I Almost Missed It! February 6, 2023

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Guest blog by Barbara Brennan

I almost missed it! I wasn’t even considering a return to India on this year’s mission trip, and I should know better than to go to a mission trip interest meeting. It only inspired me to return to the beautiful people of India and speak a little bit more about Jesus to them.  Then in October 2022, through Pastor Ryan’s teaching that Sunday, I heard the Lord ask if I thought He was done using me to witness to others.

Here is what I almost missed:

*Speaking Jesus and praying for ladies in the rescue homes as we did crafts together!  They remember our previous visits, showing me pictures of their babies I’ve held during visits years ago. Not all of them know the Lord as their Savior yet, but we keep up our witness for this purpose.  

*Met and toured a newer business that give work and hope to women (and they’re doing it so well) in hopes we will be able to give our testimonies and encourage a relationship with Jesus on our next visit.

* Organized a retreat for the leaders of the rescue ministries to encourage and give them a bit of rest and appreciation for what they do each day and remind them in God‘s eyes we are beautiful in our brokenness!  

* Taught Bible lessons to children at Saturday School and adults on Sunday evening.  These two worship events are church plants that our hosts (who make sure everything goes well for us while here in India) have started!  Amazing, passionate for the Lord family who never stop telling others about Jesus and how God has changed their lives.  

* A visit to a home who rescues homeless children from the railroad tracks! Some of these wonderful kids are studying for their finals coming up in a few days!  The children, ages 3-15, have a future because a Christian couple answered His call to bring 4 boys home….those 4 grew to 26 they care for and teach about Jesus in their home!  

*I also learned from the ladies I serve with! Each time I go on a mission trip I learn from those who go with me and their passion for the Lord.  

So glad I didn’t miss this! Is God nudging at your heart to Go Beyond?

More Than a Walking Tour – February 4, 2023

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Guest blog by Laurie Jeansonne

In Kolkata I’ve only learned a few things. Just how close you can get to a moving vehicle without being run over for instance. But I’ve experienced many things.

On our walking tour through the largest flower market in Asia (open 24/7, 365), we continued on to cross the Howrah Bridge (the busiest cantilever bridge in the world) over to the industrial side of the Ganges River. Even though the flowers were beautiful and make for great photos, it was the abandoned frames of idols on the industrial side that will stay with me.

As Christians we believe in a living God. A God who became flesh and walked this earth, sacrificed Himself for sinners and defeated death. The photos you see of headless, straw figures are the remnants of gods here who have been dipped in the Ganges and sent on to their heaven. These are idols made of mud and straw. They are built on bamboo frames, artistically fashioned with straw and clay and painted in bright colors. There are 33 million documented gods, and I heard the phrase “as many as possible”. I’ve experienced highly intelligent women instructing on how to better lead your NGO, felt a heaviness that is palpable and seen a darkness that is unavoidable. “As many as possible”? Our world doesn’t need more gods, more darkness, more void of hope. It needs the love of a savior.

The circumstances here will not change over night by 1 woman accepting Christ. But her heart will be filled with the truest love, light and hope and she will want to share that. The same with the children. And after time and maybe a few generations, these dark areas can shine in the Light.

As I have sat side by side and at the feet of many women and children I can see how special they are. How beautiful and gifted they are. But they need to know and feel that about themselves. These women and children need to know that they are each precious in His sight.

When we read in God’s word or hear our pastors/teachers say ”the one true God” and “the living God” let that set a little deeper in your spirit. I hope I never take those words for granted again.

New Friends – February 2, 2023

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Our team does not consider what we do to be “short term missions”. We have long standing relationships with over 15 ministry partners. We are in communication all year long, not just when we travel to Kolkata in the spring. We Zoom, Skype, or WhatsApp video throughout the year. They are prayed for by our team, and updates are sent agapichay (Bengali word for back and forth). These are long term commitments that we make with our partners. Without these partnerships we would not be able to do the work that we do when we bring teams.

It takes time to build trust, and we are happy to be entering into a new partnership. This new partner makes the most beautiful leather products: belts, bags, and bracelets. They are smack-dab in the middle of bustling Kolkata, in an area called Bowbazar. Their workshop is perched on the edge of the second largest red-light area in Kolkata, where an estimated 1500-2000 women are still trapped in the sex trade.

Each item is hand-stitched by a woman fighting for her freedom. Please reach out to one of our team members if you would like more information. We all purchased a product (or four) and are happy to show them off when we return. Unfortunately we cannot share the name on our blog but we are happy to share about it in person.

Missionary Charcuterie – February 4, 2023

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We eat really well in India! We are all thankful for the poofy pants we bring and buy here because we come home a little more “filled out” than when we left. We obviously eat a lot of Indian food, but they also have really good Chinese food as well as fish. I always ask the team to bring some snacks as well, as you never know when plans may change, or we get stuck in traffic, or if you just feel like having a snack on the bus in between ministry appointments.

After 8 fun but grueling, long days, none of us wanted to stop anywhere for dinner. We were all ready to collapse into our beds. We decided to invent a new style of eating that we will forever call “Missionary Charcuterie”. Move over Martha Stewart, the India team is here!

Here is how you create your very own Missionary Charcuterie:

Step 1: Everyone empties their backpacks and suitcases of all their snacks. Dump it all out on the table. Tonight’s options included: kettle popcorn, Jumbo Goldfish (don’t even mess around with the regular Goldfish, this is a special night!), Pop Tarts, pickles, a few oranges from the fruit market, Kind Bars, Cheetos, beef jerky, and some M&Ms.

Step 2: Grab a paper plate you brought for one of the crafts out of that random suitcase in the corner.

Step 3: Build your own Missionary Charcuterie by filling your plate with the most random items you can find! Get creative with the design and layout.

Step 4: Enjoy! But first, post a picture and make all your friends and family back at home jealous!

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A Bittersweet Day… – February 1, 2023

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Sonagachi, the largest of Kolkata’s many red light areas, is home to over 11,000 sex workers. It is also home to a very bright light in an otherwise dark existence, a ministry that has been a friend, employer, and safe place for women who are able to make their way out of the sex trade. It has taught them how to craft beautiful products from the simplest and most readily available supply- used saris.

This particular visit was bittersweet though, and brought home the critical need for support for organizations such  this. After 17 years, their beautiful red doors and shutters will be closed for good in March. The women here have been employed, earned benefits, learned work and life skills all while healing from trauma and finding new life in Jesus. Sixty women are now trying to find new work, and the risk is there for them to return to the work they left before.  

We have loved the years we have gotten to spend with the ladies and prayed with them that God would guide their steps as they step out in faith to find what is next for them.

Sonagachi is made up of hundreds of tiny passage ways filled with multiple story dwellings. Homes are often a small room with one bed and a concrete floor. Walking through the area, even at 10 am, evidence of the sex trade lies on the street, and you will see women standing ready to work.  

So what is one to do? How does one help? There are many here who pour their lives into answering that question. Our goal, as a partner from Kingsland, is to offer support and encouragement to them as they do this seemingly impossible work.

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26

Happy Reunions – January 31, 2023

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When we left Kolkata in late February 2020, we never dreamed that it would take us a full three years to return to the City of Joy. Not only did Kolkata endure the pandemic, there was also Cyclone Amphan that caused much damage and flooding during the same time period.

The Team at the Houston airport. We take this same picture in front if the Mickey Leland statue every year.

The team is 6 women strong this year, all returning members except for our newest member Laurie. Barbara, Brenda, Jan, Kay, and Stephanie are the returning members of the team. We are ready to hit the ground running, but first…our traditional chicken rolls at Nizam’s and shopping at Sunshines!

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