The Courage of the Young Women of Mahima

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Stephen Philps -Mahima Courage3By Stephen Philps | Twitter: @stephenphilps & @partnerscanada

The SUV rumbled up the dirt road to the walled compound. I saw ten-foot concrete walls adorned with sharp razor wire. Then a metal gate squeaked open, we parked and shuffled out of the vehicles.

My palms were sweaty, and I had the distinct nervousness that comes when you are about to do something you know you should not.

On that day, I was entering a home in the heart of Kolkata. The home of a family in the truest, most broken sense of the world. A beautiful tapestry of young women from numerous countries who have been subjected to some of the worst evils. Ripped away from their families, abused and forced into sex slavery, these women are survivors.

This home in Kolkata is Mahima. Glory. It is a rally cry of freedom, ringing out from the depths of grief and hopelessness. This is a new beginning for women, an opportunity to start over and reclaim wholeness. These young women have had every reason to give up on earth, every reason to hate humanity, so how would they react to me, a man?

One foot plodding in front of the other, I walked towards the front door. The hot Indian sun beat down on me as the guard greeted me with a welcoming smile and handshake. I came to the threshold of the home, and a glorious noise reverberated through my ears to the bottom of my soul. I heard laughter.

Upstairs, young women were playing, dancing, rejoicing … as children should.

That day we had a chance to play together—filming a short bollywood movie filled with dancing, arranged marriages and even a chance for me to play an ugly potential bride. Never before or since has my pride so willingly taken a beating for the gleeful, unrestrained laughter of a room full of young women.

How many of us carry wounds, battle scars and burdens from betrayals in our past? Perhaps we hunger and thirst for vengeance, crying out for retribution against those who have wronged us. In my opinion, no one deserves that right more than these young women. They have every right to be embittered, hateful and full of rage against a world that has hurt them.

Yet they choose joy.

Make no mistake, the staff of the Mahima homes encourage these young women to seek justice against their traffickers, pimps and abusers. Many have bravely testified, facing courtrooms full of their abusers and lawyers with little support. We are beginning to see a justice system respond to the steadfast courage of these valiant young women. For some, however, justice will come not in this life, but in the next.

“It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

I have been blessed to get to know the young women of Mahima over the years, to see glimpses into their growth. Prayer requests for court appointments, for girls who have returned to their homes, for others who have no home to return to, but are building their future through education. A select few are now married to loving husbands and have children of their own.

Forgiveness rings right through their journey. They cannot control the outcomes of their court cases—they are at the mercy of the presiding judge—but these young women are masters of their own hearts. They take their experiences and release them, allowing the wounds to make them strong. They have chosen to move from hate to a grace-filled acceptance of others, because of the love of Christ.

They are no longer victims, but become advocates instead for millions of other women still trapped in the trade. These young women are standing up and speaking out. In them I see how their wounds do not define them; their past is not their future. Today many tell their stories in anti-trafficking awareness programs, pleading with families to not make the same mistakes their parents did. Many stand up defiantly in courtrooms, facing their traffickers, pimps and abusers to testify before government officials, advocating for change in the justice system.

The Bible tells us, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. I see it in these young women. Perhaps not in the way that they first thought, but satisfied nonetheless.

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About Stephen:

DSC_2257I’m a Christ-follower, husband to Nicole and sometimes pastor to whomever and wherever I’m placed. Currently working in development for Partners International Canada, God has blessed me with the opportunity to see the Church at work in countries all over the world. I’m passionate about the local church, small God-filled conversations and seeing the Kingdom come in the most unlikely places, through the most unexpected sources.

 

 

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  • Thank you for bringing back the sounds of joy and sharing them here.

  • Saskia Wishart

    Reading this Stephen, I am reminded how grateful I am that the justice system is never our only hope. Indeed, I know many who have had to go through similar experiences as the women in Mahima. Thank you for sharing some of their moments of joy and courage.