Wednesday, November 30, 2011

the friends we've made

tonight on our walk home from the metro, as we have done for the last couple months, we stopped and talked to the lady that sells cigarettes out of a small wooden shack. she always asked us, as she always does, what we ate today and what we will eat for dinner. if we are carrying a bag of groceries, she will take it from our hands and inspect the contents. she is usually confused by some of the things we have like peanut butter or taco seasoning. she asks us when we are leaving and wants us to bring her some cake on Borodin (Christmas). today she said that she wants to go back to america with us. she is always a smiling face that welcomes us home to our neighborhood. our second stop is at the local cha (tea) stand. tonight the cha lady treated us to tea and snacks. we sit on empty buckets and talk as she continues cooking sweets. we met her daughter and she said that she has 3 other children. she allowed us a look into her life. next we usually meet with some friends that erin has made from the neighborhood. they knew my name before i ever talked to them. i like to think of them as the neighborhood watch/walking club. they spend their time just walking around so we usually stop and talk with them in the middle of the street. we do our best to understand their questions and respond in our broken bangla. they always greet us with a smile. our last stop is the internet cafe we come to almost every night. we are usually welcomed with big smiles and some questions about our day. they have come to know us and can tell if we are tired or sad or mad or happy. since the internet is what connects us to home, they have also seen us grieve as we receive bad news. each of these people have become part of our story in this city. last week we came home later than usual and each of these people asked where we had been. it was so humbling to know that we have become part of this community. it is more people that we will have to say goodbye to in less than a month. i am grateful for their willingness to show kindness to a few bideshis (foreigners) for these few months. it is always nice to receive kindness after having to fight through another day.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed 2 corinthians 4:7-9

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

loss for words

with a month to go i am at a loss for words. i was sitting in the kitchen with my indian mom and we were talking then she said that the kids are already sad because we are leaving. she said "my kids love you too much." what do i say in that moment? yesterday i walking into sari bari and one of the ladies ran up to me and gave me a huge hug because i showed up when she wasnt expecting me to. part of it was because she always has a ton of work for me to do and part of it was that i have spent so much time in the sewing room that she is like a sister now. after i left she asked my indian dad if they could hire me. what do i say in that moment? today at mama t's they asked why we werent there last friday (we were recovering from our thanksgiving food coma). it is so affirming to know that we have become a part of the mama t community. the mashis have come to appreciate our attempts at speaking bangla with them. they always ask when we are leaving. what do i say in that moment? in those moments all i can do i enjoy the time i have left with the people i have grown to love.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

the golf course and the slum

first off, thanksgiving kolkata style was awesome! we had a full spread of food which included a cheese and veggie tray for appetizers, mashed potatoes (my favorite), green beans, stuffing, homemade bread and 3 kinds of pies. brooke also treated us to some peanut butter m&ms and hot chocolate. thanks brooke! we were so full that the whole metro ride all we could do was compare our bellies to see whose was the biggest. it was so much fun to share this holiday with our community here.

as i was riding the metro to sari bari on thursday morning, i noticed along the way that there is a golf course (super nice and kept up) right across the street from a slum. i have noticed this before but thursday was the first time i saw people actually playing a round of golf. it was a scene out of any american golf course. people carrying around hundreds of dollars worth of clubs and wearing equally expensive clothes standing around and taking turns hitting a ball into a hole. i live next to a golf course back home so this is something i see all the time. this time is hit me so differently because seeing the slum community across the street brought to mind the story of lazarus and the rich man. (luke 16:19-31) this is a scene i see almost every day as the wealthy people of this city walk past the poor and broken people that make the streets their home. there is a very high wall that separates the golf course from the street. i see it as the rich trying to keep themselves sheltered from the harsh reality the majority of the population face on a daily basis. i know that this city has helped me to build some walls as a way to protect myself, but in other ways, this city has destroyed the wall that in the past has allowed me to walk past the poor without a second thought. i look into their eyes and give them a smile but my heart breaks because i cant do more. tonight as we were walking home, the local cha (tea) lady gave us (and would not accept any money) some misti (sweets) and cha. it is in moments like that i realize that these people who live on very little are willing to bless us by giving so much. i have noticed over the past couple years that those who have much money are often (not always) times the people who hold on the tightest to it. God is still teaching me what it looks like to be His hands, feet and mouth in this broken city but for now i am learning about how to be open handed. as i head into the final month of my time here, i see the ways God is providing through the people around me and the support and encouragement from friends and family. i can already see that a part of my heart will always be in kolkata. taylor explained it perfectly on the train today. she said that just like the women sew the blankets that they are now sown into our hearts. i see it as i am trading pieces of my heart with these ladies like a friendship necklace. either way, this experience will continue to shape the journey God has called me to. God is good. All the time.

But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. Luke 16:25

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

a helping hand

i am a person who tries to do everything on my own without help but at the same time i love to help others. working at sari bari i have learned that while it is good to attempt to help others, i also have to be willing to receive help as well. last week, there wasn't much work to be done so taylor and i were given the job of washing about 50 red plastic coffee cups that are used twice a day to serve tea to the ladies. there was a layer of grime on the bottom half of the cup from a couple years of neglect. taylor washed them once but our boss (our home stay dad) was a tough critic and wanted it clean. this meant five long hours of scrubbing and a couple layers of skin and nails. it was completely worth it because we were washing them in the bathroom area (don't ask why....i have no idea) so most of the ladies would walk by and see the task we were given. at tea time (thankfully we finished in time) one of the ladies looked at my hands and immediately reached into her bag and grabbed some lotion and applied it to my wrinkled hands. there was such love and care in that moment. i wanted to resist but i realized that in that moment i needed her helping hands.

today i realized how much these ladies have come to accept and allow us into the sari bari family. after the ladies eat lunch everyday, they will usually take naps until lunch hour is over. today was a lazy day so when the bell rang most of the women were slow to get up so i did the only thing i knew how to do.....i offered a helping hand. it was so cool in that moment to see their willingness to let me help them. it reminded me that sometimes we dont want to get up or move from something that is comfortable but God is offering us His hand to help us move. ill be the first to admit that kolkata was never on my top 5 list of destinations but i chose reach out and let God help me up and lead me where He wanted me to go. this experience hasnt been easy but i can see God's provision all around me. i know He wont let me go. this city has shown me God's love and joy.

"Joy is an anchor: it is heavy. It falls into the coldest, deepest darkest places, where the current and pressure are enough to crush bone, and it holds there. On the surface waves crash and roll, and we are not steady but we are held, and somehow that is beautifully enough." ~ Lisa Velthouse

Monday, November 21, 2011

sari bari Christmas

Give the gift of Freedom

“We know that Jesus is always coming into the world anew. Christmas is more than just an anniversary. It is a mystery. Each year, something happens, it is not just celebrated” ~Ranerio Cantalmessa

As you begin making shopping lists, and looking for that perfect gift for someone you love, we’d like to invite you to join in the Sari Bari Christmas celebration! India is a land with seemingly endless religious festivals, and Christmas is an opportunity for us to clearly communicate the amazing truth that God indeed became flesh and made his dwelling among us. At Sari Bari we have a culture of celebration – and we go all out for Christmas! Each of the women will receive a Sari (the perfect gift for every occasion here!), and we’ll share a celebration meal together, laughter, dancing and the truth of God with us. Already the anticipation for this year’s Christmas party is running high! A gift of $25 will sponsor Christmas for one member of the Sari Bari family.If you would like to celebrate with us, you can make a donation by check to WMF, PO Box 70, Omaha, NE 68101 (on a separate paper, please indicate that the gift is for Sari Bari Christmas) or at is a link to “donate” on the lower left side of the Word Made Flesh home page ( Please indicate the gift is for Sari Bari Christmas.

Friday, November 18, 2011


first off, just a little update on me. i have had a rash now for about a month and finally went to the doctor and he thinks it is scabies. i have started treatment so i am getting some relief. i am hoping that i will be able to enjoy these last 6 weeks without any more health issues.

this week we went on a mini-retreat to rest before the calendar gets crazy with Christmas parties and saying goodbye. it was in the hotel room that i looked at my foot and noticed a scar that i got in spain when i dropped a knife in my foot while washing dishes. it reminded me that our scars are like tattoos of our life experiences. they can remind us of our past but most of the time we try to ignore or cover up our scars especially if we see them as ugly. i must confess that i am a scab picker so i am full of ugly scars but they all have a story and remind me of things in my past. the scars are evidence that our wound has healed. i was thinking about this in terms of things that happen in our past that we allow to define us. for so long we like to try to cover up certain life experiences as if it were an ugly scar or blemish on our heart. the longer we pick at it and reopen that wound the longer it will take to heal. these scars can no longer define us if we allow God to heal them. i do not mean to say that everything will be perfect again because we will always have the scar as a reminder but the scar is evidence that our hearts are healed. in kolkata i feel like my heart is torn apart daily by things i have no control over but i have to believe that God is in those circumstances and will begin the healing process as soon as i ask for His healing hand. these experiences will always be a part of me. i see God in the ways He has surrounded me with people that care about me and help walk along side me in those moments.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

Monday, November 14, 2011

indian women

i think the hardest phrase to hear in this city is "life is hard for women" especially when it comes from an indian woman. they constantly the possessions of a man. when they are young, they belong to their father. girls are unwanted and are usually married off in their teenage years to become part of the husband's family. at that point, they become a possession of the husband. they are usually limited to do house work and take care of the children. if her husband decides to leaver her at any point, she is left with nothing. only a couple decades ago, if her husband died she was expected to throw herself on to the pyre to die with her husband because that was who her whole identity was wrapped up in. these women move through this city with so much strength in order to put up with the men in this city. women get up around 4 am to start their morning work. they make breakfast, wash clothes (by hand), make lunch and clean the house all before they head out to work by 9am. they go to work all day then come home around 7pm to make dinner and take care of kids and husband. they are lucky to go to bed before midnight. as i look around this city and observe the women, i see years of struggle on their faces. at sari bari, smiles may hide the pain and struggle for a moment but the reality is shown in their eyes. i have a deep respect for these women that have to fight just to exist in kolkata. i wish i had half as much strength as these women. it makes me evermore thankful that american women have the freedom to do whatever they want and are respected and acknowledged in society. every day life in kolkata is a fight but that just makes me stronger.

Friday, November 11, 2011

the still, small voice

this week we had a book discussion on bitter chocolate by pinki virani that discusses the issue of child sexual abuse in india. it gives some pretty startling statistics and graphic details of child sexual abuse occurrences. the last question we were asked was "where is God when this is going on?" in this city there are lots of moments where God's obvious presence is absent. today there was a 5 month old baby brought to mama t's that has water on the brain which made his head swell to double the size. where is God then? daily women are bought and sold in the red light areas and children are forced to live on the streets. where is God then? women are regularly physically, mentally, and sexually abused and treated as possessions of the men in their lives. where is God then? i am learning that kolkata is a city where God is found in the still small voice that continually whispers "I am here." my grandma asked me how things were going and if i was picking up more of the language. that made me realize that i can see God's presence in the lack of words that i speak. so much of the time we try to fill silences with words or try to use our words to be part of a conversation but at sari bari, i love sitting back and seeing God in the absence of my words. i see it on the faces of the women as they do devotions and pray together every morning. i see it in the sharing of food during lunch. the freedom and joy and hope that God has given them are so obvious on their faces. i see God in the smiles of a child at mama t's when they recognize that i am back for another day with them. i see it in the gentleness of the mashis that work with the kids at mama t's everyday. kolkata is a city where i have to choose to stay silent so that i can hear God. kolkata is a city where i have to look beyond the obvious to see God. i have learned the importance of hope (asha in bangla, esperanza in spanish). God shows me hope in this city.

"Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.
13 So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” " 1 kings 19:11-13

Monday, November 7, 2011

tea time sari bari style

tea time is quickly becoming one of my favorite times of the day. all the women spot there work and come together to sit and drink tea with one another. i am usually in the same room every day so it feels like family during tea time as i try to understand bangla. some days, one of them will bring a treat to share with everyone else. sometimes it is as simple as a small loaf of break and sometimes it is sweet rice which i politely decline. it is so cool to see their generosity with each other and with me. i think that people in poverty are way more willing to share with others than people who have more than enough to share. what would it look like if we took the time to stop working for 20 minutes in our day to share life with one another? tea time will be one of the things i will miss when i leave. maybe we could use a tea break every once in awhile in america.

Friday, November 4, 2011

standing on a train platform

yesterday i was heading out to the village which meant that i had to take a train instead of the metro. if you have ever been to an indian train station or watched a movie that showed an indian train station, it will give you a pretty good idea of what i was surrounded by. in the midst of the chaos that seems to always be present at the station i saw i plane fly overhead. in the last couple weeks i have noticed planes more often flying over our part of town. it always reminds me of the flight i will be on in a couple months back to america. in that moment on the platform, i realized that i have the option to get on a plane at any point in time and leave the chaos of this city. the people i was surrounded by do not. one expression we have discussed with our team is the idea that choice is a luxury of the rich. i have never thought it was more true than in that moment. i have a choice to come live in kolkata for a few months. i have the choice to go back to america where i am faced with hundreds or thousands of choices of the food i eat, the car i drive, the job i want, and the place i live. for millions of people in kolkata, choice does not exist. most do not choose what they eat. they eat rice and dal. most do not have the option to visit their village because they can not afford it. they do not choose to beg or sell themselves in the red light areas but those things have chosen them because of their poverty. it breaks my heart that the friends i have made here may never have the choices i have had. now the reality i have to face is what will i do with the choices i have to make. at the moment i choose to make kolkata my home.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

things ive learned along the way

there are so many things i have learned in the last two months. i have learned that i can do without a lot of things like a hot shower and a washing machine. i have also learned the value of treats like coffee and american candy/snacks. i have learned the joy of sharing with other even if its trading a peanut butter sandwich for some rice and dal. my stomach is learning how to process massive amounts of rice on a daily basis. i see mcdonalds as a treat because here i can not afford it on a daily basis. i know that i am blessed to be living with a family that loves God and loves us. they have shown me the meaning of hard work and sacrifice for others.

there are also somethings that i will never get used to. men staring at me like a piece of meat and the threat of them reaching out to touch me. the constant sounds of pujas which seem like happen every day. people pooping or peeing on the street. women and children being sold and abused. these are the things that make this place hard to live in. something i always have to remember is that God is here and God loves these people. my prayer this week is that God's love will flow through me to these people. at the end of the day, God wins.