Stories from Field
AATMA VIKAS - STORIES FROM THE FIELD
THERE IS STILL LIFE FOR YOU “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” –John 1:5
In the brothel Shanti* visited, a woman is considered old if she is past thirty. And a thirty-year-old woman working in this situation feels old—she has endured hardships she should never have been forced to face and feels the ramiﬁcations in her soul and her body. Healthcare is limited here, and the sicknesses that come from working in this profession, teamed with widespread ignorance about the spread and prevention of these diseases, have debilitated many of these women almost past the ability to work. The women Shanti spoke to mentioned wanting to leave their profession because they wanted their lives to “end well.” How profoundly sad that these women—young, by our standards—already consider themselves past their prime, past healing, and past any hope for new life. The brothel is a tight-knit community, and Shanti has found that the “older” women make up an even closer subgroup. Having weathered their lives together, these women help each other face health crises, high rent rates, and dwindling business prospects. Even though they see less business than the younger women working with them, they are still charged the same rate for rent —a steep bill for the dirty tin shacks they are provided. Come monsoon season, the dirt surrounding these shacks will turn to mud, driving away business and putting these women in even more unsafe conditions. Times are desperate. Thankfully, the Lord has shown us that even in the midst of the darkest times, his light is able to shine through to his people whom he loves. These women, perhaps having lived in a state of resigned complacency towards their fate, feel more compelled to leave their situations before the rains come, both for their and their children’s sake. The Aatma Vikas vocational training center is ready and willing to hire these women to help them out of this situation, and is making strides in doing so. In September of this year, twelve women had been working for The Skipping Stone, and now a total of thirty are working there!
As we have seen in previous posts, it only took some words from a worker to show these women that their worth was recognized, and now we can rejoice in the glory God is shining in this area as we pray for more healing for these women in the days to come.
Forced from an unhappy situation into dire circumstances, Anaya* did not feel that she could remove herself from working in a brothel. However, the guidance of one woman opened up a new world for her, and through God’s grace she is now changing her and her children’s lives for the better. Anaya was born, grew up, and married in a small town in India. She was a woman of average means living an outwardly happy life, but her husband’s abuse forced her to ﬂee with her two children. Unable to provide for herself and her children in her hometown, she moved to a more populated area to work in a brothel. Working there was not her choice. She said: “I have two children, but my husband used to torture me so much that I had to work in the red light district.” She had been working in the brothel for ten years when a worker at The Skipping Stone training center approached her about learning a trade and becoming ﬁnancially independent. She jumped at the opportunity, eagerly gaining marketable skills and learning about life outside the brothel, of which she had lost sight. She said, “[This worker] used to give me counselling often; she also made us understand the about the good and peaceful environment outside the red light area and provided a feeling of comfort and home.” Anaya has undergone training for over four months and is enjoying her work. She says, “I have made friends and they are from the same background as me—they were also rescued from the red light area—and now I know them and I feel great being a part of The Skipping Stone.” Anaya would also like to thank the woman who reached out to her: “I thank you for helping me and making my life better.”
FOCUSING ON THE POSITIVES For all of us, myself certainly included, it's not always easy to focus on the blessings and positive aspects of our life. We all get bogged down with stresses and challenges that drain our energy, and divert our focus from the important things. Whenever I need a reminder of all that God has done for me - I read 'stories from the ﬁeld', of men and women in villages across India that have joined our Aatma Vikas training program. Last week, I came across the story of a woman at our center in northeast India (among women in the tea gardens and brothel community) that we'll call Preeti. Preeti was affected by Polio at a very young age, and she had almost no functionality in her left leg. She also suffered from a hereditary ﬂeshdamaging disease from her mother's side of the family.
Preeti says one of the greatest gifts she remembers receiving at a young age was a pair of crutches she received at a Christian medical camp. She has kept them for over a decade, and is able to walk with their support. The second gift she told us she is grateful for is Aatma Vikas, and the men and women trainers that have poured into her and other women in challenging situations. She went through our Aatma Vikas training and is now employed by TheSkippingStone. This income is critical to her family (her parents and siblings, as she is not yet married), as her father does not make enough as a part-time carpenter to support her and her ﬁve siblings.
Our trainers now say Preeti is one of the top students in the embroidery portion of training. She now lives with pride and conﬁdence of her abilities, despite her disease and disability. We're so grateful for the opportunity to work with Preeti and many others like her in similar situations. As with Preeti and all of our students, I pray that she receives the beautiful gift of salvation in Jesus. We would appreciate your prayers toward this as well. Reading this story for the 3rd time today helped me gain a mindset of gratitude, and I hope that it will do the same for you.
FINDING OPPORTUNITY IN UNLIKELY PLACES Pari did not consider her life blessed. Far from it. She was under constant threat of being forced into prostitution by her mother’s madam (her mother is Asha,* the woman Shanti visited in her home who was interviewed in an earlier post). While Asha hid Pari’s age in order to keep this from happening for as long as possible, she knew that this tactic would not work forever. Something needed to be done, and quickly. Thankfully, through God’s grace, The Skipping Stone was able to get Pari out of her situation and allow her to think about her future with hope. It took a while for Pari to realize her new opportunities as she slowly started to trust those who helped her. Early on, she balked at the chance to go to school. “I don’t know if I could do school,” she said. Like many girls in India, Pari had never received any schooling and would have to start learning from grade one. Now, she is seeing a tutor to help her catch up and has plans to attend a regular school someday. Her conﬁdence has soared as she continues to realize the opportunities she has, her inherent worth, and how much she is loved. She now has a direction for her life that she can help control and that does not point back to the difﬁculties she witnessed her mother experience. Getting out of this cycle of poverty and completing an education are truly possible, and Shanti and her coworkers are showing Pari that this is true by believing in her, demonstrating Christ’s love, and helping provide the means for this young woman to become literate. Shanti knows of other escapees from similar situations in the area who have gone on to become successful accountants and engineers, and that while their past is still there, these business people have been able to largely move beyond it. Thanks to her support and opportunities, Pari can continue to thrive and become one of these success stories. .
3 Snapshots from Central India - Sone, Rajkumar, and Sanga
1. Sone Singh Yadav went through our advanced Drivers Training School and was able to immediately get a job after graduation. He also said that the teachings of Jesus gave him 'inner peace and helped me face the hardships of life more strongly than ever before.'
2. Rajkumar was living in poverty and had no job prospect. He was accepted for our new technical training program, and has recently opened his own electrical and mobile phone repair shop in his village. He also felt moved by the devotions that we lead before every class, and said, "I learned a lot from those devotions. I'm draw more closer to the divinity in my life lately."
3. Sanga couldn't afford to send her children to school. Her husband was a farmer, but they could not make ends meet. They have four children, and with three of them being daughters, they feel the constant stress and burden of providing for their marriages. She heard about our vocational
training course through her father who lives in Kansa village, and went through the sewing/stitching program. She has started a small business from her home, making women's clothing, and is now able to care for her family's needs.
In these snippets, we learn about the challenging conditions that our trainees come from - whether it be the large responsibility of caring for extended family, the burden of a dowry payment, or the decline in proﬁt from farming - each student has needs. Additionally, we see how signiﬁcant the relationships with our trainers are, and especially how many noted how signiﬁcant the devotion time before training had been in their spiritual development. These stories also highlighted the need for us to help students with questions about starting a small business/ﬁnancial matters. In the coming years, we will have training that is more focused on these issues.
Thank you so much for for your interest, encouragement, and prayers toward our ministry work! We’re so grateful for the opportunity to partner and serve vulnerable, downtrodden, and desperate communities in India. Over the past 5 years, we’re blessed to have trained 1,200 men and women in relevant vocational training skills. Even more important than their new skillsets, though, is our partnership with the local church - that witnesses and disciples seekers and new believers. We believe that this model strengthens and respects the local church as the chief transformation agent. Our role, as a ministry, is to walk alongside their efforts to reach and serve communities for Christ. Our hope is that over the next decade, our missional business, TheSkippingStone, will allow us to employ many of the women that we train within the brothels and tea gardens in north India.