Monday, September 29, 2014

Taking time to Celebrate

One thing I love about Sari Bari is celebrating freedom birthdays. It is a time set aside to celebrate the anniversary of their first steps on the path to freedom. It is a break from work to recognize the women that have chosen to continue on the difficult path of freedom. It is a time to recognize they are not on that path alone. This taught me the importance of taking time to celebrate the people around us. Often times, I forget to take time to celebrate simple things like birthdays or new jobs because other things come up. We live in a culture of busyness where we go from one place to the next without really thinking because we live life on auto pilot. I notice this in my own life when I hesitate to RSVP to a party because I think something better or more important will come up.

This weekend I had the privilege to celebrate a friend's birthday the entire weekend. Friday night was a celebration with friends we worked with at camp. Saturday night was friends we grew up with at church. Sunday night was new friends from church. Each night brought fun and excitement. I love people watching which is even more fun around a table of people who know and love each other. I loved watching faces light up as another friend showed up to join the celebration. There was lots of laughter as we remembered the craziness of camp. There was joy in friends sharing new opportunities they have been giving. There was encouragement given as people shared the struggles of ministry or the uncertainty that accompanies graduation. Celebrations bring people together not only to acknowledge one person but in order to reconnect to community.

I am looking forward to celebrating many freedom birthdays as well as Christmas with the Sari Bari ladies. There will be a lot of dancing, more food than my stomach can hold and so much laughter. These are the sweet moments I look forward to as I prepare my heart to go back to Kolkata. I look forward to sharing these moments with you though my blog. Please continue to pray for me as my departure date approaches and there is so much to get done. Also if you would like to partner with me financially, click here and select "Team India" from the drop down menu. All donations are tax deductible.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

One Month and a Growing To Do List

If all goes according to plan, I will board a plane bound for Kolkata 1 month from today. I have a ticket book. My visa is being processed. I am starting a packing list. I am heading back to a place and people I love. I cherish conversations with friends over coffee or a meal as they ask how I am feeling as the departure date approaches. I get to share sweet memories of tea time with the ladies at Sari Bari. I share the memories of laughter and mini dance parties as the women complete beautiful products that carry their name as a sign of hope. Along with the good memories, I share the bad memories of being viewed as an object for men to touch and grab as I travel through the city. I share how my heart breaks for the thousands of women stuck in the sex trade. I share the memories of the faces I pass on the streets just hoping someone will acknowledge their humanity.

God has given me the gift of a community that loves me well. I am so grateful for friends who are willing to sit and ask the hard questions. Many times, they just sit and listen. They listen to my excitement and my fears. Sometimes, we just sit in silence and it is in the silence that they allow me to process. They carve time out of their busy schedules to be present. Being present shows that I am valued, loved, important. I am choosing to go and be present at Sari Bari. I pray for the women. I pray for the ministry being done. I pray for the people who devote their life to serving in Kolkata. There is something special about getting to see first hand what God is doing instead of reading it in a blog or an email. I want to see first hand the way God is working and moving in these broken areas. I am choosing to walk through an open door.

As I take a step out in faith, I am asking you to join me. Kolkata is a hard city to do life in as a single female so the first way to partner with me is through prayer. I ask for prayer as I continue planning and preparing my heart to return to Sari Bari. I ask for prayer for my family as they prepare to send me off. I ask for prayer for the community I will be joining in Kolkata and the ladies at Sari Bari. The second way you can partner with me is financially. I will be raising financial support for my time in Kolkata so I will be able to wholly give my energy and effort to Sari Bari. After months of praying about returning to Kolkata, God has opened doors to return in 4 short weeks. I ask you to pray and consider partnering with me financial if you are able. The total cost of my time in Kolkata is about $6000 which includes airfare and living expenses. If you would like to partner with me financially, you can donate online by clicking here and selecting "Team India" from the drop down menu.

I thank you for your prayers and support as I follow God's leading in this next season of life. Feel free to send me an email if you would like to grab coffee and chat.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Path that Leads to Kolkata

I love that God has allowed travel to be a huge part of my story. Friends often ask where my next trip will take me or when I am leaving again. A year ago, I was dreaming and preparing for life in Lima and then things changed. This left me broken and confused. It took me a few months to realize that God had a different plan for my life this year. I was able to lead a small group of high school girls and continue serving in the youth group. I was able to visit my brothers and see my nephew take his first steps. I was able to work another summer at camp and serve alongside some amazing people while serving churches. I learned to find joy in the little things. I learned a posture of openhandedness where I didn't cling to plans that I made and instead held my hands open for whatever came my way.

I have been praying about returning to Kolkata for several months and God has opened doors for me to return. I will be working with Sari Bari which provides employment for women exploited by the sex trade or are vulnerable to sex trafficking. I worked with Sari Bari in 2011 and fell in love with the women that found freedom with Sari Bari. Kolkata is a city filled with chaos, but among the chaos, Sari Bari is filled with peace and hope. (Read more about Sari Bari here.)

I am excited to embark on this journey that started three years ago and be able to invest in women that I already love. I will be able to use my gifts and talents to teach conversational English to the managers as well as helping with administrative for the business. I am hoping to leave October 19 which is less than 6 weeks away. I would appreciate your prayers as I apply for my visa and begin preparing to serve among the women at Sari Bari.

I will be raising support for my time in Kolkata. I have committed to spending six months which means I need around $6000 to cover airfare, visa, living expenses while in Kolkata. I have partnered with Grace Church of Glendora to raise support so if you would like to partner with me financially please send checks (DO NOT WRITE MY NAME ON THE CHECK) to:

Grace Church Glendora
C/O Team India
1515 S. Glendora Ave. 
Glendora, CA 91740

Please include a slip of paper with "Natalie Cook Kolkata, India" to ensure it is allocated to my support account. If you have any questions about my trip or would like to hear more, feel free to shoot me an email at