Friday, February 24, 2012

Rescue, Restoration, Justice

Dear friends-

I returned on Sunday of this past week from one of the most powerful experiences I have had in India. I know that it will take a long time to process all that I learned from my trip to Freedom Firm.

Last Wednesday, I boarded a 6-hour train to Coimbatore and was met at the station by Roger Rumer, husband of one of my pastors at home, Betsy, and a longtime friend. I was just as emotional upon meeting Roger as I was when I saw my family for the first time in India. We drove over three hours of very windy roads and finally made it to Ooty, where we had dinner at Greg and Mala's (founders of Freedom Firm) beautiful home. I suddenly found myself sitting with other Westerners in front of a roaring fire, with three little puppies snuggling in front of it, eating shepherd's pie. It was like a dream.

I spent that first night at the Malsteads Swiss-Family-Robinson-esque home, and received some much-needed restorative sleep. Roger and I went down to see the horses at Leg-Up, a horse therapy ministry, right behind the Malstead's home. We trekked back to the road with their son Morgan and then were taken to visit the Freedom Firm offices in Ooty, where we met all the staff and 5 rescued girls, who were busy packaging jewelry for Mala's upcoming trip to the States. We joined in the packaging and then Roger and I sang some songs in the office, which has two floors: one floor where the girls have school and do their work, and another floor for the offices, if I remember correctly.

In the afternoon we rode in Greg's Jeep to Coonoor where the retreat was to be held, about a half-hour away from Ooty. We had tea and settled into our rooms, and after an amazing Western dinner all gathered in the meeting room for a time of introductions and icebreakers. About 20-25 people belong to the staff: half Indian, and then American, British, and South Africans. It was fascinating to meet and fellowship with one another.

Friday was the first full day of retreat. Roger led us in a study for the duration of the retreat with Pastor Todd Phillips called, "Keep Climbing: Why God Doesn't Give Us Everything We Want." The study paralleled Todd with a team of climbers in a journey up a mountain with the obstacles we face in life. There were some logistical sessions for the staff, and then after lunch I went on a hike up through the tea plantations with Roger, Wesley, one of the members of the legal team, Rod and Diane, an American/South African couple who work in the Ooty office, and Karl and Debbie, the Freedom Firm UK staff. We had a wonderful climb together and the view from the top was lovely.

One of the huge blessings of this trip was a new dear friend I made. Shyla and I had been emailing for weeks arranging travel to the retreat, each thinking that the other was a middle-aged woman. :) Turns out Shyla is a 22-year old from Ohio who is volunteering at Freedom Firm for a year!!! As soon as we met one another, we clicked and were fast friends. By the time I left the retreat, I felt like Shyla and I had known each other for months. I was so encouraged by her faith and strengthened by her prayers during our time there. Lord, thank You for such a friend! 

Roger and I led worship together for the second time that day. It was amazing to lead with him again. They had a piano there-the first actual piano I've played since I left home!- and I had also brought my violin. Roger is a phenomenal guitarist and we fell right back into the comfort of leading worship together. The worship was very rich and uninhibited, and also included many Hindi songs.

Each night after dinner we had some kind of fellowship time. On Friday, there was a bonfire with lots of songs and dance (along with all the makings of s'mores except for marshmallows, which couldn't be found.) Lots of fascinating and hilarious stories from the past year were shared, many involving police, mistaken identities, and running for trains!

Saturday was another incredible day. We began with worship before Roger's sessions ("Give Me Jesus" quickly became kind of the "theme song" for the retreat.) Department Reports were shared, where each branch of Freedom Firm reported on the big stories of the past year. These were extremely moving and powerful testimonies to the obstacles faced and surmounted, tales of God's grace and of the power of prayer.

In the afternoon, a group of us went into the town of Coonor for some shopping and sight-seeing. In the evening after our sessions, we watched "Horse & Rider," a film made about Freedom Firm by a filmmaker from the UK, and it was the first time anyone had watched the film. The film was an impressionistic glimpse into the lives of two rescued girls, through many scenes and flashbacks, in a kind of choppy style. Unfortunately we weren't able to download the entire film and didn't see the ending, but it was an extremely raw, emotional glimpse into the darkness Freedom Firm valiantly battles and the light God brings through His justice and restoration.

Sunday came all too fast. We had our final time of rich worship together and Roger led the final session before he had to leave. I took a taxi all the way back to Kottayam, about an 8 hour ride, and found myself back at Kottayam feeling as though I'd been away for weeks. I will share more in a further post, because of length, about some of the big things that came from this retreat. Will post photos soon! 

1 comment:

  1. I am glad that you continue to have such deep and rich experiences Claudia.