By Larissa Elaine
Thursday April 4
Thursday was a busy day! This was the last day that our core group serving with Bombay Teen Challenge shared together. We spent Tuesday night, all of Wednesday, and half a day Thursday at Ashagram, where the saved women take refuge from the atrocities of their past, and heal and grow in our Lord. The women’s ages range from teens to women in their 50s. My last day there started with my testimony during the older women’s devotional time before breakfast.
Our time that morning started with worship songs sincerely sung in Hindi. While most of the people at Ashagram speak English, many of the older women do not. It was a special time to share praise and worship time with them, even though there is a language barrier. While I haven’t had the experience of the women of the red light district, I planned to share my story of a verbally and sexually abusive, manipulative relationship I was trapped in for a few years during my early 20‘s. While I did not walk with God during this time, His guiding hand lead me to freedom and ultimately to salvation. God placed a burden on my heart to share my story with these women so that they could understand that bondage happens beyond the borders of the red light district, and even of India; that there are women all over the world who share in a similar story. My main concern for my story was this: How do I convey the emotion and brokenness I share with these women through a language barrier? In the end, I settled on typing my story in simple English ahead of time for ease of translation. With the aid of a translator, I shared my story in a small common room in the women’s dormitory. At first it seemed as though the women didn’t understand me, but as my story progressed, I could feel the air of the room get heavy and the sorrow from the hearts of my audience. Even though there literally are no words in Hindi that equate to the words I used, the translator was able to convey my meaning. In the end, I believe the women were able to relate and showed the gratitude for sharing my story. I shared these verses (with help from my dear friend Kathleen):
Psalm 27:10 “For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in.”
Psalm 118:5-7a “Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? The Lord is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.”
The rest of our day was spent saying goodbye to our team and the BTC staff, lunch, and shopping at the BTC store. Jessy’s cousin drove from Mumbai (3+hrs) to pick us up and drive us back to Mumbai, where Jessy’s mom was waiting for us with a home-cooked meal. Along the way back, her cousin stopped at his home for a pitstop in Navi Mumbai. While there, his wife gave us a delightful sweet snack. As we ate the snack (something like apple filling if you ask me), she quickly and secretly prepared dosas for us. If we didn’t insist she stop, they would have made us an entire meal on the spot! It was as if they wanted to take the claim of feeding us. A five minute pit stop turned in a 45 minute mini meal. It was then that I learned a new Hindi word – bas, meaning “that’s enough.” We thanked then for our mini meal and scurried back to the car, and made our way back to Mumbai, and had a delicious meal made by Jessy’s mom.
Here’s a few highlights from the rest of Kathleen, Jessy, and Larissa’s trip:
Friday April 5, 2013
We traveled from Mumbai to Kolkata (Calcutta) via plane, and were able to spend a bit of the afternoon walking the streets. We stopped in a bookstore chain similar to Barnes and Noble with a Starbucks, except it was called Oxford Book Store with Cha Bar. We returned to our hotel room to rest, where I turned comatose for the remainder of the day, while Kathleen and Jessy enjoyed rooftop appetizers at a local restaurant.
Saturday April 6, 2013
We enjoyed breakfast at our hotel, and ventured via Metro (aka subway – Kolkata’s was the first in India) to Nirmal Hriday, Mother Teresa’s first house for the dying destitute. Her faith and passion were strong – she built it next to a Hindu temple. While inside Nirmal Hriday, I prayed for my dear friend whose mom had just passed the day before, as well as for those being cared for in their final days by the volunteer staff. We had a chance to speak with a Muslim man, A. Ali, who had been brought to Nirmal Hriday only one day before, and he cheerfully shared his story with us. He delighted as I prayed for him and Jessy translated to Hindi. I will continue to pray for him, as he knows of Jesus, however he considers Jesus a prophet of Allah. Our afternoon in Kolkata concluded with a ferry ride across the Hooghly River to the train station, and an eight hour train ride to Patna, Bihar.
Sunday April 7, 2013
We attended a service at a local plant held at the home of the pastor in Buddha Colony, Patna, which was a delightful surprise for K! Patna is the city where T and K lived before returning to the states in 2008. When she was last here, there was no fellowship, and now, four years later, there were about 20 or so people in attendance! She appeared astounded and overjoyed to see the growth of God’s work being done here.
After a buffet lunch at church, we retired to a nearby three bedroom flat-turn-guest-house, which would be our home base for most of the coming week. In the evening we traveled to the Ganges River for photo ops and then dined at the “new” Punjabi revolving restaurant in Patna, called Pind Balluchi.
Monday April 8, 2013
The early part of today was a bit more relaxed. K sorted personal effects that were in storage, and in the afternoon we bought KFC, soda and snacks to a Christian family, Reji and Renu, who shelter homeless, unwanted girls. They currently care for ten girls in addition to their own. They also shared about their work with their NGO, ROI.
Tuesday April 9, 2013
Tuesday was a travel day for all of us. Jessy headed back to Mumbai for her mum’s birthday, and K and I later traveled by A/C bus (the preferred method of travel per the local missionaries) to Darbhanga, Bihar, and stayed with a couple and their children. This area is referred to as the graveyard for Christian workers. Not only is it a strong Hindu and Muslim community, the living conditions are not for the faint of heart. While we could easily retire to our flat in Patna to fans &/or AC (when the power was working, which was most of the time), in Darbhanga they often have only eight hours of power or less each day. This week had been a bad week, and they only had a few sporadic hours of power earlier that day. Because of the lack of power, the generator was now out of fuel, and the inverter (often used to keep the fans running) was exhausted during a nebulizer treatment for their son who has asthma. Add mosquitos and stagnant, stifling air for a troublesome night sleeping for all.
Wednesday April 10, 2013
When we awoke the power was still out. No power means no running water (operated by pump) for showering as well as fan, A/C, or power to the refrigerator. After small breakfast we ventured via cycle rickshaw with a local worker, another Dharbhanga worker, to visit Swati’s family, who T. befriended while living in that neighborhood years before. We were able to spend time with the Hindu family and meet their new baby, who at six weeks old, tolerated the 108 degree Fahrenheit heat better than I did. After a home cooked lunch with Swati’s family, we retired back to the Hicks’, where we rested and spent a short time with the family and S., another solo worker also living in Darbhanga. The duration of our stay there was short, less than twenty-four hours, by the time the three of us departed to Patna that afternoon.
Thursday April 11, 2013
The family we visited, another worker couple, have been in Patna for five years, living a more comfortable life in India which was a stark contrast to my previous experiences. Their flat was modest while elegant at the same time. His wife prepared a delightful lunch for us and the couple shared of their work through MEDIC, which educates women about personal finance management, and then provides loans to those women, which is used to increase their income. The trial group of twelve women were 100% compliant with their repayment plans, and that money was reinvested in loans to a second group of local women.
Friday April 12, 2013
Today K and I will travel back to Mumbai and reunite with Jessy and her family, where we will stay for the remainder of our time in India. We will begin our journey home Sunday night, and return to the states early Monday morning.