Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Long Days 1/21/13-1/22/13

LONG DAYS 1/21/13-1/22-13
Today begins a 3 day stretch of long days.  The team is splitting into 2 groups for these 3 days only.  The New Hope team will be working at the school in the mornings and the Encouragement team will be working at the BMS.  The New Hope team planned lessons for the schoolchildren at New Hope School.  The Encouragement team is hosting a retreat for the workers and administrators from various aftercare homes and welfare agencies.  I am part of the school team.

In the afternoon we will meet at Sanlaap, an aftercare home.  There are approximately 150 girls at Sanlaap.

Everything at both locations has gone very well.  There have been some amazing testimonies of what God is doing at the school, the retreat, and Sanlaap.  I wish I could write more tonight but I am absolutely SPENT.  Tomorrow is our last really long day but it is a big one.  The entire team will actually be at New Hope slum village but the 2 teams will still be separated.  The school team will be once again leading the lessons there.  The Encouragement team will be prayer walking the village in anticipation of our big event tomorrow, the showing of the Jesus film.  PLEASE be in prayer at 5 pm India time or 5:30 am Wednesday CST.  Please pray for safety of the team as well as everyone at the film site.  Please pray for wisdom for Pastor Rudra and Mita.  Pray that the hearts will be softened and that those that hear the message will receive it well.  Pray for logistical details, technology, and that there would be no distractions from the film.

I'm so tired but wish I could write more.  Just know that everything is going very well and God is at work here in Kolkata!  I am so blessed to be even a small part of it. I love India!

Welcome back, Auntie! 1/20/13

Welcome back, Auntie!  1/20/13

Today was an awesome day.  We started our day with worship at Kolkata Christian Fellowship.  It was a great service.  We enjoyed the sermon on Haggai 2 and of course the warm fellowship of the sweet believers at KCF.  They are always so welcoming and we enjoy our time there.

After church we headed to City Mall to meet the rest of our team.  We ate in a food court at the mall which was quite Western.  It was like nothing I had ever seen in India.  It was pretty much like any other mall in America.  After lunch I had a few moments of panic when Lauren left to go shopping with a few of the other team members and "forgot" to tell me.  Actually panic doesn't describe it.

Then we headed to one of my favorite places in Kolkata, an aftercare home that I will call M.  The girls at M Home are so sweet and always so happy to see us.  There are around 35 girls that live there and 2 of them have babies.  They just opened up a home for "majors" which are girls that have aged out of the minors home (under 18)  We had so much fun with them and can't wait to return on Sunday.  We played some fun games and just took some time to break the ice.  After we played games the girls had their picture taken and then decorated a frame for their picture.  We are printing out their picture here at the BMS and will take it back to them on Saturday.  M home allowing us to take their picture is a huge deal as safety is a concern for these girls.  I know they will all enjoy having pictures of themselves as that is something that none of them own.

After the craft we had a short time of devotions.  I told the Joseph story, layering shades of color onto a blank canvas that eventually told a story about how God uses good and bad times in our lives for His glory.  I asked the girls lots of questions and our translators were right there to help the girls share highs and lows.  Then Lauren shared her testimony and Rachael sang "Beauty from Pain".  It was a beautiful afternoon.  Then we had tea and snacks with the girls and before we knew it, it was time to leave.  Spending time with these girls reminded me of WHY we come to India. These girls are easy to love and they connect with people so easily.  The staff at M home spends a lot of time and resources on counseling for the girls and it is evident that they are in the process of being healed from their traumatic life.  Their stories are heartbreaking and yet they have joy.  It is almost unfathomable.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Sari Bari 1/19/13

Amazing first day!  1/19/13
Today was an amazing first day!  The team (there are 19 women on this trip) split into 2 groups to visit 2 Sari Bari locations.  It was sad not to see all of the women at both units but then again it was nice to be able to take time at 1 unit instead of splitting our time into 2 places.  We left the BMS at 8 am and arrived in the area around 8:45.  Our driver dropped us off at a completely different location than where we were last year.  I am not usually good with details and I am somewhat directionally challenged, especially considering that the streets all looked the same.  But surprisingly I found where we were supposed to go and we arrived safely at the center where we would be working that day.  I so appreciated the prayers of my friend Rebecca who later told me that she had prayed for God to lead our steps.  He definitely did.  If you saw the streets and market area you would understand that it is a miracle that we found the place.  The area that we were walking to was made up of alleyways, shops, and thousands of people.  Everything looked the same, every street resembled the last one.
Anyway we arrived at Sari Bari around 9:15 and set up for the day.  We dedicated one room to manicures and pedicures while another room was for our crafts.  Approximately 20 women came and we spent the day with them there.  It was so sweet that many of the women recognized me and Lauren from our visit last year.  They all thought it was pretty neat that my Mom was traveling with us as well.  
Many of these women are still living in brothels, which is very sad.  The happy part is that most of them are able to pay their "wages" to the brothel owner by the money they make working at Sari Bari so although many of them live in the brothel they do not work there.  If you are interested in supporting this amazing cause while also having some retail therapy for yourself visit www.saribari.com.  Their products are beautiful and made by some amazing women.
The women bounced between the manicure/pedicure room and the craft room.  Our craft this year tells an amazing story.  To see a link to the craft go to:
While all of this was going on tea and snacks were served.  The women felt badly that we wouldn't eat the snack since we were doing pedicures.  They wanted us all to stop what we were doing with their feet so we could eat.  They wanted us to be Mary, not Martha.  Pretty ironic.
After the morning activities we had a brief program for the ladies.  First Bree shared the Joseph story.  It is really hard to describe the concept that we used for the story but it's basically portrays the many layers of Jospeh's life on a canvas.  We start out by showing a blank canvas and then layer on colors that signify different periods of his life.  As we flip a page over the canvas you can tell that his life had highs and lows just like their lives.  Basically it shows that God uses the good and bad in our lives to paint a beautiful picture.  It was an amazing way to bring                            After we were done with the morning activities I left with one of the ladies to pick up lunch.  The streets were crowded and it was pretty unnerving.  But the young lady I was with took it all in stride so i stuck close by her.  After we purchased lunch from the street vendor we walked another few blocks to buy sodas.  Apparently that is a really big deal for these ladies and considered a very special treat.
After we ate lunch we shared a brief program with the girls.  Our interpreters did a great job in keeping up.  I'm so appreciative of them.  Today we had Deborah and Nehau.  After we were done with the morning activities I left with one of the ladies to pick up lunch.  The streets were crowded and it was pretty unnerving.  But the young lady I was with took it all in stride so i stuck close by her.  After we purchased lunch from the street vendor we walked another few blocks to buy sodas.  Apparently that is a really big deal for these ladies and considered a very special treat.
After we ate lunch we shared a brief program with the girls.  Our interpreters did a great job in keeping up.  I'm so appreciative of them.  Today we had Deborah and Nehau.  After we were done with the morning activities I left with one of the ladies to pick up lunch.  The streets were crowded and it was pretty unnerving.  But the young lady I was with took it all in stride so i stuck close by her.  After we purchased lunch from the street vendor we walked another few blocks to buy sodas.  Apparently that is a really big deal for these ladies and considered a very special treat.
After we ate lunch we shared a brief program with the girls.  Our interpreters did a great job in keeping up.  I'm so appreciative of them.  Today we had Deborah and Nehau.  
The rest of the blog was accidentally deleted and I am too tired to stay up and finish it.  I'm sorry!  Thank you all for your continued prayers.  Tomorrow is one of my favorite days, although that is hard to say as they are all my favorite days in India. :)  We are visiting one of my favorite safe houses, M.  I love these girls and have remembered their faces for a year now and can't wait to hug on their necks.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Longest. Day. Ever. 1/18/13

What a long day! After an 8 hour layover in Dubai we boarded at 3 am for a 5 hour flight. What's crazy to me is that the Dubai airport is ust as busy at 3 am as it is at 3 pm. Seriously that place does not sleep.

The flight to Kolkata was uneventful. When we stepped off of the airplane the sights, sounds, and smells of India welcomed us back. After accounting for all 75 pieces of luggage (2 pieces of checked bags plus 2 carry ons per person minus 1 for an efficient packer Terri) we walked outside and were greeted by our favorite India team, D and S.
We headed to the BMS, took 30 minutes to get settled and then we HIT THE GROUND RUNNING! First we opened up all 19 supply suitcases and organized what we needed for each day. Then we headed downstairs for a quick dinner at the BMS. It was....wait for it.....curry chicken and rice! :) It was delicious! And what is with that amazing ice cream stuff they serve? It tastes like frozen Cool Whip. Those of you that have been to the BMS know what I'm talking about.
We had to run out for a few supplies at Malik Market. On the way we stopped at Mother House to see where Mother Teresa lived and worked. It's an amazing place! Malik Market was interesting. We saw chicken baskets where you could choose the live chicken you wanted and then they would butcher it RIGHT THERE. Pretty gross. We bought bendis, henna, tubs (for the pedicures we will be doing for the girls in the safe houses), and a few of the ladies bought saris.
Many of you may not even know what we are doing in India. I will try to blog a little each day to explain it. The trip has several purposes. Our main purpose and how we spend most of our time is working with and ministering to young girls that have been rescued from sex trafficking. We are visiting 2 places tomorrow. All of the women at the places we will visit tomorrow are being taught sewing skills as a means of a way to make a living. We will be doing a craft, presenting the Joseph story (so perfect for them!), doing manicures and pedicures on them, singing, and having a short devotional. I can't wait for our first day!
Currently it is 5:40 pm and I can barely keep my eyes open. We are operating on very little sleep so if any part of this blog didn't make sense please forgive me. Also if you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them. I would love to hear from you!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Dubai 1/17/13

Dubai 1/17/13
15 hours is a long way to be on an airplane. The team passed the time by watching free movies on the plane, reading, trying to sleep, and eating lots of yummy food.  Emirates really does feed you well.  They even give you a funny sticker that you can put on the top of your seat if you want to be woken up for food.  No joke!
The seatbelt sign flashed off and on almost the entire time on the flight from Houston to Dubai. The pilot warned us before takeoff that there was quite a bit of turbulence this evening. He wasn't kidding!
The 8 hour layover in Dubai has been uneventful. We have passed the time by reading, Skyping, laughing, and updating blogs. We are about an hour away from boarding our last flight of the day to Kolkata. This flight is only 4-5 hours so it's not near as bad as our first leg. When we land in India the plan is to gather our 76 pieces of luggage and then head to the BMS to unload. Then we will take an hour to get settled and freshen up before we head out to pick up supplies for our first full day tomorrow.
Everyone is feeling great and looking forward to a great 12 days. We have had no real issues and we are all ready to get started in Kolkata! We appreciate your continued prayers.
It's almost time to board the plane. Gotta run!

Things that make you go hmmmm.... 1/16/13

The team is assembled here in the boarding area.  We had a few issues checking in.  When I say "we" I mean me.  I somehow ended up with the new guy who felt it necessary to obey every rule to the letter.  He wouldn't average my bag weights even though between Lauren and I we had 4 bags or 76 pieces of luggage in our group of 19.  I understand that if a bag is too heavy that it is unsafe for the baggage handlers but I'm not talking about 20 pounds overweight here, I'm talking about a pound or 2.  
Then he asked to weigh my carry on luggage which was quite bizarre.  Out of our group of 19 he wanted to weigh 3 of our carry ons but nobody else's?  So I walked back to our group, grabbed our carry on bags and set it on the scale.  Of course those were too heavy since that was my luck so far in the scale department.  I asked him why it mattered if my carry on was too heavy if I would in fact be the one to carry it on, which is why it is called a "carry on".  I said it in the most respectful voice I could muster up even though I was getting somewhat annoyed.  :)  Plus at the same time I was trying to get the same guy to move our seats so that Lauren and I could have our own row since the flight was only half full. 
When he discovered that our carry ons were too heavy he had 3 suggestions.  I could 1) take out some of my heavier items and give it to someone else in our group to let them put it in THEIR carry on luggage 2) put some of the heavier items in a plastic bag and carry it separately or 3) weigh it on the scales upstairs as I boarded.  Does anyone else see the "Things that make you go hmmmmm...." possibilities with his 3 proposals?  First of all why would I take some of my items out and give them to a traveling companion and then make THEIR carry on too heavy?  I asked him that very question to which his answer was "Yes but I'm not going to weigh their carry on bag so it's okay if theirs are too heavy."  I'm not even kidding you, that's what he said.  
Let's move on to the "plastic bag" approach.  First of all, what the what?  What does it matter if my items are in a plastic bag or a carryon bag if I'm the one that will be handling said bags?  I told him I had an empty plastic bag in my carryon luggage (true story--I really did put an empty Target bag in there for dirty clothes!)  But what is the point of walking around 3 international airports like a bag lady or ill-prepared traveler?  Oh wait, that's me!  I represent that!
And last but certainly not least, let's discuss the "weighing it upstairs in the boarding area" approach.  What does it matter if I weigh the bag upstairs or downstairs?  Does it weigh less on the upstairs scale because we are closer to the moon up there?  Apparently physics is not this young man's strong suit.
Needless to say I went with Door #3.  After we waited a few hours in the terminal it was time to board.  Guess how many airline employees asked me to weigh my carry on luggage?  If you guessed ZERO then you are the winner of a bag of peanuts.
Some of you were expecting to log on to check our first blog post and read about how we are suffering for Jesus or praying through scriptures as we approach Kolkata but honestly I had to get past my funny encounter with the Emirates employee before I could move on.  Thanks for reading.  I promise my next installment will in fact be about our mission trip and not about luggage, clueless employees, or plastic bags

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Map of India - Where is Kolkata? 1/12/13

Some of you are visual learners :) so I thought I would include a map of India.  Calcutta/Kolkata is located in the northeast corner of India in the state of West Bengal/Bangla.

Map of India

Speaking of names....which is it?  Calcutta or Kolkata?  West Bengal or Bangla?  So confusing!  Maybe this will clear it up.....

Is it Calcutta or Kolkata?

Here we go again! 1/12/13

Most of you know that we will be traveling back to India next week on another mission trip.  We are so excited!  This year there are 19 ladies going on the trip versus the 12 that went last year.  Our itinerary is very similar with a few additions.  About 80% of our focus will be ministering to girls and women that have been rescued from sex trafficking.  The other 20% will be spent working with a school in a slum village in Udayan Pally.

We covet your prayers during the trip!  If you would like to pray by name: Brenda, Lauren, Cheryl (my mom!), Kay, Jana, Rachael, Lalena, Susan, Bree, Melissa, Candice, Jan, Jill, Christine, Rebecca, Avery, Terri, Beth, and Cindy.  We are taking 3 high schoolers, 1 college student, and 15 moms, including a couple of Grandmas!  Fun!

If you want to know more about HOW girls are rescued from trafficking and what happens to them after they are rescued, watch this 12 minute video:

Ray of Hope, Suhana's Story

If you want to see what life is like in Calcutta, watch this video.  It pretty much sums it up:

Streets of India, "Mother India" by Caedmon's Call

This is where we will be staying:

BMS Kolkata

Well I am off to start packing and work on lesson plans for the boys while I'm gone.  Yes, life goes on at home!