it hurts...

sometimes it's just easier to close my eyes
to shut my heart
to ignore the reality of it all

the pain surges deeper and deeper
there seems to be no way to stop it
no cure no remedy

i want to run away but something keeps me here
i don't know what much i can do
but my heart leads me on

...until the last lock breaks


A Tribute to Shanta

There is a woman that I love, admire and respect more highly than most I have every come in contact with. Besides being one of the most loving and giving people I have ever met - she has the best laugh I've ever heard!!

I'd love to share with you Shanta's story so you can share, in part, my love and awe for her. I got this write-up of Shanta's story (literally, word for word...I am totally stealing this) from my amazing and wonderful friend, Dawnette. It was actually from her old blog so I can't give her proper credit by connecting you to it - but know that she is the one that was amazingly articulate in putting this together and remembering these details. And now, in D's words...

Shanta has been life and breath and love and peace for countless women (and men) in Nepal. I got to hear her testimony at each speaking engagement...

As a child, she was one of 5 kids born to her folks. Because of lacking medical care, three of her older siblings, two girls and a boy, died within 15 days of each other. In Nepal, sons are considered imperative to have. It is the sons who are responsible for caring for their ailing parents, and eventually providing the cremation for them when they die. It is a belief within Hinduism that without a son to do these things, one will not attain heaven. So when his only son died, Shanta's father began to mercilessly beat her mother and tried to kick her and the remaining two girls out of the house. He relented and let them stay, but he married another woman, moved her into the house, and when Shanta was 12 he gave her away in marriage to a man many years her senior.

In her marriage family, Shanta was again mistreated. The man who took her as wife also had another wife, and Shanta was definitely the subordinate one in the family. Shanta's in-laws mistreated her as well. In Nepal, it being a Hindu country and a country of strong caste-system, if you associated with someone of a lesser caste you could lose your own caste. Shanta's birth family was Brahman ~ the highest caste. And within that caste level, they were of the highest group: a Priest family. She married into another Brahman family.

In that house she found a big brown book ~ it said "Holy Bible" on it. She would sneak it into her basket each day before going out to cut grass or collect water. Her uncle had taught her to read, and had told her you always start a book at the beginning. So every day for a month Shanta read this book....but she'd start back at chapter one each day! So within that month she only ever read chapters 1-4 of Genesis! When she read that Adam had lived 930 years, she thought "I am only 12 years old - I have many years left to live - I don't need to read this book right now!" After a month of reading it, she set it aside and didn't pick up a Bible again for over 12 years.

At one point, her in-laws began selling milk to a group of missionaries. Shanta was given the task of delivering that milk. One day a missionary invited her in for tea ~ she'd never had tea, so she accepted the invitation. Friends, who knew she'd gone into this missionary's home, went back to her in-laws and told them she'd "associated" with the missionaries (who are of no caste). As a result, the family stripped her of her caste, and for nine years would not even allow her into the kitchen for fear that her touching something there would render it "unclean" since she was now of no caste. She was forbidden to enter the kitchen for NINE YEARS.

She suffered much cruelty over the course of the 12 or 13 years she was with her husband. She cried often, and constantly wondered if she might find some peace on the other side of the hills she saw each day. Finally, at age 25 she left. She went out to cut grass one day, and with the grass-cutting knife in her hand, and only the dress she was wearing, she headed for the hills and ended up in Kathmandu.

In the city she got word that the missionary she'd once known was asking about her. She met up with this woman and asked about the Big Book. The missionary told her she could find that book at a house not far away - a red house. Shanta found that house, and inside were 6 Nepali people who were starting a church together. She went inside and sat in the corner, listening as they worshiped and read from Scripture. She joined them week after week, and soon came to find the peace and love she'd ached for all her life ~ found that in the person of Jesus Christ. She also met Min, the man who would become her loving husband and father to their children.
Before long she realized she wanted to help other people, but that she needed training. Youth With A Mission offered a Discipleship Training Course and made room for her to take the course. After the 5-month program she set aside three days to fast and pray, asking the Lord for a vision for ministry. She'd known a girl with polio in her village, and in her heart she so wanted to minister to handicapped children. Three times she asked the Lord to give her a vision for handicapped kids....and three times the Lord said no ~ He had a different plan. He wanted her to work with the used and abused girls of Nepal. Twice Shanta said "No Lord, I want handicapped kids". Finally, she relented and gave herself wholly to the vision the Lord gave her.

She and Min had nothing to their name. They borrowed the equivalent of $15 to rent a two-room place so they could begin to bring girls into their home to minister to. The first girl they got, Shanta found dumped by the roadside. Her body was so tormented that maggots had already begun to eat at her. Shanta brought her home and cleaned her up and began to BE the love of Jesus to this girl.

Not long later, Shanta was in the hospital for a surgery. The hospital knew she was running a home for girls, and they approached her about a girl they had in their care. This young woman had been in the brothels 22 months, and became the first person in Nepal diagnosed HIV+. Because she was the first, the hospital literally had nothing they could do for her. She was sick with pneumonia and tuberculosis, as well as a few STD's. She was so sick she couldn't even sit up. The hospital gave her 6 weeks to live. Shanta argued that she needed medical care, but the hospital said either Shanta would take her or they would cast her out into the streets ~ people were beginning to avoid the hospital because of this woman's HIV and they just couldn't afford that. So Shanta brought her home.

Her name is Bruna, and that was 17 years ago. Bruna has NEVER had any kind of medical care for ANY of her ailments....and she is now the longest-living HIV+ person in Nepal without medical care! Bruna is also the most effective counselor Shanta's ministry has. She's been there. She knows. She has a voice none of us will ever have. Bruna has stayed with the Peace Rehabilitation Center all these years, and God has used her life in mighty ways.

There are endless stories yet to be told about Shanta, her time here, the PRC and its ministry, but those will have to wait for a subsequent entry. I pray as you read this, you take some time to simply ponder the greatness of God and His plan for our lives. Three times in Shanta's first marriage she tried to take her own life. She still weeps as she tells her story. Her life was horrific. I don't claim to understand why the horrific happens....I only have a firm belief that God is present there. And that He does have a plan. I rarely know what it is...I just feel mighty blessed, in the deepest sense, when I get a glimpse of the plan in action. I felt that a lot the past two weeks.

Shanta says she knows God had a bigger plan for her. And again, she weeps as she recognizes day after day how His vision reflects all that. It unfolds on a very consistent basis as she meets each girl who enters her home or receives PRC training.

I said it before: If you've not had the chance to meet Shanta, I hope you will sometime. I hope you get to sit with her, drink tea with her, hear her heart and enjoy silence in her presence. It really is a beautiful thing.

Shanta is beautiful.


One Weeks Worth of Food

One Week's Worth of Food Around Our Planet

This is something I came across on a friend's blog, I also found it at the link above. Interesting - and so many implications. Thoughts??? The pictures say it all:

Japan: The Ukita family of Kodaira City Food expenditure for one week: 37,699 Yen or $317.25

Italy: The Manzo family of Sicily Food expenditure for one week: 214.36 Euros or $260.11 Favorite foods: fish, pasta with ragu, hot dogs, frozen fish sticks

Germany: The Melander family of Bargteheide Food expenditure for one week: 375.39 Euros or $500.07

United States: The Revis family of North Carolina Food expenditure for one week: $341.98 Favorite foods: spaghetti, potatoes, sesame chicken

Mexico: The Casales family of Cuernavaca Food expenditure for one week: 1,862.78 Mexican Pesos or $189.09 Favorite foods: pizza, crab, pasta, chicken

Poland: The Sobczynscy family of Konstancin-Jeziorna Food expenditure for one week: 582.48 Zlotys or $151.27 Family recipe: Pig's knuckles with carrots, celery and parsnips

Egypt: The Ahmed family of Cairo Food expenditure for one week: 387.85 Egyptian Pounds or $68.53 Family recipe: Okra and mutton

Ecuador: The Ayme family of Tingo Food expenditure for one week : $31.55 Family recipe : Potato soup with cabbage

Bhutan: The Namgay family of Shingkhey Village Food expenditure for one week: 224.93 ngultrum or $5.03 Family recipe: Mushroom, cheese and pork

Kuwait: The Al Haggan family of Kuwait City Food expenditure for one week: 63.63 dinar or $221.45
Family recipe: Chicken biryani with basmati rice

China: The Dong family of Beijing Food expenditure for one week: 1,233.76 Yuan or $155.06
Favorite foods: fried shredded pork with sweet and sour sauce

United States: The Caven family of California Food expenditure for one week: $159.18
Favorite foods: beef stew, berry yogurt sundae, clam chowder, ice cream

Mongolia: The Batsuuri family of Ulaanbaatar Food expenditure for one week: 41,985.85 togrogs or $40.02 Family recipe: Mutton dumplings

Great Britain: The Bainton family of Cllingbourne Ducis Food expenditure for one week: 155.54 British Pounds or $253.15 Favorite foods: avocado, mayonnaise sandwich, prawn cocktail, chocolate fudge cake with cream

Chad: The Aboubakar family of Breidjing Camp Food expenditure for one week: 685 CFA Francs or $1.23 Favorite foods: soup with fresh sheep meat


Slowing Down

Well, I’m back again. Its been a while since I told you about outreach here in the L.A. area. A lot went on in the last couple of months (like trips to Nepal with my dad) that have slowed down my involvement with outreach – but I’m back at it now.
It has been pretty slow lately, the last time I was in Compton (two or three weeks ago) it was really strange. There were not many girls out (but lots of cops) and the girls I did run into were not real talkative. Even D**** who is usually real friendly with me and we tend to have good conversations was pretty standoffish.
So, last night it was Laurie, Daryl and myself. We met at 2am at the office to build bags. We stopped at the 7-11 first to get some of that blueberry coffee though – I am really starting to love that stuff! When we were there we saw a couple of cops and asked them about the activity they’ve seen in Hollywood lately. They said its been pretty dead and directed us to the transvestite area (but told us we’d find girls there…not so). Then we headed to the office and made up some lovely valentines bags.
We headed off and spent some time driving up and down the strip trying to feel out the situation in Hollywood. It was pretty dead so we headed to the Valley. When we first got there we saw S*** right away. When we pulled over to talk with her she was bolting as fast as she could to hide behind a large van. It seemed to us she was trying to get away from this large SUV that had started to pull down the road, but when we talked with her she told us she was running from the cops (we didn’t see any anywhere close to there so I don’t know what she thought she had seen). She wasn’t really interested in talking much but thanked us for the bag and assured us she prayed each night before heading out to the street and she would be careful. We drove around for a while longer but it was pretty dead so we headed back to Hollywood.
We drove around there for a while longer and still didn’t see anyone so we deiced to call it a night. On our way back to the office we passed another girl on a street corner that was all hopped up on something. She was not doing well. She fell off the sidewalk onto the street as we drove past and then just started stumbling down the middle of the street as she tried to flag down different cars. We made the loop a couple of times to try and meet up with her and then talk with her but she was so far gone and stumbling in every direction we knew nothing we said to her would be remembered.
So things have been pretty low-key or dead around here as of late. That doesn’t mean things are getting better, it just means the pimps are moving the girls around. I am sure they’ve been taking lots of them to Vegas. They can also use other means (newspapers, pamphlets, telephone) to get the girls out. Laurie says this is not completely unusual for this time of year. Between November and February each year it tends to slow down because things can get really charged during political elections so the cops tend to really crack down even more.
So, we’ll see. We’ll just keep getting out there.


The Great Need

Scotty Brown - the founder of Peak Performance, 212 Degrees, had some great thoughts on Nepal and the great need there - I thought they were worth sharing with you all. He just spent the month of January in Nepal. Part of the time was with Peak Performance taking a group of students trekking in the Annapurna Region of the Himalayans. After the team left he wrapped up for a bit on his own.

He says,
"This past week i went to a couple homes of the kids i have been working with here in the streets at night. Some are begging for food, rice for their family and some just want to see if they can get you to buy them a candy bar. But two in particular are begging to have someone pay for them to go to school!! So i have gone and met with the families of these kids only to find that they both live in houses that are maybe 12×12 with 6 kids and one parent. Both families are without dads. One died of a heart attack, the other had a drinking problem and ran away with another woman. Neither mom has any sort of education and cannot afford to send all the kids to school on the money that she makes doing laundry by hand for a local hotel. i brought them enough rice for several weeks and will meet with the principal of the school to see about paying the $15 a month it would take to get them through this next semester. My struggle comes with the fact that once again i find myself meeting a need, but doing very little to eliminate a need. How can i effectively share the love of Jesus Christ and the hope that i know comes from having a relationship with Him to someone who cannot even afford enough rice to feed her children. i do believe that i was the hands of Jesus when i came and left the rice with them family, and i could tell from the smiles and the conversations with the mothers each day that i came that they were appreciative. i just hope beyond hope that they know that Jesus wants to give them so much more. This is the story of soooo many kids. i guess i am working through some of my own “guilt” and need to remind myself of the same truth that i shared with my team. God will complete what we can’t, He knew i was leaving and is bigger than me. He will continue to do the work here in Nepal long after i am gone."

Powerful words - and very true ones. Sometimes the need seems so great - and we feel powerless to do anything about it. Thanks for the encouragement, Scotty. And thanks for introducing me to Nepal and growing the passion in my heart that I have for it. I Love You.