Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Wounds We Carry

Forgive and forget. This is something we are taught from a young age. Often times, we do not and can not forget the pain so we shove it down deeper. We keep it hidden so we appear to have forgotten except when a moment or a memory brings it to the surface and rips open the wound again. It is hard to voice our pain to others because it means we didn't forget. What if we just forgive and never forget? What if we allow Jesus to redeem the really deep wounds but allow our scars to be told through our stories? What if those wounds we signs of hope for others who are going through the same situations or struggles? 

I was forced to think about this in light of the women I work with on a daily basis. I am surrounded by women who deeply love, greatly care and abundantly feed everyone around them. I have only heard brief stories of the struggles they have faced along their journey to Sari Bari. I can only imagine the struggles they have faced or the abuse they have suffered. I can't imagine any one of these women has forgotten their past but have used their past struggles to fight for each step of freedom. They are welcomed into a family who share their wounds and the ways they have been restored. It was beautiful to hear the ways Sari Bari has transformed lives during the birthday celebration. Generations are being transformed and deep wounds are being redeemed. What would it look like if I let my wounds transform the way I love people? What would it look like to carry those wounds as a part of my story? How could my wounds change the way people see me? 

Kolkata is a city that creates huge wounds in my heart. It aches for the extreme poverty. It cringes as the injustice. It cries out for the women and children in bondage. It hurts for the brokenness of the lanes of the red light areas. There are also the wounds of being a white woman walking the streets of Kolkata. As I pass, I hear words I understand in English (and some I don't in Bengali) which shrinks me down to a pair of boobs. As I crowd into the metro or stop to buy a cold drink, I am grabbed as if I were a piece of meat for the taking or the subtle brushes which slowly eat away at my worth. Those are the wounds I carry with me as I leave this place. God is healing those wounds as I offer them up to Him. Through redemption those wounds are made beautiful. When Jesus appeared to his disciples after being crucified, it was his wounds which proved his identity. My wounds are proof of the journey God has laid before me. I can not and will not forget. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Month Four

The last month has been filled with the absolute insanity of fulfilling the biggest order in Sari Bari history and the much needed break with a friend in Delhi. Amidst the chaos, time flew by. I had not been to the Sari Bari unit in the south of the city for a few weeks and I was able to return this week. It was such a sweet time quietly sitting with the ladies as they sewed beautiful works of art. It was in the quiet space I realized what a gift time here is. I have been welcomed into the Sari Bari family and been giving more rice than I could possible eat, more hugs than I would expect and more love than I deserve.   There is laughter as I sit back and watch the women joke with one another. There is a sense of peace and safety within the walls of Sari Bari that words do not sufficiently describe. The ladies are my heroes for the way they choose freedom amidst a culture that tells them freedom is not an option. They create beauty out of old saris and they are so proud of their work. Dignity is restored. Hope becomes reality.

I stand at the threshold of each new day with a sense of urgency, sadness, longing, joy, hope and peace. Some days I feel as if time is moving too quickly and I wont be able to accomplish my tasks before I say goodbye. Other days I enjoy the sweet, slow moments of laughter with the ladies. In 2011, I looked forward to freedom birthdays and Christmas parties because there was such a sense of joy and celebration. Those were the big moments I remembered. Being here now, I look forward to the everyday tasks. Packing product to be shipped around the world. Carrying product from one building to the next. The ladies feeding me mountains of rice, India flavored candy and all kinds of sweets. Feeding the women all forms of peanut butter in return. It is watching the women create beautiful works of art with a needle and thread. I am blown away with the love and grace they extend to me as I struggle to communicate.

The question arrises about how long I will be here. Most assume 3 years since this is my second time at Sari Bari and that is the normal flow for foreign staff. I tell them I will be here two more months. They ask when I am coming back and I say I don't know. I get looks of confusion or disappointment. It is in these moments my heart breaks because this chapter is quickly coming to an end. I will soak up every moment I have here with a grateful heart.

Friday, February 13, 2015

A Day in the Life

Have you ever come home from a vacation feeling like you needed another vacation to recuperate? Delhi was a such a good, healthy, restful break from the chaos of the city, but jumping right back into the insanity that is my daily life in Kolkata turned into an exhausting week. Part of the reason I love living and working in Kolkata is the constant change from day to day. One day will be a peaceful day at the office where I sit and chat with the ladies during tea time while having space to be creative with the marketing plan. Other days its rushing to get product out the door to meet a deadline so we can make payday or hosting a tour in the midst of chaos in the lanes surrounding Sari Bari. I am constantly being stretched above and beyond what I think I can handle. It is in the chaos I learn real peace. It is in the hard times I discover true joy. It is in the exhaustion I find rest.

By Friday night I was exhausted from late nights of community gatherings. It was a struggle to get out of bed knowing I would be giving a tour, packing product and rolling with whatever punches came my way. My margins were so thin. One thing I look forward to is Friday morning prayer with the North American Sari Bari community. We intentionally set aside time to pray for one another, this city and the women at Sari Bari. We are honest. We are vulnerable. We often pray for the impossible. Yesterday, my friend prayed that I would find joy in spite of being exhausted which felt impossible. After prayer, I walked in to Sari Bari and felt a surge of energy. There was laughter. There was peace. I found joy in hearing the women laugh. I found joy in sharing Sari Bari's story with visitors. I found joy in being force feed rice. It is in those moment I know Sari Bari is a safe place, a refuge from the storm. It is where my soul finds rest.

Community in Kolkata has become a huge part of thriving in this city and the work we do everyday. We share meals with people who have become so woven into our stories as we sit and talk about the hard stuff and laugh big belly laughter. It is in this space where we can be honest with the ways our hearts hurt for the people we work with or the reality of being separated from our families. These people understand the reality of working with broken women and the desire to restore dignity and hope in the red light areas. I found a quote which perfectly sums up life in Kolkata: "The world may be broken but hope is not crazy" (The Fault in our Stars). We cling to hope. Hope that the women will continue to find freedom. Hope that God is still good. Hope that one day the red light areas will be transformed. Hope is what makes me put one foot in front of the other on hard days. Hope of a better life for the women. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Coffee and Conversation in Delhi

My soul was tired. I needed a break from the hustle and bustle of Kolkata. I love when God makes things happen even before I know what I need. I spent the last few days in Delhi staying with a friend and his parents who live there. It was good to have time and space to process my time in Kolkata. It was good for my heart to have a friend ask hard questions. I loved sitting in the grass on the rooftop drinking coffee and watching the sunset. We talked about camp memories. We laughed at all the stupid things we did at camp. We FaceTimed with people from camp who encouraged us both. My friend created intentional empty space for me to relax and recharge. He wanted to hear my heart. He wanted to understand as much of my life in India as he could. There were times we would just sit in silence. My time in Delhi was a gift that I am so thankful for. I am rested and ready to head into my last 2 months in Kolkata.