Greetings in the God Who created the heavens and earth.
I arrived safely in Kolkata after about 24 hours of travel, and was greeted by Diganta & Leena Maity, the directors of the mission here. I will try to paint the scene for you, that you might understand what is to come in future updates. If you have ever seen pictures of Mother Teresa’s Calcutta work, then you have seen what the streets around me look like. Dead rats and cats litter the streets while bone-thin stray dogs make a meal of them. Beggars, especially those with children and babies, would threaten to melt the most frozen of hearts. The piles and heaps of rubbish and human waist grow higher than me and swarm with flies and mosquitoes. The narrow streets are filled with people, cars, mopeds, bicycles, and buggies – so filled that one mile may take 30 minutes to drive through. There is no left or right side of the road – simply masses of people going about their business.
I have met with a group of women who are coming out of the sex trade, and we spoke about fever care. Those things which seem so commonplace to us are foreign thoughts to them (such as not bundling a fevered person up in blankets). And in a place where nutrition is expensive, many are gaunt and unwell, harboring illnesses of every variety within their beautiful bodies. I find myself surrounded by women who are in “economic prostitution”, i.e., they sell their bodies to buy rice for their children. I found out today that some of them do so for as little as 20 Rupees, or 60 cents US. There are also many who reside in the red light district and cost more than that, but certainly no great sum.
On the encouraging side, however, there are three women who I am working with who are Christian converts from such a life, and their joy and love is so great it shines through them. God has used two of them to convert their husbands, mothers, and in one case, father. And they are so willing and ready to help women out of a life of prostitution, they now give their lives entirely to the work of the mission here.
As expected, the work here is not as straight-forward as one could hope. Our desire to set up a jewelry trade school for women from the red light is not looking feasible. The beads and clasps, etc…which are needed to make the jewelry are not available for a sustainable price here. So, I will be working with card-making as a trade and looking for other ways that a profit could be earned by accessible handcrafts. There are routine police raids in the red light district, so many protocols and documents are needed for any legitimate school/business there – so this will take some more time. Efforts have begun for this, however, and Lord-willing perhaps we will have open doors within the next month. Of one thing I am sure: God has His plans, and they are good.
As I finish up this first update, I need to communicate an unforeseen problem that has arisen. Most of you know that I have weak lungs, which sometimes forget what their role in life is. Not having lived in polluted areas during my times abroad, I had not looked into the air quality of Kolkata. The air is so bad that the sun is always covered beneath an ocean of pollution. When I wash my face the cloth is black, or blow my nose it is the same. I have medication which should help, and a monitor so I will know if there is a real problem developing. But I would ask for your prayers in two directions, that either my lungs will be strong enough to last, or if my time must be shortened, my work here would be fruitful beyond imagination and that the Lord will fulfill His purposes for this journey. This is the most immanent prayer request I have.
Thank you for the encouragement of your thoughts, notes, and prayers. They come as such a comfort in the midst of the raw humanity with which I daily meet. And through them you become a very real part of my ministry here.