June 30, 2009

View through the City

So after two weeks we had our first day off on Friday! Every Friday we will have free to go into the city and spend some time together away from the home. Our first trip was pretty fun, and we thought we'd share some short video clips of riding throught he city. Note the traffic rules... or lack thereof! (This isn't a good depiction of where we live, which is outside the city and much different, more rural). Enjoy your view of the city!

June 29, 2009

God Came Down

So this is one of the worship songs Tammy taught the kids, and I love when they sing it... sounds like angels. Enjoy!

June 21, 2009

Oh Happy Day

Update: Tammy's surgery went great and they were able to go in microscopically, which means she can return home on Monday! Praise Jesus! Thank you for all your prayers.
I thought I'd give you a little illustration of things seen while on our 30 min bus ride and short walk through to Tamil-speaking church.

Laneless roads where the first car in a space gets the right of way (after the roaming cows, that is).

Entire families on motorcycles (the most common personal transportation) with Dad driving, wife side-sitting with infant on her lap, and two small children squished between... one helmet, if you're lucky.

Kids playing and laughing on the side of the streets.

Long stretches of dumps with sewage rivers running through... from which arises the most putrid smell you can imagine.

Women dressed in an array of beautiful colors and garments of sweeping cloth.

A dead rat the size of a small cat, pointed out to me by one of the girls.

Street vendors pushing their fruit and vegetable carts... or a million other things.

Men going to the bathroom openly on the side of the road (yes, grown men).

Beggers, young and old, wandering between cars during stalled traffic with outstretched hands.

Temples decorated with many of the thousands of Hindu Gods.

Trash everywhere, and a constant smell of trash... sometimes with a few child or adult rummagers, looking for something edible.

Muslim women in full burkah, sometimes a complete black shroud, others with their eyes peeking through the fabric.

Cows, ox-carts, and donkeys roaming the streets.

Men covered from head to toe with soot as they work in the roads.

Stray dogs rummaging through the trash, some with huge open wounds.

While riding through the city, I sit in the home's bus, looking at the sites and listening to 15-year-old Jemi sing along next to me as the music plays ... "oh happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away... oh happy day". I sense Jesus's love for this place and am drawn to it in the way I often am to third world places. Amidst the trash, poverty, and confusion there is a God who's glory covers the whole earth as the waters cover the sea... and I find myself meeting Him most often in places like these... Oh happy day, when Jesus washed our sins away. Oh happy day...

June 17, 2009

Prayer Needed

Here's a quick update on what's going on at the home. We need lots of prayer for Tammy, the director. When we arrived to India last Thursday she was feeling horrible, and soon after she was admitted into the hospital and then the ICU. They discovered she a gallstone which led to pancreatitis. To make things more complicated, she also contracted Hepatitis A and Jaundice. So, she had the first surgery yesterday to remove the gallstone, and it went fine, though it was a pretty miserable experience for her. Today they will go in for the big surgery- to remove h,er gall bladder. This is a big deal because if they cannot go in microscopically they will have to cut her open, and it can be complicated to get to her gall bladder because her intestines and pancrease are irritated from the pancreatitis. Also, there is a high risk of infection and long recovery time if they have to do the surgery this way. So all that said, Tammy and the home really need your prayers. Pray that the doctors would have no trouble going in microscopically and that there would be no complications, that she would not need to have open surgery. Pray for her complete healing...Pray for her strength, rest, and comfort for the children. Thank you!

June 16, 2009

Good Morning India

Outside our room in the play area

Imagine being woken up at 5 in the morning by the singing of 20 children. 30 minutes later, Indian sunlight begins filtering through the window. The children of Mother India are early risers, and this home is no exception. When I step outside our small apartment, the first thing I see is the resident pets, two beautiful boxers, Dora and Rocky, tear across the backyard in hot pursuit of one another. Then I look past the back wall to gaze at another beautiful blue sky decorated with a few wispy clouds, before I notice music drifting in from a local mosque or Hindu temple.

Our very first morning in India was quite different. We stepped off the plane before dawn and after waiting for our bags for at least an hour and a half, plenty of time for any baggage handler to pilfer through our belongings, walked outside to find nobody waiting for us. Fortunately, Lisa had a contact number, so I walked up to this man who sat by a landline phone and asked to make a phone call. He bobbled his head; I was immediately confused. Was that a no, because I was in line behind the other man next writing in a logbook, or a yes? I looked at Lisa, and she reminded me that was the "okay" head bobble we had read about. People hear communicate with a movement with their head - a "yes" nod, a "no" shake, or a "sure/okay/I guess so" bobble - more than they do facial expressions, and the "bobble" seems to be most commonly used. It is hard to hold back a smile when encountering this answer to a question.

We were soon picked up and driven to our new home, a concrete complex composed of three homes linked by a covered veranda, a garage, a playground, a prayer garden, and our guest house in the backyard. One of the homes houses upstairs boys and downstairs boys, the other, upstairs and downstairs girls, and the third, living quarters upstairs and a kitchen and office below. Above our apartment live the three most mature boys.

The children greeted their latest additions to the family, BenUncle and Lisa Auntie with the instant respect reserved for all elders. Before we knew it, we had unpacked a few things in our sparse apartment and were sitting down cross-legged on the hard concrete veranda with the children for dinner, Lisa with the girls and I with the boys. People instructed us how to shovel food in our mouths with our hands, without the help of utensil or napkin, and showed me where to find water to put out the fire in my mouth.

How different this culture is from my own - in some ways so much better, more difficult, and simply different than how we live in America. Half the female staff share the responsibility of caring for the baby of the bunch, Arumai, one year of age. Tots receive so much affection they often confuse aunties with their own mothers. Children are extremely respectful. Men may link hands or ride together on motorcycles, but men and women show zero affection for one another in public. Clothing must loosely drape over the body and cover shoulders, legs, and ankles, but most women leave a section of their torso uncovered. Showing the bottom of your feet is a sign of disrespect. Most food has the same soggy consistency and is almost always 90 percent rice. Stray cows share the road with "cars" ( moto-rickshaws), motorcycles, and various breeds of buses, vans, and trucks. I could go on and on.

Here at Grace Home, its English name, Lisa and I gradually are stepping into our new roles, still not fully defined. In the morning we fill the children's metal lunchtins with food or supervise computer learning games for three small girls. We may wash up the youngest kids, Peter and Menekah, after lunch and put them down for their three hour nap. The remaining children return from school between 3 and 4, so at this time, Lisa and I head off to our respective houses and join up again at bedtime. I alternate weeks between the upstairs and downstairs boys, and Lisa does the same with the girls. Each of the 4 homes has a houseparent, all aunties and uncles, for the title "mom" is reserved for Tammy, the director and founder.

Here's our schedule right now at a glance:
7:15 Serve the kids their lunches and help see them off to school.
8-9 Little girls play on the computer and then get ready for school at 9:30
9:00 Staff meeting and prayer
Our free time
12:30 Lunch. The two littlest ones are home and get ready for their nap.
3:30 Kids come home from school, have their snack, and take their bath.
4:00 Little kids play, older kids can have free time or some have to study
5-7 Tuition homework/study groups. I will have sixth standard kids, Lisa will be with the little ones doing work stations.
7:15-7:45 Devotions and prayer in the home, which we will be leading regularly.
7:45-8:30 Dinner
8:30-9 Clean up and chores, bedtime for little ones
9-10 Older kids study and then bed.

The prayer garden

June 6, 2009

A Life in the Day of a Sex Worker in India

This is a life in the day of Mariam L., 42, a sex worker in Kalighat, the poorest red-light district in Calcutta, India.

I wake up around 5am so I can use the latrine early, while it’s still quiet.

I share it with nine other households. Each has one room about 8ft square. Although Kalighat is a red-light district, families live here too, street vendors and stall workers, but most prostitutes live alone like me.

My room doesn’t smell so good because it’s next to rotting rubbish and the latrine, but it is away from the street.

I go back to sleep until 8. My bed is a thin mattress on a board lifted off the ground by red bricks at each corner. Under the bed are the pots I use for cooking and washing.

My saris and underclothes are strung on a wire across the small window. I have electricity, a light bulb, a fan, a black-and-white television and a suitcase.

If I’m on my own, as I mostly am, I make tea, heating the water on a kerosene stove in my doorway. If my babu — he’s like a special client, a temporary husband, you could say — is with me, I give him naan bread and sweets. Calcutta is famous for its sweets: all colours and varieties you can buy here.

Then I go to the vegetable stalls outside and buy ladies’ fingers, brinjal, potatoes, tomatoes and garlic to cook later.

I put on eyeliner, a bindi on my forehead, my jewelled earrings and gold bangles, and I am working the street by 10am. There are three of us who mostly go together — Arati, my best friend, and I watch for each other. I work a little strip just outside the slum beside the Mohambagam football club.

There is a disused pitch and that’s where I go with my clients. Mostly they are strangers, rickshaw drivers or hawkers.

Kalighat is the cheapest red-light district, but I have to work here because I’m old now. I need to make 250 rupees a day [about £3.50]; my rent is 45 rupees a day and I am paying off a loan to my landlord for hospital treatment. My clients don’t have much money — maybe I get 50 rupees a time. I try to make them wear a condom but mostly they don’t. I have been very lucky: I don’t think I have any sexual diseases. There is a clinic in Kalighat run by the Hope Foundation for us. I go a few times each year.

When I was young I worked on a jetty on the Ganges — they call it Babughat. I would go with men on boats they rent. Then I would have 10 or 12 clients a day easily, shopkeepers or truck drivers, and each would pay me 250 rupees.

My own family in Bangladesh has no idea if I am alive or dead. I grew up in a small village with three older brothers and a baby sister.

I was trafficked here when I was 14 by a man who married me. His real wife and children were here in Calcutta, and he brought me here. He sold me to a brothel. I was terrified, but he was my husband and I thought I had to do what he said. I did not have the guts to tell my family what had happened to me, so I never contacted them again.

If I‘m lucky I finish around 9.30. There is a lot of waiting around now, so we drink Bangla liquor, a strong illegal drink they sell on the streets. I drink it quite a lot — it helps. If I have made enough money I go home with Arati, and maybe we go to my room or her room and share some food. But if business is slow I stay out all night.

Even if I finish early, I can’t sleep until 2 in the morning. I worry about so many things. I have had six pregnancies, but I only have one child, Sheila Khatoon. She’s 14 now and she lives in a girls’ home run by the Hope Foundation. I visit her on the last Saturday of every month. I tell her I sweep in a hospital, and I wish I did, but no one would employ me now. She lived with me until she was seven.

She didn’t go to school and I couldn’t really look after her, but I didn’t bring men back to the room with her there. Then the Hope Foundation found her on the street. I wanted them to take her. If my daughter was to take up this trade, I would want to die. No mother can imagine such a thing as this. But she would have had no choice if she’d stayed here.

At night I think of my parents and my daughter. I think of what would happen to her if I died suddenly. I worry about how I got myself into this situation and what will happen to me in the future when I cannot make money any more. Around 2am I fall asleep, and then I don’t dream.

Andrea Catherwood is the UK ambassador for the Hope Foundation
Interview: Andrea Catherwood.

June 4, 2009

Eyes to See

And Elisha prayed, "O Lord, open his eyes so he may see."
Then the Lord opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:17)

"All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine
and make it known to you."
(John 16:15)

Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like you have loved me
Break my heart from what breaks yours
Everything I am for your kingdom's cause...

Open our eyes, we pray!