The elephant in the room

So, I may or may not be writing a Children’s book. {insert laughter} Never, ever, would I have imagined myself writing any kind of book. But, here I am. What am I writing about? What’s my vision? Well, I am writing a story about sex trafficking to raise awareness among kids (and parents). I’m sure you are thinking… hmm, interesting topic for a children’s book… how will that work? Well, it will be metaphorical and symbolic above all and meant to provoke thought, hope, and action.

It all started with elephants. I noticed images of elephants seemed to be popping up everywhere and then I was reminded of the phrase “an elephant never forgets” via a song and my mind immediately went to the girls I spend time with in India and how they, and all of the children and women like them around the world cannot be forgotten. So, the main character in the story will undoubtedly be an elephant. Elephants are really interesting to me- they’re known to be very intelligent, but yet they are such unsuspecting funny looking creatures. It makes me think of kids and how so often they are overlooked and not given the credit they are due for their wisdom and creative minds.

Then I had more ideas here and there and reminders of some prophecies over my life that were given last year. Some of which at the time I really wasn’t sure about their accuracy or what they meant. One was from a friend of my sister’s who told me she saw an image of me writing something… and that something seemed to be children’s books. Even then I laughed it off. This prophecy as well as some others that (now) seem to be related to this book writing were recorded and I have been re-listening to them lately.

It has felt like such a shock wave. So unexpected. And now it seems each day I have ideas for this book… ideas about the story as well as the illustrations (my dream is to have a rescued girl illustrate it!). It feels like this has all come tumbling through thin air, but I know it must be part of the bigger picture of what God has for my life and my part in the end of the global sex trade.

I have to say- all of the encouragement and positive feedback I’ve had from my blog has given me a sense of hope and confidence that I can do this. Even announcing it on my blog points to my faith hanging on a tree’s limb. Sex trafficking and it’s surrounding issues have been such an elephant in the room of our world until recently. Thank you to all my readers and supporters who haven’t been afraid to see this HUGE elephant!

Here goes nothing! (or here goes something!)

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He knows.

I thought you may all be interested to know that today I was re-calculating all of my India expenses (to the dot, instead of ball park) and just figured out that $1,172 was given in a church offering and my living expenses in India: $1,172.58! hahaha! My flight cost $1,574.60… So, my flight + living expenses= $2,827.27. And then I had about $50 dollars in oversees transaction fees. The total amount given in support: $2,880. HA HA! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

Just a reminder that God knows what He is doing! He is in control. He’s faithful. He’s good.

He used many of you to send me to the girls to love in to their lives.

And yesterday, I got to meet with a group of people from Bethel Church here in Redding that is starting a group home for girls that have been in the domestic sex trade and rescued. All because of a girl I met at a BBQ… I got to encourage and share with them my experiences so that my input can give them a better picture of what the program will look like. And I am invited to the next meeting! Ha! I am thrilled and excited where this may lead. I am planning to live in Redding for the summer, but who knows what will happen?

He knows.


Hope for Iraq

I’m a believer in Hope… whether that is hope in an end to forced prostitution, true freedom and change in France, or for a city torn apart.
Baghdad-
Many people have a negative reaction when they hear this word,
but it’s just another city.
It’s another city in need of tremendous love and Hope… and the beauty is that Hope is real. I know this more than ever after my experiences with rescued girls in India. Hope is real. So, if Hope is real why not believe in it? Why not bring it to Baghdad? My sister Dawn’s heart explodes with Hope to do just that. Below is a way in which you can help her make this happen.
——————————————————————————————————————-

“The person with the most hope has the most influence.”Β 
– unknown

Hello glorious friends,

When I was a child I thought I was born to lead a revolution, now I am sure of it.Β 

It’s a HOPE revolution.Β 

There is HOPE in the Middle East. There is HOPE for Iraq.

And so I am gathering a momentum of people who will stand with me and with heaven and say,
“I LOVE BAGHDAD WITH OUTRAGEOUS HOPE.”

Right now I am selling t-shirts which say,Β 
“I β™₯ BAGHDAD” Β in Arabic on the front and “with outrageous hope” in English on the back. They are available in white and black.
i-heart-baghdad-white.jpgΒ  Β  Β i-heart-baghdad-black.jpg

This is part of the fundraising for my trip to Baghdad this autumn.Β 

I need your help to get the word out. Would you help publicize these shirts and the HOPE movement for Iraq by sharing the link below via email, facebook, twitter, blogs, personal websites, word of mouth, etc? Also, if you want to order 10 or more, you will get $1 off of each shirt. So, if you have a youth group, prayer group, class, church etc that wants to join the HOPE revolution, let me know.Β 

The regular price of each shirt is $20 (shipping is included within the US).Β 

ATTENTION:Β ORDER AN “I β™₯ BAGHDAD” shirt by JUNE 1 and get 10% off by using THIS COUPON CODE: ISAIAH668

THANK YOU oh so very very very very much!
As one of the top U.S. Admirals in Baghdad said in response to my Outrageous Hope project,
“WOW! God really is doing something amazing in Iraq!”
AMEN. And it’s going to get infinitely MORE amazing.
– Dawn Richardson

A prayer for India

(Near where I transfered buses with the girls to go to Smyrna)

A few mornings ago, I woke realizing I dreamed of India.

A few days before left India, something really hit me- India is a land in need of healing. Certainly there are places all over the world in need of God, but India has something different about it. It’s obviously a land in need of spiritual healing, but what surprised me was that it is a land in need of physical healing as well.Β  I can’t even begin to tally the amount of people I saw with some sort of physical problem, specifically I noticed many people with problems with their feet and legs. Legs! The very thing that helps you move forward.

India is a land of pain and heartbreak. Before going to India I may have thought of this as being dramatic, but after not only my experience with the girls, but hearing and seeing so many truly sad stories I can see this reality. So many children who have lost parents, parents who have lost children, so much loss. I watched many Hindi films while I was in India and besides the music and dancing (“Bollywood”) one other thing seemed to tie them together as a common thread. They are dramatic. Really dramatic. The older ones especially. There are traumatic accidents and sudden deaths or other forms of heartbreak. After seeing so many films that have such elements I began to wonder why… Indians like drama? Is that it? While, I think that’s part of it, I believe there is more to it than that. Many Indians themselves have seen and experienced such horror and pain first hand; they relate.

There is known to be a lot of corruption in India. The government and some persons in general who are leaders are unfair and crooked. (The caste system also plays in to this, I believe.) The culture is accustomed to the corruption, but some are willing to fight it. The presence of Freedom Firm is an example of just that! And the dream can be realized.

India, a country of 1.2 billion people, is only 5.6 percent Christian. There are many religions represented in India– Hinduism, Buddhims, Jainism, Sikhism, and Islam to name some. It’s fascinating how much these religions have influenced it’s culture through out history. Of course a country in need of healing is going to try to find their hope in something. It’s so sad for one country to be so lost.

I may not have a “calling” to India, but as a Christ follower, this hopeful heart would like to see (and believes) India can stretch out it’s legs and move into a new future. My prayer is for India to do just that.

(at the highest (in elevation) Tea Factory in South India)


snap shot

So, I realize those of you who receive my email updates often get my typos in all their glory as the original published blog is sent automatically often prior to my corrections. Ha. So, I hope you all got a kick* out of my “foot” instead of food typo. No pun intended, okay yes it was intended. πŸ™‚

(at the Taj Mahal in Agra!)

So, I got back to California Tuesday. I was supposed to fly in to San Francisco Monday, but had flight delays etc and had to spend the night in a hotel in London. So, nearly 48 hours after leaving India, I arrived in America. My body clock is still adjusting and I have yet to have a night without waking in the wee hours of the morning. My second day here I actually didn’t wake up until 4:30 pm! Ha, jet lag. But, it could be worse.

(The Taj Mahal)

(from inside the Taj Mahal looking out)

(The Red Fort in Agra)

Overall my time in Delhi and Agra was good although I had a “Delhi belly” (I vomited in the morning before leaving for the train… and had a funny tummy through out the day) on Saturday which was the day we went to the Taj Mahal in Agra. I felt like I was in a haze all day because of it. But I suppose it was the ultimate Indian experience. I still got to laugh at moments like when we (10 of us– Anne and I met up with others in Agra) rode in one small Indian truck– 3 in the front, and 7 of us in the bed (“That’s your ride?!) and when two Indian girls wanted to take photos with me at the Taj Mahal (I felt like a character at Disneyland). Besides the Taj, I also got to visit Agra’s Red Fort, the National Museum in Delhi, and the Craft Museum. I even got to see the capital and India Gate. The woman we stayed with was a HUGE blessing (more than I can say really). I definitely experienced culture shock in New Delhi. Besides it being a big city (Ooty is a smaller town), the increase in traffic, cleanliness, and modernization felt bizarre. Truly, Delhi to London to San Francisco made culture re-entry less intense coming back.

(The sisters that took photos with me… they paid for the Taj’s photographer to take them!)

(Anne and I sitting outside the Taj Mahal)

(riding in the back of a tempo (small Indian truck) 3 Indians in the front, 2 in the back and 5 of us foreigners=quite a sight)

It’s been nice to see family and friends and I even got to see one of my sisters and brother-in-law this week-end which has been lovely. I feel so blessed.

I feel like there is so much more I can and want to say… but I hardly know where to begin. πŸ˜‰ More to come?

Thank you all so much for your prayers and words of encouragement!


good-bye

(Anika and I eat strawberries & cream at King’s Cliff one of my last nights in Ooty)

 

It’s weird to say good-bye to people you will probably never see again.

Certainly I wouldn’t mind if my path crossed with the other FF staff or the girls, but it’s not too likely. In case I hadn’t mentioned before- I love FF. Really, FF is such a great organization with amazing heart, and made up of a wonderful staff with such a love for Jesus. I so appreciate FF, not only for what they do, but who they are.

[ I should probably be sleeping as I’m waking up at 5:30am for the car ride to Coimbatore airport to fly to Delhi. But, though I’m not staying up late packing like I many times have— I know I will sleep better having written this first. ]

Today was my last day here in Ooty. I went to staff prayer this morning, had lunch at Anik’s family’s house (the aftercare director) with Anika (other volunteer), Anne (staff), and Yuimi (staff). The food was delicious and it was great to spend some time laughing and chatting with one another. Really, it’s always nice to get to do because so much of our time together besides prayer is dealing with conflicts etc. After lunch, I finished all of my packing. Yay! Then went to the Palm’s (Tarrah and Jayson are FFers) for our usual Thursday night dinner. The food was good (of course) and we got to talk, help the kids with prep (homework), and laugh over tea and chocolates. It was lovely. I love the Palm’s; they are such assets to FF.

Yesterday was my last day with the girls. Tuesday they were really giving me a hard time about leaving, but Yesterday they were quiet (except for the improptu dancing πŸ™‚ ). Teacher had them share with me whatever they wanted— things they were thankful to me for, admired about me, or anything else they wanted to tell me. I also shared a little with them. Overall it was really sweet and I even saw a few breakthroughs even with what they said and admitted. (woo hoo!) They thanked me for everything like the basics of coming, teaching, doing Bible studies etc with them to smiling and asking how they were, to… encouraging them even though “I gave you so much trouble.” {breakthrough! admitting this} Faith* said, “… How will I do my work without Didi? I’m like a little baby and Didi is my big sister.” {A very honest statement, but exactly what I want to see change her—- independence!}

I went with the girls to the garden the last little while before lunch. Hope* got on the swing and was… pumping her legs! HA! (The story I shared before was specifically about Faith* but I hadn’t seen the other girls “pump” their legs either.) From the swing Hope* opened up to about having been married. She was married at 16 (for only one year), it must be right after that she went to the brothel. She really has been quiet about her past, but considering she is the most recently rescued it makes since. Witnessing this breakthrough in openness right before leaving is something I am so thankful for.

Wednesdays are staff lunch days where everyone that can comes to Smyrna and we all eat with the girls together. So, it was a birthday celebration for the recent birthdays and a farewell to me. We ate cake, Indian sweets, and chips )Indians like their sweet and salty together). It was nice. I said some good-byes to FF staff them. After lunch, was our usual staff meeting and prayer time for the aftercare. We had to talk over some recent conflicts with the girls and we heard about some dis-heartening news. If you recall, we had two of our girls (with children) move on FF that moved together to a different part of India… Well, apparently, one of them, Harmony* has left for sometime with her husband or ex-husband (not sure if they are still married or not). Anyway, this is not a good thing and thus something for us to be praying about.

In other news, Zoe* is now considering to Bible school for one year in Delhi after graduating from FF’s program this year. This is exciting news! It seems she is really serious about it. I am so happy to hear of this, and before my departure because this is a huge step for her. Faith* even shared that after graduating she wants to work with handicap children! Ha! The girls sometimes help with horse therapy for physically challenged kids and it’s likely the idea came from this. I think it is a beautiful idea! Oh, and she has opened up in recent weeks to some of the other staff and having been married and having a child! When she shared with me she seemed dead against anyone besides me knowing, but this openness is fantastic!

Right before leaving Smyrna yesterday, I took the girls to the garden to pray with them. It was great. I got to express my love for them and encourage them in their futures. Zoe* even gave me a card she wrote! (Kind of surprising from her. The other two girls gave me gifts at other times.) It was surreal to say good-bye. They told me they will call me in America. πŸ™‚

So, all in all besides some unnecessary and frustrating conflicts between the girls, my last days with them were good.

Leaving Ooty seems strange, three months did seem to go by fast. I am thrilled to be going to Delhi for the weekend though! I’m so blessed. God is so good. Monday morning I fly back to the states. It will seem like the longest day ever considering I will flying for 20 hours and still be arriving on Monday in CA. Prayers for travel, jet lag, and transition to American life are appreciated. πŸ™‚ Thank you all so much for you support, encouragement, and prayers. I’ve felt them.

 

(Galatians 6:9 painted in the staff room at Smyrna)


“India girl”

“Fall down,” it’s the nickname the girls established for me a few weeks back. They like to come up with silly nicknames for much of the staff and volunteers. For example, things like: “Horse, *uh ha uh ha* (coughing sound), Katirina (after a famous Bollywood actress), and Mom….” My nickname came from a time when i slipped on the hill at Smyrna going to lunch. One foot slipped, then the other, and yes, I fell down. The girls ran to my aide and then laughed about it once I did and the nickname came from then on. There are worse things that they could come up with and though it’s silly I know it is a sign of affection.

I got a new nickname added on this weekend, “India girl.”

I had my last weekend staying with the girls! On Saturday, I wanted to go to a restaurant for lunch with the girls and they decided we should all go wearing saris… so, we did! It was really fun to wear a sari (for the first time) even though they aren’t very comfortable, they are beautiful. Hope* started saying, “You no America girl, India girl!” I (and the girls) got some good laughs out of some of the looks I got from local nationals. I even had a few people literally walk backwards just so they could get another look of the white skinned, red haired girl in a bright sari. Ha… It was a really fantastic thing to do with the girls before leaving. It felt special… and I couldn’t believe the amount of “thank yous” I heard from the girls! (Their manners really have improved since I’ve been here! πŸ™‚ )

(the girls getting ready at Roja)

(wearing the sari I got to borrow from Hope*)

This week I had my last days of teaching! I am extremely thankful my last day, Thursday, probably went smoother than any of the other days I taught (about a dozen times total). This week, Leah added a lot of my photos to Ruhamah’s website so, now it has 15 or so of my photos up of newer jewelery designs. She joked that I should stay and be FF’s designated photographer. I’ve also had the chance to pass on my best photos of the girls as requested by Jayson (another FF staff person).

(Faith* practicing reading English with me at Smyrna)

I’m feeling further peace about leaving India and saying good-bye to the girls. I have had the chance to talk to them about my leaving (and other FF staff persons who will be leaving these year). It’s important to me to allow them to understand that leaving does not equal rejection. I know from their life experiences they can easily feel this and I desire them to know how much they are loved and how supported they are by all of FF. They have frequently reminded me of my departure, asking when, why, boo hoo-ing, and joking that they are coming with me. One of the girls, Hope*, was even joking this week that she would take my passport and was going to America instead of me. I asked her if we looked a like and we all laughed. Then she came up with a plan to disguise herself by putting white on her skin, putting henna in her hair, and wearing glasses. Her explanation made me laugh so hard. SHE often makes me laugh really hard. πŸ™‚ The best part was when she said once she got to America she would say to my parents, “Mom, Dad, me America coming. Dori India staying.” Ha ha!

(I walked out the door to see Hope* twirling at Smyrna)

I officially say good-bye to the girls on Wednesday and Friday I leave Ooty for Delhi.Β I know this next week will go by fast and I would love prayers for God-filled days and joy-filled moments.

Some news: Hope* will be going to court in April! This is an exciting chance for justice to prevail! Please be praying that her Madame will be convicted.

What I will miss about living in India:

  • tea time, I love chai
  • watching Hindi (Bollywood) films
  • living cheaply
  • simplicity
  • GOOD Indian food
  • the frequent use of the words “sir” and “madam”
  • the random children saying “Hi!” and other Indians that chose to be friendly
  • seeing women with their henna, bangles, and saris
  • observing the way people do things
  • riding scooters (?!)