Sunday, July 4, 2010

Back Home "physically"

Today is my first day back from India. India was everything I had thought, hoped and dreamed it would be but it was very different than I had imagined.

I have done so much of my third world work in the context of settings that were majority Christian. Throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa, while there is still strong tribal influence, many of the communities would identify themselves as Christian.

India is not so. It is majority Hindu with strong Muslim and Sikh populations as well. The ministries with whom we worked while in country were working in situations religiously averse to Christianity and in some cases outright hostile.

I am not sure many of us in America can truly appreciate what it is like to be the religious minority in a highly spiritual/religious culture. I know I did not and no book on India could prepare me for that.

One of the amazing aspects of this trip was the opportunity that our team had to work with Hindu children, Muslim children, Sikh children and Christian children. The ministries with whom we worked are operating in a spiritual climate that many of us cannot imagine or relate to. I am very thankful for their commitment and passion.

In America, we have completely bought into SELF - the individual. In many cases, we are focused on the individual OVER the community. This is not the case in most of the world and certainly not the case in most of Scripture. This intense focus on self often leads those in the evangelical world to take a different approach to family, church, evangelism, culture, Scripture and many aspects of how we live out our faith than much of the rest of the world.

Without making a judgment of how we live, I pray that we carefully consider our context and sharing Jesus with the world in which we live. I am not advocating for a passive, wishy-washy, watered down truth. I am however strongly advocating for an analysis of Jesus and His ministry and how He chose to interact with those who "should have known" - the Jews and those within the Jewish culture and those who were NOT considered part of the Jewish community and/or the religious.

When we do this, I believe you will see a contrast between a very direct, challenging, harsh and condemning Jesus and a very soft, tolerant, welcoming and loving Jesus.

Our Jesus was one that actually drew the "sinners" and enraged the religious. In your own life, how do those who would not identify as a believer describe you? Are they drawn to you in the same way Jesus drew these crowds or are you mostly surrounded by a cocoon of believers that acts as an insulation from the world?

All of us struggle with this at some level and if you do it is ok. Just ask the Lord to help you give off an aroma that would draw in the lost and not repel them. Remember it is the LOVE of Christ that will draw men to repentance.

The ministries that we worked with face hostility from their communities, from their governments, from their neighbors and some from within their own families. To protect them from some of this persecution, we are not going to print their names in our blogs but we would love to share with you more about what they do and how they do it. So, please contact us.

India is a beautiful country with some of the most amazing people and beautiful children I have ever seen. I truly felt the spirit of God as we moved throughout the brothels, schools, leper colonies and orphanages we visited. God is at work in many of the places that we would least imagine. That shouldn't surprise us but often it does. I am thankful for my time there and our amazing team and I am looking forward to going back very soon.


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Changing - Kati's thoughts

I'm just realizing that it's been like 4 days since my last post. The last three days have flown by as I've been with part of our team in Mumbai on a side trip. Plans for these three days got dramatically changed due to some circumstances completely out of our control, so it was interesting to see how things took shape while we were there. (My natural "fly by the seat of my pants" tendencies have served me pretty well in India.) We had opportunities to spend time with people doing great ministry in Mumbai, continuing with our pattern of meeting some amazing Indian brothers and sisters. As Vince said earlier today, "I'm just waiting for us to meet someone who is notfantastic," because literally everyone we meet is just an amazing child of God pursuing effective ministry. I am so inspired by these people.

I need to keep this post short because it's late and we have an early morning tomorrow as we head to the Taj Mahal. I did want to share with you all though, that as the trip winds down, I'm starting to think a lot about the "so what?" My heart has been wrenched every which way in the last week and a half. I've seen things I couldn't have imagined. I have literally visited the homes of prostitutes and leppers and been humbled by their hospitality. I have worshipped with orphans and been put to shame by my own lack of faith. I have played and cried and everything in between, it seems. I meant it when I said earlier that this place is changing me. I can feel it in my spirit. But what does it mean when I leave this place? How is it changing me? What will really be different when I get home to my predictable, priviledged life? How will the stories I've learned and lived these two weeks in India impact my coming and going in my "normal" life? For me, the answers to these questions will be everything. This trip has blessed me beyond belief and I know that already people are connecting to the stories we've shared and the people we've met. But I know that there is so much more. Being changed, really changed, will mean so much more. But what that will look like, I do not yet know. I realize that God reveals these things all in good time. I'm not worried about God's timing or about his faithfulness in bringing to light the ways that my "normal" life will look different when I get home. In fact, I'm not "worried" at all. What I feel I guess is a certain sense of awareness and alertness...I want to make the most of the brokenness that God has brought to my heart. I want the sounds of children's voices and the looks on people's faces as vividly as they are in my mind right now to take full effect on my spirit and my heart so that the fruit is as great as it can be.

I hope that you will pray for me and the rest of the team here now as we finish up our last couple days in India. Please pray for each of our "so what" stories...that we would each have open and obedient hearts for God to use us to the fullest as we process our experiences and allow ourselves to be truly, richly changed.

I'm so thankful for each of you who are reading, praying, following the details of our trip. Though we have 10 team members in India, I feel like we have soooo many more as a part of our team...people who have been walking right alongside us in prayer and know who you are...if you feel like part of your heart is in India even though you've never been here (or even if you have :)), you really are a part of this team. God has shown an outpouring of love and support through each of you as we have been here and I thank you in advance for the ways I know you will continue to let him use you as we return to our homes in the states, changed (and changing) people.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Amazed and Dazed ~ Kati's Thoughts

Before I came to India, I couldn't have even imagined what the inside of a brothel would look like. As of right now, I've been inside 3 of them, face to face with the women who work there. Tonight, I even held one of their babies. Yes, you read that right. One of the sweetest babies I've seen in India (and I've seen some sweet ones), living in a brothel. Sadly, that baby wasn't even the only little one in the brothel we visited tonight. Does anyone know what I should even say about that? Because I really don't. How does this happen? And what can be done to stop it? Almost every woman we've talked to has basically said that she could leave, but she won't. Some say they want to (few, very few), but even they really just don't have an option that is compelling enough to break the bonds of of the emotional bondage they are under after years of living this life - even raising children in these brothels. In processing some of what we saw tonight, one of my teammates and I just discussed how nearly hopeless the situation seems. And yet, it's just so hard for me to accept that. I just have to believe that there is a way. I have to believe that some of these women can be freed. In the natural world, it seems crazy and impossible. But I have to believe that Light can overcome the darkness we've seen in the red light district...and in red light districts everywhere. I don't know how. I just know I have to bring these women and their children before the God who created all the world and believe that there is hope.

In juxtiposition of the scenario we witnessed tonight, I have to share with you the joy of the first part of this day (in my brokenness last night, I failed to mention that this is also where we began the day yesterday). Some of the women who work in the brothels have children who are living under the care of an amazing couple who run an orphanage of 28 sweet children. It's a remarkably beautiful home - not because of the structure of the building itself or because of the decor. It's actually way to small and quite minimal for a family of 30. But the love in this home, the joy, the hope, the is tremendous. We have had the opportunity to spend time with these kiddos and their [foster] parents the last two days and I'm so very excited to get to spend more time with them tomorrow. This has been an opportunity to build relationships and to see a ministry that brings so much hope into the lives of children who otherwise would be living in brothels or on the street. I have learned new games, tought new songs, laughed, watch dances, learned dances, gotten hugs, been clobbered, and shared so much love for such a short period of time. When we left today, many of the girls were on the roof having their baths...I came halfway up the steps - just enough to see their many shampooed heads peak over when I called out to tell them that we were leaving for the day. "Bye-bye, didi...we love you, didi! See you tomorrow, Kati didi!" (pronounced "dee-dee"...this means "sister" - they call me "Kati didi" or just "didi") My heart just brims with joy spending time with these kiddos. Their company is quite possibly the only reason that I'm not an inconsolable mess after these last two evenings in the red light district. God is at work...he is using ordinary people to create a beautiful, loving home for these 28 precious ones. For some of them, perhaps there was a time when their situations seemed hopeless. Now, they are happy and healthy and learning about the Lord and about loving their brothers and sisters. This is true beauty. My heart is so blessed to be going to bed knowing that in the morning, I'll head back to their home to have church with them in the 11x11 room where they weekly gather as a family for worship. I can't wait to sing with them and sit them on my lap while we listen to Vince share a message. I'll be missing The River tomorrow, but I know that time back in this joy-filled home will continue to minister to my spirit and remind me of God's continued goodness and faithfulness.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Pain, isolation, emptiness, hopelessness, shame, worthlessness - as I walk through the dark streets of the red light district of Delhi, my emotions overcome me.

I see pain - I feel pain.
I see isolation - I feel isolation.
I see emptiness - I feel emptiness.
I see hopelessness - I feel hopelessness.
I see shame - I feel shame.
I see worthlessness - I feel worthless.

My hands are empty and I have nothing to give and I pray for God to show me what to give and what words to say - nothing is coming. It is so dark. As crippled beggars line the filthy streets, I see the wealth of our churches in America in my mind. I think of conversations that I will have with friends and churches when I come back who I will beg for the crumbs that have fallen from their table. I will have to fight for their attention and justify and explain the need and hope that they understand and that the story grips them. People will want to walk away and avoid me because I will want to talk about the pain, shame, suffering and hopelessness I saw in India and they will become annoyed.

As I walk in and out of brothels and meet the mothers, sisters, daughters and their children selling their bodies and souls because they have no worth and no other way to survive. I am struggling with how to explain that to my american friends who are busy and are already doing "a lot."

I think of the lives we live in America. All of us do it - myself included. We live lives of extravagant waste. Think of how much food we throw away. Think of the last time you had friends over to cook or the last church picnic you had and how much was wasted...I am not talking about what was eaten but what was thrown away. Think about the times when we over eat and spend money on things like ice cream, and lawn care, and art to decorate the boxes that we live in. I am not trying to judge because I am part of the problem.

Where I am right now, I have met some people who are our neighbors. Jesus asks a question, who is your neighbor? I am asking you, who is your neighbor?

As we stood in worship at a school, a boy fell from weakness from malnutrition. When have our children fallen from weakness do to malnutrition?

I know what you are thinking - I help already, it's too much, stop trying to manipulate me, I can't help every child.

I don't want you to help every child but as long as you have the capacity to act I want you (and me) to continue to help more and more. For most of us, we could become more disciplined and help them purely out of our waste and excess.

If you were going to chick fil and I said if no one in your family "up-sizes" we can use that money for food - would that help? If you are going to Starbucks and I said, get a tall instead of a venti - would that help?

I am not trying to play on your emotions but I am trying to help us understand that from our waste we can change live and help the hurting. Would you consider how you can make a difference by giving from your excess?



Friday, June 25, 2010

Beautiful Slave

We thought you might enjoy this song / video. Go to to download it for free.

God Give Us Strength - post by Kati

I've been procrastinating blogging tonight. It's just been such a long and intense day, I'm not really sure that I can find the words.

So today, day 4, had a bit of a different tone. And this is the thing that has been causing my procrastination. I just don't know how to really begin to describe what I saw and felt today. A group of us went to the red light district today. We visited a brothel. We talked to and prayed with the landlady and some of the women who work in the brothel. This situation was unlike anything I've ever seen, heard of, or imagined. The system in this particular area is very different from what you might imagine when you think of a brothel. The landlady we spoke with doesn't actully own these women in the sense you would normally think. She simply owns the flat where they work. They essentially rent space from her (giving her a cut of what they earn.) The woman actually told us she is a Christian. And we sat and prayed with her and learned about her family and her arthritis. I don't think I have to tell you how much this interaction confused me. A Christian woman running a brothel? Sort of? But not really? In theory, these women are actually free to walk out of this place any time they want. I say, "in theory," because despite the fact that these women are, for lack of a better term, independent contractors, they are in just as much bondage as any woman who is indentured to a pimp. Many of them, after years (some of which were spent indentured to a pimp) of working in this industry are so broken down in their spirits and self-worth that they truly believe it's all they can do. They've resigned themselves to this life. They actually don't even desire to leave. Some of them do have the desire to leave, but simply have no place to go. They feel that they have no other options (and they don't seem to be all together wrong). I just kept thinking, "There has to be a way." I don't know what it is. There just has to be, though.

I keep thinking about a comment that one of my teammates made about Jesus' visiting the homes of prostitutes. He was commenting about the looks we were getting when we emmerged onto the street, a co-ed group of white people, having obviously come from this brothel. We drew quite a crowd. People were completely disoriented (and no less than irritated) with Jesus for the company he kept. I can't help but wonder what his demeanor was when he visited with those women. I have to head into tomorrow (when we will return for a 2nd day in another part of the red light district) praying for His heart. I am humbled by the fact that until I actually set foot in this place today, I really just had no context whatsoever for relating to Jesus in this way. Theories are out the window. We're on the ground, in the homes of prostitutes, desiring to love them and to know them in a way that is right and pure and so very different from what they've known for most of their lives. God give us strength.


I went to hell today

Today a part of our team went to the red light district in Delhi. We spent the day with three amazing people who took us into a brothel in the heart of old Delhi.
I think it is safe for me to say without any embellishment that I was in Hell. As we made our way threw the heavily trafficked streets of Delhi, we turned onto the main road of the red light district. We could see women through the bars of the three and four stories buildings beckoning men to come into the brothels and the men standing down on the street looking and calling up to the women.
Our guide took us down the street and we came to the doorway of a dark and musty building. He went up and a few minutes later motioned our team to join him. When our team made their way up the stairs for the first time, I was unable to continue and so I had to turn around and head back out. Our guide came back down and asked to please come in so I did.
Upon entering the brothel, we immediately were given a tour of the "entertainment" rooms. The conditions were shockingly abhorrent. Just a plywood platform stained from years of use. Kati and Chelsey spent their time with the "landlord" of the building and I will let them share their story in another blog.
Our guide sat us down with one of the women who works in the brothel and she began to share her story. At age 13, she was tricked into coming to the brothel by being promised work as a seamstress. When she was young, she was kept at the brothel under lock and key and had no way to escape. Now, as an adult, she is "locked in" because of the bondage of years of sexual slavery. She could leave today if she wanted but she has nowhere to go and she feels she is worthless. While we were there, she pulled out some of her money to buy us a cold Pepsi. We sat in amazement as the women tried to serve us by buying us a pepsi. It was clear to me that this 30 year old women had lost all sense of dignity, identity and self worth. I asked her if she had any hope. She said at this point all she cares about is her children. As she finished her story, I asked if I could pray for her. I look into her eyes and told her that she is beautiful to God. I felt helpless and a sense of despair trying to explain to a women that has spent her entire life as a sexual slave against her will that she is loved and has value. But, we prayed for her and touched her and my guess is that it was the first touch from a man with pure motives she may have felt in many years. We walked away and she sat on the bench waiting to service her next customer.
While we were there we actually had the chance to see several "customers" walk in and get locked in the room with their girl - it was surreal.
Then our guide took us to talk to two other women. One was 28 and had been in the brothel for 14 years. She was brought there by her husband who was much older than her and she still had a fire in her eyes and light in her heart. She said she wants to leave. But, there is no where for her to go. There is no place for her to live. The other woman was 36 and had been in the brothel for 15 years and she said she does not want to leave. She said she has lost hope and sees herself as a prostitute for life. We prayed for both of them and encouraged them and I was able to hug them both. I had a helpless feeling.
Our guide and his wife have been working in rescue of these women and have no support. They are not compensated for the work they do. Our other guide runs an orphanage and they house 6 of the children of these woman.
Please ask God if He would have any way for you to help these desperate women. They need housing far outside the city and our guides who work on the front lines need to be supported. If you want more details please contact me. I will be back in the states July 3.