Tuesday, 1 December 2015

World AIDS Day 2015

I just did a search for 'World AIDS Day' on this blog ... and surprise surprise, a good many posts of 'Chai Chats with the Eichers' have had those words.

Well.  Here is another one.  And it is being written with a difference - it is the last one that I will be writing while still serving with Jeevan Sahara Kendra.

World AIDS Day comes on the 1st of December each year.  And for us in India we are now drawing to a close for this World AIDS Day - while folks on the other side of the earth-ball are waking up to Dec. 1st 2015.

This 1st of December marks an amazing anniversary for us.

A year ago today (of all days) Yohan came into our lives.  We had been told in the last week of November 2014 about a sick orphan boy whose parents had died of HIV and who needed to be stabilised and then sent to an orphanage.  We told the concerned folks to bring him over to the JSK centre.  We were not sure what we could do, but we wanted to try.  As I recall they were supposed to come on the 30th of Nov.  Instead, they came on the 1st of Dec. 

Who would have imagined that a year later he would be part of our family.  This evening we told him that we would be celebrating his birthday on the 13th of December - and have a party for him on the 12th!  He is thrilled.  We had hoped to have the legal adoption papers by now, but the year is slipping by and so we prayerfully made the choice to step forward with this.

This 1st of December is also pretty melancholy in some ways.  It marks the beginning of our last month with Jeevan Sahara.  We gave a letter to Bethany Trust in early October saying that we would be handing back the leadership of JSK back to them on the 31st of December.   Amidst the hustle and bustle of this year's World AIDS Day and Mumbai AIDS Sunday work, we have a small voice saying... this may be the last time you do this, and hmmm wonder if that will happen again...

But having said all of that, here was our day!

We started bright and early with Sheba and I having our cuppa and spending time with the Lord on our own.   A recent Family Camp has challenged me to see this as my 'most important meeting' and really look forward to it - and I am reaping some of the benefit of this.

Sheba made the tiffins for the kids while I showered and then revved up our Papaya for our school-car-pooling run.  We were down-stairs by 7.25 and had picked up the other two kids 5 mins later and were whizzing off to BSS in Powai before you can say Jack Robinson.

After I dropped off our treasures, I hared it back to Thane to attend the monthly Pastors Fellowship breakfast which we have each first Tuesday of the month.   I was able to share with my dear friends about the upcoming Mumbai AIDS Sunday - we are hoping that many church fellowships will have a special time focussing on the needs of people with HIV on Dec. 6th - the first Sunday after World AIDS Day.   We had special time of prayer this morning as well.

The Jeevan Sahara Kendra team had headed out early for a special day-long HIV counselling and testing camp in Kalwa along with the Sahwas organisation.   It was a grand success with 126 people being tested in a very underserved slum community.  Our whole team pitched in and the church volunteers were great.  We will find out tomorrow if any of the tests came back positive - but we are very grateful for everyone who chipped in.

After the Pastor's meeting I picked up some boxes of books that we are hoping to give as gifts at the upcoming Positive Friends Annual Thanksgiving time (Dec. 19th - mark your calendars and call us at 9321112065 if you want to participate or help out in any way).

Then to pick up Yohan - who had been given early morning home-schooling by Sheba and then had 2 hours with Mrs. Priya Sane - his tutor.   We then had a quick lunch together and read from one of the Ladybird books which has survived my childhood.

A quick lay down (my back has been acting up again this week) and then I hit the computer to finish off the Monthly Prayer Calendar (sent off just after 1 PM) and then I needed to find out how to get to Govandi west.

Sheba came back from the clinic so that I could head back out again for an HIV awareness programme that Vision Rescue had asked me to do.  I thought I was getting late - and had not been to Shivaji Nagar before so our humble Papaya started acting like she was an F1 racer (not really, but I did go a shade faster than normal).

Shivaji Nagar is a massive slum settlement on the edge of the city.  Literally.  The place where the Vision Rescue folks have a small community centre is right at the edge of this sprawling settlement.  Beyond you see some open ground, then a large land-fill with hundreds of plastic bags flying in the sky - behind which are the mangrove swamps of Mumbai... and then the dirty sea that laps around the city.   The slum is just off the main air corridor, so we saw plane after plane fly by on their way to land at one of the Mumbai airports.

I was brought up to a tiny room with sewing machines lining the walls.  There were posters of sewing implements and clothes.  This place is used to train local women in tailoring skills.  A number of the young women were there - most dressed in hijab - and on the other side of the room their mothers.  We had a good time going over the basics of HIV and how to prevent its spread - and what can be done if we have it.  Knowledge is power - and being able to talk about things openly really helps.  One middle aged lady said that she is so relieved now - since she had been in fear of people with HIV - but knowing that it does not spread in routine daily contact really took a load off her.

We then went out to a near-by cross-roads for a street play which was put on by the NSS group from a Mumbai college.  The play was of course about HIV, but was a bit of a disappointment.  Earnest young folks who had clearly practiced for it - but too many words, too confusing, all in Marathi (when most of the local population in this slum only knows Hindi)... A goodly crowd which gathered did not really what they really needed to see.  But commendable that the group had come out all the way to share what they could...

I had another session to take.  This time with men.  Well, make that 2 men, 8 adolescents and a smattering of boys.  It was good fun to go through the same presentation with the other gender.   The boys seemed to have shorter attention spans - but I think I was able to get through to some of them.

Then it was back in the Papaya and into the gradually rising traffic flows back to Thane.

Tuesday nights are Bible study nights for the Eichers.  We have been meeting in the home of Sister Shanti for the past 3 years now.  Tonight's topic was not about HIV - but almost all those present have some experience with the disease.  Either living with the virus, or the children of someone who does... or did.  A small group - but one with very special needs.  One dear young woman had a mild epileptic fit during our time together.  She expressed at the prayer time how sad she is to be taking medication and still be getting these dizzy spells.    A widow lady thanked God that she was getting an adhaar card soon.  Just 3 months previous she had had virtually no identification proof.  Now slowing the JSK team has been helping her build a set of documents which will help her and her children in the future.

We then all had supper together.  All that is except Yohan.  He had had his meal at 7 PM since he needs to take his 9 PM meds on an empty stomache.   His cheerful presence was with us, however, in the small room as we dug into our rice and rajma.  Our little Bible study is made up of very imperfect people - but the simple and profound truths we uncover need a life-time to implement.  We left with the assurance of the amazing love of King Jesus - and I could see it in the hug that Sheba gave our dear friend who has been suffering from Epilepsy.

So we come to the end of another World AIDS Day.  So much more to be done.  But so very much to be thankful for.


Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Ode to a cuppa

Sweet brown liquid you
All seasonal steaming stimulant
Flavoured ginger or elaichi
But never never red
Unless in some distant village
Or Manipuri home

I met you in my boyhood
Slurped out of saucers after church
Or taken innocently from our neighbours
Contrary to my German mother’s wish

We met repeatedly o'er time n space
In pots from melted snow while going up mountains,
Served in crusty glasses along midnight tube-lit roadside bus-halts,
Huge milky mugs in Shanti Kunj
The first sing-song call in the morning in a foetid train
The last gulp before the day’s work ends

You were in our hands as we heard sad stories of broken lives
You offered a set of small comforting welcomes to strangers
Who wanted to tell my wife and I the things that did not come easily to tongue

Is it a wonder that you help shift my night-owlness
Into early-birdnality, as your steaming ginger-flavoured presence
Graces the side of my Bible in morning prayer

Sweet, sugar-laden liquid you
(Miracle: I am still not diabetic at 46)
You reminded me of Bharat when I was in the spic-and-span ‘States’
A stranger, I looked up an Indian cookbook to recreate your spices
And served chai-tea from henceforth
Winning a few converts and making the odd chai-evangelist

As today’s sun has dipped
And twilight is punctuated by crow-cries and hammer blows and traffic rumble
Of our dear urbanity
Another cuppa has disappeared into me (a big one)
Slipping lightly over tongue and soothing slightly sore throat
While fingers tapped keys

Evoking tea

Tuesday, 24 November 2015


I was at home this afternoon when the doorbell rang, talking on the phone, contacting folks about our Thanksgiving time this weekend where we will be sharing a new tool that we have developed: a small flipchart to help people with HIV take their ART medications better.

I asked the gent that I was speaking to whether I could call him back, because I thought it was a courier.  Since yesterday my old slipped disk problem has flared up again, and so I was pretty horizontal most of today. One of the advantages of phoning is that you can be supine while talking!

So over to the front door I go - and there is our local postman, with a speed post delivery.

It's Sheba's passport.  Freshly printed.  Delivered to the door.

We are on a Tuesday afternoon at 1.15 PM.    Am I dreaming?

The previous Thursday I had uploaded Sheba's passport reissue application.  Her passport had expired last year (sadly - not used abroad yet....).  I was astounded to get an appointment for the next day.  So on Friday at 10.30 I dropped her off at the passport seva kendra in town.   She was back at JSK by 1 PM that day - with her old passport duly cancelled and an SMS informing her that her passport is being processed.  Over the weekend we got other SMSes - stating that her passport had been sent for printing, had been printed, and then on Monday night we heard that it had been dispatched.

100 hours is all it took (and that too with a weekend in between) from Sheba walking in for her appointment and having the passport delivered at our door.

A normal passport.  Nothing special, no special fee.

When I think about the nightmares I have gone through with my precious Indian passport...

The nadir was my camping out at the Bareilly office in 1997 - trying to get it reissued so that I could go to Uganda.  Numerous times saying no to the various touts who lurked around, and numerous visits to the nightmare place - and that too after 'knowing' one of the officers there who was an acquaintance of Dad (but not in the good books of his colleagues since he was openly Christian and a strict no-bribe-man).  And having finally the blessed document delivered only to find out that they had made 4 mistakes - including wrongly writing the actual number of the passport!  The number that had been punched into every page and the number written on the first page differed!  The long bus journey back to Bareilly, the further meetings with the officials and finally having hand written remarks in it correcting the mistakes.  Real life Kafka.

And here we have the document in hand, a century of hours later.

What our government can do.  With a little partnership with others.  The passport seva kendras are manned by govt. staff - but only at the decision making level.  The other functions are farmed out to a private company who does all the basic work.  And does it ever work.

How many other functions could be farmed out this way?

My parents did not have a phone for 8 years because they did not pay the bribes the telecom wallahs were waiting for in those days.  Those days are long gone with the plethora of competition from mobile companies.

But so many areas of stick-in-the-mud intransigence remain.  Basic things like getting a ration card are virtualy impossible.  I went 4 times to get a voter registration - and finally got it for myself, but Sheba's application is still rejected because we honestly included her old voter card from her teenaged days in Odisha.  Even though the form has a place to declare that you are giving it up, the officials insisted that we get a no-objection-certificate from the officials in Odisha so that she can be registered here.

Aber Freunde, nicht diese toene, sondern angenehmere!

Just to say - so much is possible in our dear country of ours.  Including getting new passports in what is basically the blink of an eye.   Lets see this happen in other sectors too.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

a few words about Yohan's adoption process - and a goodly amount of silence too (for now at least)

We are coming up on a year since Yohan first came into our lives.

At this time last year we had no idea that he was present in the world.

His mother had just died.  He and his younger step brother were taken in by a good samaritan lady who found them crying on the street outside the govt. hospital where their mother was dying.  Being a single woman of modest means, she sent the boys to her mother in the village - a formidable woman who took them in.

But Yohan was also sick.  The family was just not able to care for him and so appealed to a Christ-following doctor they knew to have him cared for.   He called us.  Could we admit him at Jeevan Sahara Kendra, stabilise him, and then have him looked after in an orphanage...

Yohan was admitted at JSK on the 1st of December.  A small sick boy.  Not much hope.  

How much has changed in this year.  For Yohan.  For all of us.

Yohan did so well at JSK.  He gained weight.  We started him on the ART meds.  He was loved by many.  He not only survived, he began to thrive.  And then the question of where he would go started to crop up.   

As we prayed for options, we saw many doors shut.  We earnestly wanted him to be taken in by a family.  And slowly the voice of our Lord started speaking to Sheba and myself - that we should be that family.

On the 24th of January Yohan joined us.   It's been an amazing 10 months so far.   So much to be thankful for.  So much more work to do.  So many areas we all need to grow.  Individually. Together.  As a family.  

We got foster care rights after 6 trips to the authorities.   That was in April.  Then in August we asked to have Yohan declared free for adoption.   

I have purposely not written much about what we have been going through since we don't want to affect the 'due process' but let it be known that it has not been a very joyous experience.   One day, when the dust has settled, we will tell all.  

Till then here is a small teaser, a small glimpse into this unfolding part of our lives, a simple request for prayers on our behalf....

Yesterday Sheba went to another set of authorities in another part of the district.   The official who met her told her that the adoption guidelines have totally changed since there was so much abuse of the previous set up.  Kids being sold.  So the new process is all about being open.  All kids are to be on a website.  All prospective adoptive parents (unflatteringly abbreviated as PAPs) are to be registered on the website and then matched to their 'choices.' But the new guidelines have been dropped in without any training for all the govt. stakeholders.   

But he struck a note of hope for us, by saying that he would be uploading Yohan's details this weekend.  And then informing us so that we should do the same.  And then he said he would tell the adoption authorities that we should be given Yohan - and that he would write an order to the folks whom we have been going to so far (I am purposely not writing their title, name, place here so as not to show up on some random search engine) - and here is the kicker: he says that his order will be to those folks to declare Yohan 'free for adoption.'

If we get that ruling then it should be a matter of less than a month of going to the court and getting the adoption order as Yohan is a special needs child in a number of ways.

A lot is going on these days...

Your prayers are most welcome into the mix!  

One of these days we will be able to give you some really good news - and also be able to spill the beans on what has been going on behind the scenes (and what has not).  

Till then, stay tuned, and keep prayin'!

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Hot temper and cold pizza

Last night we decided to order something that was unthinkable for me growing up in south Mumbai in the socialist 70s.  We called on the phone and asked for pizza.

Rephrase.  Sheba had the super idea to augment supper with a bit of pizazz - and so I checked things out and gave the magic call. 

The folks in the Bangalore call centre took the order, reminded me of the price that I would be forking out, thanked me for choosing their company (hint: two words and the last one is German for 'hat'), and told me that it would be there by 10 PM. 

So when I got a call at 9.50 that the delivery man was down-stairs, I went out so that he would not ring the bell and disturb Yohan who was trying to get to sleep. 

And then I realised that he had made some kind of mistake.  He was in a wrong building.  No lift was moving up to bring pizza to us.

At 10 PM I called the Bangalore wallahs to inform that our pizza had not arrived yet.  They told me to call the local shop.  I was not in a happy mood by now.

Then I saw the lift light go on.  The pizza was coming up.  The delivery man soon was opening the door with his burden.  A mistake in the address - one that had been done on an earlier order (A4 sounds like 84).  

When I mentioned that we were outside the 30 min guarantee delivery, and that we would be having a free pizza now, he baulked.   A call to his boss.  Boss said that the delivery man had arrived at the base of the building in time.  I told him that the phone-wallahs had said it would come by 10 PM.

The volume of our conversation was now getting louder.  The joy of the order was draining fast.   

I should not have even started into the argument.  If a company doesn't keep its word, well, then it doesn't.  My spleen won't help.

20 mins later.  A few more fruitless calls to the store.  Stale mate.  Dug in.  Got out the cash.  Gave it to the man.

A nice cold pizza was waiting.   We microwaved the thing.

Sadly, my temper was the only thing hot for a while.  Even when I looked back with regret at my loose tongue and bright red face, I found myself walking in my mind along silly streets. "How about giving the Bangalore wallahs a call and telling them that I would write about all of this on the blog?  What if it went viral and they have to send some corporate types to mollify me?"  Astoundingly, I even wondered about how much they would be willing to pay me...  A kind of internal black-mail being played out in my mind.

Where do such thoughts come from?  How fragile is our goodness, how quick the old nature emerges - cloaked in self-pity and parody of 'justice.'

And so 24 hours later, and a number of prayers later, here is my mea culpa:  there is still much anger that my Lord Jesus must tame.  

We learned at the church camp that we are to rejoice in suffering, because suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope (check out Romans 5 - dynamite).   Our amazing speaker David Rendall shared that we can see the very character of Jesus being lived out in us through this process.  That we are being transformed from the inside-out...

Failing once again - with the family as spectators - doesn't make for much character showing of Christ in me.  But oh, the depths of His love and forgiveness.  Even for silly-balding-middle-aged-men who are loved by Him despite their tempers.   Work in progress.  Blessed Savior.

Monday, 9 November 2015


For years we have wanted to live with 'Oma and Opa' as a family.  This year our wish came true - though the circumstances of Dad's cancerous tumour, the major surgery and the subsequent 6 months of chemotherapy are not quite what we had expected.

As expected, a goodly portion of the writing this year on 'Chai Chats' walked with Dad and Mum through their valley of treatment and prayer.  And earlier this month we had the wonderful news that after 6 months of chemo, Dad's results were all clear.

One of the nice things about being an eicher Oma is that you have an awesome grand-daughter...like super awesome!!!

Editor's note... do you notice anything about the previous line?  

So this evening our house is full again.  John and Nalini, Nikita and Jasper are here to celebrate with us 7 Eichers.  To celebrate 8 months of healing and blessing to Dad... and also to celebrate Mum's 78th birthday!

The birthday part is a surprise - we hope - since Mum's birthday is on the 11th of November. 

So here is to Mum!

Hip, hip, hooray!

We are so very grateful to God for the joy of having Oma with us for these months.

Mum is a doer.  She literally cannot sit still.  After a few minutes she is restless and has to stand up.  She made sure that she pulled far more than her weight in the household chores - and had to be shooed out of the kitchen many a time - and then just went back to the kitchen while Sheba and I were not there.  Currently the fridge has apple pie, cheese cake and a mousse that Mum has prepard for us all.   She has also lovingly taken Yohan for his classes and picked him up each day.  Service, service, service would be her motto - and that is service with love, not for any glory of her own.   The way that she patiently has cared for Dad over these years is another huge topic!

Mum pours herself into people.  Our Tuesday night Bible study always ends with Mum hugging the ladies who attend.  She talks and prays with the dear ones that she meets.  Hers is no superficial 'hello, how are you' kind of relationship - she expresses her appreciation for the very essence of each person that she loves.

As always, Mum continues to rejoice in beauty.  I remember how as a kid we would sometimes attend conferences where the living conditions were quite spartan - but Mum would bring a table cloth and a few candles and turn a bare room into some thing homely.

She still does that.  Here is a small example.  Mum and Dad were expecting two dear friends to spend some time with them.  Mum had bought some orchids to give to them.  These very close friends were unable to come at the last moment, which was a huge disappointment for Mum and Dad.  But Mum made the best out of the situation by remembering the friends through the flowers.  And by taking the picture above.


Well, as I was typing the above, John and Nalini and the girls came in and so we were plunged into the suprise party. 

I am now writing with all the family asleep and the click of keys and the whirring of fans and the odd dog barking outside being the only sounds in the night.

Our time this evening was wonderful! The time was a wonderful surprise: John and Nalini themselves did not know that we would be celebrating Mum's birthday together.  As I mentioned earlier, they were mainly here for fellowship and to thank God for these months of grace that we have seen in Dad's life.

We started with Enoch walking in, climbing on a chair, and unrolling the Birthday Banner for our beloved Oma.

The table had already been laid by then and we were basically getting ready to eat when we shifted focus to celebrate Mum and God's grace in giving us this wonderful daughter of His.

Yohan then came in with a big boquet of flowers, followed up by Asha carrying in the cake.

Mum loves surprises, and this time we got her 100%.   She had been thinking of other things are we were able to draw a delightful smile from her when things unfolded and it became clear that she was the centre of attention for the evening.

78 years is a long time.  Mum was born in a Germany that was ruled by the National Socialists (Nazis) under Hitler.  She was separated from her parents for a 3 year period as a young girl to protect her from the allied bombs raining down on Leipzig.   Then the communists took over and declared the "German Democratic Republic (which was certainly not democratic by any yardstick).  As a young woman she left her country as a refugee and moved around in different countries - working and learning languages.  Then she had a life-changing experience with Jesus while in Spain - and decided with live out a life for Him.   And thanks be to God, He guided her to come out to India in 1964 - and we stand in the awe of over 50 years of service to our country that Mum has done.

Cakes are meant to be cut... and eaten.  I am snacking on an absolute chocolate bomb of a cake as I write this to you.  Dad helped Mum do the honours while the songs were sung and then John prayed for Mum.

There was of course a lovely spread to celebrate with.   And lovely people to have heart-to-hearts with as well!

John and Nalini have been such amazing friends to us over the years.

Asha and Enoch have grown up with Nikita and Jasper - and amazingly are attending the same school at present.   We are so grateful that they can have such lovely friends to grow up with.

Nalini and Sheba are like peas in a pod - though they are very different to each other.  Yet, whenever the get together it is magical.  I have appreciated John so much over the years - his savvy and his deep love for God are part and parcel of the same John who has given me many delightful conversations over the years!

What is especially lovely for us is to see Mum and Dad become so deeply linked with John and Nalini as well.  God is good and blesses us over the generations of his grace!

 So here is to you Mum!

We know that your real birthday is only on the 11th of November, but wanted to take this time to thank God for you.  There is so much to say, but let us make this small step forward: "Thank you for your love which you continously poured out for us!"

We also would like you experience year as you enjoy the presence of the most high in you life, your family and your community- as well as the rest of us here in our nation.

May your feet be firm as you continue to serve others in the name and spirit of God's love, and may the twinkle in your eye become ever more infectious!

Friday, 6 November 2015

This is church...

This is the church, and this is the steeple
Open the doors, but where ‘re all the people?
This is the church and this is the steeple
Open the doors, and here all the people!

As kids we used to say this rhyme along with clasped hands – the first two lines being said with the fingers interlacing above, the index fingers forming the steeple and the thumbs opening up to show… an ‘empty church’.  And the 3rd and 4th lines being said with the hands clasped together again, but this time, the digits intertwined and pointing in, so that when the ‘doors’ of the thumbs are opened, a wiggly group of six fingers show folks ‘in church.’

Thank goodness we don’t have many steeples here in Bharat (though the odd cathedral may still have one poking up).  But we do have churches in India.  Of all shapes and hues.   From happy-clappy to somber-hombres,  from smells & bells  to shouts & yells, from bible-bible-bible to bible-what’s that?   All languages (ok, many of them).  All ethnicities (at least in a smattering).  All classes (no surprise where the largest numbers are now – it’s not by accident that the Lord who did not have a pillow to lay down his head on does not have much of a following in the race-course-set). 

One of the reasons why we shifted to the Mumbai area two times seven years ago was to work with local churches.  Little did I know how much church would become part and parcel of who we are.

I grew up in a Christian commune in Bombay.  My parents were part of a group of young people (giants to me of course) who had forsaken almost all and were living out a life of faith.  Church was there – but for most of the folks who were living out revolution of love and balance together – it was a bit of a pale shadow to the intense spirituality and group discipleship that they were experiencing. Church was nice, but OM was the real deal for my parents (and by extension for me too).

Sheba’s growing up was on the other side of the fence.  Her family had intense, complete involvement with the local Hebron assembly in Rourkela.  Her father had been totally transformed by a conversion experience and had joined and grown in the embrace of the assembly.  Church was their life.  Every gathering, every service religiously and full-heartedly participated in.  Their home was a home for church and their church was home for them.

On shifting to Mumbai we had the privilege of participating in one of the Hebron Assemblies in the suburb where we staying in Borivali (and found our amazing friends John and Nalini Gabriel with their lovely daughters Nikita and Jasper).  When we moved over to Thane a year later, a friend of ours suggested a house fellowship within walking distance of our home.  Thirteen years later, this particular expression of the global body of Christ has fused into us and vice versa.

Now that we are about to strike out again, perhaps it’s good to think about our experience of being part of the Body… and what church is all about – or at least a what it is a bit about!

Lets start with the basics.  I believe that church is intentional, not a given.  A decision, not a fate.  To me the starting point is to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Being adopted into His family means that I am no longer alone.  I have a new family.  Folks like me who are broken-and-being healed.  'Saved'-but-being-made-holy.  Spiritual babes but growing in all dimensions as we follow our master together.  The key to church is meeting.  Meeting together. Spending time and space and love and service with each other - and at the same time in a mysterious way, becoming the very dwelling place of God Himself.  

Will there be different flavours? Of course - there had better be, given how varied Christ's followers are.  But ultimately the focus of church cannot be on it's members - our eyes should be peering ever more clearly out our Lord, our actions should be shaped ever more dearly by His heart-beat, our very being should be moulded ever more really by His love and power.

And the beauty of it is that it is actually in the doing that it all happens.  The first believers in Jesus Christ - a minority both to the Jewish authorities and established sects of the day, as well as to the imperial power in Rome - immersed themselves in this new life.  We are told that they devoted themselves to the Apostle's teaching and to fellowship, to breaking bread and to prayer.   

That's pretty much what we want to see happen today.  And do so in various ways.   

Apostle's teaching?  Well, we have the Bible which we do well to learn, imbibe, discuss and apply. The bits that are obscure?  Well, we can talk about them and wonder a bit.  But there is so, so, so much there that is crystal clear and which we would like to sweep away as being not quite up our alley.  And so it is vital for all of us to keep learning, keep engaging with God's word.. together.

As  fellowship, we meet in homes during the week regularly to study the Bible and learn and grow together.

These studies are opportunities for us to keep placing God in the centre of our lives.  And how much we need that - esp. as our own nature likes to take us along other well-worn-grooves.

When we meet on Sundays in Jolly's home, we also make sure that we spend time learning together. Our desire is that God's revealed word will shape us, rather than we shaping it.  Which is why we do things together and want all of us to share what they have heard and understood over the course of the week.

Dad gave a short talk the other week, which I had the privilege of translating.  I remember hearing Dad sharing when I was small - sitting in the front rows of churches we were visiting when he shared about the work in India.  

At the end of the day we want to be saturated with the word.  To see Christ transform us through His revelation.

What a privilege to speak the very words of God Himself.  And what a privilege - with His help and grace of course - to live these out in our lives... 

The first Christians remembered the sacrifice of Christ through the breaking of bread together.  We do so too.  Every Sunday.  In fact, having communion together - taking part in a symbolic but deeply meaningful meal where we remember Jesus' death and resurrection - is at the very core of our Sunday gathering.  Everything else spins out of this joyful but reverent obedience of Jesus' command to remember Him when we gather together.

On a recent Sunday, Jolly led us in the Lord's table, with Anil translating for him.  

Three generations of Eichers took part in the bread and the wine.  What a blessing.

The early Christians devoted themselves to fellowship.  Church is not just formal meetings - it is the 24 x 7 living of our lives together.  The joy of welcoming a new life into the family - here we are dedicating Anil and Sandhya's second son Ashish to the Lord.

But what happens after the meeting is over is just as important.  Our times with each other are so precious.  We are all so very different - we have varied mother-tongues, have widely different incomes and education levels - but are all experiencing God's grace together.   The joy of fellowship and the hard work of fellowship go hand in hand.  The first century church had it.  We do to, but have some more way to go of course.

'Every meeting should have some eating' is attributed to a modern day apostle of house churches - or words to a similar effect.

We put this into practice.  Not at every meeting - but at many of them.  Church does not 'end' with the last prayer.  We continue to fellowship - and often over a meal.   The opening picture of this blog post is Mum with some of the ladies who we meet with for a Bible study on Tuesday evenings at Shanti's home - and have a meal with afterwards. Every week. Fellowship.  Yum.

And then there is the matter of prayer.  The first followers of Christ - back in the first century put this way up on their agenda.  They grounded their lives with communication with God - just like our Lord Jesus and His nights on the mountain.   

At each of our meetings we share and pray.  It's part of breathing.  Jesus has said to pray continually. Like a bad cough.  On and on.   Can we do more?  Of course, and I look at myself in the mirror as exhibit No. 1.   But, oh the blessing of having regular prayer with our brothers and sisters.

Over the last few years we have had the privilege of hosting our fellowship's prayer times every Wednesday.  The ladies come from 6-7 PM for prayer.  Then the Eichers have supper (Yohan has his food early because he has to take his 9 PM meds on an empty stomache).  At 9.30 the men come for their hour of power.  We normally see more women than men, but are so very thankful for each person who comes and prays.  

But church does not end with our meetings - formal or informal as they may be.  We continue to be church in our home too.  Each evening the Eicher band gathers to make a joyful noise and live out a bit of church in our family.  And yes we normally have some delving into the word and prayer too.

So there is a bit of church in everything we do.   This is church.