I spent the last 2 weeks working in Bangalore, India. The vision was to be a voice for injustice through telling the stories of women who have been caught in a life of prostitution and sex-trafficking. I came home with my agenda turned on its head and God refocusing my vision. Yes, there were several stories of brokenness and ensuing redemption from the women that blew my mind and inspired songs but I realized that God’s plan for me on this trip was to teach me how to love and to do for one what I wish I could do for a thousand. I can be such a big picture person that often I lose track of the importance of investing in one. God showed me the importance of that on this trip. More than coming home with 10 epic stories that would blow everyones minds I felt like He said to me, “give up control of your agenda and just be there to love”. Through that process God blew my mind with how He worked and moved in my heart…and though I may never see the direct fruit, how He moved in the lives of the women I ministered to.
The first day there we spent the day with current CSWs (Commercial Sex Workers) and their children. We put on a lil’ Christmas program, sang and danced for them, ate with them and poured love on their children…knowing the whole time that in only a few short hours they would all be out on the streets selling their bodies for a means of supporting their children and bringing life once again to the lie that is told them daily. Most of them feel like they don’t have a choice in the matter. Many of them literally don’t, because if they left they could be killed. It is only by God’s grace in many cases that some are freed. Though our day with them was one filled with laughter and seeming joy, the elephant in the room was consistently very real to me and I had to do everything I could to just not think about it for the sake of not breaking down in tears in front of them.
The second day we took a group of 8 previous sex-workers who have been through the transition program to a nearby amusement park. Something for them that is literally a dream come true. Most of them, until they came to the transition home had never experienced anyone showing concern or love for them…most of them grew up in slums and were sold into slavery at a young age. Though this outing seemed like such a minor thing to most of our team, we knew that it meant the world to these girls and that made it all worth it. To know the weightiness of their pasts and all that they have been through….and then see them on this day with huge smiles on their faces feeling so loved. It was perfect.
I connected particularly with one young girl I will call Abhati (to protect the girls, I will not be using any of their real names in this blog). She was a young 12 year old girl who, thank God, has not worked as a sex-worker but who comes from a slum and whose Aunt was one of the previous sex-workers who had been through the transition home. We spent the whole day hand in hand, running from ride to ride, smiles to our ears. When I got home that night the weightiness of it all hit me. Knowing the statistics, that she is right in the age range and caste that are most susceptible to be sold into sex-trafficking…it was like, for the first time a precious face was put to a statistic…and it was no longer just another number to me. When you look at one of those girls as if they could be your own daughter everything changes and you want to devote your life to making sure they never have to experience what the majority of their family members have suffered. For the first time I feel like God began to speak to me that a part of my calling is not just devoted to aftercare and outreach but to prevention. If we can save these women before they’re ever sold, one by one we could see this injustice brought to an end.
One of the other women that came with us to the park that day I will call Nisha. Her story impacted me in a huge way. When she was 17 years old she was sold into the sex-trade by her aunt. The first night she was stripped and taken into a field where she was repeatedly raped and beaten all through the night. She has no idea how many men raped her that night because she was unconscious for much of it. She just remembers waking up in the field naked, beaten and cold. Soon after she found out she was pregnant and when she tried to seek comfort and shelter with her family they turned her away out of shame. So, she was left pregnant without a family and home on streets of Bangalore. She ended up going into labor on the street where one of the staff of Rahabs Rope found her and brought her into the transition home…and soon after to a hospital where she delivered her baby girl. Nisha’s young girl is now 3 years old and she has been free from sex-slavery ever since.
The night I heard Nisha’s story was one of the biggest turning points for me on the trip. I laid awake in my bed with tears in my eyes realizing that her story is only one of millions. literally. Feeing a bit overwhelmed in light of all I was experiencing, thoughts of all that I am striving for in America seemed so trivial, my concerns so minute in comparison. I had very strong feelings of just abandoning my life in America, moving to India and devoting my life to fighting for these women. God had to do a lot of realigning my thought processes, reminding me that I am called to be a voice for the voiceless in America in this season. None of that is trivial as long as we are following the heart of God for his direction in our lives.
One of the final days I spent with my compassion child, Lisna. It was literally a dream come true. I have been supporting her for the past 10 years so I have literally watched her grow and through her letters watched her mature and develop into the beautiful young lady that she is. She ended up traveling up to Bangalore to visit me along with her father and one of the compassion staff. It was a dream just having the day to love on her and spoil her. One of my fondest memories from our time together was just driving home after our day of hanging in the park, shopping and food. So full :). She was sitting on my lap in the rickshaw with her hands wrapped tightly around my neck as we both just stared out the side of the rickshaw at all of the crazy Bangalore traffic. I just prayed for her under my breath, that God would protect her and sustain her from all of the evil that surrounds her and that she would continue to grow into a beautiful young woman of God. We hugged goodbye several times and under somber voices said our goodbyes. I vowed to myself that I would make a point to visit her soon in her home town…and make a point to continually invest in who she is as a young woman of God. Definitely one of the highlights of the trip, if not of my life 😉
Working in the Slums
A couple of the other days we had the opportunity to do some work in one of the local slums. We worked primarily with the widows and orphans. I remember walking up the 3 flights of concrete stairs in the highest and only tall building in the slum which was built by the pastor and his wife. As we got to the top floor and turned the corner what I saw, I will never forget. Perhaps 60-70 women sitting cross legged in their beautiful colorful sari’s squeezed together in one room the size of a small bedroom. We sat down and were greeted with endless hugs, kisses on the cheek and “God Bless Yous” from the women. Soon after the pastor got up speaking in an Indian dialect that none of us could understand and what followed was my favorite part of it all. They busted out a djembe and started singing to God at the top of the lungs, clapping and raising their hands. It represented such freedom to me. Knowing the intensity of most of these women’s stories and seeing how God has redeemed them all and how freely, humbly and authentically they pour worship out to their savior. It brought tears to my eyes. Many upbeat songs followed before they mellowed down and ended all in unison simply singing the word “Hallelujah” and ending in prayer. Just reliving this picture in my mind reminds me of how surreal that moment was and how much I love pure uninhibited worship to God. We also did ministry with the children, singing songs, making balloon animals and just hanging out with them.
One of our final days we did ministry in an orphanage where all of the children have been infected with HIV. This was one of the most intense moments for me….literally having to do everything within my power to not think of the condition of the children. The minute my mind would go there I would have to turn it off as to not break out in tears in front of the children. We did a little program filled with songs and games with them…also involving running around in circles and being crazy ;). As the program came to an end I just remember one of the little boys whom I was playing with most of the time looking me into the eyes and saying, “Aunty, you come back?” Not knowing how to respond I remember just saying, “maybe” which broke my heart to not know if I will ever see him again…and not even knowing how much more time he has to live. I know we are all on a timeline but living a life, essentially waiting to die is a whole different story.
India on my heart
So, that is a bit of a re-cap of all that God brought me through. I don’t know exactly what He is doing with my heart and India but I know that He has called me to use my music and writing to be a voice for that nation and the crisis of sex-trafficking there. I already have plans to return hopefully the end of 2012 to do more work one on one with the prostitutes and by God’s will do more work in brothels. I’m excited about all that He has in store. Thanks to all of you who supported me and prayed. I felt all of the prayers so strongly. I didn’t experience any heath issues or jet-lag so yay God!!. Love you all!!