Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Basements and Open Doors

After writing my blog posting two nights ago, I laid awake in bed for hours...my thoughts spinning and my heart racing. I was thinking about Kuwait, about the path that led me to this place, about the purpose in my presence. I think that life here has felt so overwhelming that the idea of figuring out "extras" (different social venues, ministry/volunteer opportunities, even going grocery shopping!) in my life seemed impossible. When you spend all day in a multicultural environment, your brain trying frantically to process dialogue that is half in a foreign language...when you commute through insane high-fatality traffic...when you cough up dust from the swirling storm and dig dirt out of your eyes just trying to walk to the mini-store to pick up bottled water because you can't drink the tap water and you're dehydrated...well, by the time you make it through all that you have just about enough energy to lie on a couch and watch reruns of ER. In an odd way, life becomes very narrow. It's about survival. But I don't think I've been called to just survive. Life should never be just about me...and when you're just surviving, moments tend to shrink down into tiny self-focused pinpricks. So I laid in bed and I prayed for open doors. And God, who is so much bigger than my survival mode, opened a door! Many of you know that before I came to Kuwait, I had heard about the problem of exploited domestic workers. These are women brought over to Kuwait from the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Ethiopia, etc, to work as maids, nannies, cooks, etc. They are brought over under contracts, but once they arrive they are often exploited in horrific ways. They are treated like machines...as if their Kuwaiti "sponsor" (read: owner) can just flip a switch and these woman become machines that can work 20 hours a day, 7 days a week cooking and cleaning and taking care of children. Often, the employers refuse to pay any wages, confiscate passports, lock the woman in their rooms or in the houses, and even go so far as to abuse them in every manner possible. Because of all this, Kuwait has faced a growing problem with "runaway maids." These are woman who get to the breaking point and run away from their employers, often with only the clothes on their backs. Many are suicidal (there are cases of maid suicide and murder of maids by their employers all the time). But where can you go if you have no money, no identity documentation, and no knowledge of the language? Where do you hide since running away is illegal so if the cops pick you up you'll just be returned and probably face even worse abuse? Well, they run to their embassies. And the embassies, flooded with runaway maids, have turned their basements into temporary shelters...no man's land where up to 300 women at a time often share one large room with only a couple bathrooms and no idea what their future will hold. So all that to say, even before arriving in Kuwait I wanted to find a way to use my counseling background as pro-bono work with these women. But getting into those embassy basements has proven difficult. I have tried to contact the local churches, pastors, people with connections...and everyone is so busy that I haven't been able to get a single lead. So I sort of gave up...until yesterday when I woke up after my mini-meltdown and decided it was time to do something. I won't go into all the details since this post is already long, but I found out that some salvation army workers at the church here are starting a shelter for Ethiopian runaways! Not only do I have connections to this couple, but an independent shelter means that people like me can go in and spend time with the women without going through the bureaucracy of a foreign embassy! I spoke with the man who is starting the shelter, and they are hoping to open in one week and have women within the next two weeks. And he is thrilled to have me participate! The details are not firm yet, but this open door is incredible. It just goes to show that God is at work even in this place. Prior to yesterday, I didn't even know that there were ethiopian runaways (I've only heard about Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia!). My passion and my heart has long been with issues of justice in Africa, so how incredible that God would put me "on hold" for the past four months, unable to get a foothold into some of these other opportunities, only to show me the bigger picture at the exact moment in time when this new shelter is going live. I would love your continued prayers that God would continue to hold open this door as the launch of the shelter approaches. If you want to read more about exploited workers in the Gulf countries (Kuwait being one of the worse), you can check out this site: http://www.migrant-rights.org/

6 comments:

j.renee said...

wow! Amazing.

Anonymous said...

I am blown away at how God has answered your prayers (and ours for you!). I am absolutely convinced that He has you there for something special. You are so right about cross-cultural adjustment, being at TCK helps but it is still a big process. At AIT we used to say, survive, thrive and have an impact, there is a reason the words are in that order! love you much.

Donna Kushner said...

oops, clicked anoymous, it was me on that last post!

ZK said...

I miss you sis!!!! When do I get to talk to my big sis?

Amanda said...

Amy...thanks so much for pouring your heart out and bravely navigating the territory He has called you to dwell in. Be encouraged that you are beautifully and uniquely wired and filled with a passion for such a time as this...you are impacting people in a part of the world who desperately need you and the One who you are offering them.

Many blessings,
Amanda Hill

Rachel said...

Wow Amy. That's really amazing, powerful, and goose-bump-giving. And that website is so saddening. Hope and light in the darkness is what I'll pray God continues to open the door for you to be.
By the way I really enjoy your writing and have even read some of your blogs out loud to Gabe along the way =)