Today we completed a physical labor project for Freeset that demanded much time and even more energy. Freeset is an organization that describes itself as a "Freedom Business." Staff volunteer for at least a year - and in some cases - for upwards of a lifetime. The mission of the organization is simple: to offer the choice of freedom for sex trafficked women to leave the Kolkata brothels.
The entry point for these women to do so is making bags and shirts. And their operation is massive! More than 200 women move thousands of bags and shirts through the industry everyday, beginning with raw material all the way through to finished products. No middle man. No additional support. Intense quality control with a superb international reputation.
Our task this week was to build a bamboo shelving structure inside of a cement shed that would provide additional support and protection for the stored raw, organic fabric product until it became ready for use. Our foreman, a Freeset long term volunteer, estimated that the construction of this unit should take no more than 2.5 days. And by the looks of it, we thought so, as well.
4 days later, we put away the final tool and replaced the last roll of product. In addition to relocating more than 3 tons of fabric rolls twice, the work of installing bamboo inside of a 95 degree cement shelter with more than 90 percent humidity proved a daunting, challenging, and seemingly insurmountable task. And at times, it called into question our perspective on things...
How does such a task benefit this organization?
Wouldn't the $2500 per person cost of the trip have been better used by the organization if we had just donated it to them?
Why did we travel half way across the world (literally) to complete such a task?
Shouldn't the people of Kolkata have a responsibility to participate in this task?
Which then begs the questions:
How did Kolkata become such a chaotic, impoverished, and dirty city?
Why do people choose to live like this?
Why do people who live in Kolkata not leave?
And why do more girls not choose freedom from their sex traffickers and work with Freeset, who even pays a better wage?!
These questions point to larger systemic questions that I could never answer in a blog post - or a thousand blog posts. But these questions do serve a vital function in how we process through our experiences in Kolkata: they shatter our worldview.
In order to simple arrive at Freeset, we have to walk amongst the brothels, raw sewage, and open toilets and baths. How does one do this without asking, "Why?" And even, "Why, God?"
It is not right that these people live amongst such filth and evil. It is not right for children to play in gray water steeped in sewage and rotting food. It is not right that an old man lay on the side of the street from exhaustion - inches away from buses and taxis - and no one does anything.
Yet, is it right that we pay elaborate costs for homes and cars that serve way beyond the capacity of our needs? Is it right that we devalue community for the sake of our individual desires? Is it right that we yearn for home to get away from the living conditions of our fellow Brothers and Sisters in Christ in Kolkata, not considering their needs and personal hopes and desires?
I believe that God prefers the cry of the poor over the rich, for their plight breaks the heart of God. God hears them, and while it may seem like God does nothing for them, Scripture illustrates quite clearly over and over that God loves to use his people.
Perhaps the perspective shift must come in the fashion of not asking, "Why Kolkata?" but, "Why not me, God?" Why not me that I do not live in such conditions? Why not me that you would choose to point others to your redemption and salvation hope? Why not me that you would use to further your Kingdom of righteousness in your world? Why not me, God?
What if we asked, "Why not me?" when faced with issues of poverty, sex trafficking, abuse, and injustice? How would the tides shift if asked "Why not me?" rather than "Why God?" or "Why them?"
I believe if we did, then oh how our perspective would shift from our own personal issue or judgment to the bleeding heart of God for his people!
QUESTION: In what way do you need to say "Why not me?" to God?