To be completely honest, I was afraid to go on this trip. It was not for my safety, the trouble I might encounter with our flights or customs, or even the helpless feeling of not knowing the language. I can manage all those things. I was pensive because for years I had been talking about the community we were investing in, and now was the time to see if it was all real. Had they been rescued? Were their conditions good? Had the transformation happened like I had been told? I was afraid that I would have to come back and explain why things were not actually like we had been told.
At the end of our trip, when a member of the team asked me what I though, I was so happy to say, "It was so much better than I could ever had imagined.
While us men were working with the kids, the women had a devotional time with the women of Ashagaon.
One of the highlights of the trip was hearing the story of the transformation that happened in the lives of these women. When they came to Ashagaon they were rough and angry. As Rajnish said, "hurt people, hurt people". He spoke of a time where his volunteers vowed to not return. When he asked them why, they said, "because they are so abusive".
The interesting thing as an onlooker to this story was twofold. First of all, they didn't quit working with these women, and secondly, Ashagaon was a place of peace and joy and healing.
There was one other memorable moment I would like to share. The culture we work with at Ashagaon does not have a good reputation with the neighboring castes around them. They are known for prostitution and selling their daughters, by the area farming villages. While we were there, a group of women from these farming villages came up to the gate and asked for work. Rajnish talked to them about the vocational center, and what's happening there. He then came back and shared the news with the other women. Suddenly they began to plead with him, "don't let them in. They will destroy this place. They hate and scorn us". Rajnish, (the man who has been leading Ashagaon since the beginning) just simply responded, "do you trust me".
His vision is so much bigger than the small group of brothel villages. He wants to bring reconciliation to the whole area and culture. If the kingdom of God is that area where heaven and earth intersect, I saw it here at Ashagaon.
Taking the picture was surreal. They had no idea we were the ones who bought the machines they are training on.
We set out to help the parents, but their kids grabbed our heart.
One of the biggest needs we saw as we left Ashagaon, was a place for all these kids. Up until this time, our focus was on bringing freedom to the culture of exploitation, but to be honest, to not invest in this new generation would be a huge oversight. upon returning we sent the proceeds of the current semester to help the building project that was just starting. An expansion of the vocational center, and a school for the children.
I can't wait to return and see the updates that have been made. Not only is the facility now twice the size, but we are investing multigenerational. In 2018 we invested $12,000 to help these families start their own businesses and not have to rely on the vocational center for work.