Bellwether Blog

John Hugh Tate, Pastor of Bellwether Church in Jackson, MS, blogs about current series.

Notes from Kolkata, India

Bellwether Church - Monday, November 11, 2013

Notes from Kolkata...
By John Hugh Tate

Day 1 in Kolkata. Arrived.
Tired, yet inspired in being on the other side of the world. Got a quick nap before an afternoon pick up to go to Mahima - an after care shelter for girls rescued from sex-trafficking. There are few, if any words, to be said when you find yourself sitting in a room with 15 teenagers who have seen and been through unimaginable things. Yet, these girls were happy. They were safe. They were learning to read history, to dance, to paint, to sew, to make a new life for themselves.
I asked the leader of this ministry, Smita Singh, what is the greatest need we can do for them? She replied: "Pray, and then come and spend time with these girls, so they will know people care."
You could not take pictures with any of them, or else they could be compromised.
Saddest story we heard - an 8 year old who had been in captivity and become an alcoholic.
Greatest story we saw - 21 of these girls smiling, laughing, and discovering life is....not as they once thought.
I count my blessings. Please count yours.
More to come.

Day 2, Kolkata.

Visited Freeset, actually a for-profit business. It's workers, however, are girls off the street, in red-light districts, who live in brothels. So, this business gives them a new job, and the beginnings of a new life. The profits they make - go to hiring more girls. They started with 20, now have 180 employees. They make "jute-bags" and t-shirts. It's really a remarkable operation - a model for social entrepreneurship, creating jobs, and getting girls off the street. It's run by a lot of Kiwis, or New Zealanders and supported by many churches in New Zealand. We had lunch with the couple who lead this "ministry." It is definitely a call of the Lord for them. Check it out at www.freesetglobal.com.

Then, walked around Sonagachi, one of the biggest red-light districts in the city. Saw much - in alleyways, rooftops, and folks bathing in the river - some of which are in the pics added. You get the sights, they won't do justice to the sounds and smells.

This morning, headed to a church, Kolkata Christian Fellowship, and will spend the day with them. Leaving in a few minutes.

Day 3 - Kolkata

Spent the day seeing the work of Kolkata Christian Fellowship, a local church here, guided along by Mai Andrews, the pastor's wife, as pastor Ashok was out of town.
Visited a Bible Institute they support where young pastors and leaders are trained. Inspiring to see young men eager to learn God's Word, and excited to share it. Even more encouraging to see when they lack many of the comforts we take for granted in our own work and study.
Had lunch at the Mahima transition center for the rescued girls. This is the "next step" they go to upon leaving the immediate after-care shelter. Here they are taking the next step to re-enter the world and begin a new life. We were able to spend time with the girls and prayed with them. When we were there, it's difficult to imagine all they've been through and witnessed. God can heal and renew.
We then visited with the church's planting network, working to plant new churches and take God's Word to those who've never heard it. They have a ministry to Muslims and are working to start churches on the coastal islands off India, where there is very limited communication and connection. It's difficult to believe there are still those in the world (people groups) who have never heard the Gospel. They remain.
Many always ask, when will Christ return? The Bible is clear - when all the nations have heard. Nations here meaning, people groups, of every tribe and language. This work still continues. Pray for such men and women aiming to take the Gospel, truly to the remotest parts of the earth.

Today, on to visit International Justice Mission.

Days 4 & 5 - Kolkata

Visited the IJM office here in Kolkata. You know you're going somewhere important, and under-cover, when they have fingerprint scans at the entrance.
IJM is a great organization, actually a ministry. We were able to meet the entire Kolkata team, and get to worship with them, as they have a devotional/worship service each morning.
What do they do? They work to rescue these girls and children out of slavery. They do so by undercover means, infiltrating brothels, etc. and bringing the perpetrators to justice. That is the short version. Making this happens takes much time, and the teams go through many challenges in the midst of successes - when girls are actually rescued. They then recommend after-care shelters for the girls - such as they ones we visited.
Got to meet and visit with many Americans who were working there too. From an LA cop to a Texas A&M grad, it's inspiring to see them take time, months and years, out of their lives to come to Calcutta and serve.
After spending much of the day with IJM, we went to Victoria Memorial, built to honor Queen Victoria. It's not the Taj Mahal, yet still very striking. I kept thinking about how Linda loved the movie "Young Victoria" with Emily Blunt. She was some leader.

Yesterday (day 5) - we had no meetings scheduled so we took time to go to "Mother's House." This is where Mother Teresa lived, worked, and died. She is buried here.
It is amazing to think of Mother Teresa, many do not know she was a European of wealth and privilege who gave all of that up to live with the destitute and dying. Her work continues as the nuns minister there, caring for the poor and those who have lost hope. Her mission began very simply: that everyone deserves to die with dignity, and not on the streets.
As we walked to get there, i imagined her going over these streets and alleys regularly, amidst great dirt, filth, rubbish, and stench. Yet she saw past all this to the human beings who lived there, and that their lives mattered, to God, and to her. She followed a call from Him, and very simply, made a profound impact on the world.

Today, Sunday morning in Calcutta 

We begin heading home. Will be in travel for about 40 hours, including a 10 hour layover in Dubai. We've seen much, learned more, and grown opportunities to help rescue and care for these women and children.
More to come on our return.
Pray for our travels! See you soon!

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