Kolkata 6

“You are the light of the world. A city that is on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14ff

As I meditated upon how I would describe the Christians here, this passage kept coming to mind. The overarching analogy of my time here would be the difference of darkness and light (as can be noted in my former correspondences). I assure you that the darkness of the last update will herein be juxtaposed with lambency.

When St. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth about the glory of the New Covenant, he reminded them how the Israelites could not look steadily on Moses’ face “because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away” (3:7ff). He continues to posit the question, “how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious?” Through our birth into that Spirit, we become partakers of the eternal excelling glory which will by no means pass away and that “glory of countenance” which emanated from Moses’ face shines in the countenances of the believers here.

When I walk into one of the ministry houses or churches here it is as though the weight of hopelessness is lifted. The sword of death which falls heavy upon those outside passes over the lintels of these faithful ones. When you look at their lives, it is very apparent that the fruits of the Spirit have replaced the works of evil and their lives begin to shine with Christ. The fruition of faith seen in the life of a single convert is amazing. In most cases there is the anticipation that within a short amount of time the whole family will convert to Christianity because of the testimony and life-witness of the one person.

The words of Sheldon Vanauken come to mind, that “the best argument for Christianity is Christians: their joy, their certainty, their completeness.” Here it is quite a winning case! The soil which has been spoiled through centuries of idol-worship is crying out for a crop-rotation which will offer love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And God is using the faithful lives of His saints here to plow in hope just as they have been partakers in the Hope of the world (I Cor. 9:10f).

I could give you numerous examples in this moment of converts who have dedicated their lives to the service of the church here. Six are teaching in schools that minister to children from the slums, the streets, and the red light. Four are nearly ready to take over teaching at the Shelters of Hope that we have opened. Twelve spend hours a week listening to me teach about HIV/AIDS/STD and general health care – these are the ones I am teaching how to teach the same material to other women so that the education can continue long after my departure. Between 30-50 come twice a week to church to hear me teach on the basics of Christianity.
A few weeks ago I was teaching about a dozen women (mixed Hindu & Christian) about necessity of forgiveness in our lives (both accepting and giving). Preparing for this was difficult for me, as a keen sense of unworthiness flooded my thoughts – these women had been sinned against in more ways than I could ever imagine, and I was teaching them about the need to forgive? I must have tried to change the lesson for that night three or four times and somehow every passage or principle I looked at took me right back to forgiveness. I prayed for grace and humility and taught that evening. The next day the Maity’s told me that there had been an heated argument between five of those women that week and they had severed relationships with each other. That night after the gathering they reconciled with one another through forgiveness. I once again saw undeniably that God’s Word is true and He uses unworthy vessels to spread His truth to the world. Thanks be to God that His Word is not dependent on our experience or knowledge and may my soul be kept from the pride that would think it was.

Thank you for your faithful prayers. This next week is full of teaching engagements and preparing leaders at the Shelter of Hope who can sustain the school once I leave. There is quite a long list of things which have to be completed in terms of infrastructure, and it can be quite overwhelming (like having the women open bank accounts, how to buy the raw materials, keeping records of funds and production, etc…). Your prayers are desired for continued daily strength, clarity and efficiency in the details of the infrastructure for the schools, and that God would continue to bless the ministries He has begun here.

Together in Service,
Nícole de Martimprey


Kolkata 5

Dear Friends,

The latest update I will not be posting here because it contains sensitive and mature material that I do not want publicly posted. If you would like to receive it, please email me directly at: ndemartimprey@gmail.com. I apologize for the inconvenience.

In Peace, Nicole

Kolkata 4

“Blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope.” I Pet. 1:3

At the end of another week and the beginning of a new one I meditate upon the Living Hope. There is nothing stoic about the hope we have been begotten into – it is alive. It is that constant which we wake up in every day, live in every moment, and pray to bring others into. Here the difference between the lifeless hope of the Hindu idols contrasts strikingly with the living hope seen in the lives of the believers and churches. The joy, the peace, and the love found in the eyes of the Christians here pierce the cloud of despair and attract the hungry souls that walk these streets. It is a blessing to witness and become a part of the Living Hope in Kolkata.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Ps. 46:1
Asha Neketon: Shelter of Hope
Monday marked the opening of the first “Shelter of Hope”, the name that all the trade schools will have. We started with just 8 women/girls to begin with, and when it stabilizes we will expand to 15. It was a difficult week for a number of reasons, but one of them was the contracting process with the women. I had written a number of requirements that the women had to agree to. They had to sign a contract which included:
They will not prostitute themselves while attending the trade school. (We tried to communicate that this is the Lord’s work and His money they will be earning, and if they choose even once to earn money by the flesh, we will remove them from the program).
Each day they will sit and listen as one of the church leaders prays, reads the Word (using a modified lectionary), and gives an exhortation. Together they will recite or sing a Psalm, though it is not compulsory for them to participate verbally they must be present.

There is no pressure for them to convert to Christianity, and certainly no altar-call approach taken by the church here, but there is also no disguising that this work is done as a ministry in and by Jesus Christ, the True God. And that will be proclaimed outrightly.

Wednesday we started the Asha Neketon in the village I mentioned in my last update, for now just two women out there, and next week when we have time to commit some more time and oversight there, we plan to expand it to 8 women.

As for starting a school in the area of low-end prostitution (with women who live in these shelters pictured here), there are some difficulties we need to work through. The building we have is right on the side of the street, and on a street corner which is piled high with rotting trash, cats, dogs, and rats. More of an impediment, the street corner is also the unofficial toilet of the block, so there is a fairly constant stream of men urinating about 20 feet from the entrance to the building. There is no way to get into the building without first walking through/by this corner. Though we’re not quite sure what we should or could do about it, I will share one humorous attempt we made to remedy the situation:
There are idol “houses” all over the place here, at least one per block, and people lay flowers, pray, and offer food to the various idols. Well, Diganta had this idea that if we took one of the idols, in this case, a quite elaborately painted goddess a few feet tall, and placed it on the corner where the men come, maybe they would stop toileting there. Figuring that there was nothing to lose, we waited and watched. The first man came by, with a small flickering of puzzlement on his face as he looked at the goddess. But then, sure enough, he proceeded to urinate on the goddess he had no doubt prayed to that very morning. Our plan didn’t serve the desired purpose, but oh my goodness did it keep us laughing for hours! What a picture of the futility of their gods!

I would ask for prayers for that particular place, that we might know what is best to be done. Also for guidance as we choose just a handful of prostitutes out of the thousands to join the schools. My health remains fairly stable, so thank you for your continued prayers in that arena. Thank you for the faithful petitions that you raise before the Throne, they are needed companions in this work.

Blessings and peace,
Nicole de Martimprey

Kolkata 3

“O Lord our God, under the shadow of Thy wings let us hope. Protect us and bear us up. You will bear us up, yes, from our infancy until our gray hairs you will bear us up. For our strength, when it is from you, is strength indeed; but when it is our own, it is weakness.” St. Augustine, Confessions
Would that I could write all that has transpired in the past week! Unfortunately, if I did, very few of you would actually read the epistle that this update would become (and when I say a “few of you”, I mean my mother…). In the last update I wrote that things were looking good for starting two trade schools rather than just one. With joy, then, I will recount the story of the events that have taken place to begin yet another one in a village 1-2 hrs outside of Kolkata.

One of the women here has converted to Christianity and now has dedicated her life to ministering to street women/prostitutes here in Kolkata. She is originally from this village outside of Kolkata, but when her husband died and she subsequently got boils, she became an outcast from her father’s house. She came to Kolkata and like most women, joined the sex trade. She had not seen her family in six years, but informed us that her niece did wonderful embroidery work on scarves/saris and offered to show us if we would drive her to the village. In need of more ideas and the opportunity to talk to someone experienced in this trade, we agreed.

We weeded our way out of the busy streets of the city, and I saw the first bit of green earth since I’ve been here. But one sight did not change: even here on the roadside by the rice fields were women adorned and painted, ready to serve a passerby’s pleasure. At length we came to this village of a few hundred people, at the heart of which is a small bamboo house for the goddess of wisdom who stands in lifeless vanity while children dance before her.

For a couple hours this girl showed us her handi-work, which was beautifully colored and skillfully made. Through the Maity’s translations, I was able to ask many questions about the designs, and materials, etc… And then Diganta & Leena turned to me and asked me if we should pay her something to make some scarves/handkerchiefs for us. I was a bit confused because we were so far out from the city that it didn’t seem practical to have her make things for us when we had women in the city ready, in need, and creative enough to do it. Seeing my pause, Leena said with excitement, “Nícole, this village has never heard the gospel, and if we have a reason to be here, we can bring the presence of Christ with us and pray for the conversion of the whole village.” I teared up because it is never about the business or the practical for the Maity’s, it is about claiming souls (and lots of them) for the Kingdom. I pray for such a worldview to be engrained in me.

So, we will be visiting the village again and with the Lord’s help choose some of those painted women on the side of the road to join the trade school. And more importantly, the Spirit of YWHW will be made known there as well. And so for a sum of less than $200 a village may be converted.

This story would not be complete if I didn’t add the food component of it. Indians are very hospitable, and so the family there cooked lunch for us. This was my first meal outside of a semi-controlled environment, so I must say I was a bit nervous. The outdoor kitchen humming with flies and the water coming from who-knows-where, I prayed for protection as well as the grace to eat whatever was put in front of me. Two large plates of dry curried puffed rice mixed with potatoes came out for all of us to share, nothing scary, so off to a good start. But then came our lunch plates (plates here are the equivalent of a 16” metal pizza pan). Oh my, I was in trouble. There was a four cup mountain of cooked rice surrounded by four different kinds of unidentified curries and a soup bowl of dahl to go with it. All in all I would say there was about 7-8 cups of food in front of me. Lucky me, I got more than everybody else because 1) I was the white guest and 2) the hostess thought I was too thin.

Right. I started in, fast. Thankfully I had had a couple weeks to practice the no-silverware, hands-on approach to eating, and since everyone eats really quickly here, I ate as fast as I could. I knew that there was no way I could get all that down if I took my time. Needless to say, I wasn’t feeling so well and hurried our departure just a bit, which was delayed because they wanted to pick fresh coconuts so that we could have the milk. Full glass of coconut milk went down with a good amount of difficulty and esophageal resistance. Then more than an hour drive through bumpy roads, 85 degrees, and humidity. Though I didn’t get sick, I’m not quite sure my stomach has forgiven me.

Thank you for your prayers and notes of encouragement once again. My lung status varies from day to day, but staying within a functional range. I would ask for one particular prayer request: I am trying to find some stores/co-ops/businesses in the US that would contract to buy the products these women are making. And perhaps someone who can help and advise me on the business side of things when I return. If you have thoughts, ideas, or would like to help with this, I would appreciate it greatly.

May the Lord be with you,

Nicole de Martimprey