A central aspect of the business in which we were involved in was community. In fact, we never described the business simply as a business; we always described it as a business community. Business and community were inseparable; they had to work together so that marginalised women might experience freedom: freedom from the sex trade, freedom from destructive relationships, freedom from addiction, freedom from the baggage of their past, freedom to take control of their lives and most importantly freedom to experience God's redeeming love.
Our experience of community, a community located in a red-light area that existed for exploited women and contained a diverse range of people from different cultural, social and economic backgrounds, was messy. We grieved the untimely deaths of those with whom we worked and deeply loved. We entered into the ever present heartbreak of one another's lives. We discussed and debated issues that were affecting both the business and the community and made decisions together as best we could. It involved learning a new language, culture and ways of living and working together that were honouring to one another and God. It required humility and patience. Community is messy, but therein lies the beauty. In community we have to chance to experience one another in transforming ways, we have the opportunity to experience God's incredible redeeming power together, and we have the opportunity to grow together into the likeness of Christ and become more effective agents of change in the world.
In the midst of the chaos and brokenness of our business community we experienced beauty, hope, and above all God's transformational love. We heard it in the heartfelt prayers of thanks - "Thank you God for leading me out of the darkness and into the light", the singing of praise to God, the prayers of liberation for those still trapped in lives of exploitation and abuse. We saw it in the acts of compassion and love towards those that were struggling. We saw it in the resolute faith that is lived out by the women of our community day in and day out.
Business, particularly in our context where opportunities for dignified work for women from the red-light areas of Kolkata are almost non-existent, is important. But the building of Jesus-centered community is critical. Jesus-centred community has the ability to transcend the social contexts we find ourselves, the hurt we experience and the situations that don’t work out the way we had hoped. In a world filled with heartbreak communities committed to one another, rooted in Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit have the resilience and creative energy to face and make new situations of hopelessness and despair, and through this facing and recreation participate with God in the building of His kingdom in the here and now. We need each other, we need God, and we need community.
Story from former Interserve partner.
Interserve is one of our nine strategic mission partners. If you wish to learn more about the work of Interserve, including current opportunities, visit www.interserve.org.nz