“See this great thing the LORD is about to do before your eyes”
1 Samuel 12:16
This is the first of our two blogs this week you lucky, lucky people. This one is a recount of some of the awesome things we have seen recently. On Boxing Day, our Christmas special will be about how we are doing and what we make of Christmas on the other side of the globe.
In all the excitement and business of the past few weeks, from starting a new project to all the Christmas preparations, the lasting memories we will have of this time have come from two occasions that weren’t related to any of the work we are doing.
We have been able to witness the awesome and powerful work of the Holy Spirit in this city recently. We were able to spend one day visiting the work of Freeset, a company that designed and manufactured clothes. We struggled to get to the building due to all the wood on the roads from Hindu altars that were being constructed.
We were told we were going for a tour of the workshop. So we were quite taken aback when we arrived to a small outdoor space in the middle of 4 tall, joined building that we presumed were flats. In this small space there was around 90 women and 10 men listening to a sermon and singing praises to God. After this was finished all the women headed up into the buildings, which turned out to be the place of work.
Alien as it may seem in the western world, it was very uplifting and inspiring to see women trusted with all the jobs within the company, from the designing to cutting to painting to distributing, this highly successful supplier is run by women at all levels.
The building was situated in the Rambagan region of Kolkata which is the biggest red light area in all of Asia. Yet in this area of hopelessness we saw the lowly lifted high, women who had escaped a life of fear and now had dignity and a profession they were passionate about. The joy and hope that filled the atmosphere at Freeset was fuelled entirely by the presence and Spirit of Jesus and we left very inspired. So of course at the gift shop we all bought clothes and a bag!
One Saturday, we went with our supervisor Ben and BMS director Arthur Brown and drove to a rural village an hour and a half east of where we are staying. From there we boarded a small wooden boat and set out for the village of Korihat (I doubt you’ll find it on Google maps).
As we sailed past some of the islands, entire villages were coming out to the shore to wave at us as if we were the royal family.
When we arrived the scenery was very different to what we were used to back home or even in Kolkata. A wrapper on the ground for a “Kis-Kas” – presumably a fake Kit-Kat – was the only crumb of familiarity in an alien land. Ben, who runs an organisation called Big Life Ministries which has started hundreds of churches in the most rural parts of West Bengal, told us he had never been to this particular village before. We had arrived uninvited to an area where the small population had perhaps never heard of the concept of Christianity.
Ben explained to us that we were like “a snake in a monkey show”. The presence of non-Indian people was sure to draw a crowd. And sure enough, despite there only being a handful of small huts as far as the eye could see it didn’t take long until a hundred or so people had come to see the big attraction.
We played games with the children but as more and more people arrived we separated into groups. As Zoe and Naomi played a ball game with some of the children, Tom and Lewis found themselves in the middle of a big circle of people dancing to Bengali music. Even in such a different environment, the boys attempts at doing the Milly Rock was met with the same sniggers and hands hitting foreheads in cringe that would be expected in the U.K. Thankfully Naomi then came in to dance properly with some of the girls.
We then got to tell a story about Jesus to the crowd. We told and acted out the parable of the lost sheep, which was also translated into Bengali. It was so amazing God trusted us to tell these people about Jesus, perhaps for the first time ever!
We then got a boat to another island where Big Life had set up a church. We entered the church which in someone’s home – a small hut made of wood and mud – and clapped along to Bengali worship and Ben translated what people said. While our knowledge of scripture was a lot greater than people there, the faith in God we witnessed was incredible. Again, in a place where women have it tough to see some women talking with passion and joy about Jesus and what He is doing for them was so incredible.
So we have been inspired and challenged recently. If some of the most hopeless areas of India have been drawn towards God, why can’t any town in the U.K. be won back for His glory? The determination of people to evangelise here and the faith of people in very difficult situations is incredible and are learning from everyone we meet.