This week, we have spent time as a team back in Kathmandu visiting and volunteering with different ministries in the city to learn about their work and support them,
The abuse and sale of human beings is a complex problem.
And for as deep and multi-faceted as the problem is, the solutions are just as complex. Wherever in the world you see people working to fight trafficking, you'll see people working in prevention. Intervention. Protection. Rehabilitation. Legal, financial and psychological help. Governmental advocacy. Fulfilling physical and spiritual needs. Business and employable skills training. And no one organization can do it all, so it's so important to have different groups with the same goal working together to fill different necessary roles in the process of restoration.
We have visited and learned about many inspiring organizations and ministries dedicated to many aspects of the solution. We spoke to the founder of Women LEAD, a leadership training and empowerment organization that helps young girls question the patriarchal cultural traditions they grew up with and gives the necessary skills to become leaders in government and business. We visited Beauty for Ashes, a beautiful business that employs survivors of sexual exploitation and teaches them sewing and jewelry skills and builds community. We have worked with Iris, a homeless ministry and Agape, an outreach to girls working in the sex industry here in Kathmandu.
We visited Mercy Works today, a wonderful organization that takes in orphans, abandoned or abused children, and gives them homes and family. They have a preschool-8th grade school for all their students. Mercy Works also helps widows and their children by giving them fair trade work and a community. They have sustainable business ventures, a woodshop, a vegetable garden, a covered sports court... it was so so cool walking around the grounds and seeing all the wonderful things that have been set up for these precious people who would otherwise be rejected from society.
As the girls on the team and I spent time with the girls at Mercy Works, jumping rope and singing songs from Frozen, I noticed all their radiant smiles and thought of the joyful future they have now, thanks to this redeeming opportunity.
Each child that finds a home here is a break in the cycle. Each abandoned, abused or exploited girl that comes to Mercy Works and is educated and given trade skills and the joy of Christ is one more victory for freedom in our world.
The team will decide on our individual projects soon (one or more ministries or areas of THI's work that we will hands on work with for the remainder of the trip) and start those in a few days. I am so excited about so many things that are happening here and can't wait to step in to be at least a small part of the beautiful picture.
Thursday, June 19. Janakpur.
This hotel has TOILET PAPER. And we got COLD water to drink. After spending almost 11 hours in a van today, my body was covered in dirt and sticky from the air and sweat. My legs have been eaten alive. Between my hips and Jordan’s shoulders, the ride was pretty cramped and my legs and rear are sore from sitting there so long. I just took a shower without a towel to dry off- not a particularly enjoyable experience, or something I’d care to do ever again. But on the bright side, we have toilet paper here! What a treasure.
If I had been charged with the “don’t complain for 24 hours” challenge last night, I would have failed embarrassingly. We’ve talked about how Nepalis have a skill to live simply, a skill we don’t have in the west. I packed lightly, excited to think I have that skill and have quickly realized that I don’t. I’d be slightly discomforted but pretty content to live here with Western amenities. But learning to live like most Nepalis/South Asians do every day would stretch me far beyond comfort.
I am reminded of the two “key words” my parents impressed upon Mark and I during our cross-cultural experiences: flexibility and gratitude. There is much to be flexible about and even more we are learning to be grateful for.
Yesterday we spent driving to Janakpur, and visited a safe home for girls they intercept here. Today we visited the physical border (and walked to India!) Our time in Kathmandu (and Turkey before it) was a great ease into the culture and lifestyle. We hadn’t experienced too much shock there- today was more shocking. Getting outside of the city, almost everyone we encounter will stare at us, and yesterday a group of young men crowded around, pulling out phones to take pictures and video of us. The roads are dusty and lined with cows, water buffalo, goats being herded. Children beg for money and candy.
As we walked for long stretches in beating sun today, I thought of the catchphrase from my favorite Bollywood film: all is well. Rancho tells his friends that the heart scares easy, so you must tell yourself that all is well, and then you’ll have the courage to face the hard circumstances. There was much to complain about on the road, but so much to be grateful for. So much good and beauty to see.
All is well. Aal iz well. All is well.
Our journey to Nepal began with a day in Istanbul, beautifully extended layover thanks to a canceled flight. Flying with Turkish air was such a treat- we were served Turkish delight upon boarding and I loved settling into the 11 hour flight. We arrived in Turkey around 5 on Thursday the 12th and had a team dinner, playing the onion game to get to know everyone, and a chill evening at our hotel. The city is beautiful.
The next morning, Friday the 13th, most of us woken at 4:30 by jetlag and the sound of prayer across our hotel.
We ask Sarah, our team leader, if she knows where we're going on the tour. "I do," she responds. We leave the mystery at that and stare out the windows as the driver plays Papaoutai and I'm jamming to my favorite Stromae song- none of the other teammates know him. Perhaps French pop is more of a DC/DPE thing.
Driving through the city, I began seeing English words around Istanbul in the mix of Turkish and realizing they probably weren't even English to begin with. Thinking about the ways languages borrow words and cultures share ideas and traditions makes me think of where they all came from to begin with. I also admired how all the roadways were lined with perfectly landscaped flower displays and fountains. Everything was beautiful.
Our tour took us along the water and to the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and the Hippodrome. It was so incredible seeing all these buildings and areas with such long and rich cultural and religious history. The art and architecture was stunning. My team all remarked how awesome it would be to have seen the Hagia Sophia as an active place of worship, not only as a museum selling souvenirs.
After the tour, we visited a carpet store and were served delicious apple tea and given the whole pitch. Our salesman was hilarious and all the carpets were incredibly beautiful and soft. So much incredible artwork and craftsmanship. We walked through the grand bazaar before returning to our hotel for orientation and some great time to rest.
Although it was short, I'm so so glad I got to spend the time I did in Turkey. It was a great transition step for all of us before coming to Nepal. We flew out Friday night and arrived at 6AM on Saturday, before a full day here in Kathmandu. I'll keep posting more adventures here soon! Much love.
Christian, feminist, idealist, wife, poet, abolitionist, dreamer, adventurer.