Echoes and Resilience

Right now I’m reading From Beirut to Jerusalem, Thomas Friedman’s award-winning account of his years as a foreign correspondent in the Middle East. In it, recounting the neighborhood bombings in 1980s war-torn Lebanon, Friedman waxes philosophical and writes:

“No one was keeping score. Death had no echo in Beirut. No one’s life seemed to leave any mark on the city or reverberate in its ear.”

As I read those sentences, it reminded me so much of the red light districts of India. Sonagachi is not a war-zone, but, like Beirut in the 1980s, lives are destroyed and senseless suffering is meted out indiscriminately on a daily basis. And, like Beirut, most of those lives seem to leave no mark on this city or reverberate in its ear. The lanes of Sonagachi have no echo. And the world spins madly on.

Later on in his book, Friedman discussed the strategies developed by Beirutis to cope with the senseless violence around them. He writes:

“… those who survived the Israeli invasion of Beirut in the best physical and mental health were those who learned how to block out what was going on around them that was not under their own control and to focus instead only on their immediate environment and the things that they could control. This prevented them from suffering from ‘system overload.’”

I think this “system overload prevention” is necessary, to a degree, for effective action both by us here in Kolkata, and for those of you reading this from back in the states.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed and paralyzed by the scope of the injustice and pain in the Red Light Districts. The problem is big, and there are thousands of girls that we, with our Freedom Business model for addressing the problem, simply can’t reach. There is so much, so many lives, that are out of our control. And that breaks my heart. But if that lack of control and how much you can’t fix and can’t save is all you allow yourself to see, that will break your spirit.

There’s a level of resilience that can be built through focusing in on those things which are in one’s immediate environment and which one can control. Those of us working to build the Freedom Bakery don’t have immediate solutions for the systemic poverty, economic injustice, and generational slavery that we see around us on a daily basis. But we can dramatically change the lives of a few individual women by giving them worthwhile jobs, education, and pouring into their lives relationally.

What’s more, the ripple effects of that are huge. Some of the women we will employ will have children, who we hope to ensure are cared for and in schools, away from the risks of going into the trade themselves. Many support their extended family through their income. That means that the change that comes through the freedom business has the potential to transform generations.

Now, I don’t mean to say that’s easy. Even within the scope of changing the lives of a few women, there’s heaps of challenge. Moreover, as a big picture guy, I think it’s vital that we keep one eye on the big picture and the larger issues at hand. But in the day to day, to survive, to be effective, to continue to hold onto hope and give a damn, we have to hone in on our immediate environment: those lives we do come in contact with, those pieces we can play a part in putting back together, and those daily actions of faithful striving and love that often are all that we can control.

In that way, we develop resilience, we survive, and we continue to fight. In doing so, my hope is that we break through that vacuum of silence that surrounds Sonagachi, and that both the stories of injustice and the stories of transformation begin echo in this city, to leave their marks and reverberate in every ear until they can no longer be ignored.

Book reflection

P.S. – We’re now in our final 2 weeks of the $10,000 for 10,000 Women Matching Campaign. For the next two weeks, any donations you make to the Freedom Bakery will be matched to double your impact. To Donate Click Here and enter Designation number: SAsia-KFB.001


The future site of our freedom bakery

The future site of our freedom bakery


I’ve learned to hate the word “expectation.” I think just about every expectation I had about this life and work in Kolkata has fallen to pieces. And then things I didn’t expect, are reality. I think…I hope…I am learning to lower my expectations, but most days, my expectations are just too high, still.

I want things to move fast. I want to do more. I want things to work. I want it to be easy. Well, nothing in Kolkata goes fast, and not too much is easy. But where the rubber really hits the road, is the seemingly long list of unanswered prayers we’ve lifted before God in these two years we’ve lived in India. The waiting for God to move has just seemed like an eternity. My soul is tired.

So many times I’ve asked God, “How do I go on here with so many unfulfilled hopes and expectations?”

His answer always come in these two passages,

Psalm 27:14, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”


Romans 8:24-25, “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

Patience.  My achilles heel…

The last two years have been hard, grueling, even. To see so much need around us daily. To want to offer freedom, but being unable, unready. So many days of deep lament. Tears. Sorrow. Just two weeks ago, I thought to myself, I can’t do this anymore. I can’t leave these girls, my friends, on the streets night after night. It’s too hard. My heart can’t hold any more.


Well, as usual, despite my lack of confidence and loss of hope, God proved Himself faithful. Last week, our cafe and bakery was finally incorporated with the Indian government. Last Friday, we signed the lease agreement on a beautiful property that will soon be home to our cafe.  Yesterday we took our first women hires down to see, touch, and feel the property, the place where they will work, and, we pray, their lives will be re-built in Jesus, in dignity.

The unseen is becoming the seen. The women who had no hope are finding it. 

And my hope has been restored. I’ve felt Joy anew.

Patience. You’re still my achilles heal, but I’m learning to trust you.

Some technical problems

Hey all,

some technical problems sprang up and most comments on posts from the past 3 months were deleted. I’m going to go back and individually add back comments that I have records for, under my account. Sorry if your comments got lost. We’d still love to keep hearing from you now and in the future as you interact with our stories from Kolkata.



The Good Samaritan…

Friend Brick

The “Good” Samaritan.

We have all heard the story, I am sure, many times. It is arguably the most popular of Jesus’ teachings. And I am not going to lie, probably one of my favorites. I love how Jesus uses the story to teach us how to love and serve our neighbor, while attacking racism, class segregation and religious piety at the same time!

The “Good” Samaritan, as we know, was walking along the road when he noticed a badly injured man lying alone in a ditch. We also know that this injured man had been passed by several prestigious men before being seen by the Samaritan… According to the story, the Samaritan had such compassion for this man that he gathered him up, took him to an inn, paid for his treatment, bought him new clothes AND planned to return and check on his progress. Depending on who you are, you may say this man did the “right” thing or you may say this man went above and beyond the “right” thing and landed somewhere safely in the extravagant zone. For the record, I am somewhere in the extravagant camp…

Like I said, I love this story and it has always been one of my favorites. Well, it was one of my favorites… Lately, I have been rather pissed off by the neat, pretty packaging of this little parable.

A man is walking along the road. He sees someone hurt. He knows what to do. He has money to help. He has connections to make a difference. He helps the man.


He is “GOOD”.

What if he saw the man and didn’t know what to do?

What if he didn’t have the money to help?

What if he had no connections?

What if he didn’t make a difference?

Would he still be “Good”?

What happens when the Good Samaritan fails?

A few months ago, my husband met a couple outside of church. A nice man and his wife… They thought he was someone else, but he wasn’t.

They told him that the husband was sick… that they needed money for his treatment, but they were too poor to afford a visit- much less any medicine or even nutritious food.

My husband, the Good Samaritan, saw a need. He knew what to do. He had the money to help.

He invited them over and we shared a meal. We prayed for healing and we offered the money that we had for treatment.

It felt Good.

I few weeks later we came home to find the wife waiting at our doorstep. Our friend wasn’t doing well. He had seen a doctor and the results were in… it was Lung Cancer.

They wanted $200/month for an experimental herbal treatment they had found…

We didn’t have the money to help. But we had some connections to make. We called around and did our research and found a local hospital that offered subsidized treatment for the poor. We didn’t know exactly what to do, but we wanted to help.

It felt Good…

Joe left the house after breakfast and headed down to their house. He needed to pick them up and take them to the hospital because they couldn’t afford the taxi ride. The husband wasn’t in any condition to travel and the hour plus ride took its toll. Joe spent the next few hours filling out paper work and trying to speak to doctors, but the subsidized care line was long… the paperwork was confusing. Hours piled onto hours and nothing was happening. The husband was in too much pain… He couldn’t make it any longer. It was time to take him home.

A week later, we found out that our friend had died… on Joe’s birthday.

We saw a need. We tried to help…

We may have hurt instead.

It didn’t feel good. And it didn’t feel right.

I wish real life could be like the parables…

I wish things fit nicely into their pretty packaging- where good things work out.

The right decisions are clear.

The “Good” Samaritan makes a difference.

But what happens when he doesn’t?

What happens when the Good Samaritan fails…