25 June 2013

Who throws the first stone?

"Women are worshipped as goddesses and treated as dirt."

Dolly Jacob, a social worker for Navjeevan gave us an inside look on why prostitution and sex trafficking not only exists, but succeeds in Mumbai.

The moment they are born, they are seen as a burden. So abortion and infanticide is all around. What they forgot to think about is how that may affect how many women there would be left to marry.

What I failed to understand is most women are not here out of choice but out of no choice. They come to Mumbai from all over (a huge population from Nepal) because of a promise of a good job or marriage, but then are sold to brothels. They are sold based on their age and beauty for an average of Rs.3000 to 1 lakh ($50-$1700).

The women are not able to escape until the brothel owner earns 20x more than what they paid. If girls are not willing, they are gang raped while being held down by other prostitutes.

When minors are trafficked, they are hidden from the public. They'll never leave their rooms that are often hidden behind cupboards and walls.

The average day for a prostitute includes 20 men. Ten during the day and ten at night. You would think that would mean the woman would make enough money fast enough to escape, but a lack of education and manipulation by the pimp, he will lie to her about how much she actually makes.

Once a woman becomes "smart," she is set free. But with no where to go and no family that will accept her, she choose to continue life in the red light area. And the cycle continues.
Prostitution is a supply-demand system. The demand comes from society. So why do we condemn the prostitute and not society?

Where Navjeevan comes in
Navjeevan creates a haven for the prostitute and their children. In fact, Navjeevan's vision is that the rescued themselves will manage the facility and become its directors, social workers and teachers.

Navjeevan wants these women to get out of the brothels and become contributing people of society. However, finding a job is a struggle because they have no documentation--no way to prove they are citizens. Which leads me to the government. There is no government program that supports these women. In fact, many political leaders spread the lie that because there are red light areas, your child is safe.

The social workers of Navjeevan teach the women basic skills--how to count, add and multiply. They give them hope of a life outside of Kamathipura. A life of dignity. The kind of life Christ paid the price for.

Boys of Navjeevan
We saw Dolly's words come to life shortly after. About 20 boys from the Navjeevan extension home joined us for dinner and fellowship. These boys were no different from guys back home, except they were more polite, cuter and could dance. The Navjeevan extension home is where youth who are in college and employed have an opportunity to live after they finish grade school. There are four in Mumbai, two for boys and two for girls. They live together, cook and clean for themselves and become responsible adults. We heard from Shankar who lived in an abusive home until his mother finally left and from Anil who lived on the streets of Mumbai until the Navjeevan Centre found him and gave him a home.

Because these boys are prone to exploitation by those who learn of their situation, I can't publish any photos of them. But trust me, we had a good time. I don't think I've ever laughed so much in my life.

Navjeevan is breaking the cycle of prostitution and poverty. It's giving new life.

21 June 2013

Mumbai-Day २, Part 1

Note: Day Two was a big day and I'll confuse you if I put it all in one post. So here's the first part.

Day Two is when we met K.C Chacko Achen (Achen means Father). Achen is a dedicated missionary. Though he is Malayalee (from Kerala, India), he is dedicated to the mission fields and villages of Maharashtra and at this point, he's the only Achen that can conduct a Holy Communion Service in Marathi. Huge deal. 
K.C Chacko Achen (and three little ones from the hostel in Nalla Sopara)

K.C. Chacko Achen's church!

He took us to his parish in Nalla Sopara, about an hour and a half from Navi Mumbai. We got there just in time to meet with the 40-something evangelists from all over Maharashtra. They came for a monthly meeting and took time to worship with us and tell us about the villages they serve. Most of them serve from 13-30 villages EACH. They look over worship centers, Sunday schools, bible studies and organize baptisms. From my count, there are more than 1000 baptized believers and still more coming to know Christ! 

That's just unbelievable. Praise God. His church is growing and flourishing even still! Some of these villages see opposition from unbelievers but most welcome their belief. Why? Because families are transformed. Domestic violence and abuse disappears. Girls are being educated instead of kept in the house. They are seen as a prize and not as a possession or burden. 

I can't explain, my heart is full just thinking on these things. The Gospel, The Good News--it's real here. It really is GOOD NEWS.

So Nalla Sopara also has a hostel, the Daya Niketan Asharam. 

13 girls who wouldn't receive education otherwise, live here during the school year and get proper education. Below is a picture of the couple who leads the school and takes care of these kids. The three little ones in front: Their mom gave birth to four girls. When the fifth one was born and their father saw it was another girl, he abandoned them. When they were found, the one on the right was eating mud, the middle child was malnourished and the child on the left had a head full of lice. Their youngest sister died (and the fourth is not pictured here) but they are now well, have tummies that are full and are now going to school! A video of them singing is below. :) The song is Anoka Pyar Hai Yeshu Ka. They taught us this song before we left! It catchy. It's translation is God's love is so wonderful, oh so wonderful love. It's so tall, you can't get over it. It's so wide, you can't get around it. It's so deep, you can't get under it, oh so wonderful love.

We heard stories like these again and again the whole time we were there. Education is the key to eradicating poverty. It's wonderful to see the church giving these children the opportunity to change their lives.

20 June 2013

Vomiting words.

That's what I've been doing whenever someone has asked about my trip to Mumbai.

Honestly, I don't what to tell you. I don't how to describe with words what my eyes have seen. The beauty and horror that is stitched to my heart. So I'm going to try my best and hopefully it will come out in a readable fashion.

Makeshift bus station.
First off, I should reaffirm that there is a need in Mumbai. In all of India, as a matter of fact. A half a million (no exaggeration) NGOs have registered themselves in the area, claiming to be saving children, offering education and better lives for those in poverty, but many of them are just names. The money is going to no one who needs it. So friends, beware. If you have a heart for India and want to help a country that needs it so much, make sure you know where your money is going, because so much of it is not ending up in the right hands.

So the only way I can organize my thoughts is in days. Our days were extremely long and often blurred together. This was partly because life in India is not as planned and detailed as life here at home. K.C Chacko Achen (I'll introduce you to him later) said it best, "Our days are only as planned as far as we can see." And most of the time, you didn't see beyond the hour ahead of you. As frustrating as it was to not know how planned, packed or scheduled or was, it was liberating to not live by a watch but only by how much light we had left in the day.

Day 1

Looking out the window in Navi Mumbai or Thane District.

Finally in Mumbai at 3 AM. When we got off the plane, I was met with the smell of rotten potatoes mixed with body odor. A heavenly scent that said, "Welcome to the Motherland, Nincy. We missed you." I haven't been to India in 8 years and of course my memories blocked out the smells, chaos and squatting toilets. As I'm writing, there's sweat on my brow and my paper is curling from humidity--we're enjoying our only day of rest before traveling the whole state of Maharastra for the next ten days.

We are staying at the Diocesan Centre in Navi Mumbai. I may be wrong, but for each diocese we have a Thirumeni (a Bishop) overseeing its projects. In Mumbai, it is Thomas Mar Theethos.
Before breakfast, Thirumeni spent some time with us explaining the Mumbai diocese, its mission and projects. He explained that in most of these places, we're not going to be expected to do a certain thing, but to listen to the stories and testimonies of the first believers in these villages, and observe how and what the church is doing to grow His kingdom. In some ways, this was disheartening. I wanted to leave a mark; make a difference in the lives of these people. Only after did I realize, they were leaving their marks on me. 

Tomorrow we will be visiting Nalla Sopara, K.C Chacko Achen's parish and the Centre for Missological Studies. There we'll meet about 40 evangelists who serve in different villages and hamlets all over Maharastra. We'll also meet Dolly Jacob, a social worker and psychologist who works in the red light area of Mumbai. Dinner was a surprise--we met the boys of the Navajeevan Extension Home. Guys in their early 20s who were taken off the streets of Mumbai at a young age and given a chance to turn their lives around.

Are you overwhelmed? Yeah. And this was only DAY ONE. Now you know why I've been choking on words.