His Grace is Enough for All

I take a deep breath and inhale the thick scents of the city street: the aroma of spices from street vendors, the distinct smell of diesel, and the always present scent of smoke from wood burning within the city, envelopes us. We turn to walk down a narrow, bottlenecked road.  It's choked with small clusters of people, littered with trash and paved with dirt and broken, uneven stones.  Small dwellings with colorful curtains sandwich us on both sides.  

What I find, as we enter the red light district, is women going about the business of preparing for their day.  Appropriately dressed in their kurtas and traditional dress, women stand or sit and prep vegetables in the street, as their children run about.  Occasionally we pass a small handful of women who stand together in full makeup, and we recognize that they wait on the prospect of work, but at this early hour, they are the exception rather than the rule.   

For the most part, I find that if my gaze catches that of one of the ladies, they look down, or away.  If our group moves past a small cluster of women who are chatting together, the conversation grows quiet.   

The morning was spent playing games, singing songs and spending time with these precious Indian children who live among the Red Light District.   

In the afternoon we set up our medical clinic.  We met the kind and amazing Indian volunteers for Rahab's Rope, who live among the women and who do the hard work, day in and day out.  We have come to support these warrior women.  It is their work that continues and faithfully serves this community between the teams that come and go.  

Once the first woman appeared, we all took to our designated roles. Soon our papers were full of chief complaints and blood pressures but also the excitement of reading glasses we were giving out.  The room quickly filled with women and chatter, and we were hoping that as the day progressed, they might give voice to more complex needs.  However, trust is not something that comes easily in this community so we tended to them as best as we could, in the place they were most comfortable.  Today, that place looked like glasses and minor aches and pains, one day, quite possibly it may be more.  We all sensed the depth and weight and brokenness of the needs that were given no voice.  It was clear most women didn't know their age or birthdate because most were "30" and nearly none of them looked as much.  But in the safety of this place, eye contact and smiles came easier. 

I silently prayed as I listened to heartbeats and breath sounds.  With my hands physically examining their simple aches and pains, I prayed that they would feel some measure of gentleness that was Jesus.  

Among the women, a few of the madams trickled in to be seen.  The second I saw them, I knew who they were.  They smiled big smiles and were nothing but kind and yet, I had a sort of visceral reaction to them.  I didn't feel soft towards them, I felt angry, as if they alone, were responsible for the entrapment and abuse in this place.  But Jesus reminded me that the madams might be the most desperate, hardened and broken of them all.  Was it not so long ago that they were likely one of these girls?  The hardness of living has left deep lines on the faces of the madams.  In this layered hierarchy of sex work the madams report to their pimps.  One, is as enslaved as the other.  

His grace is enough for all.

The amount of money that these women make to do this work that damages their bodies and shatters pieces of their souls; mere rupees.  In fact, for months after they arrive here after having been stolen or sold into this sex trafficking work, they are drugged by madams or pimps until the fight in them is snuffed out. 

As we sat and talked, and tried to wrap our minds about the realities of what we were hearing, sadness and emotion seized my throat.  I tried to talk but I couldn't get my words out.  For all of the books I'd read and the documentaries I'd seen; for the statistics I thought I knew...these were flesh and blood women. 

I wept and weep, still.  

But here's the thing about this RLD and these streets we walked. I also cry because hope is not gone from here.  I saw the gospel in its rawest most beautiful form being lived out by these Indian volunteers, who choose to serve these women day after day.  It's beyond messy here; there's oppression so heavy you can feel it.  But hope still pulses and truth is proclaimed and prayed over these women and this community.  Our Father is in fierce pursuit of his bride. 

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.  Hebrews 10:23


Behind the curtains; along the broken streets, He is faithful.  

To the fatherless and abused, He is faithful. 

To the girls and women who are abducted or stolen and who wake up each day not knowing if they will ever see their families again, He is faithful. 

In this broken world, from America to India and everywhere in between He hears the cries of his people.

Come Lord Jesus Come....

M - Short-term Medical Volunteer

Thoughts from India

Out of comfort into an adventure: I am a girl of comfort. I want my pillow, my blanket my fan and espresso. I want a soft mattress. So thankful that God delivers what I need even if I don’t get what I want. Father, lead me to go wherever you are, where you are working. Thank you, Father for Rahab’s Rope working to do what you purpose and for the opportunity to be a small part of your bigger plan.

Amen Fading Henna: She expertly drew lines and flowers the brown henna staining my hand, connecting us. Her young beautiful hand holding mine, I am overwhelmed with the depth of Christ’s love for us both. She is only one of the Indian people who now live with hope because of Rahab’s Rope. My trip was short, only 10 days but I will forever be thankful for the opportunity to see God at work.

Girl on the Bus: I sat beside her on the bus. She was beautiful and Muslim. I guess that is why she held her head down and would not look my way. As we waited for the bus to start, a loud banging noise on the bus window demanded our attention. Outside the bus a man dressed as a Hindu god painted blue-green loudly begging, banging, on our window drew us together. She slid away from him to me. Then she smiled. Are we not the same? We were born for God to love and for us to love Him. That is why Jesus came, for us both. How can I tell her how much He loves her? How can I show her in the short time we have on this bus the love of Christ?

Temple Bells: Religion is everywhere in India, religion calling people to search for hope, for purpose. Shrines are everywhere calling the faithful the searching to pray. Every morning the Hindu temple bells ring calling people to worship. How sad to be forever seeking god and finding nothing.

Rahab’s Rope bringer of Hope: God is bringing hope to many people in India through Rahab’s Rope. While there I saw hungry children fed. Young women living in a slum dancing with joy and mothers asking for prayer for children.

N - 2017 Christmas Volunteer

Venture into God's Love

The jet lag is real, friends, and so are the overwhelming emotions of visiting India for the first time.  What better way to spend the wee hours of the morning on my second day back in the states, than trying to put into words my experience with Rahab’s Rope? I can think of no better way as I catch up on my recorded “shows,” and snuggle with my puppies.

There is so much good in India. There is so much promise in India. And God’s love is so present there. Maybe I had to go half way around the world to come face to face with God in such an authentic way. Maybe that experience alone is what the trip was all about.

Or maybe it was about more than that.

I went to India expecting to share God’s love. I went being told to “do good work” and to “change lives.” Maybe I did that. I’m not real sure. But I am sure that my life was changed.

For those that know me well, the fact that I even wanted to go to India should come as a shock.  I’m a homebody. I love my porch, and I love my dogs. I love escaping in a new book, not necessarily flying 18 hours away. I love the quiet of my little town, and I love being able to walk just about wherever I need to go. So the fact that I chose to go to India is a little shocking.

The first night, or, morning, rather, I didn’t even sleep. I was nervous, excited, and anxious to get the trip started. I watched Ash sleep, and knew that this experience was going to change our lives. I remember my first thought as I watched the sun rise through the dirty windows of the hotel. “Dude, India is dirty,” I said to myself. As the sun rose higher, I thought, “No, India is beautiful.”

Our hotel was located behind a walk up Hindu temple. The bell started ringing long before sunrise, and the dogs barked incessantly. And yet, it was peaceful. Watching the people go into the temple all hours of the morning, I realized something powerful: There is something genuinely authentic about these people’s faith. How awesome is it that these folks willingly come to worship multiple times a day? What if we lived out our faith in that way?

Our first time in the slum was basically like sensory overload. Sleep deprived, and ready to get the trip started, we arrived behind the center to a welcoming committee of goats and children playing cricket. I’m not sure that I was ready for house visits, but that’s what was on the agenda for the girls while Ash lead a life skills class with the boys. I couldn’t understand the interpreters or the women and children we met with. The houses were dark and small, and the slum smelled like garbage. And yet, there was a joy and peace that I couldn’t comprehend, but definitely felt. During our last visit, I was asked if I would be willing to pray.

“Sure,” I said, thinking that this one was easy: I was going to pray away mom’s sunburn and pray well wishes for two of the girls’ exams coming up later in the month.

All of a sudden there was a rush of chatter. “No, wait,” Rachel said. “We need to pray for mom’s husband, who drinks too much and beats her.” (Silent gulp.) “Sure.”

“Oh, and pray for grandma, who has a terrible pain in her side.” Then grandma is brought in for us to pray over. Dang. That got intense real quick.

As I fumbled through my first public prayer in a foreign country, the “Yes, Lord Jesus” and “Alleluias” and “Amens” abounded. I guess I was praying something right. For the first time in India, but definitely not the last, God’s presence was palpable.

In India, all God’s creatures have a place in the choir. Even cows. Especially cows.

I loved the cows! Near the beach, we got picked up by a taxi driver, and six of us crammed into a car made for four. While we waited on the driver, we had the opportunity to visit his pets–I assume the herd of cattle gathered in front of the house were his, anyway. And yes, I took I selfie with a cow. Cows are sacred in India, and given honorary animal status.  I can’t even get my dogs to pose this well!

In all seriousness, the value of all life is yet another incredible aspect of the Indian culture. But it did cause me to wonder about the stark contrast between rich and poor. We saw it all over. We sat in a cushy resort at the beach after visiting women on the beach in their shops. Women who weren’t sure if they could afford to get their children into college, much less make a sale during the holiday weekend. And yet, we were so rich in love and faith. And so were they. As we prayed for Lisa, she wept tears of joy and peace.

The work of the prevention centers in Goa is so important. Probably one of the best days was the day we took some kids from tutoring to the park. They were SO excited! And, they absolutely loved Ash’s beard. He was such a rock star! What’s more, it was so out of his comfort zone, but he really enjoyed it, I think.

I thought these girls were naturally outgoing, but their infatuation with Ash’s beard became even more special after our team leader informed us that approaching him to take a picture was just as out of character for them as posing was for Ash.  Obviously, they saw deep into his soul and realized they were safe with him. Here again, we were smacked in the face with God’s ever-present peace and love. No matter where we went, God’s presence never seemed far away. It makes me wonder if we just get so bogged down in our to-do lists and own agendas in the States that we miss seeing where God shows up.

The Christmas program in the slum was another example of God’s presence. There were 50 or more children, and I’d say over a hundred parents packed into the center. It was hot. It was loud. It was organized chaos. And yet, it worked. Steven asked me to read the Christmas story. Being the good pastor I am, I brought my Bible. When it was my turn, I dutifully put on a scarf and carried my Bible up, only to be received by shocked and nervous expressions on Steven and Rachel’s face. “You can’t read from the Bible, can’t you do it without it?” Well, I should be able to, right? I mean, it’s the Christmas story. Surely the seminary-educated pastor has that memorized, right?

Wrong. And yet, God showed up again. I may not have made it all the way through the story, but for just a few minutes, the chatter stopped, the air seemed to cool down (that could have been my imagination) and the the Holy Spirit worked. No matter that I stopped telling the story after the shepherds showed up. (The Wise Men didn’t happen until later, anyway, right?) No matter that just as it quieted down the children got restless and the noise picked up again. No matter that some words were lost in translation. Wherever I am, there God is.

Barefoot and nervous, God spoke through me. There was much more to our time in Goa, including visiting ancient basilicas and ruins in Old Goa, the Saturday Night Market which was good for people watching and bargaining for pants, and food that must have been sent down directly from Heaven above. It was so good.

As our time in India came to an end, we definitely saved the best for last. Saying farewell to spotty wifi and one inch thin mattresses, we flew to Mumbai and said hello to luxury and dismay all in one. Our time in the red light district was more powerful than words can describe. We even tried to describe it after the visit, and words failed us. I think Ash said it best: “Mumbai is a beautiful mess.” Filled with anxiety and trepidation, we made our way through the slum and up to the center. The small room was soon packed wall to wall with sex workers looking for a little bit of a break and a healthy dose of God’s peace. As I tried to comfort Ash, who really struggled walking through the slum, and reign in my own emotions, I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. These women had every reason to be bitter and hard. Some were, for sure. And yet, as I stood and introduced myself as a pastor, they sat a little straighter. Their tears now freely flowed. I talked about peace that comes only from God. I talked about dignity, because they must know that God has created them in his image and they are dignified. I talked about how things here on earth fail us miserably, but God has big plans for us. And then, in the midst of that hot crowded room, rather unexpectedly, God showed up. Testimonies without interpretation were offered. It didn’t matter. I didn’t need to know what was said. I knew those women knew God and knew the power of God’s actions in their lives. So we talked about peace, and how it begins with each of us. And for perhaps the first time in India, and maybe in my life, I felt fully and completely at peace in God.

I encourage you, if you are doubting God’s presence in your life, go to India. See the work that Rahab’s Rope, with God’s help, is doing there. Experience the stark contrast between rich and poor, and see what true wealth really looks like. The trip of a lifetime changed my life forever. I can only hope some small crumbs of grace were left behind.