Saturday, 16 May 2015

Minnie

She was in jail for 3 years.  She seems to be 20 years old now.  Why she was put in is not clear.  We will call her 'Minnie.'

Sheba got a call while she was in Madhya Pradesh by a social worker from a church which has an active and patient ministry in a number of jails across Mumbai-land.   Sheba has been to the local jail in Thane with social workers from this church-based organisation when a women's wing was opened up last year.

The request was whether we could have Minnie at JSK. 

Apparently, the authorities suddenly decided to release her.  Three years into her imprisonment - and suddenly she was told to go home.

But it seems she does not have a home.

Our friends took Minnie to two or three addresses that she claimed were of her relatives.  The people who were met at each place denied knowing anything about Minnie.  Heart-breaking stuff.  Someone is not telling the full truth.  On one hand there is every possibility that Minnie's relatives wanted nothing to do wither her.  On the other hand, she may not be fully clear about where she is from...

In any case, our friends were stuck and asked if we could help out at JSK.   So when Sheba came back from Madhya Pradesh, the social workers and Minnie were waiting for her at our centre.

We decided to do some HIV counselling and testing and let her stay the night at the JSK centre.

This morning the result was a happy 'negative.'  Good for Minnie, but it also means that we really cannot keep her at the JSK centre as we are focussed on people who are working through their HIV challenges.

When the dear folk from the organisation came by to pick up Minnie they were astonished.  They met a different Minnie, one who joyfully told about how one of our nurses had massaged her, about how she was included in the morning staff prayers - she literally jumped on her bed as she shared her experience at JSK.

The social workers who had brought her were dumb-founded to see the change in Minnie.  They literally cried.  These women who faithfully go to the jails and work with the prisoners and undertrials - how often do they see changes take place?

Seeing Minnie's change of heart re-challenged our friends to seek humane places for Minnie's next steps of rehabiliation.  The thought of taking her to the remand home was thankfully scrapped - and renewed efforts are on to see what can be done for her.

Will you say a prayer for this young woman?

----------------------------

As Sheba was talking to the social workers, she asked about an African woman who Sheba met last year at the Thane prison.  The lady was Positive and Sheba wanted to know what her condition was.

The social workers told her that the authorities had released this woman.  Good news of course.  But then the heart-break.  The woman had been in jail for 3 years.  

Three years of her life were spent in Mumbai prisons - only for her to be set free as the trial fell apart.  Apparently this lady had a business where she brought in suitcases full of hair from her native country to India - and then stocked up with baby items on the way back.   Her business paid for her flying in and out as well as gave her a livelihood.

Except that some local NGO accused her of being a prostitute.  She was arrested.  And spent 3 years in jail.   And to top it off she is positive too.

Sheba asked the social worker to put us in touch with this lady.   

It's not been a good fortnight for justice in our country  - but there will come a day when everyone gives account for what they did... and did not do! 

Come Lord, quickly.

End of a cycle


This week Dad finished the end of his first cycle of chemotherapy.   3 doses - given each Wednesday at the Bethany Hospital. 

Admission on the morning of the dose.  The drip into his port.  Then the medication is given - with the nurses taking utmost care not to introduce any infections.  Think universal precautions cubed.


A few hours of rest and then a discharge.  

Of course - at all times, Dad keeps up with making sure that everyone feels special.  This week was the first that he was not on the 5th floor - and so he had a whole new world of nurses, ward aides, doctors, other patients and relatives to get to know.  The man sharing his room was 96 and with advanced cancer.  I did not get to meet this man, but hope Dad was able to reflect some light into his life. 

With our home so close, I can pick Mum and Dad up from the hospital in the Papaya and be back in almost no time.

Lots of tender-loving-care at home of course.  And then on Tuesday morning a blood test.  The results are ready by evening and then we have a night appointment with Dr. Bakshi.  Each time we met him, he was pleased with the lab reports and so gave a thumbs up for the next dose the next day.

We have done this 3 times now - and completed our first cycle.   5 more cycles lie ahead.

By God's grace Dad has not suffered any clear side effects from the chemo.  He burps alot, but that is mainly due the the 'replumbing' done after his major tumour resection.  

But then on Wednesday night he did not sleep well - and had diarrhoea yesterday.   A reminder again of his weakend immune system.  We prayed and gave metrogyl.  By noon to day he is a lot better.

And he has also been gaining back some of his weight.  Between his 2nd and 3rd doses, we got a whole kilo more of Dad!

The blessed normalcy of it all has meant that Sheba was able to go last Saturday and drop Asha and Jemima off at Lakhnadon Christian Hospital in Seoni Dist.   Enoch has been with his friend Mark (Drs. SP and Vanita Mathew's son) in Dahisar since Monday morning.  That left a fairly quiet house - with Mum and Dad and Yohan and myself making up the resident family.

But trust Mum to think up a project.

While Sheba was away, Mum scouted for some plants.  And Yohan by her side, went out and bought them and a bunch of gardening stuff.  And remodeled our windowsill garden - with the able help you young Y!

The upshot is that we now have a whole bunch of flowers in our front room - and smiles to match!


So when Sheba walked into our home on Tuesday afternoon (having gone straight over to JSK from the train station as there were patients waiting for her) she got a lovely surprise by the our flower-meister and her willing chela.

Tomorrow sees me pick up Enoch from Dahisar (after watching him play some football as he is in a coaching camp with Mark till 10.30) and then I head to the station myself to take the train to Jabalpur and pick up Asha and Jemima.

One of the great gifts of cancer is the sharpness of focus it brings on life.   Obviously on Dad's life, but on each of our lives that wa are living.

I recently picked up a book that I am sure I must have read eons ago, but is still very fresh - The Savage, My Kinsman by Elizabeth Elliot.  It's the story of how she and her daughter and two other widows of the 5 young missionaries who died in the jungle began living with the group of people whom they had wanted to contact and share the love of Christ with.

In the foreword, the legendary photographer Cornell Capa talks about meeting Elizabeth Elliot and asking her about her own faith and her husband's violent death:

I wondered how Betty could reconcile Jim's death at the hands of the Aucas and the Lord's apparent failure to protect him from them. 

Her answer came back without hesitation: "I prayed for the protection of Jim, that is, physical protection. The answer the Lord gave transcended what I had in mind. He gave protection from disobedience and through Jim's death accomplished results the magnitude of which only Eternity can show."

Which act of obedience does God want of me today?  Tomorrow?   What about you?

Let's not keep any debt pending - except the constant and overflowing debt to love - which we can joyfully keep repaying all of our days.

One cycle is over.   The next begins soon.  Let's not waste precious time...

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Love lived out... in many ways

We met Dr. Ashish Bakshi this evening and he said that Dad is all set for his third dose of chemotherapy tomorrow.  The blood tests are what can be expected for a person on chemo - WBCs 'low', platelets 'low'  but not disatrously so.  Dad has a healthy appetite.  We think he gained a whole kilo from last week.  A certain ice-cream cake has been dissappearing from the fridge (more on the cake later). 
The short and sweet of it is that Dad is well enough for his next dose of chemo - which brings us to the end of round 1 - of 6!   Thanks for all your prayers.  Dad seems to have taken doses 1 + 2 really well, and we hope and pray that dose 3 will be more of the same.

It's been an interesting few days since Sheba and Asha (and Asha's friend Jemima) scooted off to Lakhnadon on Friday night.   Enoch was here with us for the weekend and played 'caps cricket' with Yohan (one of the games he has invented with his collection of fizzy-drinks caps).



Having discovered that you can watch the Indian Premier League on streaming internet for free - we have had our share of cricket matches being seen by young E.  The caps game has inticrate rules and eleborate scoring - which both boys go in for with glee (and which sounds like a constant low-level squabbling to the untrained ear).

Sunday evening was wonderful - and a bit wierd.  With Sheba and Asha away - we celebrated a birthday - of our dear Jasper Gabriel.   We are normally up in the cool of Mussoorie - so have not celebrated it much over the years - but with John being out of town for most of this week, the family came over for some festivity - and to be with Oma and Opa too.

Enoch and Yohan did their bit in getting the premises ready for the big bash:













Could we really have had 12 years go by since we welcomed Jasper into this spinning world of ours on the 13th of May 2003?



What a lovely young lady she has become!

It is a special joy to see someone flowering into personhood when we have been with her at every stage of her life so far.

Today we see a confident and sensitive person who has the world at her feet.

'Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart' was our prayer for Jasper - and for all of us.  As we shift our eyes away from what are often cheap thrills - and draw deep from the Lord Himself, how much our cup flows over.

And how much our cup flowed over with the joy of having John and Nalini with us for the evening.


One of the many lessons that Dad's cancer teaches us is that simple basic (and so, so often forgotten) one of just how valuable each person is - and how precious our relationships are.

Over and over again I have wondered at the deep outpouring of love that so many have for Mum and Dad.  What is striking that it is both from people who go back 40+ years with them - and also folks (like the entire nursing team from the 5th floor of Bethany Hospital) who have just gotten to know them recently.

A wonderful heritage of love.  And a testimony to how God has been shaping Dad and Mum over the years - so that during the times of trial, what spills out of them is love.

Talking to Dr. Stephen Alfred earlier this afternoon, he told me that in Dad's recent minor surgery to install the chemo port, they had put a sheet over Dad's head to keep any infection from entering the site of the insertion.  While this sheet was covering Dad, Dr. Stephen asked him whether he was uncomfortable with the sheet on - and Dad responded that he was thinking of the people in Nepal who had been trapped in the rubble - the many who died and the many, many who were wounded.


Mum continues to be a solid rock.

Despite age and the heat (somewhat modified, of course by having the AC on in their room in the nights and some afternoons) - and despite all the challenges she is going through - this is one determined German lady. 

But Mum is also one who is able to adapt to things.  "In acceptance is strength" is what she told me a number of times recently.  Accepting when things don't turn out exactly like we want them to.  A valuable lesson for us all to learn.

Mum loves flowers, of course.  And delights in seeing beauty around her - esp as the tree next to our kitchen has ignited itself into a fire storm of red:








Yesterday morning I dropped off Enoch at his dear friend Mark's home.  Going over for the early-morning drop gave me a good excuse to have breakfast with our dear friends Drs. SP and Vinita Mathew.   Their continued generosity and joy in life are bracing tonic for us all.  Hats off to such lovely folk.  Enoch agrees whole-heartedly and has been having the time of his life for the past 2 days with them.



I will sign of with this picture.   Dad and Enoch in prayer.  Grandfather and grandson.  We wish that Dad didn't have cancer.  But are so, so blessed to have Dad and Mum with us during these days.

How much our loving heavenly Father yearns to hold us in His arms.  They are open, but are we willing.  Do we rest our head on His shoulder... or are we still running and running and trying to scrape by on our own sweat and saliva.

As Dad is sleeping peacefully tonight, we entrust tomorrow and all it entails into the hands of our loving Lord Jesus.   Tomorrow we expect more of the same - love lived out, in so many ways.

It is really, really odd to have Sheba and Asha in Madhya Pradesh, Enoch in Borivali and for Yohan and I to be with Mum and Dad here in Thane.  But we know that He who holds the future is also holding all of us in His hands.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

3 ladies on a rail n road trip

Life is never dull in the Eicher household.

And sometimes the Eicher household is not all in one spot.

Like tonight for example.  At this time on Friday night we were all here in Thane.  But the next few hours changed everything. 

Last night I took Sheba and Asha and Jemima (Asha's friend) to the Thane railway station at 11.15 PM.   We had decided that morning to try and get a 'tatkal' ticket to Jabalpur for the our intrepid ladies to go and meet our dear friend Dr. Chering Tenzing - who is heading up the Lakhnadon Christian Hospital.

At 10 am we were told that Sheba's train ticket was booked and that Asha and Jemima were 6 and 7 on the waiting list.   By 8 PM their status was 3 and 4.  I was sure that their tickets would be confirmed.

They weren't. 

At 9.30 an SMS came saying that the final chart had been prepared and that Asha and Jemima's tickets were still 3 and 4 on the waiting list - which meant they were invalid.  We discussed about what to do.  Should we call it all off?  Should we try and brazen it out?

We took the latter course.  We left early and parked the Papaya on the east side.  I got the ladies onto the platform and went and bought 2 unreserved tickets for the girls.  And then an hour's wait till the train steamed in at 12.50 AM.  I got the ladies in and hoped that they would get another berth at least.
The train headed off north and I drove back to the sleeping ones at home.

Sheba buzzed me at 1.30 to find out if I had gotten back home.  She said that the ticket collector had come and said that he would see if there were any other berths.   He never came back.

All three shared a berth and made it up to Jabalpur by 5 PM this evening.  There they had the joy of meeting Chering at the station.

While on the train Sheba had called up Nimmi Kerketta - one of her childhood friends from Rourkela who lives in Jabalpur.  Turns out she lives near the station and so after a rough night they had a grand welcome to Jabalpur at Nimmi's home and then Chering took them out to dinner. 

Chering is a remarkable lady.  Sheba and Chering go back to their days in the late 90s at the Christian Fellowship Hospital in Oddanchataram where Chering did her higher studies in specialising in Medicine while Sheba did Family Medicine.

We have kept in touch since then - with Chering joining Nav Jivan Hospital just as we were leaving for Mumbai in 2001 and then serving at the Herbertpur Christian Hospital near Dehra Dun.  The picture is from a time when she helped out at the Prem Sewa Hospital in Utraula.

For the past year Chering up to her eyeballs in work at the Lakhnadon Christian Hospital.  Chering writes about her life at "What Gives" - a short and pithy blog about her adventures.  One of the things Sheba told me about Chering right after we were married was that she does cartwheels.  We have watched Chering over these many years of service and are amazed at what she has been able to do.  She has a big heart - and a great laugh - and reads and thinks in 101 directions at once.  One of the reasons we want Asha and Jemima to be exposed to remarkable folks who are doing so many things which are often unseen (but not unnoticed in the Throne Room - Malachi 3.16).


At 9 PM Asha called up briefly to say that they had arrived at Lakhnadon. 

Here is to our adventurers!
 

Friday, 8 May 2015

Reception reflections

Weddings in our dear land of Bharat are huge.   No matter what language, caste or creed - the marriage is always going to be a show-stopper.

So when it came to our dear friend and co-worker Mahesh Kamble getting married to Bhavani on April 24, we were of course very happy.  But sad because the marriage was in Chhatisgarh - and that too during our JSK annual staff retreat!  Last year Daniel and Yerusha got married just after the retreat - and just next door - so all of us were able to be there for the ceremony.  This year none of us could take the trek up to Chattisghar to be part of the Mahesh and Bhavani nuptials.

So they conveniently came here!  The wedding invitation said that a reception would be held on May 6th in Thane.  That seemed unbelievably far in the future... and then it happened yesterday.


Always beware of event programmes that come without names linked with programme items.  I looked at Anil Edwards who was sitting next to us and told him that we need to be ready for anything.  And sure enough, as we got past the first two songs of praise, it was announced that I was to do the Bible reading.  Up I went to the stage to read the memorable Psalm 45 - but wished I had had some advance notice as my Bible was chock ablock with papers from our JSK staff retreat.  At least I found the passage soon and launched into the wonderful words - what an honour!

When I got back I noticed that Anil is far more modern than I - he has his Good Book on his mobile - and used the  programme sheet to take notes.

And there was plenty to write down.  Dr. Stephen Alfred spoke on the excellence of marriage - and the great joys and challenges our lives together are.  And how much a mystery each marriage is.  He suggested that marriages that are centred around Christ - as Mahesh and Bhavani's is - as being a special opportunity to see the very nature of God being played out in our lives.

Stirring stuff.  Made me so glad again to be married to my amazing Sheba.  She has had to put up with so much over the years - and we still have much to learn in caring for each other - but I am just so grateful for these 15 plus years together.

It was of course a bit surreal to be sitting in the crowd and seeing our dear Mahesh on his throne along with his new bride Bhavani.

There are times you pinch yourself... is this really happening.  Is my life actually unfolding this way. 

As I looked around I was struck just by how happy everyone was - and the wide range of different people from across Mumbai and Thane who had come to be with the couple.

It was a privilege to meet Mahesh's family - who came up from Miraj (the town where Dad was born at Wanless Hospital) as well as the elder who had nurtured Mahesh when he made his first steps of faith.

Then there were the folks from the church in Parel which was Mahesh's next spiritual home. 

And finally the broad spectrum of Thane people - church members, JSK staff, various friends.  I was touched to see a number of the precious people that Mahesh works with through JSK were also present.

After the programme,  it was time to 'meet the couple.'  This is a formalised trooping up to the stage, family by family - and spending a few moments congratulating the couple - and then having your photo taken with them.  By the end the bride and grooms cheeks are aching from all the smiling done!

Yes, our family is growing bigger - but no - we don't have 4 sons (yet at least!).  We were joined on the platform by Abishek Sainani (him who at least yesterday was balder than me) and Akshay, who is spending part of his summer holiday with Abishek's mummy and daddy. 

And then there was the feast!  No meeting with out eating!  As we dug into delicious rice and chicken curry and met old friends and made new ones...  The joy of being together.  Here part of the JSK gang gathered round a table and tucked in.



When around 10 PM Asha finally managed to extract her parents from all the meeting and greeting (and Enoch had ate least 2 servings of icecream - reminding me of two boys about 35 years ago) - we passed through the main hall - and saw that Mahesh and Bhavani were still taking photos!  Ah the irony of the Indian wedding - everyone else has a great time - but the bride and groom have to do all the work...

Hats of too Mahesh and Bhavani as they move forward into this new adventure.  I am so glad to have been walking this road together with Sheba since our magical day in Rourkela on Dec. 15 1999!

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Wednesday = Chemoday

From now on Wednesdays are going to be chemo-days for us.

Dad had his second dose yesterday.  We checked him in to Bethany Hospital at 9 AM.  When I stopped by at 1 PM he was resting in his bed - his dose had been given and his chemoport nicely covered with water-proof tape.  In the other side of the room was a 96 year old lady.  On the cot beside Dad was Mum - snoozing deeply.  I mouthed a few words to Dad to call me when it was time to go and went back outside into the heat.

Why was Mum snoozing at midday?  Well, the heat for one - but also because she did a stress test for her heart.  Mum's pulse is much lower than it should be and her heart output is also lower than expected.  So the stress test was to try and see what the next steps should be.  The young doctor who was conducting it kept asking her if she had any pain.  She didn't.  She kept walking faster on the treatmill.  Mum had done a similar test a few years ago and was getting ready to start running at the end.  The doc didn't allow her.  He kept asking if she was finding it hard, whether there was any pain.  She kept saying no, and continuing to merrily walk on the treadmill.  They don't call her 'mountain goat' for nothing!

It looks like the stress test was more stressful for the doc than for Mum.  Sheba was with Mum during the test and the cardiologist suggested that Mum take some meds for 6 months and then see him again.   A big relief for us all.

Dad has been doing super based on the first 2 doses.  He is in good spirits, does not feel nauseated, is weak but is able to go for short walks, has started answering some of the hundreds of emails that are waiting for him (a sure sign of health!).  We know that it is still early days - and we have 16 doses to go, but we are so grateful for all your prayers at this time.

Could we ask you to also pray for a very very dear friend of Mum and Dad - bro Geoff Richards?  Geoff and Dad were very special friends from the days of their ministering together in various forum in India in the mid-sixties - both wearing white kurta-pyjamas more often than not.  Uncle Geoff has been living with cancer for many years - and has travelled the glove ministering in his own special way to people while dealing with the rebellion inside his body.  But currently uncle Geoff is in much pain as the cancer continues to do its work.  We received a letter from his son Jeremy today which ended this way:


We would ask for your continued prayers, particularly for Dad as his pain levels have increased markedly these last couple of days, leading to Fiona going with him to the hospital this morning. He is now at the palliative care hospital where he will be in order for pain management to be properly worked out. We want to see him as pain-free as possible and in comfort, and the patches are not adequate now. Please pray for wisdom for the care team.

In light of the move and Dad's needs, we as a family must keep looking to the Lord for every step.

Thankyou all once again, and we are glad of your love!

Jeremy & Mary, Fiona & Mark

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Summer flowers

Summer in Thane has its own joys.  Amid the simmering stifling heat, the local trees decide to deck themselves with colour.   A few weeks ago there were shimmering purples.  Now we have yellows....






























and then there is the bright redness of the gul-mohar just outside our kitchen windows (pictures taken by our flower loving Oma of course).

 Yesterday brought a bouquet of flowers of a different kind too...

Sheba and I had just been to Bethany Hospital to get an appointment for Mum (yes, she has some health issues too - but we will share those on another day).  Sheba was just parking the Papaya in our normal parking spot at home when her phone rang.  It was Prisci, saying that her father uncle Selvanayagam was at Bethany and would like to meet Dad.

In a flash the Papaya was back on the road up to Bethany to pick up Uncle - and with him the double surprise of 2 of his three daughters!

Uncle has been struggling with Parkinson's disease for the past few months - and the last time that we met had been quite slurred.  It was so good to see him this time.  He speaks very softly now, and slowly, so you have to come close and hang on to every word - but this is the same Uncle who has been such a blessing to all of us!


And what flowers did he bring with him?  Well - two of his three daughters - who were like sisters to her when Sheba was studying medicine at Cuttack - and still are.  And you know what happens when family come together - laughter flowed freely for one...


Asha graced us with a short recital...


And we had to have Uncle share from the word before he left.  And so he did.  Uncle has been praying for Yohan ever since he heard about Yohan joining our family at the end of January this year.  So it was a special joy for him to have Yohan sit next to him as Uncle Selvanayagam shared.


We could hardly hear what Uncle was saying - but each word was pure gold.  What an honour to have the saints come to be with us - even if for only a very short time.

How much we wish we could be with our loved ones all the time - but when they do come for the odd sliver to time - even on a hot summer afternoon in Thane - it is like dew to the soul.

We will take bouquets like these anytime!