“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