Our Friday afternoon staff review meeting often ends up as a rather melancholy affair. And its also often fairly warm too.
We have about 180 positive friends in Thane who we meet regularly through the home-based care work of Jeevan Sahara.
On Friday afternoons we discuss some of cases. Usually the difficult and serious situations. Often our friends are in such a mess that there seems very little that can be done.
It doesn't make for a very happy talk.
Sometimes the stories are almost episodic - with each fortnight or so bringing about a new twist to the tale.
Today's twist was a revelation that about a man from the family in which we now have the largest number of positive friends: four members. Besides him, his wife and two of their 6 kids are infected with HIV. This man is known for his drinking and wasting money. His wife looks like a walking skeleton.
Today it turns out that besides the above, this man is also some kind of a thief - stealing materials from some of the building sites that keep sprouting up in Thane. He is said to get over Rs. 10,000 per month for this. But his wife remains starving.
The money dissappears with cards. When we went to give her the TB meds this morning at 10 am, she was still trying to make a simple breakfast. He was out of the house. Their late-teens son has taken after his father's shiftiness - and the father won't stand it and has asked his wife to throw out all the sons clothes and get rid of him.
Misery loves company. And brings more of the same.
A few stories like this and you feel crushed. What can be done. What should be done?
The scripture song goes: 'put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, lift up your hands to God..." So we did. We stood up. Praised. Prayed.
We serve a great God who wants His children to do acts of loving kindness - obeying Him and delighting in Him. We had earlier learned through some of the SALT training materials how "Kingdom Math" was different - God wants even the poor to be generous and to share - even the destitute to be kind to each other and love their neighbours - and that too not just in word, but in deed too!
I would like to be able to write the following: and then everthing worked out perfectly, and everyone was totally encouraged since all the possible problems were solved.
No. The challenges of this family continue. As do the many others who are living through the wide set of problems that people with HIV go through (which often mirror the challenges people without HIV may have). These are not going to go away immediately - but we do see some steps forward.
It may be just a small cloud, the size of a fist rising over the sea, but a new day is coming. Really.
These are the days of Elijah...