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

Kolkata Update 2

“I will praise You with my whole heart; Before the gods I will sing praises to You. I will worship towards Your holy temple, and praise Your name. For Your lovingkindness and Your truth, for You have magnified Your word above all Your name. In the day when I cried out, You answered me, and made me bold with strength in my soul.” Ps 138:1

The anecdote of the day: I made a child cry – and not in a good way. This five year old boy started crying when I sat on the ground next to him. In Hindi he cried to his teacher: “who is this white person? She is too white, I am scared!” Always winning over the children…


With wonder and amazement I write again, overwhelmed by the goodness of God. It seems He has flung wide the portals and is accomplishing His work regardless of what we have humanly seen as impasses. In the past three days I have already seen transpire what we had planned two weeks to complete, and the Maity’s (the Indian missionaries I am working with) are filled with such excitement to see things unfold before us. It is one of those very pregnant moments in life when you are used as the instrument of hope in other people’s lives. And I am thankful for it.

We have determined that starting a trade school right in the heart of the red light district is not feasible right now. However, another place nearby has been provided at no cost, and it now appears that it is the wiser and safer place to conduct the work. In addition to this, I visited a slum children’s ministry this morning that is in an area of low-end prostitution (both women and children) and the building that is already being rented out and used for the children in the mornings is available for use in the afternoons. Though it would be a smaller school (~10 women/girls), it now appears that we might be able to open the doors of two trade schools (they will be called “Asaha Neketon”, “Shelter of Hope”). Instead of making jewelry, we are exploring making shawls/scarves for an international market. Cloth is in abundance here, and very cheaply bought, but sewing machines are not, so I am thinking through anything that can be made with beautiful fabric by hand. Scarves with beaded/braided ends was my first thought, looking into some others, but if any of you have some ideas regarding handcrafts with cloth that are easily taught and learned and don’t require machinery, please let me know! I would appreciate any input.

Would that I could recount the many stories that barrage my ears, eyes and soul every hour! The forgotten of the world surround me, and in the midst of the darkness the only true Light becomes increasingly the only beacon of hope, the only answer, the only redemption I can share.

I will try to write more regular updates, and attempt to keep them short enough for you to read. At the end of the week I will make a decision regarding the length of my stay. This will give the medication time to be in full effect and my body to be more adjusted. It is, however, nearly certain that my time will be shortened due to the air quality (or lack thereof).

Thank you for your prayers, your faithful petitions are coming to fruition before my eyes in wonderful ways.

In Christ’s strength,
Nicole de Martimprey

Kolkata Update 1

26 January 2009

“Now I know that the Lord saves His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven With the saving strength of His right hand.” Ps. 20:6

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.

With blessings and love,
Nicole de Martimprey

Yes, I love to see the air I am breathing – trust it more that way….

The Cross of Christ

All the world is engulfed in darkness, there is only One True Light which can pierce it’s sordid color. I looked at this door, the shadow of light being cast across the floor, and desire only to be hid in that cross which can transform night into day. It is here where our strength lies, and in no other place. If we step outside the cross we cannot stand. Even if we tiptoe. My prayer as I see the dark night of sin all around me is that I might see it through this glass, through the power of the cross. That I may be hid in Christ and He in me. And it is in this place of security that the sights and scenes of India become a part of me because they are already a part of Him. The battle is His, and He is the Victor. What a glorious truth!

My New Year Quote

I am a great Sinner and Christ is a great Saviour.

When I was teaching still we had a speaker come and the way he quoted these words from John Newton with such conviction, penitence, humility, and gratefulness that they were branded into the thick hide of my mind:

I am a great Sinner and Christ is a great Saviour.

Being at a particular lack of New Year’s resolutions this year, I am simply going to try to remember those words every morning and evening, and not so simply, to grasp them with my whole being.

I am a great Sinner and Christ is a great Saviour.

May I not forget this year from Whom I come, by Whom I exist, and to Whom I go.

I am a great Sinner and Christ is a great Saviour.

A Stage

I stand upon a precipice. All around me wavers in the wind, but I am still. I took lessons from a butterfly years ago, somehow though wavering in flight, always lands with the utmost grace and peace. Always with peace. I am an ant, but it is wiser than I to store and then to hibernate. I am one ant, reveling in my significant insignificance. I would much rather be an ant than a tortoise. The tortoise looks wiser, with its aged wrinkles and deliberate actions. But I could not be a tortoise because estivation would not sit with my constitution half so well as hibernation. I like the sun. And now that I think it, how odd that the ant has no wrinkles though it is always in the sun and dead to the winter, while the tortoise is wrinkle-worn though it is shelled for all the summer. UV rays lie to us. Science is a farce. The tortoise is really a walnut.

What is real? Science tries to tell us, but why should we trust what “they” just discovered yesterday?!? Philosophy attempts explanation, yet we have known innately for all our days the tenants it spews forth in pretty words. Maybe someone had it right, “All the world’s a stage” he said. I like to call him Billy. It tiptoes upon the irreverent and sends scholars into frenzies. Anything to change the status quo. A stage. Here today gone tomorrow. A stage. Ever changing yet always fixed. A stage. Both empty and complete without people. A stage. Made by men and synonymously making them. Yes, the world is a stage. Today I will listen to Billy.

I watch the waves upon the seashore. The world is a wave, crashing upon eternity, sending droplets of saltwater upon the heavens. Eternity is the shore that it crashes on. Heaven is the floor of the ocean, containing all, sending pieces of itself to the surface to be crashed upon a playing child’s sandcastle. Does the sea get its salt from below, or is it the other way around? I’ve tasted sea and sand – both made me pucker and cough as my skin reddened because all the good oils were being washed away, with my cells. My cells do not like salt. It sucks the cytoplasm out of them and then they die. The big book on my dusty shelf calls this “osmosis”.

Don’t look here for answers. The moment I give answers is when I have forgot my place in the script, or maybe I have stepped off the stage looking for something else and fallen. Why do we think that illusion and reality are foes? I say they are the same, constantly osmosing and never fighting for the kingdom. The precipice is higher than I thought, and deeper, and wider.

Code 3

Okay, I didn’t get to go this fast, or look this cool, but I did get to work on an ambulance in East Oakland. Which was pretty amazing.

Quick updates:

– My favorite new politically correct term that has to go on paperwork: “Urban Camper”… Apparently homeless is out of vogue and offended someone, so now we have permanent urban campers or temporary urban campers. How I love America.

– I didn’t get any pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving day. I had to settle for a pumpkin milkshake from Jack in the Box. Very sad times.

– I was told three times last week that I look like Jodie Foster, a comment I started receiving three years ago. I just don’t see it, and considering she was born in 1962, either I am looking considerably old for my age or she is looking quite young and spry.

– I became the proud owner of a MacBook on November 15th, 2008. It hasn’t told me it’s name yet, but I’m sure that will come with a growing relationship.

– I found out that in order to give the proper amount of compressions per minute during CPR, you can perform them to the beat of either “Stayin’ Alive” or “Another One Bites the Dust”. However, I would warn that singing either out loud while delivering CPR may distress those around and lead to a lawsuit.

– I am studying to take the National Registry Exam for EMT’s. In this exam all four of the multiple choice answers are often correct and you must choose the one that is most appropriate OR all the answers seem incorrect and you must choose the least inappropriate. What an odd way to write an exam! Slightly frustrating at times as well….

Hopefully more often posts will be coming in the next couple weeks, wanted to give the broad-stroke overview for now!