Sometimes I feel like I write about a lot of hard, sad, and depressing things (!) so it's wonderful to have something positive to share!
Last weekend a couple of FS staff found out about an 18 year-old girl who had just been brought to a brothel by her mother from a village up north. She was going to be put into the trade. The family was so poor that sacrificing this one child for the rest seemed like the only option....
She was offered a job at FS instead while her mother sat in the corner and cried with relief that he daughter would be spared. Hope and dignity were extended to her and now she will never know the shame of a life in the trade.
It's been hot lately. Really, really hot. Today is better than a couple of days last week since the heat index (humidly factored in) is only 48 C / 118.5 F! Living in a insanely dense city with no AC definitely has it's cons.
But right when the temperature skyrockets, something appears that really helps us through this season. Dad's gift to us, what we need, just at the right time.
Today's purchase on my counter
Our local bazaar is filled with wonderful, inexpensive fruit and eating a bunch of it and drinking a LOT of water help us through the worst parts of the day. Mangoes and lychee are full of natural sugars, give us a boost and rehydrate us at the same time----and they're really, really yummy!
Neither of these fruits are around during the time of the year where the weather is a bit easier to handle, but they're there when we need them.
It's that just like Him? Hard times come but His loving provision is always there for us when it's needed. (And we're just like a mango that's even better when it's a little squishy because it's been knocked around a bit!)
In The Hiding Place Corrie Ten Boom tells a story about a conversation with her father:
"I burst into tears, “I need you!” I sobbed. “You can't die! You can't!” “Corrie,” he began gently. “When you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you your ticket?” “Why, just before we get on the train.” “Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we're going to need things, too. Don't run out ahead of him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need – just in time.”
We can trust Him to provide the 'ticket' we need for whatever season in our lives.......
When I was a kid I didn't like the book of Revelation. It scared me with all the terrible things to come. I read it this week, however, and found it full of promise! He will look after us, give us what we need at the right time, and at the end:
"Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" ~Rev. 21: 3-5
While we're used to living here in many ways I still frequently have moments where something clicks and reminds me of just how different my perspective is than that of the people from this area.
A couple of nights ago we were getting ready to go have dinner with some of our foreign co-workers. I walked to a little shop nearby and plunked down the cash for a couple of 2 liter bottles of sodas/fizzy. While it's something we don't purchase often here just for ourselves, I thought it was a perfectly reasonable contribution towards the nice dinner that was about to be provided for us by our friends. After all there were five of us coming from our house (we have a young Kiwi guy living with us). The drinks cost $1.09 US each.
I turned around to walk home with a bottle dangling from each hand. As I passed people living in our area I suddenly wished I had brought a bag to bring my purchase home in because I realized that what I was carrying could come across as extravagant. For many of my neighbors what I had just casually spent would be a good wage for a day's work........
Earlier today Rachel and I were walking home from the Metro and saw a little 1/2 naked boy toddling around and trying to whack people who came past with a stick. It looked so cute and harmless and reminded me of my boys playing 'pirates' when they were younger. I smiled at the ladies standing there and told them how cute he was in their language.
As we arrived home I was still thinking about that little boy and my perspective changed. I realized that he probably wasn't sword fighting and that the motions he was using weren't of that kind. He probably was mimicking things he had seen in his home, someone giving someone else a beating. It happens a lot.
Then I remembered last night walking home from the bazaar and seeing a woman who used to work at FS. She was given a couple of extra months to try to complete her 3 months training program but finally quit after not showing up on time, etc. She's one of the minority who have expressed interest in freedom but are so emotionally trapped that freedom seemed too hard. She went back into the trade. She has a little boy who used to come to the nursery while she worked. The last I heard of him, however, his mother has basically abandoned him to live with a group of kids who scavenge at a nearby dump for survival.
At least the little boy who was whacking people had a well fed tummy, a place to sleep at night, and someone to look after him.
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy
you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was
burned in the potter's oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood
that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall
find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you
shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
I read these beautiful words yesterday on a friend's Facebook page and immediately resonated with them---yet found them painful at the same time.
I've felt 'hollowed out' over and over in recent years, yet last night at a friend's 39th birthday party I could reassure her without hesitation that my 40's have been the best decade of my life so far.
There's a mystery in the marriage of joy and pain......
A lot of the excavation of my soul the past few years has been living in a neighborhood where hard things far outweigh the joys in my neighbors' lives. It's also brought more into focus than ever the depth of joy that can exist when someone has experienced profound pain.
I was prepared for hard things when we came here. I knew that poverty and injustice would change me, and they have.
But the loss that's cut me the deepest and made me reel is one that you don't have to move to an exotic land to feel and it has to do with this:
Letting Aaron go to boarding school was a huge thing for me with months of fairly agonizing preparation in my heart beforehand. It wasn't a 'normal' thing to let your 13 year-old go, but I knew it was what's best for him so I worked hard at dealing with it. I was still adjusting to that when Hannah's departure seemed to sneak up without warning. I told myself, "It's time. She's ready. This is a normal part of life. It will be good." I gave myself a couple of weeks when we got back here to grieve and then told myself to pull it together and get on with it. In hindsight I didn't give myself very good advice!
Since then I've had friends from all over tell me how agonizing it was for them as children started to leave home. Some experienced depression or started experiencing panic attacks and needed medication. Obviously it's not an easy thing to do!
I'm so happy for both Hannah and Aaron. I love how they're growing and couldn't be more proud of them. I wouldn't change their current experiences for the world.
But having them away from us for long periods is an adjustment and a grief and I wish I'd been more rational about that a few months back so I would be further along in the process now. Live and learn! And next Mother's Day Rachel will have left the nest as well.
Children are a ble3sing and oh so precious! They are one of the brightest spots in my life and I look forward to ongoing, adult relationships with them in the future. I want to be their biggest cheerleader as they strike out in the lives they're being prepared for even though they won't be as physically close to me.
There's lots of joy ahead, but sometimes first:
"When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight."
I've got to say as well, however, that the more things that are stripped in my heart, the more I'm finding my deepest delight in Him!
Rachel and I had an interesting conversation in the back of a taxi just like the one above today. As we crept along in traffic watching the city roll by (and trying to ignore our sweaty backs sticking to the seat!) she asked me questions like, "Mom, is it wrong for a mother to get into prostitution if she's watching her children starve otherwise?" And in this context the answer just wouldn't come off my tongue quite so quickly.
It's easy to say, "Of course." and move on to the next subject from a First World perspective, but it's not so easy here. Extreme, intractable poverty and starvation aren't concepts here. All you have to do is look out the window as your taxi rolls past.
Hard things don't change morality but they make you say things like, "I know it would be wrong, but since I've never been put in that position I sure wouldn't want to judge." Things often just don't seem quite as black and white anymore.
Most people that come here ask questions like, "How could G0d let this happen?"
I read an answer this morning: "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends. With the L0rd a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The L0rd is not slow in keeping his promise (to come back and set things right), as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.........So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our L0rd's patience means SALVATION." (Caps obviously mine.) ~2 Pet. 2: 8-9, 14-15a
He doesn't want any one to perish. He watches his creation struggle in a sin filled world that breaks his heart every second and waits-----out of love.
This weekend some of the FS staff had the opportunity to be part of a small group of organizations in the area focused on trafficking/freedom from the sex trade to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her visit here. The two day event consisted of setting up tables about the work that each org. does or displaying products in the case of FS and being available to meet with those who were part of Sec. Clinton's group or were invited to come and see her. I can only imagine the security nightmare that this city would present so her staff decided to bring the city to her instead of taking her out into the city.
The photo below is of her holding a sari blanket made by one of our sister businesses. She purchased one of our bags, too!
The event was organized by the current US ambassador who has been to FS and has a heart for our area. Hopefully it raised awareness in the State Department and helped them to understand the idea of using a business for social justice instead of just the NGO model.
I hope it made an impact not just in their heads but on their hearts.
While I understand the difficulties of bringing dignitaries into the area (Apparently it was quite unnerving for the Ambassador's bodyguard as Kerry took him through the lanes a while back!), I wish they could have come anyway. There's something about seeing a place with your own eyes that personalizes it and leaves a more lasting impression. People who come and experience both the horror and the joy of this place themselves are those who become the best advocates around the world for the girls at FS and sister businesses who now have hope-----and for the thousands who are still trapped standing in line.