6 years and about 10 months

On February 13 at 2 am PST a trial started after a long, long wait. It has been almost seven years since IJM learned about a case of the forced prostitution of a minor and took it on. This was one of my cases and I spent a lot of time on it with very little progress. The setbacks were really discouraging but were a catalyst for the growth of my faith as I searched for the meaning in the injustice.

Just as we were about to leave the country, many of the barriers preventing the trial from starting were removed.  Because we were so close the team decided that it made sense for me to continue working on it from the U.S.  I was more than happy to provide a small amount of assistance from San Diego so that a witness could testify from Washington D.C. in a trial beginning in South Asia.  Although I tried to stay awake to pray and be available in case any last minute issues came up, I fell asleep and was awakened at 5 am with a call from my boss who let me know that it finally happened. The trial started and the witness testified.

I am so grateful.

Time Flies

We’re done. It’s unbelievable to think that a year has passed since we started.  When we first arrived it seemed that time was moving at a snail’s pace. When we left South Asia it felt like the year passed in a whirlwind. In our usual style, we left in a bit of a rush (packing until the 11th hour) but we wanted to make the most of our remaining time in South Asia.  However, as we were packing to leave we got good news – two more convictions of perpetrators who attacked and abused the people trying to free their slaves. Our team is on a roll and we loved being able to go out on such a high note.

Now I need to process what I’ve seen, heard, and done. Also, what to do next? How to follow this intense, challenging, satisfying job? Prayers are appreciated.

Finishing Well

Although the last two weeks have been spent celebrating the holidays and winding up our work, we’ve been able to make these last days in the office count.

Today, using a document drafted by Kyle and me, a team from our office had the opportunity to meet with the labour committee of the central government legislature and make a presentation about the fight to eradicate bonded labour. We learned about the opportunity to meet with some lawmakers a couple days ago and luckily had time to prepare. However, we had no idea it would turn out to be a meeting with the full committee. Our boss and another colleague were able to specifically ask for our dream list of amendments to the law and explain the need for change. We are excited and encouraged at the level of attention that the government is giving the issue.  I am amazed and grateful to witness God’s blessing on our work even as we wrap up our fellowship.

Visitors

This past year we’ve been fortunate to have several international visitors, the most recent having left the city a few short hours ago.  We have loved sharing our bright, loud, chaotic, and beautiful South Asian life with friends and family. It’s given us an excuse to play tourist and see other parts of South Asia (thanks to the generosity of those same visitors).  Watching our guests experience life here reminds me of just how amazing this place is and how much grace we have been given.  We know many more would have made the trip if life and money had allowed. Below are a few pictures from our visits:

John, Dianna, and Jenna met us for the vacation of a lifetime in beautiful Thailand.

Kyle's Mom and Aunt took us to see one of the wonders of the world.

No caption needed.

My Mom continued her tradition of visiting me wherever I live on Thanksgiving. This trip was a little further than her visit for my first Thanksgiving in D.C.

She also traveled with us to the home of an incredible servant of God.

We rang in the new year with our dear friends Danny and Keri who came to "try everything." And they did.

Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night

O holy night!
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night
Of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear’d and the soul felt His worth
A thrill of hope
The weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks
A new and glorious morn!
Fall on your knees
Oh hear the angel voices
Oh night divine
Oh night when Christ was born Oh night divine, oh night, oh night divine
Chains shall He break
For the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease

Sweet hymns of joy
In grateful chorus raise we
Let all within us praise His holy name
Christ is the Lord, let ever ever praise Thee
Noël, Noël
Oh night, Oh night divine
Noël, Noël
Oh night, Oh night divine
Noël, Noël
Oh, oh night, oh night divine

Cooking a Feast

It’s feeling more and more like Christmas here. My holiday homesickness prompted me to break down and buy a small fake tree and ornaments.  Add in a couple Christmas parties and some Christmas carol singing at church and during our office devotions and I’m getting into the spirit.  But, before I move on to Christmas there is one other story which remains to be told about Thanksgiving.

The holiday coincided with my mom’s visit and even though it was a last minute decision, we decided not to waste her culinary talents and the imported goodies she and other moms sent us (Alex’s sweet mom sent the ingredients for green bean casserole!).  Mom brought some precious brown sugar from the U.S. of A. in order to make Kyle’s favorite – sweet potato casserole, Ruth’s Chris recipe (thanks Witty!).  I remembered somewhere along the way that I had seen sweet potatoes in one of the markets so we set off to purchase some, as well as some chicken (in lieu of turkey) and some other ingredients for our feast.  We went to five stores before we finally found sweet potatoes and to our disappointment they were skinny and sort of purple looking.  We continued to wander around the vegetables before we found these brown, dirt covered beauties marked as “yams.”  Some women stopped us in the store to ask what we were planning to do with them. As soon as we said we were adding sugar they nodded their heads. South Asians like things much sweeter than nature makes them.

After slicing off the brown exterior (yep, that’s dirt on the cutting board) they were starting to look a little more promising. We boiled and mashed to get the right consistency but the color started to go from orange to green (think The Exorcist green).  Despite the color we pushed on and the end result was beautiful – a sweet, creamy, green casserole.

Did I mention that we were cooking our feast using two burners, one microwave, and a toaster oven? Yes, folks. With some ingenuity, impeccable timing, and some side dishes brought by our co-workers, we ended up with an amazing array of Thanksgiving favorites, including Grandma Ginny’s creamed corn casserole.  It was well worth the effort (which was a fun adventure) and was one of the most delicious meals I’ve had since we got here.

An exercise in baking - using the complete lack of insulation on our toaster to bake three dishes at once.

The cooks, led by Dianna Little, without whom the meal would never have worked.

The end result (plus more that wouldn't fit in the picture!)

I could get used to this

MUSH! Watch Kyle flex his muscles: Feats of Strength

Thanksgiving

I traded turkey for biryani this Thanksgiving.  On that day, my office helped government officials release 46 labourers from bondage.  I was part of the IJM team that conducted the operation, so I spent the day traveling to a village, working at the local government office there, and traveling back.

Our team arrived at a rice mill hoping to rescue about 20 who had been trapped there for several years.  When the team arrived, those labourers were thrilled to see them – and so were another 20-plus from the neighboring rice mill, who immediately climbed over a short wall between the mills and started begging to be rescued.  All 46 people from the two mills were released.  Many were children, some of whom worked in the mill and others who stayed in the small huts spread around the facility but did not work.

At the beginning of Thanksgiving Day, they were getting ready for 16 hours of harvesting rice.  By the end of the day they had rehabilitation funds, a certificate providing that they may live and work where they like, and police protection from intimidation by their former owners.

I’ll remember this Thanksgiving for a while.  But some things didn’t change – when I got home, there was some left-over turkey sitting on a plate for me.

The Holidays

It’s the start of the Christmas season back home but the South Asian equivalent of Christmas was celebrated here about a month ago.  Someone told me that it is a festival of lights, which makes sense given the way that it is celebrated with the lighting of lamps. Traditionally they light small oil lamps called “diyas” to acknowledge that it is through light that we can see the beauty in the world.  They are beautiful, exotic looking tea lights. The modern celebration includes hanging lights that look remarkably similar to our Christmas lights on the outside of their houses and businesses. It’s also traditional to give new clothes as gifts – something I can wholeheartedly support. I wonder how many South Asian children actually get excited about that part? Anyway, the best/worst part of this festival is the use of fireworks or “crackers.”  The noise all over the city makes it sound a bit like a war zone – and it continues for days.

We celebrated the festival in a nearby city while we were teaching a course at a law school there.  Not being locals, it was a bit of a hunt to locate the crackers but we eventually found a armed forces shop (no joke, sanctioned by the Air Force) and bought the world’s largest collection of crackers, which were significantly discounted because the festival was almost over. We returned to the law school and used our new toys on the road behind the school. The plaintiff attorney’s daughter in me was a bit apprehensive but my husband was like a 10 year old.  I have to admit – it was really fun.

Do Not Feed the Animals

These monkeys live at a temple, high on a hill overlooking the city we visited a few weeks ago. This picture was taken right before the monkey took the bag of chips right out of Kyle’s hand.

Let’s just say, this ain’t their first rodeo.