“As I hear your story, your voice sounds a little jaded, but I also hear you have hope. Most people doing this work are disillusioned after a few years. How do you keep believing?” (A woman asked me after I presented Freedom Firm to an anti-trafficking group in Lancaster, Pa in 2012.)
A few years ago, Greg and I took a two day trip to Delhi. It was work related, meeting another ministry that wanted to partner with us. A lovely hotel was booked in the heart of the city, and Greg knew we would have a little window of time for ourselves. I had reached a point where I knew I needed a personal breakthrough in my life to carry on doing our work in India.
Part of life is the difficulties we encounter with others, promises made, promises broken, friendships found and lost, co-workers with different visions creating division and wounds we knowingly and unknowingly inflicted upon each other. Then there were the girls. I had invested heavily in many rescued girls. Yet progress was infinitesimal, they continued to make terrible destructive choices, and I blamed myself. A common and excruciating mistake for many humanitarian workers working in crisis situations.
I could feel bitterness winding its death grip around my heart. I was angry, hurt and wanted revenge on those who had hurt me, in the church, in my work. I was waking up out of a troubled sleep night after night with accusations ringing in my head and a retort on the tip of my tongue. In my turn I was judging those who judged me yet I had committed the same sins. In my heart I had repaid evil for evil. I wondered if I needed to go back to the States for counseling. I knew for sure I needed to talk to someone if I was going to be able to forgive and move on. But who?
At a nice restaurant, I told Greg I was in great pain. I needed to hear from God.
A team of ladies from Chicago happened to be visiting Delhi and connected to the organization we were partnering with. They had a ministry of inner healing. Their passion was to bring healing to victims of trafficking and those who work with them. Joking around at breakfast in the hotel lobby I asked “When can I sign up?” Beth shot back, “tonight we have a spiritual spa event.”
Not really my cup of tea,' I thought. Not wanting to give up our precious time, I replied that I would think about it. Surprisingly Greg thought I should go and I realized this might be the answer to my prayer.
My heart sank as I entered the 4,000 square ft. house of an American consulate family. Embassy, high society women steamed in and I thought, 'Oh no, I've just wasted an evening going to a Christmas party.' Fancy food was laid out on an immaculate table. All was perfection. Another program inspired women to get involved with Indian widows. What was I doing here? I had already found my calling and I wasn't looking for another.
I wondered when there would be a chance for inner healing here in the midst of food, the movie and the chatter. Where would I be refreshed in all of this? What of Greg? Was it possible it was a good trade? Others must have read my mind. Beth came into the living room where I was sitting. She said, “You don't need this, this isn't for you.” I couldn't have agreed more. In a quiet room, Beth led me through sentences of repentance and forgiveness. I had a deep experience of release, healing and affirmation. A sense of physical pain rolled away and poison bled out of my veins that night.
Our trip to Delhi was like the gasp in fresh air after one has been underwater for a long time. Stepping back to life in Ooty I felt flooded again, immediately.
A few days later, I wrote in my journal, “It's hard to cling to my freedom. Hard to walk out of the accusations that come from others. I say the words of forgiveness, but in my heart I still feel dirty, ashamed, confused and find it difficult to go forward. I feel so completely overwhelmed and tired and just needing to refocus but with no time to do that at all, just wham, straight back to hauling cement, sand and baby chips (we were building our house at the time), birthday parties, hosting guests, running Ruhamah, writing proposals and reports. I feel like every part of my brain is supersaturated and over used, on hyper alert. I want to hold onto the goodness of what God is doing and the freedom He has brought. But it's like the sea, in all its infinite power and breadth, and it rushes in and I am left standing in shock and with every orifice filled with water, my nostrils, my ears, my eyes all is covering me and that sense of drowning is acute when I come back to my life in Ooty.
If I find walking in daily freedom difficult, what of the girls? They, whose betrayal by parents, uncles, cousins and aunts defies everything imaginable? With my knowledge, trust and experience of God from earliest childhood, I still find trusting Him challenging at times, how much more for the girls, who are new to the relationship?
I have suffered the death of my own illusions; the death of my certainty of how rescued women can be restored. All my plans have failed; nothing has worked. When every single dream was crushed, my marriage was faltering, and my only desire was to flee the scene of havoc, that's when I could finally hear God. For the first time. What I wanted to hear was, “Good job, now you can go home.” Instead I am fairly sure His message was more along the lines of “Take up your mat and follow me.”
Girls are being restored. His way, not mine. It took me many many years to come to the end of my own strength. My determination was great. Today, I am completely disillusioned, compared to my idealistic self that showed up in India 15 years ago. I am jaded and continue to be exhausted. I don't actually expect that to change. But out of all the failure the girls have risen like a vision, out of the filth and mire, and are still rising. I stand and watch, amazed. My job is to stay present, engaged, believing He has a plan. I don't know how redemption comes, I just know that it does. It's that simple. A choice everyday to keep faith, to take heart. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. This is my daily prayer.
"A blossoming rose", a photo taken by Mangala in 2012