Monthly Archives: January 2011

new experiences & new responsibities

Wow, I’ve been in India for 3 weeks! In many ways it really doesn’t seem like it, although Western culture seems so distant. Overall, I think I’ve settled in to Indian life quite smoothly. I think it is in part do to intentionally being open and trying not to have too many expectations, also by God’s grace. 🙂 I’ve heard a fair amount of stories from fellow FFers and how challenging it was for them when they first came… how spent they were by the end of the day do to cultural differences, not to mention the challenges that come with working with survivors of sex trafficking. I met with Tarrah Palm this morning for a little check in. She asked some great questions, seeking honest answers, and it made me realize just how well overall my transition has gone. The most challenging thing of all has been sleep. (I had a couple nights of better sleep this week after some prayer… but I would still appreciate prayers for some real rest.)

(Market= the ultimate Indian experience)

This week was my first really full week. It seems each week has gone by faster since I got here, yet each day has seemed longer. We didn’t have any of the major dramas like we had last week. Hooray! A few bumps I suppose, but not really anything to report. Yesterday, since every last Thursday of the month the girls’ teacher goes to FF staff prayer, I was in charge of the classroom for the morning. It actually went really well! I was most definitely mentally and physically tired by the end, but I am so thankful it went smoothly. The way their morning schedule works is– first they sing a song in Hindi, there is a Bible verse read in both English and Hindi, and then two of the girls, and teacher (or in this case it was me) pray. I am amazed at the passion these girls display in the prayers. (Though their prayers are usually in Hindi and I thus don’t know what they are saying, I can sense it in their expression.) Next there is either English or Hindi lessons depending on the day (obviously English for me). I gave them an exercise to complete of a question and then written response, went over it/helped each girl as needed, and then gave them a score. After this their is a tea break (chai :)), after tea I read them a story or two, and then three of the girls practice reading in English with me. And Hope* who knows the least English and I go over the alphabet and practice writing English words. After this they do Math, or a computer game that helps them with their Math and English skills. Then there is a short activity, like a game etc. before lunch at 1pm. So, all morning I was responsible and I was very thankful they overall were respectful of me  (which was the thing I was most nervous about). They needed more help with their English exercise than I expected and the language barrier became more challenging. But it went peacefully.

(Smyrna: school/work location)

Mala Malstead (she and her husband Greg founded FF) visited Smyrna this week, so I got to meet her for the first time. She and I got acquainted and she updated me on some things. It turns out me coming has been even more of answer to prayer than has already been conveyed to me. I was already told that several of the FF staff women were in tears when they found out I was interested in coming due to the intense pressure on them and need of more of break. (One of the staff will be on vacation for the first time in three years to visit family in north India and I will be taking up a lot of her responsibilities.) In addition to this, I found out Leah, who is involved in the organizational and business aspects of FF’s micro enterprise jewelry and card making business, has been praying for someone like me to come to help organize and get a lot of the kinks out of this new business. She is part of the Pune staff (another city in India, this office is mostly involved in the rescue/justice aspect of FF. In fact her husband, is in charge of the office there.) Anyway, since she lives in Pune she has been in need of someone who will be in the workshop in Ooty to help her. So, here I am, another answer to FF’s prayers. We are just beginning the dialogue of the kinds of things I will be doing to help with this. I am excited that I get to fill in a vital spot, though I know it will be quite challenging. I would rather be used! My afternoons at Smyrna will likely consist of a lot of organizing and recording things for the purpose of selling them overseas (mostly in the states and the U.K.) both on the internet and boutiques. Leah and I both firmly believe that this is a very important aspect of aftercare because it not only provides the girls with an income, it gives them hope for the future, and gives a greater likelihood they will never return to a brothel. Even if the girls may lack enthusiasm and interest at times over their work, it really is a crucial last step.

(jewelry, cards, and bookmarks made by the girls…  http://www.ruhamah.in/. I also helped come up with new designs for the cards and bracelets this week. Fun!)

Other exciting things from my week… I got to experience the Garden Restaurant’s family dosa! This was quite exciting and amusing for me as I was told about a couple weeks ago. A dosa is kind of like a crispy versions of crepe I suppose, though spicy, not sweet. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dosa It is served with different chutneys (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chutney or sauces for dipping), things like masala, coconut, and mint chutneys. It was quite tasty (I liked it most with masala), but it was even more thrilling to see. In case, you forgot, I said “family dosa” this is because the restaurant makes them as long as the tables, enough to serve a whole family (likely 5-6 people). I went with a German woman who is visiting India and stayed at Farley a couple weeks. It was just the two of us, which was hilarious, even to the restaurant workers, but we had to see it for ourselves. 🙂

(FAMILY dosa! We probably ate just less than 1/3.)

Another thing I did was visit the Tea Factory. Unfortunately, there is not much to it, but it was still interesting to visit it and find out a little more about the process of making and packaging the tea. I also took my camera with me more places this week and thus took many photos. (See my facebook for more) Wednesday was a holiday here, so the girls did not have class/work. I was with them at Roja. I tried to encourage them to get out of the house and for us to do something fun, but it didn’t work. I am hoping I will be successful in this tomorrow, as I have tried to talk about different options of things we can do and how great it will be to get out of the house.  I have experienced both encouraging and frustrating things from the girls this week. I have seen more of a friendliness with me from two of the less talkative girls, more of a desire to learn, more of an interest in playing games, and more smiles and laughter. I have also seen more of a need of attention, competition, and disrespect, as well as other challenging dynamics. Yet overall, it felt like a pretty balanced week.

(The Tea Factory)

(This Tea Factory is the highest in elevation in South India, quite the view)

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Made for

((Zoe* looks on as her cat, Prim (meaning love in Hindi) watches two monkeys at Roja))

Life in Ooty is a much simpler life. I suppose God is trying to use this to teach me the art of rest. In fact, over my bed at Farley hangs Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know I am God.” There’s not much “to do” here, so besides my regular schedule I’m getting to do lots of reading. I’m currently reading two books. One is called “Victory Over the Darkness” by Neil T. Anderson. It’s quite good, there are many things that I am able to apply to both my life and the lives of the girls here in the aftercare program. A lot of what it talks about is our identity in Christ. Something that is also being talked about at the church the Ooty FF staff goes to. “Who you are in Christ is who you really are.” Anyway, good stuff to ponder. Being here in India, so out of my “element” yet, not? haha (I LOVE travel and cultures…  it is really different here and I have to admit I am getting very tired of being stared at for my physical appearance.) I’ve been thinking about a lot of different things. I am reminded how we are all made for greatness. God has so many great things in store for me, for the girls here, and for you too. Things beyond our wildest dreams. Many of you already know, that I plan to do long term missions in France eventually. I know this is where my heart is and where I am called (if you care to know the “story” I don’t mind sharing :)), and yet being here in India I find myself missing and longing for France even more than before. I’m not sure if this is due to relating my experience here in a different country to my experience in France (I lived there for four and a half months in 2007), or if this is due to things inside of me being stirred up because of the way I am serving here. I’ve had some people ask me why I’m going to India if I am called to France, or have even thought this decision means that France is not in my future. I have to admit the first time someone said something of this sort to me I was surprised, though I suppose I can see that point of view. However, I know this- God uses all kinds of experiences in our lives to mold us into who He wants us to be. India’s culture is quite possibly the opposite of France’s, but being here and doing what I am doing… loving on these girls and serving in a way that stretches me, I know without a doubt that I am going to take things from this experience that will help me in the future, likely in ways I wouldn’t have anticipated. God just works like that. ha. Me, a girl that likes big cities, living in a place that doesn’t have much “to do,” a place where I can learn to rest. I can get to know myself, and my Savior a little better. I can learn (and already am) learning to love in ways that I haven’t before because “this is what I’m made for!” I’m made to love others and help them find who they are in Christ. I’m made to be stretched, to not be comfortable (did I mention I hike basically every day, I’ve eaten probably the spiciest food in existence, and I’m serving in ways I don’t “know how”? ha). I’m made to be light like on a mountain top (oh, and just a reminder Ooty is in the mountains 🙂 ); and I am made to be free and declare freedom in other people’s lives.

On another note, for those of you who are curious about what my day to day looks like, here is my schedule for the next month:

Sunday: Church in the morning, after church (English, then Hindi service) walk with the girls back to Roja (where they live) stay until 5pm
Monday: off 🙂
Tuesday: Meet the girls at the bus at 8:15 am to go to Smyrna, spend the day at Smyrna (where they have school in the morning, and work making jewelry and cards in the afternoon), get back to Farley (the guest house I live) at about 5:30pm
Wed: Same as Tuesday with a FF staff meeting in the afternoon
Thursday: FF staff prayer in the morning, Smyrna in the afternoon
Friday: off 🙂
Saturday: 9am-5pm with the girls at Roja (where they live)

Prayer requests:
*We have had some fairly big dramas with the girls here this week… some have been shocking even to the FF staff that has been here a while. For peace with these things, that they would not be continuous problems.
*Two of the girls have some health issues- in addition to Joy* having kidney stones, the most recently rescued girl, Hope*, has some sort of intestinal infection and just started medication, she is also HIV positive and we are currently trying to find out about medications she can take.
*I have yet to sleep well since I’ve been here… for truly restful sleep to begin now.


Waves

For all of you who have been anxiously waiting to see the documentation of the improvising of light on Anne’s scooter… here it is. 🙂 (see “new friends  & scooters” if you missed out)

This is a good example of not only how life in India is, but being a FF volunteer… you just have to go with things and expect the unexpected. I’ve learned how best to communicate with the locals– speaking in certain phrasing, enunciating, and body language. And I’ve learned quite quickly how to interact with the girls here in order to get the best results. There are many challenging dynamics. These girls need love, not pity, and with that comes a lot of “tough love” to be careful not to give special attention or be easily manipulated. In many ways we, the FF staff, have a parental role (something that basically all of this girls have lacked). By the way, I refer to the rescued girls/women as girls for a few reasons. When I first got here I’ll admit in some ways I was surprised FF refers to them as such, but being here it really makes since. They range in age, most are my age give or take a couple years, but really they are so much more girls than women. Due to what they have experienced in their lives they haven’t been a part of society the way you and I grow up, it’s like this whole part of their life was taken from them… they missed out on the things you experience as a kid, and on the maturation process. It’s somewhat difficult to explain because there are so many layers to this, as I’ve seen just in this last week and a half, and each girl is unique. Anywho, these girls need your prayers, so please as you think of me being here, consider them.

Well, I suppose that is all for now, I’ve seen some progress and some set backs with the girls already this week. So, here I go riding the waves…


A walk into town…

I finally took my canon rebel into town today… here is a little taste of Ooty…


life as I know it

Well, the last couple days have been a bit whirlwind-ish. I spent a lot more time with the girls than I anticipated due to some incidents. Things changed when Thursday night, Joy* had to be hospitalized due to kidney stones. It made things with the volunteers a bit more tricky because there is supposed to be a FF staff person with the girls at all times, and in this case that also meant someone with Joy* at the hospital. So, yesterday I spent most of my day with the rest of the girls at Roja with some of the other volunteers. Things went pretty well, even got them to do a craft (painting tote bags). Then last night a sort of drama unfolded at the house and I thus had to go earlier this morning. So, I was with the girls from 7:30am-5:30pm. Kinda long for my first go with girls (alone), but it went really well. Time passed fairly quickly due to them sleeping in (related to the drama last night) and Joy’s* return from the hospital. Saturday is their cleaning day, and besides that we chatted and played games (ie. guess who?, connect four, and a memory card game). I’m glad I successfully got them to play because the girls tend to be hesitant to do such activities. The girls are each assigned tasks with cleaning and cooking, and today the youngest of the girls was on cooking duty so she did not have cleaning to do.

So, while Joy* rested and the other girls cleaned, the youngest girl (who was the source of the drama the night before)– I’ll call her Zoe* (since it means life and she has so much ahead of her) opened up to me. First she asked me yet again what I put in my hair because she didn’t believe me when we first met that my hair is naturally red. She said, “No! You did put something!” Ha…. and she thought I would speak Dutch not French because of it! 🙂 After talking a bit about this or that she began to talk openly. She told me she was the first girl ever rescued by Freedom Firm, she wasn’t rescued by police etc, but by Greg (he and his wife Mala are FF’s founders). She was just 11 years old. She told me about how she was put in the hospital for a month due to the way she was acting out– biting girls, and being violent in other ways. She was taken to have tests done (mentally), but nothing was wrong. She was told she just needed a lot more counseling, not drugs. She explained to me how she was, and still is often filled with such anger. It is because of her anger that she acted out this way. Now, she gets verbal (yelling etc.) but no longer hits or bites others. I encouraged her that that is great progress! Zoe* explained how she tries to calm herself down and I encouraged her in doing that… how everybody needs to exercise that sense of calm. Then we got into talking about her future and how she wants to dance; she says it is her only choice. But then she confided in me that she doesn’t think it is what God wants her to do. I expressed to her how often we put limitations on who God is and who we are and that God could blow her away with what he has for her life. I used myself as an example of how I have learned to trust God in whatever and wherever he takes me. To which Zoe* said, “Trust is so hard!” I smiled and said, “Yeah, it is! ” But just because something is hard doesn’t mean we don’t plow through and do it. I told her life is a journey and we are meant to live in the present, not always looking to the future and be in control of it. Anyway, in the end it was great conversation that really encouraged me… I suppose 10 hours at Roja should bring something of the sort. 🙂

I think I have tomorrow and Monday off, so it should be a good chance for me to rest, ponder this week, and  to explore Ooty some more.

I like Ooty. It has it’s own sense of charm. I feel plenty safe walking around– that is except for the vehicles on the road. ha! The things I dislike? The dirt, more specifically the pollution. The first several days my eyes were sensitive to it and nose tickles alot. A little more about Ooty… it is in the mountains, so I basically hike everyday. It takes 20 to 40 minutes to get where I need to walk to. I will be walking everywhere really with exception of taking the bus to Smyrna, but I still have to walk to town to get to the bus. 🙂 Well, I can tell you one thing– I am probably going to be in the best shape of my life by the time I head back to the states.  HA! If I need to I can take a rickshaw/auto (the Indian version of a taxi I suppose, but it reminds me more of a ride at Disneyland due it’s small size and lack of doors.) Of course my new friends (with scooters:)) may give me rides here and there as well.

Today, on my way home, I heard little voices above me on the hill saying, “Hello! Hi! Hi!” Two adorable little boys were smiling and waving at me when I looked up. They asked me my name, I told them and asked theirs, though I’m afraid I haven’t a clue how to spell them. I asked them if they lived close (they do) and I told them I lived at Farley…. I gave them a toodle-do and then made the rest of the short walk up to the Farley drive way, and there they came running and chatting to each other. “Hi! Hi! Hi!!!” they exclaimed excitedly. I talked to them for a few more minutes, asked them about themselves etc. They were too cute for words. I look forward to seeing them again sometime. 🙂

In honor of completing my first week in India (yesterday) here are some of my FIRSTS:
*used rupees
*scooter ride
*ate with only my right hand (no utensils)
*did the Indian head bobble/wobble/shake (oh yes, it’s begun!)
*used a “squat-a-potty” (yeah, it’s what it sounds)
*took an auto/rickshaw
*mastered the art of brushing and then rinsing my toothbrush with only one small cup of water (a triumph!)
*recognized a Hindi phrase (and knew what it meant)
*Got henna
*heard a sex trafficking survivor’s story first hand
*got invited to an Indian neighbor’s house (haven’t gone… it’s common Indian practice to invite without intentions of it happening)
*ate the spiciest thing I’ve ever tasted… and finished it (though by the end I not only was drinking lots of water, my eyes were watering, I was physically hot, and I was coughing…… it’s extremely important to finish what is on your plate here)
*remembered my way back to Farley on my own
*saw a horse get nearly hit by a car (oh, the wandering animals…)

(Monkeys hang in the tree outside Roja.)

*In just a week’s time my life has already changed.*


Joy*

Well, there is much I desire to write. But I’ll start with a more focused look at Tuesday. I had my first full day at Smyrna (where the girls’ program takes place) and then I went to Roja (the safe house they live) and stayed through dinner with them there. Things went well at Smyrna. I read some stories to some of the girls, they practiced reading english with me, and I helped with odds and ins with the card making process.

What I really want to talk about is something that happened at Roja (where four of the girls live). One girl, who quite quickly has been a buddy of mine, freely told her story with me. She is 22 years old, I’ll call her Joy* because upon meeting her I could see it oozing out of her. Anyway, she was asking me about my family, how many siblings I have etc… and after I asked her about hers, she began to freely share her story. It was really incredible to have her share with me so quickly after being acquainted. There came a point where I was not understanding what she was saying (it was the english phrase for “red light area”) and then Anne, another volunteer here, began to translate for me. It must have been an hour and a half of her sharing.

She began her story as a girl living in Mumabi, born to a Hindu man and Muslim woman, at the age of 11 she went to a brothel (she didn’t explain the details of how she got there). She was in the red light area of Mumbai for two years, until the age of 13 when an International Justice Mission social worker got her out. Next she went to a Catholic safe house where she stayed until she was 18 (because it was only meant for minors). When she was about 16 her mother’s family told her social worker that her mother had died, but she had trouble believing it them because her mother’s family never liked her. When she had to leave the Catholic home at 18, she went to find her mother’s family. She hoped now that she was older they would like her, but they shunned her telling her she had no reason to be there and that her mother was dead. She then was able to find her father’s sister to stay with. She later found out her mother was not dead, but had money taken from her and so she left. (To this day Joy* doesn’t know if her mother is alive or where she is.) The order of some of the next aspects of her life may not be correct, as I wrote it down from memory. Joy* then worked with underprivileged kids in Bangalore and it was around this time that she began to understand Jesus and the forgiveness he gives. This inspired her to share her testimony at her church. Right after she did this, she got very very ill and almost died. She was in the ICU of a hospital for at least one month. The people of her church began to pray and fast for her, and she improved. While she was in the hospital she had a vision of Jesus’ nail pierced hand coming through the window and he touched her head telling her, “You are my child, I did this for you. Now I am healing you. Keep telling your story.” Indeed, she was healed and then was able to got to Bible school for about three years. She was able to connect with International Justice Mission and work in their office. She told them she wanted to help rescue girls just like her. So Mala and Greg, who were in charge of the office for International Justice Mission when she was rescued, told her about Freedom Firm because since then they had begun their own NGO. They were able to work out how should could come from Bangalore to have a place to stay, learn, and have a form of income (jewelry/card making). She came here to Freedom Firm in November and will soon beginning to make enough of an income to begin to support herself and contribute to her rent etc.

Joy* is probably the most spiritually mature girl here. Her passion is a great influence on the other girls. Her story differs some from that of the other girls due to the fact that she has been out for 9 years, but it is just as wonderful that she is here.

Since Tuesday, I have found out more about some of the girls via staff meetings and issues that have come up and how to address them. I will share some of those things at another time I’m sure. It’s very helpful to get some background on the girls to better understand them individually. I’m thankful Joy* was so open to share hers.

Also, at Roja, the youngest of the girls (17yrs) did henna for me. 🙂


Smyrna

This morning I met with Tarrah and Anik (she’s in charge of the aftercare program here). They shared with me about some of what I will be doing and what to expect etc. It is quite a lot to take in, I think I got most of it, but I know a lot of it will just come in time with experience. This afternoon I spent about 3 hours at Smyrna which is essentially where the girls’ program takes place, they study (English and Math), and create their jewelry here, as well as make cards (something they just started). This was my first introduction to the girls and what I will be doing. It was some what intimidating to come in to a place where I am new to the culture, with some some language barriers (most of the girls know at least a little English, but it varies from girl to girl), what hit me harder is the reminder of what these girls have been through and why they (and I) are here. I was introduced to all 7 girls (two of which have children- one has a daughter I’d guess to be about one year old , the other girl has two children who were at school until the end of the day). Their teacher went over some things with me as far as schedules and explained a little about the differences in the girls : besides personality- they are from various parts of India, speak different languages, some have had a decent education- others not much at all, and the newest girls have been here since November, and one just came in only 3 weeks ago. I got to spend the rest of their day with them as they worked on jewelry and then on their cards, I mostly cut ribbon for the cards they are making and talked to the girl who has the young daughter (fyi: I will not be giving any of the rescued girls names for their protection).  She wasn’t very talkative, but at least I got to find out a few things about her like how we have the same favorite color- pink,  she is from a Northern part of India, and she prefers making jewelry over cards. Side note— the bracelets she was making are gorgeous and the cards the girls make are beautiful too; I think I may be tempted to bring back a suitcase of things made by them. 🙂 Some of the girls were more friendly with me than others- they complimented me on pink watch ($10 from walmart!) and asked me what I put in my hair— meaning to make it the color it is, I figured out, I said it was natural and I don’t put anything in it. I’m not sure if they were fascinated or were some what making fun of me for it because they started speaking in Hindi to each other about it. (By the way, this did not surprise me at all. I have had previous experiences such as in Mexico of being pointed at or even run from, yes run from, from a two year old due to my red headed difference.) In addition to this, I was told that the girls can be very almost pushy at times about some thing if they don’t like it- ie. your hair or clothing etc. Anyway, things went well over all during my time there, and I’d like to think some of the girls warmed up to me as they joked more or came up to me to talk.

Tomorrow I will spending most of the day back at Smyrna with the girls (about 6 and a half hours), it will be my first “full” day. After Smyrna, I will be going to Roja (where the girls live) to eat dinner with them. It will be quite an experience to say the least.

I’m really looking forward to getting in to the hang of things and getting to know the girls. The next week or so will be a lot of learning, stretching, and new experiences for me. I’m a little nervous, but mostly excited to do what I am here for. Any prayers for this next week of newness especially would appreciated.  Thanks 😉