Wow, wow, wow…this has been the most amazing day. I told Maria tonight that this is one of the best all time days of my life as far as experiences go. Where to start.
The day started a little shaky. First, Maria picked up a cold and felt really bad when she woke up (as the day wore on she felt better). Then, a taxi picked us up and he didn't speak a stitch of English so, other than the hotel telling us he was there for us, we weren't completely sure. I felt a little unsure getting in the car so I tried to confirm that he was there for us but he couldn't understand. In the end, we decided to risk it.
Forty-five minutes and a several slum tours later, we regretted that decision. He got so lost and kept trying to ask us questions in Hindi, which was really effective. He also kept stopped for directions constantly, to which the person would shake their head that they didn't know what he was looking for either. We kept trying to use his phone but he wouldn't let us. I was about to wring it off his skinny little butt at gunpoint, but then I remembered my gun was confiscated at the airport security (it's a joke). FINALLY, he somehow got us to the orphanage. We were so relieved.
We headed from the orphanage to a slum at the edge of the city where one of Hopegiver's pastors works full time. The pastor told us many stories about his work. His first convert to Christianity came as the result of hsi prayers for a family. They had six girls and badly wanted a boy but couldn't seem to produce one, even after offering many sacrifices to their gods for many years. In India, boys are much preferred for many reasons. One, to carry on the family name and heritage, of course. But another huge reason is because the parents of girls have to pay a dowry to the man's family when their daughter gets married. These dowries are no small matter—just one can break a family!
The pastor prayed for them and guess what? They had a boy. That was enough to make them believers, and many of their friends also became believers as a result.
Pastor also told of how his family has been very persecuted by anti-Christians because they don't want his church in their slum. They have been beaten, their bibles ripped up, and they've endured many threats. They are a very humble and sweet family, and we got the honor of praying for their sick daughter today.
The pastor took us through the slum to meet the converts and to hear their stories. There were many stories of families coming to Christ because one of the family members were healed. One was delivered of a demon. In fact, while she is no longer tormented, she is still under some oppression and she wanted me to pray for her. As I prayed for her, I felt the Holy Spirit telling me that the key to her full deliverance was to rid her house of any relics from her previous faith. I had no idea what that might be but when the prayer was over I asked our guide if this woman still had relics or idols in her home and he said she did…that she is reluctant to part with them fully. So I told him what I perceived and he said he would share that with her.
The church they are meeting in is only a room about 13X17 for 60 members. They need 50 bibles and are also trying to purchase land for a new church site. The land is very expensive, even in the slum, and it would cost about 10,000 (USD) for the land alone and it is a VERY SMALL lot size. We prayed for many people in that area and it was amazing to visit this almost country slum.
Interestingly, people in the city will keep their own water buffalo in their yard or in this case, their courtyard. This courtyard has no outside access other than up.
What can I say about the traffic situation? Today was OVER THE TOP. I took videos and there are not words to describe the narrow streets and traffic. In some places, the streets were no wider than 15 feet with high walls on either side. The streets wind around in a maze and it is so strange. I took some GREAT videos of the traffic, which includes many horns and a few near accidents with cars and motorcyclists.
Okay get this. Tonight, after the slums, we actually got to go into the brothels! There's this most amazing man (Saji) and his wife who minister to the prostitutes. This guy is 6'9" (note in picture his wife IS STANDING and also look at the door frame) and is an anomaly in India, as most people are fairly short. He plays pro basketball and attended the 98 Olympics in Atlanta with Athletes in Action (he's traveled worldwide with them). He still plays for the Delhi pro team and invited us to a game this next week. I don't know if we will be around to attend, but I don't think so. Anyhow, going down to the brothels at night with a guy that big makes you feel pretty secure. We also had two other men with us for safety.
The brothels look EXACTLY like the brothels in the movie, "Born into Brothels" and the women all live there together with their kids. I was able to get some pictures inside of the rooms. I felt so honored. And amazingly, many of the women asked me to pray over them for healing. We also met a pimp outside the brothel and Saji asked him to come to his house and let him share his testimony with him. Currently, Saji isn't supported by any ministry but he and his wife live on her income.
Anyhow, Saji is a very gentle and kind man, and he has earned trust with the prostitutes so that he is welcome in their brothels anytime. They also trust his judgment of who he brings in, and they welcomed us with bottles of Pepsi and many of them sat down with us. Another really cool thing happened for Maria. The prostitutes asked her if she wanted to have her hand decorated with Henna. It is all the rage in India. The only problem is that you have to keep it on your hand without messing it up for a whole hour! She did pretty good though except she kept getting it on all of our clothes! After that, you wash it off and your hand stays decorated with a henna tattoo for about 3-4 weeks.
Saji explained the whole plight of the prostitutes to me today and it is all very complex. Some of them are there because their husbands are addicts (alcohol or drug) and make their wives work there to support their habits. That was the situation of one beautiful woman I met tonight. Her husband comes every day and abuses her, and then takes the money she earns. She can't save up to leave the brothel and she can't leave her husband because there really isn't divorce in India. You bring ultimate shame on your head to leave your husband and you are doomed to poverty and isolation. Also even if a woman wants to leave the life of prostitution, in India they somehow keep very detailed tabs o
n you by your name and address, so that if you are coming from a brothel, no one will hire you. They can tell by your address whether you have been in a respectable job or not, and prostitutes are not able to escape this hell. I f0und out that they are not trusted and that if people hire them, they are afraid of bringing shame on themselves. The only way a prostitute can get a better job is to get a better/different address, but the only way she can do that is to get a respectable job…see the problem? Anyhow, this young woman wanted me to pray for her and I broke down in tears while praying for her.
Also, another obstacle with getting their kids into the better environment of an orphanage so they can get an education is that the prostitutes "pay their kids off" with money and freedom to stay busy while they are working. The kids like this lifestyle and don't want to go somewhere where they have discipline and structure and no money to burn.
Anyhow, tonight many of them let me interview them and a couple of them even let me take their pictures. This is a very rare privilege as prostitutes are terrified of being discovered by their families or society. Just their letting me get pictures of inside was a huge demonstration of their trust in Saji. He treats them all like sisters and is very warm and affectionate with them. He and his wife welcome them into their home to minister to, pray for, and comfort them.
There are no words to describe my feelings tonight but I am so full of joy and elation for the opportunities on this trip already…only a few days in. I haven't had a hard time adjusting at all. Maria is a natural as well…she is so happy and excited.
P.S. here's a tip…try adding ginger to coffee! It is SO good! Everywhere you go, the hostess brings you coffee and it is very sweet and creamy…my favorite.