“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