Monday, January 16, 2017

India Day 10: The Darkness Shall Not Overcome

This post is part of a series from a Discovery Trip to visit one of Partners International's partners in Kolkata, India. JKPS works in community development, social justice, adult education and with children at risk. Resources like bikes, clean water wells, monthly partnership with a local pastor go a long way to enabling this vital ministry to the Bengali people.

Tonight, we walked near the brothels of Kalighat. The streets bursting with people, it carried a very distinct feeling from Nicole and my own journey early last week. Where that was an isolated journey as aliens into a foreign world, this was an area where you could easily overlook the presence of the brothels entirely.

Peer a bit deeper down one of the alleyways, however and the shadow of the insidious underbelly showed. The women of this area are older than Sonagachi, in their thirties and forties, and so command less work and lower prices. Smita shared that they work for approximately 50 rupees (1 Canadian Dollar) for thirty minutes.

All around the area were religious images, idols and shrines. Down the street is the Kali temple, overwhelmed by worshippers in town to visit a Sundarban Island temple that is only accessible this time of year. The air thick with the smells of cooking and the smells of cramped spaces. People rub up against you and slide past as you walk down the street. Young children, under the age of five play in the full streets by pulling one another on top of plastic bottles, fashioning skis for their feet.

Through it all, the value of these women touched our hearts. Where we only saw 25 women on the street, nearly a thousand work in the area, in the alleys hidden from sight. They give their bodies to make a living, often out of necessity, rather than choice. At their age, some of have resigned themselves to the life that has been dealt to them. They are poor in so much more than money, but in spirit and heart.

It is always a bit surreal, coming to the end of such a monumental trip. Only ten days ago, the team landed in Kolkata after 25+ hours in the air early in the morning. The time all blurs together, with unique, significant experiences piling up one after another. Each of us will be processing the ways that the Lord has worked in our lives for months to come.

Through it all, there are themes that stand tall. It is evident in our time here the deep love that the JKPS and Mahima staff have for each other and for those they serve. They truly embody the family of God here in West Bengal, and for our brief time here have welcomed us with open arms as brother and sisters to fellowship with them.

There is a transparency and vulnerability in each of them that is humbling to us as guests. They have interrupted their regular lives to usher us around their country, opening their hearts, ministries and vulnerabilities to us.

As I reflect back on the past ten days, I am nearly overwhelmed with the huge work that is left to be done here in West Bengal. The sheer immensity of it is crippling when confronted all at once. Yet like an experienced climber tackling a cliff face, you must take it one hold at a time. Each step moves you closer to the top, and living in the moment is the only way to survive the trip.

Thankfully, none of us goes into the climb alone. We have One who has mapped out the path for us, securing anchors to keep us from falling. The Lord is overseeing the entire expedition, watching over each minute detail to see the Kingdom advancing.

Whether it be the Sundarban Islands, the young men at the Bible Training institute, the young boys in the Premanand Boys home, the girls at Mahima, the medical camps, the many national workers around West Bengal or the work at the Ashaloy Center in the brothels... the Lord is at work. Each has a vital place to play in the broader picture, and each is a massive task in its own right.

More than anything, this trip has given each of us a complete picture of the Kingdom at work. Today as we walked through Love Calcutta Arts and Freeset, we saw the need for businesses offering exit points for women working in the trade. Freedom Church showed us the true essence of worship from those who really grasp the concept of captivity. These and so many other ministries make up the complex web of healing that these women need.

As we leave late tomorrow evening for the long journey home, we carry with us a piece of India. We carry the banner of the Church here in West Bengal with us. Where they have opened their hearts, ministries, homes and lives to us, we have seen a glimpse of heaven at work in our own lives.

Lord, would you use what you have shown us to spark a fire in our own hearts, our own churches to respond to the needs in our communities? Would you use it to advocate for the broken, the forgotten, the lost? Would you prompt us to remember our Indian brothers and sisters in prayer, and to journey with them in the battle they fight every day?

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

India Day 9: A Beautiful Mosaic

This post is part of a series from a Discovery Trip to visit one of Partners International's partners in Kolkata, India. JKPS works in community development, social justice, adult education and with children at risk. Resources like bikes, clean water wells, monthly partnership with a local pastor go a long way to enabling this vital ministry to the Bengali people.

The team remarked today at how the past week has flown by.  A week ago we were with a small JKPS church witnessing the baptism of new believers into this great global family we are redeemed into. It has been filled with moments of great joy, and moments of immense sadness. We have witnessed such lofty heights that we have glimpsd heaven, and heard harrowing stories that challenge our hope.

Today was a chance to gather with believers at Kolkata Christian Fellowship, catch our breath and celebrate the way the Lord is at work here in West Bengal. They are a eclectic group of believers from all over the world who gather to worship the Lord. It is a testimony to the family of God that we can travel anywhere in the world and find brothers and sisters redeemed by grace.

The real highlight of the day, however was joining the Mahima girls at Freedom Church. Because of their vulnerable state, they cannot join in with a general fellowship, but that is no reason to keep them from worshipping. Thus, Freedom Church was born. There's something wonderful about walking into a room with a hundred survivors singing in unison, with the joy of the Lord lingering in the place. It is a soothing balm for the soul, the gentle reminder that the Spirit of the Lord is with us always, redeeming the mess we've made of His creation.

Through this past week, we have met countless individuals who are sacrificing greatly to see the Kingdom of God established here in India. These are the lighthouses along the rocky shore, guiding survivors home. They each have stories that must be told, yet each are embarrassed as I listen, believing themselves in complete humility to be entirely ordinary.

Take Manesh Mardi as an example, a young man who grew up in a Hindu village, but through the teaching of a local evangelist heard the name of Jesus. When his mother became sick, he didn't turn to the Lord as a desperate move, but as a natural extention of his growing faith in God. Then he led his entire family into a relationship with Jesus. Today, there is a fellowship in his home town of over 100 people, and his father donated the land for the church.

Or Pastor Pradipta Mondal, who has been overseeing the work on the Sunderban Islands for the past eight years. Under his leadership, JKPS has seen churches established on eight more islands, bringing the total to ten, with two more in a young state. Areas that had never before heard the Gospel, now with churches growing on them. Each serves as a base for the vital anti-trafficking work that Mahima is doing.

Mark Truman Lee was watching his career explode, with growing paycheques, increasing responsibilities and an employer who had big plans for him. Yet when the Lord called on him to leave it behind, he didn't hesitate. He knew that money would never fulfill the desires of his heart, and today he oversees the JKPS medical camps that offer services to thousands of people every year. Without his past experience and leadership, it could never grow to where it is today.

Rajasree Dey Roy grew up in a Hindu family, and prior coming to Mahima she worked in a government home. When IJM held a Christmas Party, she was introduced to the Bible, particularly through Jesus' statement in Matthew 11, "All who are weary, come to me and I will give you rest." A year later, her mother was diagnosed with cancer, and she remembered a Bible yet another organization had given her and opened it. She was drawn to a church, where she surrendered everything to the Lord and everything began to change. All of her old habits faded away, and she was made new. Today she works in the Mahima homes as a counselor with the girls, participating in their incredible journies.

There are so many others. Rita, Smita, Finney, Anette, Arun and countless more. Small pieces in God's larger mosaic proclaiming freedom for the prisoners. Each time I meet one of our national workers, I am deeply humbled by their conviction for the calling God has placed on their lives. I am deeply grateful for the Canadians at home who sacrifice every month to journey hand in hand with our workers to see the Kingdom of God established.

Mahima, the Sunderban outreach, BTI, Premanand Boys Home, Freedom Church; none of these could happen without the calling of the Lord, and the response from Godly people with soft hearts. Like Samuel, their actions challenge me to soften my heart and say, "Speak, your servant is listening."

There is no calling too small, no person too insignificant for the Lord to use. All he requires i our willingness to go. Where is He calling you?

Saturday, January 14, 2017

India Day 8: Death to Life

This post is part of a series from a Discovery Trip to visit one of Partners International's partners in Kolkata, India. JKPS works in community development, social justice, adult education and with children at risk. Resources like bikes, clean water wells, monthly partnership with a local pastor go a long way to enabling this vital ministry to the Bengali people.

There are moments in life when the tsunami of evil crashes over us, lifting our feet from solid ground and threatens to send us tumbling into the deep abyss. Wave after wave assaults our hope, threatening to extinguish it entirely. It is in moments like this that we cling to the Solid Rock, our Salvation, Redeemer and Advocate. We cry out from a place of destitution for relief, long for the solid foundation.

As we visited each of the three Mahima homes today, we heard details of their stories. Horrific tragedies of betrayal at the hands of family, friends, neighbours. So many that it leaves you reeling, gasping for breath and tasting only water. These girls have been robbed of their lives, left haphazardly abandoned on the road of life.

In the small moments when you are not utterly broken for these girls, a small stirring of righteous anger begins to swell. They should have been given so much more, this surely could not have been the original plan for their lives. They, and so many others who are not rescued are dead people walking.

You ponder the depravity of their traffickers, pimps and abusers, and it is easy to snuff out the vigil your heart holds for this world. The darkness closes in on the only hope we have for fellow human beings. Perhaps it would have been better for the Lord to turn His back on us and walk away.

Yet in there is a small glimmer of the shore. It seems like a mirage from the vast ocean of filth -- a way out of the madness. The Lord did not leave us to our own devices. He waded into this ocean with us, allowed the waves to crash over Him and withstood the furious pull of the current.

That is evident in the lives of these young ladies. In each of the homes, the minor home, the transition home and the at-risk children's home, there is an overwhelming sense of hope, joy and peace. There are scars that stand evident in the lives of these young, but they stand as testiments to the miraculous hand of God on their lives.

Those who were dead have found new life. They have been given a chance to find redemption from the atrocities commited against them. They light a path to the shore for those tumbling in the dark depths, beckoning us from our skepticism and hate into a relentless hope for all mankind.

It doesn't excuse the unmitigated evil. It doesn't stop up the tears. It anchors us to the shore to go out again and again to find survivors and invite them home.

You can see the growth of the homes as an institution. First, as a rescue home for the trauma. Then as girls graduated out and needed a home to transition in, a place where they could be safe and explore the broader world with a firm foundation. Now moving to mitigate the most at risk girls and give them a future without the unfettered scars others have had to endure.

Even in the girls themselves, there is evident growth. Some have begun to advocate on behalf of others. They know that they have siblings or others who are in danger of being trafficked themselves, and are speaking out to bring them to safety. They are participating in the awareness programs to bring a poignant exclamation to those who hear.

There is life.

Later in the day we attended the JKPS Sponsor a Child (SAC) program. Where the girls carry a heavy, battle-scarred joy, these youth have a lighthearted wistfulness to them. Dancing, testimony, and celebration of their achievements highlighted the program, thanks to hundreds of sponsors in Canada.

These are the lucky ones. Those who know not the terrible deeds their peers have endured, but can celebrate the freedom of education, tutoring, and extra curriculur activities like dance. It brings a smile to your face, and laughter to the heart that even in the smog of Kolkata rays of sunshine break through.

Both of these vital programs challenge me in my own walk with God. Too often we settle for a shambling, shuffling relationship with God. We are dead in all but truth, allowing our hearts to wither, giving into the siren call of the depths and sinking willfully into the abyss. Staring into the eyes and hearts of the Mahima girls, and hearing stories of children who have broken from their family to follow Christ yet pray regularly for their parents awakens a spirit in your soul.

We were never meant to settle. We were created to be fighters, to wade into the ocean time and again to haul those tumbling back to shore. To proclaim freedom for the prisoners, life for the dead. These young children are the Kingdom at work, a blinding lighthouse blazing a path home. A paradox, they defiantly live where only death should be.

Friday, January 13, 2017

India Day 7: Dignity

This post is part of a series from a Discovery Trip to visit one of Partners International's partners in Kolkata, India. JKPS works in community development, social justice, adult education and with children at risk. Resources like bikes, clean water wells, monthly partnership with a local pastor go a long way to enabling this vital ministry to the Bengali people.

There are many words you could use to describe India. Dirty, depraved, disgusting. On a surface level, you might not be wrong, but like so many other good things in life, you have to go deeper.

Underneath the thick dusting of dirt you uncover an exotic, exhilarating and nearly extra terrestrial culture. Something so foreign to our Western sensibilities that our brain has to form completely new frameworks to process it.

Every street is bursting with people. Small shops and markets abound. This is a country full of life and exuberance. It would not be hard to go through your entire life and never be truly alone. The friendly shouting of people at work, the percussive meeping of horns, and many other sounds would wrap you like a blanket or a boa constrictor depending on your personality.

Take it another level down and you see immense poverty. Individuals and families living in open garbage dumps, protected from the environment by only a plastic sheet. It becomes easy to see the hundreds of thousands of beggars and poverty stricken individuals as a vermin. A tangible outworking of the failure of a broken system.

Yet you'd be entirely wrong.

Today the team spent the day outside of Kolkata with the young women and staff of the Mahima homes. These young ladies have endured the most heinous, despicable acts that evil has concocted. Stolen and sold from their homes, beaten and both physically and mentally broken down, and then forced to work the brothels at incredibly young ages, they understandably bear the scars of that war.

It is easy to look through the brothels and see prostitutes, pimps and lowlifes. Easy to judge and condemn those people to the depths of hell. Yet these are the people that Jesus spent his time with. He did not liase with princes, but dined with the paupers.

There are few places on earth where the Kingdom of God is as noticable on earth as in the Mahima homes. Despite the deplorable acts these young ladies have been exposed to, there is a trust and joy that is present in this family. This love is not constructed, but earned. Many hard years with tears, psychotic breaks, hugs and tears have earned a deep ocean of relationship to draw from.

Is it any wonder then, that the most common sound today was laughter? The sound of angels communing on earth, celebrating lives redeemed and new opportunities. Without Mahima many of these girls would have no hope, and may not even be alive. Yet here they are alive indeed.

In the past seven years, we've seen over 100 girls come through the homes. This past year we've rejoiced in the baptism of a few, who have experienced the love of the Mahima Staff and the redemption of Christ. We pray fervently for more.

At the heart of any ministry is the restoration of dignity. It would be a simple matter to write off the beggars, the poor, the sick, the needy, the prostitutes, the unwanted as inherently broken, in need of fixing. To look in through a hazy glass and superficially pretend to understand their plight and therefore believe we have risen above.

Yet the heart of the Gospel is in the understanding that we are all poor, all lost. That the simple act of looking a human being in the eye, no matter their social or economic standing and see a brother or sister can change everything. Suddenly it is not the plastic walls and dusting of dirt that distracts me, but my own sin. Rather than reviling a prostitute, I am given an opportunity to love.

Nothing short of the Holy Spirit could have formed a family like Mahima. To restore in the souls of these girls the Image of God and give them a second chance. It started with a staff member looking them in the eye and saying nothing, yet everything. The complete sentences only a hug can convey.

It challenges me deeply to put aside my judgements and make love my default posture.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

India Day 6: Gospel in Action

This post is part of a series from a Discovery Trip to visit one of Partners International's partners in Kolkata, India. JKPS works in community development, social justice, adult education and with children at risk. Resources like bikes, clean water wells, monthly partnership with a local pastor go a long way to enabling this vital ministry to the Bengali people.

After a night spent on the Sunderban Islands, we awoke early this morning to begin the winding, stuttering journey home. Roads filled with goats, cows, pedestrians and more make a hundred kilometer journey stretch into a few hours.

Thankfully, we stopped along the way to see one of JKPS' medical camps in progress. For the past year, JKPS has been holding medical camps in remote areas of West Bengal for villagers who otherwise would never have an opportunity to see a medical professional. For a mere $500 Canadian, 80-180 people per day are given access to medical care.

All of this is done on the back of a local pastor, who advertises the coming camp, is present through the entire day, and follows up with the villagers after the doctors have left. It is an incredible tool to be the hands and feet of Jesus in people's lives, and to open doors that would otherwise be closed.

As we jostled down a small, dirt road, we pulled into the back part of a remote village in the southern part of West Bengal. Nine Caucasian people getting out of vehicles was quite the sight for a small village off the beaten track. In this case, the van itself couldn't even make it down the road, and so they had set up inside one of the makeshift school buildings.

Three doctors were seeing a constant flow of people: a dentist outside, and an optometrist and medical doctor inside.

In the 45 minutes we were there, the dentist treated five patients. He administered local anesthetic, assessed the source of the pain, and pulled more than a few teeth of both children and adults alike. For these people, it was the first time seeing a dentist.

Inside the thatch building, the medical doctor was assessing the health of men, women and children. He'd check their blood pressure and any other ailments, and prescribe any relevant medication, which JKPS gives to the patients for free.

The optometrist was also assessing individuals, seeing 15 to 20 people in our time there. Some near sighted, others far, and giving them glasses to restore vision and allow them to live their lives.

Here is what I love about this ministry, it is truly the Gospel in action. Mark, the coordinator over the program was climbing the corporate ladder in India, making a significant sum of money while doing it. Yet it wasn't leaving him fulfilled. He wanted to be helping his fellow human beings, and working in the corporate world wasn't doing it. When asked if he would leave that behind and join JKPS, God called him away from they allure of money, and into the fulfilling opportunity of helping others.

Likewise, the doctors are giving up significant sources of money by traveling to the villages for a day. In the case of the medical doctor, he comes from another province, and has to travel by train overnight to get to Kolkata.

This evening we had some down time, and spent an hour or so walking around the local neighbourhood in surrounding Kolkata. Smelling the cooking food from the stands, jostling through the crowds, and dashing across roads in front of oncoming traffic. Nothing gives you the sense for a place more than getting out and walking around. The harsh blaring horns contrasted with the equally loud, but far more melodious sound of the people. There's a rhythm to the city that is bustling with life, yet calm in its demeanor.

Today I was reminded that wherever Jesus went, he listened to the plight of the common people, understanding their lives, hearts and needs and then responded. He called them out of their physical pain, and challenged them to leave behind their spiritual brokenness as well. Each ministry and place requires a special tact -- for the Sundarbans it is relationship and awareness, in the remote villages it is health care and education, in the city child sponsorship and tutoring. All things that require an intuitive sense to understand -- and local partners get that.

The medical camps are important ministries of JKPS in areas of India that would otherwise never see the medical care they get. Yet it doesn't stop there -- the local pastor builds relationships with these individuals to bring healing to the real problem of their souls as well.

Today we got to see something beautiful. It's a holistic Gospel, and today we got to see it in action.

Tomorrow, we spend time with the Mahima home staff and girls, and better understand what the Lord has been doing in their hearts. I can't wait to share with you the stories of how He's been working in both the staff and girls lives.

India Day 5: To the Ends of the Earth

This post is part of a series from a Discovery Trip to visit one of Partners International's partners in Kolkata, India. JKPS works in community development, social justice, adult education and with children at risk. Resources like bikes, clean water wells, monthly partnership with a local pastor go a long way to enabling this vital ministry to the Bengali people.

One of the biggest blessings of travelling with teams is the opportunity to interact in remote villages around the country. There's something beautiful that happens when completely different cultures mix for a few fleeting moments. Taking two separate, unique, wonderful colours and combining them together to create something new.

The morning began with a long, bumpy, swerving drive through the roads, highways and suburbs of India. If you've never experienced the terrifying thrill of an Indian road, it is truly a hard thing to describe. There is a beautiful rhythm to the undulations of the road that makes Samba look like the two step. Lanes are the long faded echo of a suggestion. Pedestrians, bikes, buses, trucks, rickshaws and motorbikes all move together in a chaotic dance.

In the two or three hours we were on the road, we saw countless 'near misses' of vehicles swerving back onto their side of the road with inches to spare. Numerous pedestrians nearly lost their lives to traffic accelerating through crowded town streets. Women with children stepped onto the road with no care to the oncoming javelin of metal.

It is truly something you have to experience to understand -- but you likely won't want to.

As we pulled up to the ferry dock, loaded, and floated down the delta of the Ganges the bustling assault of the urban environment fell behind to a peaceful tour through Mangrove trees. This is truly the dichotomy of India, old and new, rich and poor, educated and illiterate and urban and remote all mixed together.

The remote nature of the Sundarban Islands is what makes them a prime target for traffickers. These are islands home to a massive amount of people, many of whom live hand to mouth day by day. Wide swaths of them are illiterate, and live an incredibly simple life. Yet even though they live a relatively remote and unique life, they share a common trait with the rest of the human race: they want the best for their children.

Parents want their kids to have a possibility for the future, through education and work. This noble desire is exploited for nefarious purposes by traffickers. Hope is turned to despair as they offer the world, and deliver hell for these young women. A housekeeping job in the city with a future becomes the worst kinds of emotional, spiritual, physical and sexual abuse. What was innocent and free is stolen maliciously from young children.

The anger of God burns.

How is the church to respond, then? What does salt and light look like?

As the team disembarked from the boat, and trekked over the uneven mud dyke, we left behind the glimmers of a modern world and entered a simpler time. Brick, mud, tin and straw homes awaited us. Beautiful, simple people who cared little for the political maneuverings of global governments and only about where their next meal would come from smiled at us. Young girls giggled and ran as we tried to capture their photo; then followed us closer and closer as we walked.

It is beautiful. A people and island that has never before been reached for the gospel. Hundreds of thousands of people that are awaiting the good news that their chains have been broken, that their spiritual captivity has been ransomed. They can be free.

The important work of JKPS has been to establish relationships with local people, introducing them to the Good News of freedom in Christ over the past years. This island's work began two years ago, and today there are families that are following Christ, but have not yet been baptized.

We met in the year of one such family, who organized the meeting. We shared the simple message of freedom, and then took a back seat as the Mahima program staff used the relationship of the evangelist to talk about Human Trafficking. The people were provided with simple information about the horrors of abuse, numbers they can call, and how to prevent their girls falling victim.

It was a start. A steady march forward against the kingdom of darkness. Where others have thought it was too hard to be worthwhile, the Lord only sees lost people.

This is the mission of the church, to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Sometimes that means reaching over the fence to speak with our neighbour, and others driving for hours, hopping a ferry and walking into a remote village. The distance is irrelevant - the heart is what makes the difference.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

India Day 4: Shining in the Darkness

This post is part of a series from a Discovery Trip to visit one of Partners International's partners in Kolkata, India. JKPS works in community development, social justice, adult education and with children at risk. Resources like bikes, clean water wells, monthly partnership with a local pastor go a long way to enabling this vital ministry to the Bengali people.

Today was a down day for the team as a whole. After a few days in India, it was time for a rest day -- a chance to reflect, recoup, see some of the unique beauty of the city, and to shop!

The morning started out with the first shopping endeavours, where different team members procured clothing, cricket bats, and silk scarfs.

After lunch, the team visited the Victoria Memorial, a massive park in the 'Lung of Kolkata', so named because of the amount of greenery in that area of the city. A beautiful walk around the manicured grounds, and plenty of photo opportunities later, we left for some final shopping.

Amidst this revelry and beauty, however, was an anticipation of something far less beautiful ahead. Nicole and I, were given a unique opportunity to visit JKPS' Ashaloy Center, right in the heart of the Sonogachi Red Light District -- this is a place that westerners do not go, and are not welcome. Here children can come after school for tutoring, computer lessons, and a much needed place of safety from the world around them.

As we pulled up in the taxi, pimps descended upon the vehicle, eager to snatch the latest client into the brothel. What made this interesting, was Nicole -- a white, female woman. Immediately the men backed away from the vehicle.

We were met by other JKPS staff who escorted us into the den of the lions. At the mouth of the street, a physical manifestation of the filth ahead waited -- outdoor urinals filled with men.

The streets had a pungent air about them, burning garbage, incense and human waste lingered in my nostrils, reminding me of the putrid heart of this place. Children ran playfully through the streets, returning home from school as pimps leered at us foreigners. In some buildings, men waited for their prostitute of choice to finish with previous clients, either in hallways or in a room with TV. Women who were not actively working lounged in the doorways, looking for their next payment.

Through this all, the JKPS staff led us on. Lalita before us, clearing the path, staring down those who drew near, and ensuring we were close behind, and Finney and another worker behind to watch over Nicole. It was clear that we did not belong in this place.

After a short time, we turned off the main street into a dark alley, where the entrance to the center beckoned. The weight of the brothel was upon our shoulders, and you could practically taste the wretched heart of the darkness. Yet as we crossed the threshold, much as I felt at Mahima two years ago, there was a lightness in this place. The Holy Spirit clearly resided here, a lighthouse amidst the darkest storm.

Children greeted us as we climbed the stairs, happy to have the unusual visitor. They had just finished their English tutoring class, and as we introduced ourselves, and heard about them there was joy mixed with the clear realities of trauma on their faces.

These are children who live in the same rooms their mothers work. Often, they sleep underneath the very bed where she entertains her clients. Their young minds having to process the atrocities that their mothers are subjected to. Victims of the worst kind, children who have had their innocence stolen before it ever had a chance to settle.

Yet here, they find respite.

As I shared the story of Jesus and the woman at the well, my prayer is that the Lord would remind these children that He is with them. That He would walk with them through the trauma, and provide them a way forward.

I could write thousands of words more, but I will say this. If the Gospel of Christ is not for ones like these, then what is it for? To go to the very gates of hell, to proclaim freedom for the captives, to care for those the world has forgotten and to spread love. The Gospel is not a weapon to use against other children of God, but against the forces of Darkness. It is there that we should turn our vitriol, there that our anger should be set, there where we should set our energies.

As we left the center, Lalita and myself got slightly ahead of the group, and the experience was wholly different than when we walked in. Because Nicole was not near me, that small cellophane protection was removed, and I saw an even darker underside. Prostitutes called out to me, inviting me into their homes, pimps reached out to beckon me closer. Lalita shooed them each away, being an imposing presence, but it was clear that the darkness my heart perceived was very much alive in this place.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. We come to proclaim freedom for the captives, and often we are also called to storm the prisons that besiege them. The work of JKPS is creating new opportunities for the children of these workers, and building bridges to women who are victims of a vicious cycle.

I hope this will drive you to your knees to pray in brokenness in the same way it has broken my heart.

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it." - John 1:5