointments are the best.

Day 6: Coffee Shop

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There is a new light shining in the darkness of Sonagachi, the largest red light district in Asia (many say the world).  One of our ministry partners just opened the MOST ADORABLE COFFEE SHOP.  This is a very exclusive coffee shop; it is only open to sex workers from Sonagachi.  No men, not even women from the community are allowed to enter.  There are comfy couches, AIR CONDITIONING (a rare commodity in this area), even a napping area up in a loft.

 

Read more about First Cup here:

Freeset: First Cup

Most of these women would never be able to afford coffee or tea from a shop, they would only normally purchase from a tea walla (street vendor).  But this shop’s prices are “suggested donations”, and the women pay what they can.  They have sandwiches, coffee, smoothies, etc on the menu.  But more importantly than the seating or food is my good friend Soma that runs the coffee shop.  I first met Soma at another NGO many years ago.  She and her husband teach a Sunday School class for children that live in Sonagachi.  When the kids in the area see her, they run to her and she freely gives hugs and love to so many.  Running the coffee shop is such a perfect fit for her.  She sits with the women and talks to them about their problems and she offers advice.  Of course leaving the trade is not an option for most of these women right now, so she loves them right where they’re at.

I love the quote, “Preach the gospel.  Use words if necessary.”  This coffee shop is the gospel without words.  Soma uses her faithful listening ear and loving attention that she gives to every woman that enters the shop.

There were two parts of our day: the first was with a group of women from the area that have left the trade and are working with our ministry partner.  The second was with the coffee shop ladies.

We began our day with devotions and worship with the ladies.  Then we toured the facility and saw some of the products that they were making.  Of course there were many questions from both sides along the way.  The ladies were so intrigued by Amy’s “gold” hair and they wanted us to teach them a few English words and understand where Texas was.  “Is it hot there?  Do you have children?  What is your food like?”  We asked them what their favorite part about working there was and many of them said, “happy place”.  It truly is a happy place.  Sidenote: KBC ladies that were at womens retreat last year, this is where your “Abide” bags came from!

Then we had lunch with the team from KBC and our ministry partner at the yummiest hole in the wall Indian restaurant.  Tandoori chicken was shared by all as well as rice and a yummy sauce that I dared not question the ingredients.

We spent the rest of the day in the coffee shop.  We brought several craft projects to do with the ladies.  They come and go throughout the day but as they returned to work they would tell their friends and show them the crafts they had made and then suddenly a new crowd would arrive.  Soma kept the tea hot and we sat with the ladies coloring, making necklaces, and painting hundreds of fingernails.

When the ladies first arrived you could tell they were a bit apprehensive with us.  Those walls were broken down pretty quickly.  Our translators sat with us while we talked, heads down, painting nails and making crafts.  It’s amazing what kinds of stories women will share when their hands are busy and you can’t see their eyes.  It was such a beautiful afternoon.  As the ladies left they asked if we could come back the next day.  Love really is the best bridge.

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