Monday, May 25, 2015

Fundraising to set women free from prostitution in Kolkata

Freeset is a fair trade business offering employment to women trapped in Kolkata's sex trade. Currently they make quality jute bags and organic cotton T-shirts, but their real business is freedom!  They dream of seeing the 10,000 sex workers in their neighbourhood having the choice to leave a profession few of them ever chose to enter.

Right now they have the opportunity to come a step closer to that dream.  A large building at the entrance to the red light district where they work has come on the market.  If they could buy this building it could house more businesses giving opportunities for women to leave the sex trade along with social services to support them in this transition.

Right now they are fundraising to buy this building: it costs around NZ$3 million and is due to be sold at the end of June 2015.  After the sale they will need an additional NZ$900,000 to renovate it and establish the social services in the building.  They expect the businesses in it to be self-supporting (as their existing sewing business is) but obviously the social services won't generate funds so need this financial support.

If you'd like to support this project, you can read more and make donations here.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Onion skin dyeing

I first come across the idea of dyeing fabric with onion skins in one of my childhood favourite books, The Endless Steppe: an account of the Siberian exile of the author and her parents during WWII.  One way in which they made their hut there more cheerful was to dye their kitchen curtains with onion skins.  Earlier this year I decided to have a go myself, following these excellent instructions.

Over several months Martin and Sarah saved onion skins for me in order to get enough to largely fill our big preserving pot.

Boiling the skins to make dye

Filtering the skins out of the dye.  This was the most physically challenging part for me as it was hard to hold the muslin bag open at the same time as pouring liquid from the huge pot.

Two tea towels in the rich orange dye.  Isn't it a gorgeous colour?

Tea towels after boiling.  You can see I lost most of the water which led to uneven dyeing.  If I do this again I'll add more water to the dye before boiling.

Rinsing the dye out of the fabric.  I think this was the second rinse and there was still plenty of colour.

Drying the tea towels (and the muslin bag I'd used to separate out the onion skins).

The finished tea towels, complete with embroidered borders.  They turned out a lot more brown than I'd expected.  The dye is a bit uneven, but I'm still pleased with them.

The back side of the tea towels.  You can see that the synthetic labels on the towels (at bottom right) took up much more dye than the cotton fabric!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

'10 years' house party

This month it's 10 years since we moved into our current house.  To celebrate, last Saturday we invited all the people we've got know in the street to come over for afternoon tea.  I was surprised to realise we knew well over 20 people.  In the end 15 were able to come.  People seemed to mix pretty well and a lot of people met people they didn't already know.

Tantrix (the game being played in the background) was very popular.

It worked well having me on the sofa.  I spent a lot of time just watching what was going on but also had a number of one-on-one conversations.

A few people spilled outside.

Both Martin and Sarah worked very hard making sure everyone was well fed and had someone to talk to.

I loved watching our next-door neighbour Paul (granddad to 12 kids) playing with little Josaiah.

It was a lovely day - I got a bit teary later, thinking about all the people who mean a lot to me who I wouldn't know if we hadn't come to live here!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Glimpses of the Suffering Church

I believe firmly that the global Church is one family.  This weekend, I was reminded that the lives of some of those brothers and sisters are very different to our own.

Firstly, I was reading about the massacre of (mostly) Christian students at Garissa University in Kenya last month.  When I was at university, I was part of the local Tertiary Students Christian Fellowship group, EU.  TSCF is part of a global organisation called IFES and so has sister groups all around the world, including Kenya.  Amongst the first to be killed were students attending a prayer meeting of that group, FOCUS.  They lost five members of their executive council that day.  Reflecting on the situation one of their staff workers, Lucas Owako, wrote:
The only consolation is that because many of these students knew and loved Jesus, they rest tonight from their hard labour in our cruel world.
It made me think: we are one family, but we don't have one life experience.  Christians in New Zealand rarely speak of having 'hard labour' in a 'cruel world'.

Then I read this, from the IFES group in Nigeria, NIFES.  They have groups in the North-East, where Boko Haram is most active.  I was humbled by the words of one of their staff members, Daniel:
Living the practical Christian life of loving our enemies according to the Scripture is not easy for us. But we keep encouraging one another using the Scripture and asking God for grace to do as Jesus did. And God has been faithful.
Unlike Christians in New Zealand, these brothers and sisters of ours live alongside enemies who wish to kill them for their faith.  I honour them for standing firm and pray that God will give them the grace to continue to do so.

And lastly, I listened to this video, filmed at a conference run by our own New Zealand group, TSCF, earlier this year.  Towards the end, some Kiwi students and staff who had attended an IFES international conference were asked to share what they had learned there.  I was struck by the recollections of one man, whose small group at the conference had included a woman from a country where you cannot openly practise Christianity.

She was horrified to hear of the apathy Christian student groups in New Zealand and similar countries battle against.  Immediately she called the group to prayer and prayed passionately and urgently against this terrible situation. The Kiwi student was amazed that a woman who had to attempt to evade the secret police on a daily basis could be horrified by what he had to live with! May we pray for her as she prays for us.

As we catch glimpses of our sisters and brothers far off, may we see the horror and struggle, grace and hope of their situations.  And may we even, though their eyes, see the same things in our own context.  We are one body.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Meeting some of my people

Since Christmas I've been making my way through all the back issues of Manna Gum's quarterly(ish) magazine, Manna Matters.  The other day I was delighted to find this article from December 2012.  In reflecting on the state of the Church and its need for renewal, Jonathan Cornford writes:
Surely, any movement of authentic Christian renewal has to be centred on a rediscovery of Jesus and his message, and the expression of that discovery in people’s lives. I am convinced that one element of this – but by no means sufficient – must be the reclaiming of the Biblical story’s distinctive perspective on our material lives. In a time when the bad news confronting humanity centres on the structure and content of our material lives, the good news of Jesus will only fully become good news when it also finds expression in our material lives.
He then goes on to talk about "seven dimensions of an alternative economic life that would express God’s counter-cultural good news in 21st century Australia":
  • Rejection of the idols of "more" and "me";
  • Care and nurture;
  • Work;
  • Responsible consumption;
  • Household economy;
  • Generosity;
  • Economic interdependence.
As I read through his list, I felt I had met some of 'my people'.  All of the things they talked about are things that Martin and I, in company with Sarah, are working towards.  It is encouraging to have found a thoughtful community of people (albeit ones who we'll probably never meet) who are moving in the same counter-cultural direction as us :-)