Thursday, 30 August 2007

Treat them like criminals!

This is not for the weak of heart.

In the heart of Bihar - a.k.a. the heart of darkness - there is a town called Bhagalpur. Well known to me since childhood. This is where the police had poured acid into the eyes of some undertrials in the early eighties. One of my earliest memories in reading the papers as a boy.

Earlier this week a woman in Bhagalpur had her gold chain snatched from her.

She gave a cry and two passers-by ran after the thief. They caught him. The mob gathered. He was tied hand and foot and beaten by the crowd.

The police came.

They joined in the beating.

And took the man and tied him by a chain to their motor-cycle. And dragged him. Till the chain broke.

A video camera captured it all. And showed it on national TV. Even the heart of darkness has some eyes open.

But, Oh! the sorrow to know that these are our guardians of justice.

We all know that our police force is riddled with corruption and some of the harshest men around.

The Indian Express quoted a senior police officer's response to the terrible act: "The policeman involved should be treated like a criminal"

Exactly. And does that mean he should also be tied up and dragged? How do we treat criminals?

Lord have mercy upon us.

+ + + + + + + + + + + +

I have been to Bhagalpur - it is in the absolute corner of Bihar - just north of the tribal district where our dear friends Dr. Isaac and Vijila David are doing their amazing medical work among the Mal-paharia tribals (a.k.a. 'Maltos'). Its a jungle out there. Literally. But also a place where some of the most lovely people on earth live.

Despite the depth of darkness there is always hope. The man has survived - so far at least - though he was very severely wounded.

Closer to us here in Thane - We have people who are called to work in prisons. Today we met Vivek Kamble who said that he has watched most of his generation of young men literally waste away. And he wants to do something about it - so when his church (GMI - still mainly known as 'Bombay Baptist') started a prison ministry he jumped to it. Today he and his colleague Ravindra Raj visit people in Thane, Kalyan and Mumbai jails - and meet people with HIV there as well.

It is also no accident that we have been dealing with a number of members of the police force as HIV patients through Jeevan Sahara. We see the disheartening effects of brutality, alcoholism, infidelity at close quarters. In the police quarters - where the families live. But we also see the opportunities for change. Real change. Inside and also outside.

Pray for our police. Pray for the man who was so brutally beaten. Pray for the many undertrials rotting away in lock-ups. Pray for convicted men and their families. Pray for the local beat patrol man. Pray for the station officer who writes the all-important First Information Report (FIR) in the official register. Pray for those who investigate complaints. Pray for the families of those policement who have passed away from AIDS. Pray.

Two prayers

Two prayers at opposite sides of the room. Two very different situations. Many things inbetween.

We are at our month-end Positive Friends meeting. A kind of support group with lots of spiritual inputs.

The meeting started off with prayer and singing. Then a short skit presented by the JSK team which they had performed as a street play last Sunday. Then a message by Giri on encouraging each other - and the encouragement Jesus is to us.

Then time for sharing. One lady shares how her son has changed so much for the better - and that she was praying for a music system - and now she has one and is able to listen to beautiful songs - and then burst into a hauntingly beautiful Marathi song. A man shared how he has received pictures from his estranged son and wife after a very long time - and that his CD4 count is now over 500 (applause). A lady shared how her mother was sick, but now is better. Voices of people with HIV - but speaking out to encourage each other.

After this we broke up into small groups for individual prayers.

One one side of the room two very fidgety ladies. One of them holding a long green plant in her hand. She had picked it up from outside the hospital where she received the medical test results she had done for her sister - the person with HIV. The sister with HIV had moved back and forth during the entire time of the meeting. Now it was time to talk with Dr. Sheba. Both were deeply depressed. Both blamed each other. The hand of the 'healthy' sister was shaking - the green leaves were shivering. Both miserable. Sheba drew a dark heart and a light one. Talked about the difference Jesus could make. Both decided they wanted the change. Both prayed. One simple prayer.

On the other side of the room a man in soiled clothes was asked what we could pray for him. He said that he had everything he needed. The only thing he wanted was to get back to work quickly. His clothes were soiled because he lives on the footpath. A few months ago a passer-by had for some reason come into his hovel on the footpath. Seeing this man lying emaciated and unable to stand, the passerby took the man to his church. The church is where our JSK staff members Rahul and Varsha attend and their pastor brought Mr. Mandir (name changed) to JSK. A course of TB treatment and multiple inputs later - Mr. Mandir is a changed man. He has gained weight. He has his smile (slightly crooked) back. He has a driver's liscence again and is waiting for an auto-rickshaw to be repaired before he can get on the road and earn again. Today he was praying. Praying not for himself - but for Daniel - our longest serving JSK staff who suffers from periodic bouts of psoriasis on his feet. The sight of this pavement dweller praying to Jesus for healing - for one of our staff was precious. Another simple prayer.

We serve a great God - who uses simple - and at times sinful (but oh so readily redeemed if we only take him at his word) people.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007


Had a bracing conversation with Vasu Vittal and Abby from Oasis India trust. They are in the process of putting together a health centre at Kurla in Mumbai to serve women who are in prostitution, women who have been rescued out of 'the trade', people with HIV and community members from the two church-partnered community health projects OASIS runs.

This is an exciting prospect and more so because they have managed to find an existing nursing home which is fully registered and where the owners are willing for them to rent out the whole place - 4 beds - small OT and all.

They are looking for a committed doctor to provide leadership for the next 3 years. Any takers?

Over the course of our conversation we touched upon an issue. The women in prostitution get their health care from the local quack doctors. Church workers who go regularly to meet the women say that if a white-coat doctor could come and conduct a weekly clinic - that it would greatly improve the status and acceptability of the church-run work.

What do these women really want?

One of the things that came out was respect. And dignity. To be treated as someone special. To be loved.

It may or may not be possible to recruit the doctor and have the clinics. But one thing is certain. These women - as warped and as horrible as their circumstances / choices / situations are - each one of them is precious in the eyes of their loving maker.

Could we structure our work so that we genuinely care? Its so easy to become utilitarian and ugly in our work. Could we make something beautiful? Would it not be possible to take that extra effort to communicate that the person is valuable - even if it is not accepted - or even laughed at?


I have been HIV positive for fifteen years now. I don't have a perfect life, but I never will until I go home to be with the Lord. I just have a better life having God in the centre of it.

It is better because I don't walk around feeling guilty anymore. I know all I have to do is give my worries over to Go and he will take care of them for me. I feel clean inside and out.

Sometimes I am grateful for HIV because it has taught me to about what is really important in life. It has made me totally dependent on the Lord.
An anonymous woman with HIV quoted in "The AIDS Crisis: What we can do" By Deborah Dortzbach and W. Meredith Long, IVP Books 2006

Many thanks to our dear Philip B who paid us a refreshing 30 hour visit - and gave us the book from which the quote was taken.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Food for the Hungry

We meet together each week to eat.

The first day, the day on which our Lord rose from the dead, is a special time to get together as a family.

Not just as the Eichers, or the Thomases, or the Reddys - but as all of our families together in the new family of faith.

We eat not only the occasional pot-luck together - but also of the food of fellowship - and of the Bread of Life.

Today was a special day.

Yesterday had been full but wonderful - visiting friends in Borivali - where we lived in 2001 - and then traveled back across the city to be at "Fearfully and Wonderfully Made" - a lecture Bro. Stanley Nelson gave on the wonders of creation - and the value of life - all life that bears God's image. Challenging and moving.

50 million. That's right. 50 million girls are apparently missing because of abortion in India. UN figures.
Take a look at Tammana - Narendra's daughter. Isn't she an absolute miracle? And yet to so many she would be considered a curse. A piece of plasma that can be disposed of at any point.
As the son of a loving father who would have been aborted had it been legal in 1940 - and the brother of a unique sister who was spared the same fate - I know that what God makes is never, never junk. And how much potential there is in each image-bearer!
So we came to this morning.
Over the past month Sheba has been deeply troubled. We have a small but important group of people with HIV who we are ministering to, who just do not have enough food to eat. We tell them to eat healthy food - but due to the present situations they are enmeshed in - they are not able to eat - because there just isn't enough.

Since the beginning of Jeevan Sahara, we have always wanted to work mainly through local churches. And yet 5 years down the road we continually struggle with this basic problem - we in the church have so much to eat - and others do not. And how to bridge the gap.
We know that we could make an appeal and get donations and then have people come to our centre for bags of groceries.

And we also know that that well-intentioned act of charity can do tremendous damage as well.

As we have been agonising about this for the past month the seed of an idea took place.

How about using what the church in the North-East does. How about putting aside a handful of rice for the poor everytime we cook rice. How about collecting that over the month and then giving it to a specified family in need. Food from our table to yours. Food that is not surplus, but part of our daily rations - and yet given with love - and prayer.

Over the past fortnight we talked about this with the JSK team and decided to make a prototype kit. We want to have a small brochure explaining the concept. A bookmark for prayer. A small picture drawn by an HIV-positive person. A case study (with names changed) to challenge the person. A pledge card - asking people to prayerfully commit to helping out for 6 months. And 6 sets of bags - a small one for dal, a larger one for rice and the largest for some fresh vegetables to be purchased just before giving the bag to the family at the end of the month. As each handful of rice is put in the bag on a daily basis - the person is able to pray for that family.

For some reason I really felt we should start it with our fellowship today.

Jacob Darlong - one of our interns from Union Biblical Seminary - worked on it on his day off yesterday - his hard work paid off with 6 prototype kits being made by him. Jacob brought the packets over this morning - and was persuaded to join us Eichers for breakfast.
Only 3 families came today to our fellowship meeting: The host family, ourselves and one of our single young men.

But the Lord was with us - and the fellowship was sweet.

As I helped lead the communion we meditated on what Jesus had said: "I am the bread of life. He who eats of me shall never die, but will live."
We remembered how broke the bread and gave it to his disciples saying He had said: "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me."
And how in the same way, after supper Jesus took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me."
The bread and grape juice we ate and drank were outward symbols of the inward nourishment we received from God.
And then the small miracle.
I was wondering how to bring up the Hunger Kits to the fellowship. I did not have peace to do so during the time of sharing before communion and so decided to talk about them as a small announcement at the end of our time.
Ryan - the late teen son of Jolly and Suma - our host family - had prepared a message for us. As he spoke my jaw dropped. He had chosen 1 John 3.16-18 as his main text.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
The whole time we were challenged to actually love in practice. And that our hearts must first change - but that the outward is a sign of what is inside. This was exactly the passage we used so often at Jeevan Sahara when we talked about how we can practically help our churches become involved in loving people with HIV as part and parcel of what it means to be church.
God speaks - and He speaks clearly. After the message was over I brought out our prototype Hunger Kits and Bro Jolly dedicated them to God's use.
Each of our families took one kit to start the process of helping immediately.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Kid's stuff

One of the most challenging and vexing issues we face is the tremendous suffering children go through.

Tonight so many have gone to sleep on an empty stomache. So many do not know what their next day will hold. So many are afraid of violence - in their own homes.

And that is while their parents are still alive!

A common response to finding out about one's HIV status is to think about what will happen to the children now.

Many parents come to us and ask us to put their children in 'hostels.' 'At least they will have a better life' goes the reasoning. Some parents already sent their kids to such orphanages.

A year ago we faced this challenge with two families affected by HIV and living in the same locality. Between them there were 8 children. Both families very broken.

One family was a recent widow with 3 children. The mother had just lost her husband who was leaching his government job - not having worked a day for 4 years his supervisor signed his attendance for him - they shared the salary 50/50. The kind of care this man gave his children was minimal. The bottle was a closer friend. The son would run away from school. Habitually. And loiter in the streets - as an 8 year old.

The other family had 5 children. Both parents with HIV. The father was also a friend of the bottle. His own mother brewed and sold alcohol in a nearby hut. The family - all 7 of them - had moved out of their shack - into a smaller and more muddy hut - in order to get some money as rental income from their bricked room. The father had already been on TB treatment - twice. The request was the same - 5 children who were going wild. Parents who wanted us to find a place for them.

We believe - that even though some of the situations are so difficult for the kids - that it is absolutely vital to keep them with their parents for as long as possible - and to help the parents really parent their children.

Last year we tried to do something practical about it. And started what we call the Child Care Centre. It started in the first family's little room. Varsha Mohite - the wife of our field social worker Rahul - plunged into looking after the 8 children. Each day they meet before or after school at the centre. Each day they get a simple meal. The children are helped with their home-work - are taught - are played with - learn songs - hear stories from the Bible - and are loved and looked after.

On the 3rd of July we celebrated a year of this on-going miracle.

To see these children dancing and performing their plays was a wonderful sight.

To realise that the boy who had been truant every day now attends school regularly and even is often the first to come to a local church fellowship, while the door is still locked, is amazing.

To hear that one of the other girls came first in her class. And another girl has been made the head-girl of the school is a tribute to what God can do.

Varsha (seen in the picture carrying her son Nivedan) has poured herself into these children. Others have prayed. God has touched some very hard hearts and made them soft. The ongoing work in these kids lives will continue. They have been joined by an HIV positive boy and recently by the son of another man who is positive. Most of the boys have not had father figures to look up to. The growth and development continues/

We are grateful to Hoofriz Ross for the last year's encouragement of Varsha and helping us move forward with the Child Care Centre. We shifted it to a one room Hall flat early this year - where Rahul and Varsha now live - and have recently started a weekly meeting for local women who are infected or from families affected by HIV. The idea is to have it as a women's self-help collective - and a time for ministry to these dear sisters.

So we move forward with this in mind: Each child deserves to be loved.

We must see ways of helping whole families live together - and love each other. The kids of today are the parents of tomorrow. We must see churches opening up to include the children. New challenges await. New frustrations. New blessings.


How do you measure wealth?

Here is a shot at it: The two generations of Eichers immediately around Sheba and myself.

On one hand - the many years of loving kindness that Mum and Dad embody. Countless lives changed by their love for people, their sacrificial giving, their encouragement and kindness to others, their transparent lives, their desire to grow deeper with God.... We are amazed at the gift of parents to us - both Andi and Sheba have been so blessed - and challenged to live lives similar to our theirs!

On the other hand - the tremendous joy that Asha and Enoch have given us already in the 11 years they have been with us (6.5 years of Asha + 4.5 of Enoch) - and the potential that rests in these amazing bundles of joy and spirit.

A verse that was shared at Enoch's dedication:

Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's
Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.

They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in
the gate. Psalms 127:4-5

The thought of our children moving forward into the future - doing whatever God wants them to do - is very exciting. Just as we have been able to fulfill some of our Parents' dreams - so too Asha and Enoch will be able to fulfill some of ours...

And may we all fulfill the good plans of Loving Father. Selah.

Disturbing the Peace - some pictures

A few pictures to take us to the site of where the mob burst into the Hospital meeting in Eastern UP (see 'disturbing the peace'). These chairs were their for parents and children from village schools who were attending the prize distribution programme at the campus of Kachhwa Christian Hospital.

And now lets look at three men who were assaulted while trying to reason with the attackers.

Dr. Raju Abraham had a stone thrown which made a deep gash just above his left eye.

A centimeter below and his eye may have been lost.

Pastor Joy (right) was also hit on the head.

Never nice to see blood like this isn't it?

Strange how shocking it is to see the red stuff that surges inside us - on the outside.

Brother Rajan was beaten with the plastic chairs for the function.

Those in power have made their point. They will not stop at anything - and will use their violence if need be.

Now it is the turn of the followers of the man who put turning the cheek into action, who lived his life as a gift to us, who was bruised and marred beyond recognition.

Are we going to retaliate?

Or are we going to pray for these men?

Do pray - and pray hard. We understand that a large meeting of men who are part of the various die-hard outfits met in a nearby temple and chalked out a plan to shut down all the schools.

The question remains - what about the children?

Will any of these fine strong men - who are so happily shutting down schools - will any of them start one? Gather kids together and teach them? Mingle with those whom they have branded as human garbage?

See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven - JC (Mat 18.10)

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Three angels in heaven

We hear a lot of secrets. Some of them lie heavily on us.

This week a couple came to talk to Sheba. They were very sad. Both are HIV positive and their little girl is likely to be as well. We had asked them to get her tested at the government testing centre. They went - but no one was there.

So they came with the 3 year old and talked. A beautiful girl - only she is well behind in her developmental mile-stones.

Are you using contraceptives? Sheba asked. Yes - we use condoms. Do you want more children? Sheba started to ask about whether the wife would like a tubectomy. Then she asked the question: Were there any pregnancies after this girl?


There was one. They went and aborted.

The trauma of the daughter's birth was terrible. The nurses would not touch the mother. She was placed on a filthy - utterly caked - mattress in the govt. hospital. She pleaded with them for a sheet - none given. Her husband was told to get multiple sets of disposable gowns and instruments. Thousands of rupees worth. One set at the most was used. She was literally an outcaste - crying for help in the delivery with minimal assistance. After birth, the child was taken away from her. It was just too much - she left with the daughter against medical advice.

Till today the hospital has not given them a birth certificate. Despite repeated attempts.

And so - in between - another child came - and they terminated it.

The pain that has so furrowed out these lives. What can we say. Sheba talked and prayed with the couple. Church-goers. Believers.

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.

Angel-child - we will see you in glory.


The same hospital. Last month.

One of our positive friends was at her due date. The pains started and she was taken to the govt. hospital by her husband. We had worked with them to make sure that she had attended her ante-natal check-ups. Now it was time.

The same horrid story. Put in a rubbish part of the hospital. Alone. No nurses touching her. Minimal medical inputs. Sent home with the statement that it was not time yet.

Next to her another HIV positive mother was screaming for help. She gave birth on the bed. The baby fell and died.

Angel-baby no 2.

When our friend went home she felt that the child had stopped moving. Soon after she was back in the hospital with further pain. The child was born without life. She saw him in a small box before they took him away.

Another angel-child populates heaven.

Lord, have mercy on us
Christ, have mercy

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Training wheels

We purchased a bicycle for Asha and Enoch. A beautiful blue sporty number - with rainbow wheels. A basket (with a monkey picture in front), a bell that rings merrily, and a set of training wheels - what more could you ask for?

How fast Asha and Enoch are on the bike. Zipping here, turning there. The happy parents are getting a good dose of cardio. Every evening when Enoch wakes up from his nap - its downstairs to the bike. And when Asha comes home from school - a few rounds before it gets dark.

Then we decided to change the bike a bit. Off came the training wheels. And suddenly everything is different.

The parents have to run faster - and hold the seat while Asha and Enoch try to balance. The falls have started. Tears. 'I don't want to cycle'. 'I want the training wheels back on.'

I thought back to a sunny afternoon many years ago. I had been given a small cycle which Mum's uncle Karl had contstructed using parts found in the near-by scrapyard. We were in dusty Versova - a small village in those days. Dad ran along - behind my 5 year-old self - holding the back of the seat. 'Don't let go Daddy' I called. He did. I fell. My short pants did not protect my knees. Again up. Again on. 'Don't let go Daddy...'

Then the magical moment. 'Don't let go Daddy' - but he was far behind - I had gone on my own for a significant stretch without knowing it.

After that there was no going back. Scrapes or no scrapes - I had to ride.

Asha and Enoch are not quite there yet. The training wheels are back on. They are happy. But it is the happiness of limitations. I yearn for them to leave the wheels behind. To stop driving a big tricycle (quadricycle?) and to do justice to the beautiful blue bike they have.

Isn't it true for most of our life's experiences? We hold on to the familiar, the safe - even though it is so much less than what our heavenly Father wants for us.

'Don't let go Daddy' we cry out.

'Ouch - why did you let us fall?'

Its only rarely that we look back and see God allowing us to take the exhilerating swoop of freedom that comes from doing what He has made us to be.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
This is what the ancients were commended for. Heb 11.1-2

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Disturbing the peace

(c) Anil Surya

The men came. A mob of them. Barging into an old mission hospital. Loud shouts. Slogans raised. Smashing things.

A mission hospital where for many years almost nothing was happening. After the foreign missionaries had left, a previous medical superintendent had run it as a personal kingdom. When he was ousted by the parent organisation, this man had sent a drummer to the villages to announce that the hospital was shut down - but his new clinic was open for business.

A mission hospital where many prayers for true transformation had been made. And where after years of struggle some real results are being seen. Hundreds of children attending new schools started in the surrounding villages. Patients coming into the hospital after years. A wholeistic community health and development programme - which is linked to local believers making courageous steps of faith.

The town is called "Kachhwa" (literally 'Tortoise') - a sleepy forgotten place in the badlands of eastern UP. The district Mirzapur - famous for its previous member of parliament - the notorious ex-lady-bandit Phoolan Devi - who was murdered while in office. The people who barged in - who physically assaulted Dr. Raju Abraham - leaving a deep gash near his eye from a thrown stone ---- who are these people?

Members of the same organisation that promotes 'service to the nation' - and who cannot stand the idea of anything other than a Hindu fascist state emerge. Never mind that the hospital had been given government permission to hold its meeting for 400 parents and children from the schools (catering largely to lower caste students). Never mind that for years and years people in villages surrounding this sleepy town continue to send their children to lightless rooms where there nimble fingers and small bodies are used hour after hour to make rugs. Never mind that this is India shining - the land of the free. If the RSS says that you can't meet - then you can't meet. Police permission be damned.

And if you dare to go against the organisation that is seen as disturbing the peace.

Please pray for our country - where incidents like this continue on and on. Those who come in and smash up things are let 'off' - and those who are smashed up are accused of 'hurting sentiments' - 'provoking' etc. etc. The constitution seems far away from things at Kachhwa.

But our prayers make a difference. Pray and pray hard!

P.s. you can read a small news item about this incident here

You can send a note of encouragement to Dr. Raju Abraham and the folks at Kachhwa Christian Hospital to:

Thursday, 16 August 2007


Untitled - 1996 (c) Yashpal Chandrakar

We were having supper with our brother Upendra 2 weeks ago. The conversation came around to the internet - and the possibilities of tracking down people we had lost contact with.

"It doesn't work - we tried twice to find Sucharita" we told Upendra. "Lets try again" came the response. Upendra tried to find 'Sucharita's on the net. Nothing seemed to fit. Wrote a note to various Sucharitas at yahoo, rediffmail, gmail etc. No response.

Sucharita was Sheba's dear friend from 3rd to 11th standard in Rourkela. She had then gone to Shanti Niketan (the universtity founded by Rabindranath Tagore) to study art. Shortly afterwards she got married. Sheba only met her once after that. Sucharita's father moved away from Rourkela. We had often talked about somehow meeting Sucharita. And prayed.

Then the break-through. Somehow Sheba said that name of Sucharita's husband: Yashpal Chandrakar. Having drawn blank with 'Sucharita' - we were not expecting much. Amazingly we got multiple 'hits'! Yashpal is an artist of some repute and has shown and sold his work in many galleries. A short bio of Yashpal can be seen: here.
Man with Lotus, limited edition print (c) Yashpal Chandrakar

We couldn't find an email address though. So we did the next best thing - we wrote to the galleries. The next day an email came back from one of them with an email address. We sent a note and waited. Days went by. No response.
On Tuesday night at 11.30 we were in a prayer meeting with our church - praying for our country which awakened to freedom on the mid-night hour 60 years ago. The mobile started to ring. Quietly of course. We didn't know the number so we ignored it. The calls came repeatedly. Then they stopped.
The next morning at 7 - another call. "Can I speak to Bethsheba please?" a man's voice asked.
"Who is it?" Andi asked sleepily, having hit the sack at a ripe 3 AM.
"I am Yashpal Chandrakar"
Needless to say - any sleep evaporated faster than the first drop of monsoon rain on a hot tin roof!
The next hour was a whirlwind of finding out what has happened over 20 years. Suchrita and Yashpal have children in 9th and 10th standards and live outside Delhi. "Your husband is a famous artist" Sheba told Suchrita - "No, he is a good artist" replied her recently-found friend.
We have an invitation to attend the opening of Yashpal's next show - at Jehangir Art Gallery on the 24th of Sept.
The whole Chandrakar family will be there. Us Eichers too (D.v.).

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

National Hero

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. Our first law minister. Freedom fighter. Contrarian. Visionary. The first Dalit to get a PhD in the US. Chairman of the Constitutional Drafting Committee. The father of the Indian Constitution.
Today Enoch was asked to come to school dressed up as an 'Indian National Leader'.
He went as Ambedkar. A man who purposely wore a western suit to set himself apart from other national leaders who were wearing khadi - the home-spun cotton that was used by many as a sign of swadeshi - of self-sufficiency and self-rule without the British.
Ambedkar said famously. 'I was born a Hindu, but I will not die as one.'
And he did not. He converted to Buddhism, along with a large proportion of the lower / outcaste followers that he galvanised.
Much has been made about why Ambedkar did not convert to be a follower of the Lord Jesus. There are many apocryphal stories. Including a story of 4 bishops trying to woo Ambedkar to their fold etc. Similar to stories that say that if only Gandhi had met a 'real Christian' (whatever that means) he would have become one... Only judgement day will really tell.
There is however an interesting claim made in a recent book by Arthur McPhee called "The Road To Delhi: Bishop Pickett Remembered". In it McPhee says that Ambedkar - who was a close friend of the Methodist Bishop J. Waskom Pickett twice asked Pickett to baptise him - secretly. Pickett refused.
The key seems to be the requested secrecy. Baptism is not to be done hidden - it is a public declaration of internal change within - and allegiance to the Lord Jesus. It seems that Ambedkar looked at the options - counted the cost - and sadly chose the trappings of power over following the wounded healer.
What will we be remembered for? As great a man as Ambedkar was - easily the man whose ideas and aspirations have the most powerful impact in the on-going experiment that our country affords - his true legacy will ultimately be measured not in centuries but in millenia - by the power of millenia. Strangely, in that calculus, the tiny acts of obedience of the littlest known follower of the man from Nazareth town take a greater weight than all the apparently world shaping acts of the powerful (even if they have come up from among the powerless).
I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children,
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. - Mat. 18.3

Sunday, 12 August 2007


No comments needed.

The shot taken was taken at our previous residence in 2003. We had minimal furniture - so Stefan was lying on our living room mattress.

India Shining

(c) Eric Gran -

Take a look at the man holding the lights.

Its a cold night in Cuttack - in December 1998. A wedding procession is out - the scion of a mining company is getting married at the cricket stadium. The band is playing the latest Bollywood hits and the guests are dancing on the street as the groom rides the white horse.

A generator perched on the back of the orchestra vehicle sets up a bass throb below the trumpets and the vibrating electronic keyboard. Linked to the gen-set are wires that go out to two rows of men - cold, thin, shivering men - and some women - who are carrying the lights. Two rows of walking lights.

I was there that night. And so was my friend Eric Gran who took this haunting picture. Eric has the unique ability to inobrusively blend in wherever he is. The invisible American. A quiet, unassuming, humble man, he is at home with beggars and kings. And his camera quietly clicks.

I remember feeling so foolish - being with the dancers - and yet being escorted by these shivering, malnourished light holders. I forgot about the experience - only reminded recently when I came across Eric's website and saw the image of the light-bearer.

Eric has been criticised for showing our country in a bad light. The crux of the matter is in the light-carrier himself. Most of us are blind to him - and the many, many others like him. For those of us who live in appartments he is just another of the many transient, migrant and likely to be alcholic losers who flit by - the men who work on construction sites and as security guards.

We are blind by volition.
I remember a class-mate of mine at Yale earnestly telling others there that "it really isn't that bad in India. I know lots of people and none are really poor." Living in his posh, gated South-Delhi community, this brilliant young man was speaking the truth - his cook, gardener, driver and sweeper were all well taken care of. The others ...

I grew up next to a family who lived on the pavement. We lived cheek-by jowl. The distance between us was the width of a brick. They were out on the street. We were enclosed by 4 walls. They were flooded every monsoon - huddling under the bus shelter when the waters rose (and it did each year). We were inside - and had the luxury of a garden with trees and a common lawn. Their arguments and bickering crossed the walls to us. Nothing is secret on the street. Did our prayer meetings and songs reach out to them?
Urban squalor eats you up.

You want to run away and shout. You get angry and frustrated. You want to take extreme steps. Most of us adopt a cold-hearted tactic. We ignore it. Though we don't want to admit it, we just put it out of our mind.

Do we see someone defecating besides the train-tracks? Blank it out. Do we see a destitute woman clearly in need of help? Don't have the time. Do we see the appalling bits of refuse that people live under and in? It's their fault - should have stopped drinking - get working...

We are about to celebrate 60 years of independence of our beloved country. On August 15th our daughter Asha will go to school and sing the national anthem. We will wave our little plastic flags. Given so much squalor and cynicism, is there much, or even anything to celebrate?

We were discussing in the youth study at our home this evening - looking at the prophetic picture spoken through Isaiah (ch. 26). A picture of a future day when justice rules. When a city is known for salvation. A holy nation.

How far we seem from that time. And yet, Isaiah saw the same squalor in his day. And our Lord said that the coming Kingdom had already begun. We live both in the now and the in future. Both in the often dispiriting picture of abject depravity - and in the complete confidence that we as adopted children to King Jesus are being transformed - and are already blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places. This is not an airy-fairy kind of belief. We know that we are in a passing phase - an important one - but one which is a prelude to a time when justice will reign and righteousness will flow like a river.
Isaiah puts it this way:

Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.
He humbles those who dwell on high,
he lays the lofty city low;
he levels it to the ground and casts it down in the dust.
Feet trample it down -
the feet of the oppressed
the footsteps of the poor. (Is. 27:5-6)

Stefan has made a number of paintings on the dignity - and hope - that is there for and through the poor. These two are called Child of God 1 & 2. The dyptich is oil and gold flakes on canvas - with cut-outs and a photo in each of the figures painted of a small child. The destitute are very very precious. So precious that our Lord refused to remain in His glory - but became an orphan, refugee, homeless wanderer - was called a bastard and was executed as a criminal.
Such love...

(c) Stefan Eicher -

India Shining? A previous government tried to get re-elected on that 'feel-good' slogan. We have great hopes for our country - and know that we are privileged to live in exciting times. We know that each light-holder in Cuttack and other mofussil towns, each and every urban destitute person in Delhi and Mumbai, each and every peasant in Eastern UP is very precious in our Lord's eyes.

Oh, may we have His heart of love. And may we see our nation become a tree of healing to all nations.

Please pray for India. Jai Hind! And Jai Yeshu!

Friday, 10 August 2007

Guns and Butter

Andi's mother grew up in war. The 2nd World War.

She spent three years away from her parents. Because of the Allied bombs that were falling on her home town of Leipzig, Germany.

As a six year old she was sent to be with her relatives in the country side - while her parents continued to live in the fear that their house would be blown apart by high explosives dropped at night by American and British airplanes.

It was only when she was 9 years old that she made her way across the destruction that was Germany at that time - and saw her parents again.

Needless to say toy guns were a no-no in the Eicher household.

Needless to say, guns were a great source of intrigue for young Andi.

Needless to say, when young Enoch builds a lego toy and tells his father excitedly that it is something used in war-time, the stomache tightens.

I ask: "What is it?" while looking at a long yellow protruding piece that looks suspiciously like the gun barrel of a tank. "Its a light - so that they can see at night" chirps Enoch...

So far.

Its been some days since Andi has heard gun shots.

The kind he heard in Churchandpur when a grenade was thrown at the Bihar regiment - and the soldiers went through town shooting.

The kind he heard in New Haven, Connecticut - the richest per capita income state in the US of A. When Andi heard fire-works - only they were not crackers - they were bullets in the drug wars between rival dealers for crack cocaine.

Could this be the land of the Free?

I was reminded of this recently by my calling our colleagues in Jharkhand. By mobile!

Asha's birth certificate had been misplaced. The school called up saying they would expel her if we did not produce her original one within a set time. I called up my colleagues at Nav Jivan Hospital to see if they could go to the village registrar and have another one made up.

"Of course - don't worry!" came the cheerful reply from Lukas Prakash.

The days crept by. The photocopy that I sent finally arrived there. Then it was time to badger the registrar (the Panchayat Sevak - "Village Council Servant"). "Yes, Yes, he will surely do it."

Then the Maoist called a day-long blockade. Everything shut down. Over there in Jharkhand at least. The Panchayat Sevak spent his day laying low. Did he watch old movies on a CD player? Did he watch the latest masala song-and-dance on TV? Who knows?

What we do know is that large areas of our country are still under the law of the gun. An 'underground' group here calls for a bandh (total strike) and everyone has to obey. A group of jungle-dwelling revolutionaries declares something else - and all the people have to put up with their demands. The permanently patrolling armed forces say something in another part of our Land - and the locals have to bow down.

All this while I go to the supermarket to buy frozen chicken. The package has the date printed on it - showing that it was slaughtered this morning - along with its weight and cost.

As we come close to celebrating our 60th Anniversary of Indepedence next week - spare a thought for how many are still under the gun - while the urban islands swim in butter.

Could this be the land of the Free?

Jai Hind!


photo taken by Stefan Eicher on his Manipur trip in Dec 2005

Winner - part 2

I had the privilege of attending a funeral wake today.
Our monsoonal Mumbai cleared up for a bit and we actually had some rays of sun. The cool leafy green of the trees in the small compound framed the scene - a ground floor of the appartment where Uncle had lived his last days - now a meeting point to thank God for his life.
The group was singing Hindi songs - Sione Desh, Hamare He Desh (Zion country, its our Country...)
The coffin was open. Uncle's body was there - the family was around it - his quietly greiving wife, Varkey his son, Nancy his daugther in law, one grand child sat for some time - the other was playing outside.

It is good to go to funerals. We taste life so much stronger in the presence of death.

We also realise how absolutely wrong death is. Stanley talked about this. His words were light - his bearing dignified but not stooped. His hope was clear. God's words spoke through Stan.

Uncle is no more - we do not pray for his soul - we know that Jesus is delighted with him. While we know the family feels his loss - it is death that is the real enemy. And Jesus has stretched out his hands wide enough to swallow death and all its horrors - and so we do not grieve like those without hope.

We cry. And I did. But with the real knowledge that God is here. And that death has been defeated - if we trust Jesus.

He is our champion.

Both as the victor and conquerer - and as our advocate and guide.

See you soon Uncle!

Thursday, 9 August 2007

The Winner

A man dying of AIDS. Or rising?

Three days ago one of our men died.

He lives only 10 min walk from my house. He lives 100 years away from my house. I never went to his room. Now he is 'no more'.

Eknath (a pseudonym) drowned in alcohol. His sister tried to pull him out. She attended a local church. Some times. Eknath's small son tried his part. Eknath's wife had left long ago - unable to handle the drunkeness and destruction any more. His father was disgusted with his son - but even in the last days - the family supplied the booze. It was easier dealing with Eknath that way.

Eknath came to our centre for admission last year. He was almost dead - we prayed and took the risk of admitting him. Amazingly he responded to TB treatment. He regained his health and weight. When Eknath came to visit a few weeks later we could barely recognise him as the same person who had been admitted in a semi-conscious state earlier.

Sadly the bottle did not respond to medications. Eknath worked for a company that set up decorations for weddings, parties, religious festivals, political meetings. Late nights, long hours, liquor. We saw less and less of him - and when the JSK men met him it was more often than not that Eknath was enebriated.

In the last weeks we made it a point to visit him frequently - with daily visits for palliative care in the last days. He hardly spoke, and alternated between deep anger and frustration - and a kind of helpless acceptance of his fate. The family refused to take him to any other hospital - they had come to their end. And Eknath came to his.

On one of the last visits, Rahul shared again about Jesus with Eknath. We had shared the love of God with Eknath before, but he had not been very interested. On this day Eknath could hardly move. His mouth was full of sores from his oral candidiasis. He had not been eating and so was emaciated. Rahul asked if he wanted to pray - and Eknath moved his head slightly and closed his eyes. He did not have the strength to speak. What went on in his mind only the Lord knows.

We have no easy answers to much of the brokeness around us. But we do know that a murderer looked across to another cross and asked the Lord of Glory - who was dying - naked and stripped of flesh - "Remember me, when you come into your Kingdom." Our Lord Jesus - in the agony of his own death - looked across to the dying bandit and with love told him "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise"

Farewell our dear Eknath.

Our prayer is that Jesus was able to say to you. "I love you and accept your repentence - join me in my joy!"

A man dying of AIDS. Or rising?

The Winner.


The Winner is part of a tryptich painted by Stefan Eicher

- the artist can be reached at

- other work by Stefan and artists who love Jesus can be seen at:


How do we decide what to do?

At the beginning of each day we have a feast of hours, minutes and seconds ahead of us.

At the end of the day these seem to have all but evaporated.

Daniel is my hero in this matter.

An administrator (possbily a eunuch) who one of the three officials was placed incharge of 120 satraps (no light-weights themselves) Daniel is the "able administrator." The emporer planned to set him over the entire kingdom because he 'so distinguished himself... by his exceptional qualities."

And yet this is a man who prays three times a day.

A man whom the king later says: "has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?"

A person in whom his enemies were unable to find any charges against him beacuse he was neither corrupt nor negligent - and these were not school-yard bullies but very powerful and evil men.

The secret of Daniel's success? Integrity and placing God first. Always.

What a challenge for us.

We constantly need guidance - in things big and small.

Daniel shows the way.
  • A man who scheduled the affairs of the empire around his personal prayer time (and the affairs did not suffer - but rather prospered!).

  • A man who made consistent stands for what he believed in from the days of his training (sparking perhaps the first recorded dietary case-control study).

  • A man who talked to God - and received answers - and acted on them.
Dare to be a Daniel, Dare to stand alone, Dare to have a purpose grand, Dare to make it known...

Wednesday, 8 August 2007


Mum and Dad Eicher showed their love to us in many ways.

One of them was the Eicher birthday party.

An afternoon (later evening) of games and food, with a specially shaped cake fashioned by Dad (now called Opa Eicher).

We are privileged to see some of this continue in our kids.

One addition that we have made is to choose a Bible verse for the birthday girl / boy and make a poster.


Asha turned a ripe 6 earlier this year.

It seems hardly possible that the earth has circled the sun 6 times already since those dramatic days in Tumbagarah village in Jharkand state (where we were serving at the Nav Jivan Hospital).

Asha's due date was the end of January - and we felt it would be possible for him to go to Delhi to attend an EHA conference. He had hardly got there when an announcement was made - phone call for Andi. On the line was Dad Eicher - there was decreased foetal movement - they were going to go ahead with a caesarian section latest the next morning.

How to get back? The train to Delhi had been delayed for 11 hours because of fog. To get a flight? To reach? Prayers went up - and it was possible. That night a flight to Patna, Bihar. Being picked up after mid-night by faithful Elias Bara. Driving through the night through sleeping towns and along the darkened highway. Finally, coming to Nav Jivan at 7.30. Walking into the hospital room and giving the bouquet from the flight to the beaming (and very large) mother-to-be Sheba.

Six years since we heard Asha's first cry - another miracle as Asha had been a 'placenta previa' (the placenta covering the birth exit) and was born with the umbilical chord twisted around her.

And so we celebrate each year. This time with a heart-shaped cake and a small party where Asha's best friends Nikita and Jasper came to from Borivali. Joined by Urvashi and Hrishav from church, Guddu from school and Suhani and Suvarna from next door, a splendid time was had by all!

All our kids have mouthfulls of names, but we love them so much that we couldn't help but give them multiple names!

This year we were blessed to have both sets of grandparents with us for Enoch's birthday!

The original cake-meister himself, Opa, worked hard and we had another master-piece - the Doulos shaped cake!

Last May we were privileged to spend a night on board the OM ship Doulos when it was visiting Vishakapatnam. Sleeping in bunk beds and eating 'strange' food (read non-Hindusthani khana) was an unforgettable experience for us all.
We were blessed to be share about the HIV work with the staff in a night of prayer as well and were so encouraged to see how much OM is working to equip the church to reach out to people with HIV.

This Amma and Appa were also with us. Enoch was blessed with an absolute cracker of an outfit (see pic) which he has worn to great effect since!

More than gifts, what our parents bring is their love and prayers. We realise as we work through the challenges of parenting how much they have loved us (and how little we have been able to express our appreciation).

Our children (and us) receive a daily gift of prayer from both Mum and Dad and Amma and Appa - numerous times!
Its something money cannot buy.

Oh, that we would keep this living 'tradition' alive with our children too.

The evenings festivities for Enoch were enlivened by a small by sprightly group of friends. Alistair and Freya Black were present and added their own charms to a room that was already bursting with beauty.

Its amazing to realise that we have now been in Thane for well over 4 years!

When we arrived, Enoch was very much present, but very much inside Sheba. Even today people are still telling Sheba that she has 'lost weight' since the only Sheba most know are immediately pre- and post-Enoch!

Enoch was a second C-section. He decided that he would put himself feet first just before his due date and so Dr. Ashalatha decided to use the scalpel.

Andi was one of the few fathers who has been able to be present at a birth at Lok Hospital, where Enoch was born. That makes it 2 out of 2 births for Andi!

Our hearts are really filled with gratitude at the many, many different ways that God has heard prayers and answered them.

Birthdays are great ways to remember this.

We are so grateful to our families for all that they have done for us - and for our parents for being with us during this special day!


Giving plenty of names is not just a Thane Eicher phenomenon!

Our wonderful Stefan and Neeru were in Mumbai for 2 months, and we had the joy of celebrating Ashish's first birthday together!

We so appreciate Stefan and Neeru for making the choice to let Neeru train lawyers from the International Justice Mission in Mumbai - because it allowed us to meet a number of memorable times together.

One of the hardest part of our lives is being so far away from people with love.

Their decision to come here and spend these days was such a gift to us - and has left us with a wealth of happy memories.

Ashish is an absolute charmer. He loves doing things - an active crawler and expert thrower (future cricketer?) the lad cannot sit still.

Following his multi-talented father's footsteps, Ashish gets tremendously excited whenever he sees a guitar!

There was no question about what shape the cake was going to be!

"We're glad God made you, we're glad God made you, we're sooooooooooooooooooooooooooo glad God made you, Happy Birthday to you!"

A year has gone by since the Lord brought Asha and Enoch's wonderful cousin into this world.

We look back and thank God for helping out in multiple ways. He is doing a great work in and through Stefan and Neeru, and to see the little one was such a blessing to us.

Asha and Enoch just could not get enough of Ashish - and are already hoping and praying for their next visit with him.

As parents we are grateful to see such life and joy. In the middle of so much suffering and cruelty, our kids do give us hope. They remind us that God has a better tomorrow - and a great today!

Thanks for coming along with us on this journey!

Monday, 6 August 2007

His renown

How do we remain focussed on God in a world that sweeps us into the sheer flux of see-hear-feel reality?

As I write the rain is pouring, just pouring, outside. I have receieved an SMS that father of a dear friend of ours has been put on a ventilator at Lok Hospital. Asha and Enoch are sleeping (I hope). The flat is silent but for the sound of the fridge and the rain outside. Sheba has crashed. My left upper arm has been paining due to a mild case of spondilitis (nerves being pressed on my part of my neck vertebrae). Its night and the day is soon around the corner.

A challenging thought is to consider "God's renown" in the middle of the blender of life that we find ourselves in.

Isaiah 26:8 Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.

May my whole self hold true to what Isaiah says. Would that every fibre of me would seek to honour God and see that His glory is understood. Not in some pie-in-the-sky abstract sense - but in the real life business of seeing God in what He does. In living life according to a deeper truth than what is on the surface (even when it seems foolish to do so). In 'cherishing each God-given day'. In 'knowing God and making Him known.' In living out a covenant life in the community of other sinners like us who are being changed into being like God.

Amazing stuff.

p.s. I was put on the Isaiah passage by the group that runs the Passion conferences:

A Century of Planting?

In early March we met up with Mum and Dad at the Maharashtra Bible College - in Bodwad village - about an hour from Bhusaval, in our great state of Maharashtra.
This is where our great-grandfather Christian Eicher (appropriate name) helped start a training institute for village evangelists in 1907.
A 100 years later this training centre is now the Maharasthra Bible College - a co-ed Marathi medium college that prepares men and women for ministry - and has traditionally taken students from village back-grounds who would otherwise not be able to get Bible training.
Being the centenary year we were invited to be part of the graduation for the Bible students - it was humbling to see the eager students get their degrees. One of them was a member of a tribal community - and his the lady members of his family came dressed in striking bright clothes - with mirrors sewn in liberally. It was a real affirmation of what God can - and will do.
On the evening before the graduation ceremony Dad gave a chapel message - Andi got to share about God's heart for people with HIV - and Asha and Enoch sang a song. Generations 3, 4 and 5 were able to share God's love - in the very church where Mum and Dad got married 40 years ago this year!
What will our descendants be like 100 years in the future? What legacy are you and I creating for ourselves?
Looking at the small campus - with its one old style mission bungalow (behind us in the pic above) - and its small class room building (no chairs seemed to be in them), little library and the chapel - and the humble row of barracks where the students lived... I could not help but wonder.
The college has had its hard knocks for sure - there were leaders who up-and-left in the middle of the night. It is easy to see the failures - and make a quick judgment - but God has also allowed this place to survive - and to keep being a service to the Church.
Eternity will tell.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Mumbai Darshan with the Delhi Eichers

Family history anyone?

Here we are. A ripe 2 decades after we left our home at Nana Chowk, standing in front of it. For some reason "Elim" seems to have shrunk from the huge size it was when I was a lad. Maybe the 20 successive monsoons had something to do with it...

Maybe it had to do with the 45 story appartment building that was built on the other side of the road. What will happen when the under construction 65 story building (so we are told) comes us we don't know. The little fire station next to it still has its training tower and single fire truck though.

Stefan, Neeru and the delightful little Ashish gave us so much joy over the 2 months they were in Mumbai from late May to mid July!

On the last weekend our 'Delhi Eichers' were with us we borrowed a car from bro Jolly - our house church elder - and headed into town. Up and down and all around!

After seeing the 'Ancestral Home' at Nana Chowk, we walked over the Mani Bhavan, the house where Mahatma Gandhi lived in when he was in Bombay. It still has the recreation of his room and the room full of doll-sized dioramas picturing his life - the same as we saw when we used to trot over as boys in our short-pants.

Then on to the top of Malabar hill. We parked the car next to our first school and the charming little CNI church - and had to include a visit to the 'boot house' at Kamala Nehru park (Asha and Kim - the lady helping Stefan and Neeru - are on the balcony while Enoch mans the ground floor) - before downing a picnic lunch at the 'Hanging Gardens' (a large municipal park built on a water tank that supplies much of down-town Mumbai.

Next stop for us 'out-of-towners' was Marine Drive and a quick peek at the Taroparvala Aquarium. As we were piling back into the car we saw some foreigners coming towards us. Among the 16 million people plus in Mumbai - we run into Neeru's colleagues from the International Justice Mission who were in town for a conference Neeru and Stefan had just participated in.

Final stop was the Gateway of India. Couldn't help but get in the motor launches for a 30 min harbour cruise. Except this time we were doing it in the monsoon. No rain, no white-caps, but the sea was just the tiniest bit choppy. As a result, our huge boat went up and down like a cork. Good way to image what it must have been like for the hardened fishermen to wake up the sleeping Jesus and plead with him to save them.

A sampling of Mumbai evening traffic and a short stop at the famous Samosa wallah in Sion and we were back at Stefan and Neeru's appartment by 8 PM.

Friday, 3 August 2007

An Eicher day

So how does the Eicher day go by?

Pretty quickly it seems.

The elder Eichers get up fairly early (not saying when because it doesn't happen each day).

But after a cup of tea and time with God with His word and prayer... its time to get Enoch ready! From 6.50 to 7.30 is a rapid-fire set of activities - toilet, brushing teeth (sometimes a quick bath too).

Then on to the multi-tasking bit: breakfast, dressing up, shining shoes, not forgetting the ID card, reading a bible story - all more or less at the same time. The result - a spick and span lad who Daddy takes down to meet his bus at about 7.30 AM.

Junior KG for Enoch. His class is called 'Hummingbird' and he lives up to the name. By local standards, Enoch's pre-school is pretty laid-back and progressive. No tests. No school bag. A play area in the school hall. School from 8 - 11 AM. An instruction "do not send your child for coaching classes" (ignored by many parents).

With Enoch on the bus - Andi heads over to the JSK centre while Sheba wakes up Asha and feeds her and then supervises her homework.

In the meantime - Mary - the elderly lady who has started helping us in the home arrives. A meal is cooked and the house is cleaned up.

Andi puts in an hour or so of office work and then starts off the official JSK day at 9 AM with a time of devotions. After a few songs, we all take turns to prepare a short meditation on scripture. A prayer later and the JSK field visiting staff are out meeting people with HIV in their homes.

Sheba joins work at 11 AM and generally sees patients at the centre. Each person who comes has so many different needs:

- A young man who has just found out that he is HIV positive - when his expecting wife had her routine HIV test as part of her ante-natal care

- A middle-aged widow who has come for advice on how to deal with her rebellious adolescent son. Her major concern not so much her own HIV, but what is happening to her boy.

- A young widow who has come to have her young son checked up as he has been falling sick regularly.

Each person someone who Jesus loves very much. Someone whom Jesus has asked us as His followers to touch and love in His name.

In the mean time Andi has headed over to supervise Mary. She has gone down to pick up Enoch from the school bus and now Asha is eating an early lunch. At 12.30 Asha is down at the school bus wearing her white and blue uniform and carrying an very heavy school bag.

Asha just loves school.

Everything about it. The reading and writing. The songs and poems. The physical excercises and the occasional special event.

A proud student of standard 1, Asha is in her element.

Her teacher feels the same and seems to have asked her to become a 'monitor' for the class.

Her classes are from 1 PM to 6 PM, getting her back as a tired by happy girl just before 6.30.

Each evening we are regaled with a steady chatter of stories of what went on 'at school.' What the teacher asked her to do. Who said what. How this boy needed to be helped. We have no lack of entertainment or information - our lack of a TV is more than compensated for by Asha Channel and Enoch Channel.

Before Asha left, Andi had a quick lunch and then put Enoch to bed for his afternoon nap. Armed with Sheba's lunch in a tiffin it is off back to JSK.

1-2 PM is more office work (the computer seems to be Andi's best friend at the moment). Then from 2-3 we meet with the JSK team to discuss the previous day's home-visits.

The accounts are often depressing. We are dealing with over 150 contacts in Thane who are sick with HIV - and most of the time our staff concentrate on those who are most sick and have the most messed-up lives. It is hard not to feel at times that we are swimming helplessly against an overwhelming incoming tide.

But then there are stories like Mr. Babulnath. A man who has been very depressed and sad, Mr. B was visited recently by 2 of our male staff. As they went to his house they passed a man selling roses. Remembering what our brother Stefan had said during a recent workshop with staff on seeing beauty in their work (see pic below) the staff decided to buy Mr. Babulnath a rose.

But not just a cut rose. An actual small flowering rose plant. Rs. 15 instead of Rs. 5. The effect was amazing. When they went into the house it was dark with depression. As they gave the rose plant to Mr. Babulnath, it was as if a light had been turned on. There was such a beautiful sense of hope that came into that small room.

There is hope - despite the often seemingly all-pervading gloom.

After a prayer, our team leaves for the afternoon home-visits to people with HIV. Sheba then heads back home (our 2 min walk between the flat and the centre is such a God-send). Andi continues to do odds and ends till 6 before calling it a day. One of the current tasks Andi does at JSK is helping support the YAA clubs (adolescent groups run by churches to help young people make wise choices in their lives) and prepare for the YAA Festival on the 1st of Dec.

The day doesn't end there though for the Eichers. Enoch gets up around 5 PM and has 'special time with Mummy' - sometimes with a small walk in the park of the housing complex ("Happy Valley" is the name!). Asha gets off the school bus at 6.30, met by Sheba and Enoch and then we decide what we will do for the evening.

Our house church has started meeting in 3 different homes on Sundays - but we still meet up fairly often during the week. Wed nights are a time for some of the men to pray together (9.30-10.30 PM!). Friday nights are reserved for an on-going Bible study which rotates between different homes (8.30-10.30 PM) and we host the youth group from all the three fellowships on Saturday evenings at our home.

If we decide not to go out and meet someone, but to 'stay at home', then it is usually Lego time for Andi and Enoch, which Asha tells all that went on.

Supper is flexible - anytime from 7 to 10 PM. Then getting kids ready for bed. A short family devotion and prayer and Asha and Enoch are in bed. Their tired parents are usually in bed too.

Till the early the next morning that is...

Sweet dreams