Thursday, December 22, 2011


today was hard. i said goodbye to the ladies i have grown the closest to in these four months. it was hard to see tears. it was hard to not have an answer when they asked if i was coming back. it was hard knowing that i may never see these ladies again this side of eternity. it was awesome getting to celebrate Christmas with them as we laughed, danced and cried together. i will always remember these moments. tomorrow will be another hard day. i will be sleeping in my own bed a week from today. i cant wrap my mind around that.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

ashbe na

today we started the saying goodbye process in the form of a Christmas parties. today we got to get dressed up in our saris which took a whole clan of sari bari ladies. once everything was properly tucked into place and our petty coats were so tight we could barely breathe then the party was able to start. it was really cool to be able to sit with these ladies one last time as we prayed, sang songs and heard a devotion. it was also in this time that our mergi ma told the ladies that it would be our last visit to this sari bari unit. she said "ashbe na" which means they will not come again. for some reason this phrase always brings the reality that i am in my final week in this place that has been my home for the last four months. ashbe na. i still cant believe that the end has come. we have Christmas parties tomorrow and friday then our time at sari bari will be done. i have learned so much from these women that it will be really hard to say goodbye and thank them for the smiles, laughs, tears that i have shared with them. today was just a preview of the celebration that the Christmas parties are and the sadness that is leaving my sisters. it was so much fun to see all the ladies dressed up in their finest saris and try to imitate their dancing. my face hurts from laughing so much. i laughed a lot more today than i have here. it was awesome to see the ladies let loose. it will be good to leave on such a high note.

in other news.....winter has come to kolkata which means ive seen some pretty interesting fashions statements in the last week. i started seeing goats wearing sweatshirts about 3 weeks ago and thought that would take the cake. not true. i have seen grown men wearing pink fuzzy sweater vests. women wear blankets (calling them shawls) everywhere they go. little kids are put into these snow suit looking things which restrict movement and make them look like walking blobs (think a christmas story). everyone (yes, everyone) wears socks with sandals and they sell socks designed to be worn with flip flops. this city never ceases to amaze me.

Monday, December 19, 2011

my training blanket

the first week we arrived in kolkata, melissa let us know that we would have the opportunity to sew a training blanket at sari bari as a glimpse into the day to day work of the ladies. ill be the first to admit that i wasnt super excited about sewing a blanket and really considered passing up on the offer because im just not a girl who enjoys sewing. the first day of work at sari bari (back in august when all i could do was sweat and avoid stepping in puddles and poop) i decided that i would do it and take it on as a challenge. today, my last day at sari bari, i finished it alongside ladies i have grown to love in the crisp, cold december air. as i was putting the finishing touches on my blanket, i realized that my blanket is a reflection of my journey here in kolkata. my blanket started out as a couple of old saris with rips and wholes waiting to become a work of art. i came to kolkata with little idea of what this time would hold for me and i had my own brokenness and issues to work through. there is a steep learning curve with sewing blankets and living in kolkata. the first lines on my blanket look like my needle got drunk and took a leisurely stroll across my blanket and my back and fingertips were really sore. i realized just how hard it is to sit on the concrete for hours hunched over sewing. likewise, my first month in kolkata was filled with frustration, anger, confusion and learning. i faithfully carried my blanket with me each day to sari bari so its been abused on the metro and thrown around at sari bari. sometimes i feel like that is how my body has been treated by this city. the constant fight sometimes leaves me a little worse for the ware. as i got used to the rhythm of sewing, my lines became more straight and there was less pain except for the occasional needle poking my finger. over the past four months this city has become home. i have gotten used to fighting to get on/off the metro and buses. i have learned to dodge the yellow cars (they dont stop) and avoid getting sideswiped by rickshaws. i have learned to dance along with the rhythm of the city with only the occasional step out of tune. as i patched my blanket today, i thought about all the love, grace, mercy, protection that God has given me along my journey. without the patches my blanket would look unfinished and kind of shabby, but with the patches it looks like a masterpiece created by an artist. i see the patches that God has given me in this time and it makes me realize even more that i am His masterpiece. it has been a journey filled with joy, anger, frustration, learning, love, hope, and emptiness. God has used the lows to show me His presence in this city in spite of the darkness and the good times to celebrate the light that He is to these ladies. it has been a long, hard journey but i am coming back as a slightly patched up creation.

this week we will be celebrating Christmas with our sari bari family as well as saying goodbye to ladies we have come to love as they invited us to share life with them. please pray as for my team as we mentally, emotionally, and spiritually prepare to leave this city.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


i have two weeks until i am back in america. it seems like all i have are moments left with the people i have come to love in this city. a couple days ago my indian mom had me sit on the bed while she got out all of her jewelry in search of bangles that would match my sari for the the Borodin (Christmas) party. it turned into her putting earings, multuiple necklaces, rings, bangles, and to top it off a bindi (the red dot married indian women wear). in that moment there was such joy as she played dress up with her american daughter. a moment i will always remember. yesterday one of the ladies met me and erin on the way to sari bari so we walked into work with her. (as a note, it is really common for girls to hold girl's hands or boys to hold boy's hands as they stroll (slowly) down the streets.) she guided across the sidewalk as any protective mama hen would do for her baby chickens. (at sari bari we are referred to as mergi batchas which means baby chickens.) we turned a corner and she grabbed my hand and we started talking about the sari i would wear to the Borodin party and the wedding that she went to over the weekend. all the while, she was throwing dirty looks like it was her job because the streets were filled with men. it was probably such a weird sight for anyone who saw it but in that moment we walked down the street hand in hand as sisters. that is moment i will always remember.

the experience of walking hand in hand with my india sister helped me to put into perspective my journey in kolkata. when God first asked me to come to india i was confused and hesitant because india was never a place that was even on my radar. when i made the decision to come and submitted my application, i grabbed onto God with both hands knowing that He would guide me in the path He laid out for me. in the time leading up to my departure date, there were several things like support raising and saying goodbye that i put in God's hands. as we arrived, with one hand i clung to my Heavenly Father and with the other i clung to the mergi ma as she ushered us around the city. she taught us what we needed to know about this city like getting around and what to expect from men in a crowded metro. i was like a child being held up by two parents as i learned to walk in this city. as time has flown by i have learned to walk without the constant help of the mergi ma. God still has not let go of me in this time. this week i walked hand in hand with my sari bari sister. this place is home now.

My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:8

Monday, December 12, 2011

simple treats and pure laughter

one of the major things i have learned living in kolkata is that most things that i have access to/do on a daily basis back home are treats in this city. for the last 3 1/2 months i have been sleeping on a couch (part of this is by choice) instead of a bed where i can stretch out. back home i have a whole queen size bed to myself which seems like such a blessing after spending 4 months on a couch. another thing that i find is such a treat and helpful to me in this city is american food. there is one mcdonalds, a coulple KFCs, a pizza hut and some subways to choose from but our budget for lunch and location of work does not allow us to eat there everyday. i rarely eat mcdonalds back home but it is such a treat here it is a reminder of home. i have eaten there only a a few times (like 5 maybe) and each time it is such a treat. one thing that we are blessed with every monday morning is some fresh brewed coffee and it is such a treat each week. there are coffee shops here but there are out of the way of our daily travel and they are kind of expensive on a 800 rupee weekly food budget. our sunday routine has been to sit at cafe coffee day after church to work on our projects or read while we wait for the metro to start running at 2. i have seen this time on sundays as a retreat in order to recharge for the coming week. simple things like sitting at a coffee shop reading is something i have taken for granted back home. one of the reasons these things are seen as treats is because i choose to deny myself the comforts of going to mcdonalds everyday. i choose to buy locally produced things instead of imported goodies like ritz crackers and goldfish because my budget doesnt allow me to splurge on things i think i need. if i deny myself then when i allow myself to eat at mcdonalds or get a latte it is truly a treat. i am looking forward to coming home with this new perspective on simple treats.

one other thing that i have learned is the importance of laughter. today at sari bari there was a song that came on the radio that immediately led to a spontaneous dance party. it was so much fun to see the ladies' walls come down as they circled around to watch a few of the ladies battle each other in a dance off. the laughter was contagious. it was in that moment that i realized how privileged i am to be a part of sari bari. these ladies i have taught me so much about laughter and the joy found in living without taking myself too seriously. i wonder what it would be like if spontaneous dance parties broke out in workplaces in america. how much joy would that bring? i mighty have to try it when i get back. look for a spontaneous dance party starting december 29. JOI JESU!

Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
psalm 150:4

Thursday, December 8, 2011

name tag

one of the things i love about sari bari is that all of the products have a name tag on it that says "made in india by". it gives credit to the women and allows the people who buy products to see who makes the product. today i was ironing a stack of scarves to be packaged and shipped. one of the ladies walked up next to me and pointed to the scarf and said "i did that one." her face showed her joy in knowing that someone would be buying a scarf that she made and she had so much pride in her work. it made me realize that i was created by God. i have God's name tag. He looks down on me and sees His perfect creation. sometimes i forget that i am wonderfully made and see all the things i dont like about myself like my weight or height or my skin. God created me the way i am for a reason and He sees it as perfection. it was that thought that made today such a joy.

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a] Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Psalm 139:13-15

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

adventures in kolkata

i think part of the reason i love this city is because everyday is really an adventure. today it started with a super crowded metro with people pushing and internal organs getting smashed in the process. about halfway through our commute to the north of the city the metro stopped and half the people got out. about half a second later a voice came over the loud speaker, said something in bangla (it was one of those moments where i wish i could understand bangla), and everyone got out of the metro. as i was waiting to exit the train the doors closed on my bag so my immediate reaction was to pry the doors open which then turned into holding the doors open for the rest of the people behind me. quite the kolkata metro experience. it was a mass of people because it was rush hour in kolkata so the mob moved towards the gates and exited in a fairly orderly manner which really impressed me. we then tried to get a bus which was an adventure because we were told that there were no buses that were going to where we needed to be. one guy told us to catch a bus to the next metro stop then there would be buses heading north to where we needed to get to....well we did that but there were no buses so we started walking. we ended up at the next metro station where we just started asking for any bus that was going north. we found one and got to work only half an hour late. i was pretty impressed that our adventure only delayed us a half hour. it is moments like these that just make me laugh because ultimately God is in control. i could have gotten mad or frustrated but instead i see it as God providing an adventure and new way to see more of the city. i am continually a student learning that i always need to be prepared for an adventure.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

choosing to be blind

from the very beginning of my work at mama t's, there has been one girl that everyone wants to work with and her name is mita. mita is blind because her eyes never fully developed (or at least that's what i have been told) but is usually one of the easier kids to work with. she knows when it is time to change her diaper and will cooperate in that process as much as she is able to and is generally easy to feed. it has become my job to take mita to class for the blind kids on fridays which is not her favorite thing to do but it is part of the routine for her. today she was in a very energetic mood and decided to stand up and start jumping with excitement. in this process, she began to fall forward at which point i needed to catch her. (she cannot stand on her own.) taylor was sitting right next to me and pointed out that she was trusting that my hands would be there to catch her. she is not able to see that there are hands there to catch her but she is trusting that someone or something will be there to catch her when she is falling. it made me realize that in many ways my ability to see things keeps me from trusting. i see my own insecurities and weaknesses and am hesitant to trust others with those things. i am hesitant to trust that God will provide the things i need for fear of Him letting me down. unlike mita i see all the ugly things in the world that make me hesitant to trust. what would it be like if i choose to be blind to the things of the world so that i could trust that God would catch me when i fall? in my last three weeks all i can do is trust that God will give me the words to say as the ladies ask me when i will come back. i will trust that God will guide my path as i start news things when i get home. i will trust that God will provide comfort and peace as i say goodbye to the community that He has given me in kolkata. i am trusting as i fall into the loving arms of God who will not let me fall.

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 2 corinthians 5:6-8

Saturday, December 3, 2011


yesterday was the first of many Christmas parties. i received my first sari (yay!) so that i can wear it to the sari bari Christmas parties. i was so honored to be sitting around the table with some amazing people who have become my family here. i was so humbled that i God gave me the privilege to serve alongside some awesome americans that have made kolkata home and the amazing indian staff that have welcomed us, the mergi bachas (baby chickens), into their life. the festive feeling started as we walked along the streets of kolkata hand in hand. bideshi and deshi. there was no division which was probably really confusing for anyone who saw our group. after dinner we were all on the same packed metro so the party continued. we were responsible for taking our indian little brother home because our indian parents were going somewhere else before heading home. he was sitting on my lap speaking english with us so one lady leaned over and asked if he was my son. it made us all laugh but apparently i can pass for an indian mom. good to know. this morning during our conversational bengali class, our teacher (who is awesome and amazing all at the same time) asked us how we were feeling about leaving. this brought tears all around. our teacher told us that she doesnt want us to leave and prays every day that we will come back and join the staff here. it is so hard to be torn between our family back home and our family here.
tonight on the way home, we stopped and talked to our usual peeps. the cigarette lady talked about something (couldnt really understand what she talking about) for five minutes then told us we need to come sit and have sweets with her before we leave. she also wants a picture of us to keep when we leave so she can remember us when we go back to america. she also gave us some better cookies that she refused to accept any money for and said that if we gave her money she would throw it in the street. so humbling to know that these people count us as friends now and not just strangers that pass by. as we walked away, she said we have to come back before we leave. we see her every day but she is still afraid that we will leave without saying goodbye. we then stopped and talked to the cha (tea) lady who made us sit and eat at least a mishti. we shared the cookies from the cigarette lady with her. as we walked to the internet cafe, we ran into one of our neighborhood friends who said we looked so cute last night (we were dressed up from the Christmas party) and that we now have a indian attitude. he said we are no longer foreigners but we are indian. it is really humbling to hear that as our time to leave is rapidly approaching.
i look back and see how God has provided in amazing and humbling ways throughout my time in kolkata. at the beginning i thought december 29th would never come but He has provided motivation, strength, health, perseverance, and joy to thrive in this city. my God is bigger than this city and that is a truly humbling thought.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. james 1:27

Thursday, December 1, 2011

mosquito hunting and other games kids play

one of my joys since i have been here is playing with the kids. i am surrounded by kids at least two days a week at mama t's. on tuesday, i was helping andeep walk, his daily exercise to strengthen his legs, and he discovered a stuffed soccer ball by the window i always walk him by to see the street below. i was in awe as he was able to kick the ball and had the strength to direct the path he wanted to continue kicking the ball. his grunts of joy made me realize that he was completely happy in that moment. when the ball went out of his sight, he would look all around his feet and refused to move until he found it. a smile would spread across his face when he saw it in front of his feet so he was once again able to continue practicing dribbling his soccer ball. after he was changed and ready for name time, i took so time to play with him and it is in those moments where his laughter is loud enough for all to hear that i see the joy that God has given in this dark city. i have also had some really awesome moments at sari bari with the kids who occasionally accompany their mom/grandma to work. i remember the times i had to go to work with my dad and it was fun for a couple hours but after awhile it was boring so i want to make it a little more fun for those kids. one day it involved following a little boy around the office as he pointed out what he saw as important and then we play memory. his idea of playing memory was turning over all the cards then putting the matches together. it was so cool to work together in those few moments. another day at a different office, it involved getting slayed like a dragon multiple times by the valiant knight. laughter floated throughout the whole office and im sure most of the ladies thought i was crazy. it was worth it to see the smile on that kid's face. today at another office, i played mosquito hunter with a little boy for at least three hours. it started out as a way of getting rid of all the mosquitoes but turned into creating a pile of dead mosquitoes. when the mosquitoes were too elusive we switched to hide and seek which then turned into me being the tickle monster. at one point he was like a baby monkey attached to my back as i was sewing. i walked away with my neck covered in snot and spit but it was worth it for the few moments of laughter. sometimes this city can seem like such a dark and joyless place but it is in those moments of laughter that i reminded of God's goodness and provision. He uses children to remind me that i am His child. He wants me to smile and laugh and be ridiculous because He loves me. He has filled my joy today so it overflowed. Joi Jesu!

Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
"The LORD has done great things for them."
The LORD has done great things for us;
we are glad. Psalm 126:2-3