Rescue Operation

In October I had the privilege to go on my first rescue operation.

We gathered together early one morning, ready to provide rescue to humans (!!) with our cars packed with bottled water and a small army of people– as if it were just another day of work. The day before we looked at the maps of the two facilities and the investigations team briefed us on life in each facility with pictures of all the victims who were waiting for IJM and the government to give them hope through rescue from bondage.

We arrived at the government official’s building who was expecting us to show that day. We waited for several hours before he met with us. Alex and I were part of the logistics team, meaning, on the way to the district we were responsible for finding two drivers to come to the facilities with us and stay with us all day until we would drop the released labourers at their home villages in the evening/ early am hours. Other duties included: getting breakfast, lunch, and dinner for all staff, attending to the children, and off-site surveillance and videoing.

After 4 hours we finally got an audience with the government official and he was quick to provide what we needed to go to the facilities and get the people out; the logistics team stayed back and the investigation and communication teams went ahead. When IJM showed up to the facility they provided gunny sacks for packing the labourer’s belongings. Max, they spent 10-15 minutes in the facility gathering the people and their belongings and they were outta there! They didn’t encounter any hostility from the owner, but this is not always the case. Our staff were assaulted in a previous case.

When the buses pulled up to the RDO’s building the people were reaching out the windows to wave and kiss their fingers in gratitude. Tears welled up in my eyes as I looked at them, feeling deep concern for their well-being and knowing of their potential freedom by the end of the night. I thought about how this might be different if we were rescuing westerners from bondage – I imagine there would be tears flowing, lots of hugging, and shock on their faces. But these people (some had been in the facility for over 10 years) looked as if we just got them out of a really bad job. Life in the facility wears on your identity and independence as a person so maybe loss of identity is part of the reason they are somewhat unmoved by the rescue — they’re Irular people; the scum of the earth, right? This is just the beginning of making them feel dignified again, or for the first time. Even now I’m getting emotional and angry as I remember their plight.

We fed them idly and sambar, assessed their immediate needs and waited until the officials were ready for them to provide an account of their bondage. They came prepared with paper and pen in hand, and they listened to one by one; each man, woman, and child gave an account of the details of their bondage – the amount of the advance, unfair wages (that would never be enough to pay off the advance), different types of abuse, restricted movement, and being prohibited from pursuing employment elsewhere. I videoed each melancholic testimony and was really taken aback by the undramatic atmosphere of the whole ordeal, thinking, doesn’t evil usually put up a fight? This case went smoothly without complications. The laborers presented their testimonies with courage and accuracy and that evening the officials decided to grant them all release certificates from the owner, declaring each of them a free person. We printed their release certificates and laminated them for their personal use to protect them from the owner’s threats later. The RDO was gracious in allowing us to hand the certificates to the laborers as fruit of our labor and that evening, 12 people started over. For some, this is their first experience of fairness and equality – this is great news for the poor. What a tangible example of how the Lord is releasing the oppressed through willing and able-bodied people. God is not silent or inactive. We are his plan and he is releasing the oppressed through hard work and prayer.

Today we can subtract 12 from the 40 million still in bondage in this country.


1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

 5And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

Revelation 21:1-5

Quite literally, this song is appropriate for these Irular people. Came to my Rescue


Local Living

It’s mid-November and the locals are breaking out their winter coats for the cold weather. Yes, they are breaking out their coats for the chilling 80 degree weather— burr! 😉 Thanksgiving is in just a few weeks and it still feels like summer here. I think my body is confused, haha! Seriously though, it feels nice outside right now. I even saw foliage the other day and I got so excited; it’s not entirely a concrete jungle as some other mega cities are. 70 degree weather at night makes for enjoyable rides on my roommate’s scooter, our current mode of transportation. We got in a small wreck just yesterday but we are okay. An auto driver cut us off and all of sudden everything began to slow down as my brain was preparing me for the fall, haha. Sharon has a few cuts and scrapes and I’m fine, just a bruised hand from catching myself. My first thought was, “What’s going to hit us from behind?” Luckily traffic wasn’t as dense as usual and some considerate bystanders quickly came to our aid the moment we fell. Another man and his son brought an ice pack and some water – what an example for his son to see. 🙂 (I just had a tender moment). He wasn’t so quick to flee the scene as the others who helped pick us up off the road.

So, as many of you know I moved over a month ago and we have settled easily into our new location and flat. Some friends helped us get internet set up (thank you Dennis!) and to move in (Alex and Deva – you’re great friends!) which helped with the transition. The longer I’m here the more I want to embrace unadulterated cultural experiences, but I go back and forth between being south asian and being American. Some days I’m all-in and other days… I’m appalled at the unreliability of everyday things. I wont provide a laundry list of those things because the inconveniences pale in comparison to the gratitude I have to be here, but I’ll just say that I have never struggled with wanting to externalizing negative thoughts until I moved here! Maybe that’s why I love this place so much– It knows just how to push my buttons and then it woos me back with its charm. But really, almost every inconvenience has to do with me not knowing the language and the color of my skin and some days it’s terribly hard for me to be patient with the “dance” I must have to get the price I want for things such as transportation, food, and other everyday necessities.

It’s official: I have the traveling bug and I’m ready to see more of this incredible place. Just a few weeks back I visited Bangalore with some friends and the whole trip was so restorative—such a gift from God. Bangalore is around 3000 feet above sea level so it feels so nice outside! Being there for 3 days made me realize how much I MISS being able to enjoy being outside for a meal, to go for a run, have coffee, or journal. We didn’t have an agenda… most of the weekend was about eating good food and just being together. Randomly we got free tickets to go to an Oktoberfest in a hotel and we went where the wind blew us (You should be proud of the spontaneous spirit that Im trying to cultivate.) The whole evening made me think of House of Blues and heaven. HOB has every religious figure over the stage in Chicago to promote universalism/pluralism I assume, not that I hold to those philosophies (that’s a negative, sir – insert head bobble), but by the end of the night everyone was standing on the tables and people from all over the world were singing german songs and slamming their glasses together in a “happy” sort of way. Okay, I know universalism has almost no connection to what I just said. Everything was fairly low key until the band played Jai Ho, the theme song from Slumdog Millionaire … it was then that everyone in the crowd began to latch onto each other in a heavenly, we’re-all-one-family fashion and sang and danced as if there were no differences among us. Hands down, that moment topped the charts for me personally.

See all the snaps from Bangalore on my FB page.

Today was full of unexpected surprises. I went saree shopping for a wedding coming up in February and I finally found a traditional south Indian saree that I can wear back home for presentations and for formal events here. For whatever reason, Ive wanted a navy blue saree with little to no pattern and viola, here she is! Isn’t she a beaut? Now the tricky part … to learn to tie it on my own.

Afterwards Alex said, “We found a man who does mahendi on feet right up here!” I used to want to get mahendi on my feet when I was in the US and now I can cross that off my bucket list. With my toes rings, mahendi, and nice saree, I’m practically married according to local tradition. Some people (mainly northerners) use mahendi to dye their hair, or in this case, a beard. How’s this Bangalore beard for no-shave November spirit, Dave? Is there any beard love in the house?

For Christmas (and my visa run) I will be going to Thailand, the birthplace of my beloved brother, Shawn. It’s crazy-weird to think that my mother was living in Thailand and gave birth to my brother at the same age that I am when I’ll visit in December. What does all of this mean?! Probably nothing. ha.

There’s so much great news I need to share about the office and what’s been going on lately. Stay tuned for the next post and the launch of a YouTube channel to share my experience with you through video. As always, thank you for all your love and support. This is truly the time of my life – I wouldn’t trade it for anything.