40 years is a life time.
40 years can be several life-times.
We had the wonderful privilege of celebrating 40 years of God's faithfulness to Ray and Christa Eicher - Mum and Dad to us - on the 20th of Jan 08.
On Dec 23rd 1967 Raymond E. Eicher and Christa Roesli Fischer became Ray and Christa Eicher. Married on our grandparents - Elmore and Alice's mission station at Bodwad, Maharasthra, Mum and Dad chose a life of mutual love and cherishing - from which we have reaped blessing upon blessing.
And not only our direct family.
Mum and Dad have had very big hearts over the years. Our family is spread all across the globe. Many have said that they do not remember a word of what Dad spoke during the conferences but they do remember him sitting and praying with them - they do remember the cup of coffee or fried egg that Mum made for them.
Growing up Eicher meant that we were rarely if ever 'alone' - our nuclear family around the dining table.
Far more often than not there was a guest - or two or three. At times we would walk out of our room and find hippies in the living room. Other times it was someone who just needed a bit of quiet and a book to read. Or to hear Mum play some songs on the piano.
One of the surprises we were able to pull of for our thanksgiving time with Mum and Dad on the 20th was to put together a retrospective of their lives - covering the 4 decades they have pilgrimmed together. We were deeply moved to be able to briefly cover their lives - and to see time and time again how good God has been. Through the tears and dissappointments - as well as through the times of great joy - God has never let Mum and Dad down. And has left a rich legacy of people who they have touched through their love and care.
It was great to have some of their old friends present - and to hear them share about what Mum and Dad have meant to them. Of course, a number were linked with OM and the pioneering work that Mum and Dad did through the mid 60s and onwards. What came out time and time again though was not the big scale actions - but even more so the love and respect that they had for people. It was humbling to realise just how many have been blessed through them.
Mum and Dad also shared what was on their hearts - their vision for each other and for seeing people released into the healing and joy that Jesus has for them.
The power of forgiveness is something that they both take pains to share - and to freely admit to having been blessed by themselves.
It is so very clear that these are normal saints - ordinary folks who have listened to what God has told them - and obeyed. Their own lives bear testimony to the transforming power of God - and the rich legacy of lives that have been deeply touched through the lives of Mum and Dad goes on and on.
We had the wonderful privilege of giving them a final surprise. Unknown to them, we had managed to get a copy of their master address list a week before. We stripped it of all the non-email bearing names, and sent out a letter to every email address we could find (over 1300 if I recall correctly) - asking them to send memories, photos, words of encouragement, bible verses, songs etc. to email@example.com
The response was phenomenal.
We received almost 300 contributions by people all over the world - and from all eras of Mum and Dad's lives. Detailed write ups of early OM days were pasted into the memory book next to neighbours accounts from Mussoorie and along side Ellel colleagues best wishes. And so on - an amazing cloud of witnesses who wrote in and photos, poems, and memories galore.
Mum and Dad were deeply moved by the whole time and absolutely floored by the book. They were in a lovely state of shock the next day - repeating their gratitude over and over again for the love that people had expressed for them.
The good book says that anyone who loses his life for God's sake will receive 100 fold in this life and eternal life after death. We see this in Mum and Dad - they have thousands of homes all around the world, thousands of brothers and sisters in many lands - though both are single children. We are so proud of them and challenged to live a life of love and devotion to Jesus which we see so richly in them.
Thanks Mum and Dad. We want to be more like you - and allow Jesus to shine more clearly through us!