Friday, 29 February 2008

Leap day

Here we are on a day we get once every 4 years - the proverbial leap day.
Growing up this day was notorious for being the birth date of a venerable politician who managed to be India's first non-Congress prime minister - the one and only Morarji Desai. As kids we were dimly aware of his role in helping topple Indira Gandhi in 1977. The one thing we all knew was that his birthday was on Feb 29th - and that he was a proponent of 'auto-urine' therapy - a drink that we called 'Moraji Cola' amidst gales of boyish laughter.
Later I found out that he had been living for years in an appartment in the posh Marine Drive part of south Mumbai - while paying a pittance of a rent because of the Rent Control act meant his land-lord was not able to increase the rent for tenants who had already taking the properties on rent. This is one of the reasons why vast parts of south Mumbai are decaying as the owners have stopped making any renovations decades ago - and the tenants continue to give the Rs. 40/ rent per month that their forefathers gave in 1940.
All that to say that today we get the four-yearly benefit of that extra 6 hours the earth uses to circle the sun each year. Other than a few silly advertisements about 'leaping for joy' (at the wonderful prices of an airconditioners) today's papers have not shown any interest in the 29th.
And that is how it should be. Other than the crucial fact that we have air to breathe, people to love, things to do, another day that God has given. Breathe deep, gentle reader. Will we see leap-day 2012? We have seen today and are glad.
"Cherishing each God-given day"

Thursday, 28 February 2008


On Monday Sheba took a huge step of faith and admitted a man who was very very sick.

So sick that his pulse could basically not be felt.

Over the last 3 days this man has been nursed back into life. His vomitting and diarrhoea have stopped. He has started eating. He is able to sit up. He went outside for a walk. He shaved off his beard. A new man.

On the outside at least.

Today he walked across the road. To smoke a bidi. His cough and weakness was not enough to keep him from getting his bit.

As he became more alive we realised that he was angry. Very angry.

When it came time to leave, he was a small sour and confused man. His main expression was regret that he had come. "I was told it would be free" he grumbled after his wife paid the small hospitalisation fee we asked from them. "I was this way before - I am not better."
Our miracle walked out the door followed by his caring wife. "He is hot in the head" she apologised on behalf her husband.
Miracles take place. Even now. Today.
But how many times the recipients of the miraculous do not recognise them! How many times it has been me walking out surlyly - when actually my heart should have been filled - with gratitude.

Phone call

Sheba got a call yesterday evening.

She often does. Our patients know our number and call at various times for various reasons.

This call was from a young cousin of an 8 year old girl and a 10 year old boy.

The 10 year old cousin brother has HIV. Both parents have died. The children are being looked after by their widower Grandfather.

This girl called up to know if one of our JSK staff could take her cousin brother for his monthly visit to Sion Hospital on Saturday - to get his Anti-retroviral medicines.

Her uncle needs to be admitted to hospital - he is an alcoholic and her grandfather is the only person who can be with him.

"Its very important that my brother takes his medicine" this girl told Sheba.

The sound of the voice was that of a young girl - the depth came from the age which comes from suffering.
Post script:
We got a call late this afternoon. Her uncle has died. Alcohol did him in. His father now has lost another son - to add to his son and daughter-in-law who died of AIDS.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Small world

Asha took her 'science' project to school today - Summer.

She made a small world to illustrate it.

One where people drink cool drinks and eat icecreams.

One where people go up to the hills - like the small hill-station of Matheran which generations of Mumbai-dwellers go to to cool off a bit. The Thane Eichers have not yet been to Matheran as a family, but we hope to rectify this omission! The charm of the place is that no cars are allowed, so you either walk or take a horse!
One of the best things about Matheran is getting there. There is a 100 year old toy train that chugs up the side of the hill - meandering its way up through forests full of monkeys.

Asha also reasoned that people go on picnics during summer. And wear funny straw hats. And go to the beach.
All of this recreated in her own little world. Courtesy of Enoch and Asha's duplo set. And some artistic direction by Asha's Dad. Other than some cutting and a few of the gluing segments, however - all was done by Asha herself.
How much our children are going to shape the world. Let see.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008


The Queen Elizabeth 2 is on her final journey. Many years of sailing the world are coming to an end. One of the passengers was a certain George Verwer who made a quick visit to Bombay in the early 80s to meet with Dad and other OM leaders.

In an age of the jet liner - the ocean liner seems an anachronism. Our anscestors sailed the sees on the Cunard and P&O lines. Usually the journey took weeks. Sometimes longer. When Dad was a boy it took him a good 7 months to sail from New York to Bombay (via Portugal and South Africa) during the 2nd world war.

There are still sailing ships that ply the sea. None more dear to our heart than the two (or is it three?) OM ships - the Doulos, the Logos 2 (on her final voyage to the caribbean) and the new Logos Hope. These ships have seen millions of people come on board at harbours across the world and leave with books and much hope! Mum and Dad had the privilege of praying the original Logos into being. We as a family had the privilege of spending a night on the Doulos in Vishakapatnam harbour in 2006! Happy sailing dear friends on OM ships - may you have a fair wind as you cross the seas for lasting hope!

Enoch Eicher, MD

Enoch Eicher, MD.

We have one Dr. Eicher so far. How many more? And when will the next one come about? What of the many years of study that Asha or Enoch (or Ashish) will have to put in to get trained in medicine?

Today it was a dress up day - Enoch's Jr. KG class celebrated 'grandparents' day and he was in a play showing the different 'helpers' - doctors fall into that category. He was dissappointed that his own grandparents weren't there - and we had to try and explain that Oma and Opa are in the US right now - while Ammama and Thatha are in Delhi. I wish we could have some 'adopted' grandparents for Asha and Enoch like we had when Stef, Premi and I were growing up.

But back to the white coat. The Yale Medicine magazine we get never fails to report on the ceremony when med students get to don the white coat. A powerful statement of belonging - jealously guarded by the med fraternity. Will one or two of the next gen Eichers follow Mummy's footsteps? Watch this space.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Stories that last

One of our staff who is HIV positive shared her story at the Church Member Training on Saturday.

When she talked about her husband dying she cried. It was the first time we have seen tears in her eyes - but there was a tremendous atmosphere of love in the room. She also shared how she had been started on anti-retroviral therapy - and had been very afraid to do so because of the many people she has seen suffering terribly from side-effects. She is so grateful that she has not only not had side effects - but that her CD4 count has gone up from 180 to 340 in just under 6 months! We are proud of her and know that God is doing His work in and through her.

One of the desires that we have at Jeevan Sahara is for God to unleash people with HIV to minister. Not only to receive physical and emotional and relational healing - but to also minister to others. Others with HIV as well as other circles of needy and broken people (place yourself in one of these - we all fit in at least one circle of brokeness).

We are heartened that God does not wait till we become perfect before using us.

The last 2 weeks have seen us joined by an HIV positive brother from the interior of Maharasthra. He has been sent by a church group as he has a great vision for reaching out to his community - as well as those with HIV. It has been wonderful to help train him up in basic home-care - and to see person after person touched when our brother tells them his story. God is using the weak to confound the wisdom of our very out-of-kilter world.

In the same week when with much fan-fare and razzmatazz the new India Professional League for cricketers announced absolutely mind-boggling pay packages for 44 days of work - we have been touched by two people with HIV who will never see their names and faces bandied about as eye-candy in the press. But what they do for God will be recorded for eternity. Yesterday's paper is already being stored to be sold to the old-paper-man. What is written on it is leaching out of my short-term memory. But what is done for the Kingdom will last - forever. Malachi 3.16.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Dahi Wadas

Illustration only - Sheba's real Dahi wada has not been photographed yet!
Our eyelids are drooping. But the delicious smell of Dahi Wada being made is in the air.
Its been a long weekend already - and more fun to come tomorrow.

Sunday - 17th
We had the excitement of picking up Asher McRae while he was sick on the last leg of his cycle trip from Kanyakumari to Thane (he is moving on towards Gangotri - via Gujarat, Rajesthan, Punjab and Harayana on Monday). We ended up doing a bit of nursing and a lot of talking as we as a family were blessed by this extraordinary young man.

Monday - 18th
Asher was with us. Great to get to know him a bit more. What a history and legacy he bears (and does so lightly). We are so grateful for God-honouring parents - and have seen Uncle Yip and Auntie Frieda McRae impact so many lives over the years.

Tuesday - 19th
Enoch celebrates his 5th birthday with the family and Asher in the morning and a wonderful party at night. This is the first year that Enoch is really, really excited about his birthday and the party. We have been talking about this for months. Asher spends the night with Sanjeev and others in the JSK men's hostel.

Wednesday - 20th
An afternoon meeting with 3 folk from a group who have worked with drug-users and alcoholics in Hong Kong. Very Jesus focussed. We would love to see folk like them come on board and help out with men who are in bondages to alcohol in our communities.
At night Men's prayer meeting at the Eichers. A good hour of power with the Lord from 9.30-10.30.

Thursday - 21st
Asher back with us for a night. Memory game with the kids. Songs of devotion at night - including a beautiful one Asher wrote during an especially difficult time in his faith. A spendid time was had by all.
Friday - 22nd
A team from SHALOM Delhi came to visit JSK. We have the privilege of hosting Mrs. Anne John and Mrs. Atula at our place till Monday. They join us for our Bible Study at Bro Jolly and Sis Suma's place. From 9 - 11 PM. Another late night.
Saturday - 23rd
JSK Church Partner Training - session 2. It was great to have an enthusiastic group of men and women with us. Like last session we see the very gracious hand of God at work. The interactions have been lively and the testimonies touching. God has such a heart for people with HIV and yearns for his body to reach out to its potential. Our training participants were very positive about the whole experience - and the sense of God's presence there. Prayers are being answered.

In the evening a wonderful time with Dr. Imrie at a gathering for Christian Doctors at Dr. Stephen Alfred's house. A short report can be seen by clicking here. How amazing to be with so many lovely people. Our eternity is something worth waiting for - esp. since we now have so many terrific brothers and sisters to look forward to meeting with then - and forever.

And so we are back to the making of dahi wadas. Sheba is just finishing them off - they are for a celebration meal after worship tomorrow at our Church at Samata Nagar house fellowship. Our small gathering of 4 families and 4 singles has been blessed with birthdays last week. Besides Enoch's birthday (which he shared with Sony-bhaiya), his church friend Sharon had one the next day, and his other big bhayia Ryan will be having his B-day tomorrow.

We are very tired - but very grateful to God for this life. Good night!

Wednesday, 20 February 2008


An amazing thing I just found out - we can transliterate into 5 Indian languages on this site.

Say I write Hindi using roman script like this for example: Mera naam Andi hai! - all I need to do is press a button and it turns to मेरा नाम अंडी है!

What's more, I can say - Tamil teri ma? and be pleased to see it written as: தமிழ் தெரி ம?

Whether it makes any sense is a different story alltogether!

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Birth-day anniversary

We had a lion of a time today - Enoch has turned all of 5 years old - and the phones were ringing. At one point we had two conversations going on with loved ones in the US - on the mobile with Daisy, Ramesh and Frankie - and on the land-line with Mum and Dad!

Enoch is 1/2 a decade old! It seems like just yesterday we moved to Thane with a very pregnant Sheba carrying the child who we found out on 19 Feb 03 was Enoch!

This year Enoch really was aware of his birthday. We have talked about this for weeks ahead of time. Enoch said that he would not be able to sleep the night before - because he was so excited.

It was lovely to gather with some of our dear friends - especially the ones of Enoch and Asha's age - and their loving parents!

We had games which had the kids excited - and parents who also wanted to join in the fun. The family tradition of a cake was also done - with this year's shape being a lion! The party thus took a bit of a jungle theme - though most of it was left to the imagination of children to fill in!

We are really blessed to experience so much beauty and joy. Our wonderful kids remind us that there is hope. We are so glad to have Enoch enliven our lives so much - and look forward to what God is going to do through him in the future!

Monday, 18 February 2008


I remember my first encounter with a mobile phone.

Kampala. Mid 1997. I had just landed at Entebbe airport, and was picked up by Stefan and a colleague in a large white Toyota landcruiser-like vehicle. The colleague pulls out a mobile and makes a call. I am almost dumbfounded. A mobile. In Africa. When I left the US in early 1996 people were still using satellite phones.

What a difference a decade makes. A short telecomunication revolution later - we are now swamped with all things mobile here in Bharat. And what a blessing it is.

We received an email some weeks ago telling us that Asher McRae was heading up the Western Coast of India - by bicycle - alone. From Kanyakumari to Gangotri. As you can see from the map. The purpose - to see if he and do it. To discover India as a man. To raise money and prayer for Shifa - a street kids programme in Dehra Dun run by Asher's brother Sonu. You can read more about the idea behind it by clicking here - as well as keep abreast with Asher's adventures by clicking here.

I wrote to Asher and he replied giving me his mobile number. Then on aThursday last week an email from Goa, saying he had left. I tried to call but didn't get through. An SMS message did the trick. I finally got a call from Asher on Saturday evening. Asher was 150 kms away from us. We were expecting him mid afternoon on Sunday.

We prayed for Asher in our youth group meeting that night. We prayed for him on Sunday in our house church. In the late afternoon I started to wonder. I called a number of times. Mobile switched off. Long bike rides mean that batteries have to be conserved of course. I prayed a bit. Finally a call from Asher at around 5 PM. After my happy chatter - Asher interupted me. He was not feeling well. He had been vomitting for most of the day. He was near Mumbra. 20 or so kms from Thane. It was getting evening.

Another call from our mobile. Pravin Thomas was ready to help. A short walk to the Manpada junction and Praveen picked me up in his car. Another one or two calls to try and find out where outside Mumbra Asher was. Finally, when we got to the cross roads in question - another call. "Which sign are you near?" "The Naya Jeevan Sign." That was where we were - we then saw the tall, dusty and pale figure of Asher. His bike was quickly dismantled and we were off home. A good bath for Asher and a lassi later - and things were so much more relaxed.

God answers prayers. Asher had been quite sick and dehydrated. But he is home safe now - getting ready for the next leg of the journey. How slender the thread that holds us is!

Its been a delight getting to know this thoughtful and open Christ-follower. In the last 2 weeks he has already experienced an amazing set of stories. Slept in fields and beside train tracks. Eaten in dhabas of all sizes and shapes. Met Marxist tea-shop owners. And more! We hope he will meet many wonderful people as he cycles north - and hopefully will not have a repeat of this adventure.

Post script (23rd Feb):

We have been blessed with Asher for the past week. He endeared himself to all of us in the Jeevan Sahara family as well as in our fellowships. As he puts on his cycling shorts again tommorrow at 5 and heads on up to Gujarat and then points north our prayers are with him. We hope, pray and believe our paths will grow again.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Parenting a teenager

Over the last few weeks we have been blessed to have a young girl visit us. We saw her 3 years ago when her mother died and she and her brothers spent the first few nights of their orphanhood with us. We thought we would never see her again after her uncle called her to move back to the village in UP with him.

But Hira (thats what we will call her) got sick there and so has come back to live with her brothers - two brave young lads who are living out their lives in very difficult circumstances. Well into her teens - this slight girl looks like she is only 12 or so.

Hira and her brothers are attend a fellow house fellowship group of ours here in Thane - and we have been thrilled to see some spiritual growth.

At the same time, Hira still needs a mother. Sheba asked her to start coming to stay overnight on Friday nights. By God's grace she comes - but remains painfully silent for most of the time. We try to just be as normal as we can with her. Building trust and comfort take time.

This weekend, a small break through. Hira started telling Sheba about the circumstances of her father's death. She was a favorite of his and used to eat off his plate. He was working at a local factory and earning well. Then labour unrest threatened to shut it. He had argued with his coworkers that they should not strike. They laughed at him and went ahead saying that they could all look after themselves. The company shut down. The friends turned to alcohol. Hira's father did too. Most of them died. Hira's dad included.

When we first met her mother she was hunched over in a dark room. A pathetic, blind little bundle of humanity. She had been shunned because she - like her late husband - was also HIV positive. It took us time, but we were able to spend some deeply moving months with the family before the mother died. Our fellowship was involved in praying and in helping out with money for her medications. Hira's mother left this world to be welcomed by Jesus - we believe his face will be the first she sees with her new eyes.

For those who are left behind - at this point - there is both sorrow and hope. We believe the sorrows have made little Hira almost mute. She hardly talks and interacts - her solemn little frame a sleight reminder of the past. But we also believe that God is going to give her a voice and a future. Sheba and I are woefully inadequate to be able to see this change happen - but we want to do what we can to facilitate this. Your prayers are coveted for Hira - and us as we seek to help out in her parenting. We can only rest in the arms of our heavenly Father.


Some of our lives are intertwined. The Richards and Eicher families for example. Take a look at Jeremy Richards. His parents - Geoff and Jeanne Richards sang at Mum and Dad's wedding - 40 years ago. The mention of his grandfather - Mr. Durham - cleared the way for me when I met the main elder of the assembly when I wanted to marry Sheba. Many, many other connections are there.

But yet for most of our lives we have lived apart. Jeremy left India when he was 9 years old as his parents relocated to serve God in Cyprus and then in their native Australia. Growing up - we knew about the Richards by name and story - esp. as Mum wistfully talked about their musical prowess and how they as a family would sing together in harmony (something for us Eichers was like pulling teeth).

Then one snowy day in the US when I found out that Timothy - who was my age - had died. I was in the second year of college and Tim had been a brilliant witness for God. His sudden and totally unexpected death - on the eve of his grandfather's funeral - was such a shock. Uncle Geoff committed both his earthly father and first born son to the Lord on the same day. Timothy's death continues to shape me. He was a kind of alter ego - the person who was close to me in so many ways - and yet growing up so far away that we had no real communication - now gone to be with the Lord.

Last year Aunty Jeanne also left this world. After years of fighting cancer, she slipped into life.

And now our family histories intertwine again. Jeremy is back in India after a year of serving on the OM ships Logos II and Logos Hope. He is here to see what God has in store for him and the wonderful lady that Jeremy is praying about marrying. As Sheba and I look back on the miracles of the past 8 years of marriage we are so thrilled to be able to participate in a new way in the lives of the Richards family again.

We celebrated Jeremy's 36th birthday last week. It was wonderful to be family. What a great adventure we are all on together!

Thursday, 14 February 2008


Photo by Jon Warren
Sheba had a rough week - many of our HIV Positive Friends came with situations that seem to defy solutions. Some so full of sorrow that you can't help cry - even if you are trying to stay objective (whatever that means). Most with stories and experiences of sadness that gnaw quietly but steadily at the heart.

Much of the suffering arises out of the fear of disclosure - and a disbelief that family will be able to love and accept - leading to years of suffering in silence - years of putting on masks and hiding away from society. Many times the masks seem to become frozen onto the faces of our dear friends.

Then yesterday something different.

Mrs. Noorani came into the clinic with a huge incandescent smile. "Dr. Sheba!" she bellowed and proceeded to give Sheba a big hug.

This lady, who has been through so much - including being sold by her mother into the sex trade as a child - and who has seen life from the very pits - was ministering much love. How blessed it is to receive God's love in His amazing manner.
We minister to be ministered to - and so the beautiful cycle continues - God using brokenness to heal.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Banana Cake

Gloom alert!

Much of the material you have been reading has been full of woe. Therefore - we interupt this stream of musings on the darker side of things with the reality of now - a warm smell of freshly baked banana cakes.

A dear friend of ours is coming over tomorrow - and its his birthday - so cakes are made (evidence enclosed in the picture above). And here is the recipe for a sure-fire banana cake!

Sugar 1.5 cups
Oil 0.5 cups
Eggs 2
Milk 0.25 cup
Soda 1 tsp
Hot water - a few tsp
Vanilla 1 tsp
Flour 2 cups
Baking powder 1 tsp
Bananas 3

1. Cream sugar and oil, add eggs and milk. Add soda dissolved
in hot water, vanilla, flour and baking powder (sifted together)
2. Mash bananas and mix in.
3. Optional: add 0.5 cup of chopped nuts - or some raisins - or 0.5 cup of grated coconut - or chocolate pieces - you get the point.
4. Bake in a moderate oven (we usually do it at 180 degrees centigrade) for about 20 mins
5. Poke with tooth pick or match-stick in the part that looks dampest to see if it is ready. If it comes out clean with nothing sticking to it - its done.

- Recipe from Landour Book of International Recipes - recipe author credited as Virginia Brown.


A bit of commotion outside. About 5 PM this evening. I heard some shouting and looked oout the window of the centre.

Four men on two motor-cycles.

One got down and picked up big stones and was shouting: "Close down" followed by expletives. Then he threw the stones. Hard.

At the small shop that sells food-grains and other household dry goods - run by two Gujarati brothers. Next to the Jeevan Sahara Kendra.

Sounds of shutters going down in a hurry. More motor cycles. Other men getting off and picking up stones. Then the gang of men go further up the road.

We were expecting something. But you never think it will happen here. For days the city has been tense because of the rabid anti-"Outsider" statements of a up-and-coming young politician. His uncle had risen to power a generation earlier by pitting the 'interests' of the 'sons of the soil' against the 'invasion' by people from the South of our country. Now his break-away nephew has unleased terror against those who have come from the North.

The police finally went through the formality of arresting this man. His local party members took to the streets to protest this. Stones speak louder than words it seems. The city has shut down. A bus or two has been burnt. It looks likely that tomorrow will see more.

Pathetically, the big fish is already out on bail and at home in his strong-hold. Two hours of arrest and he is freed.

Meanwhile people who have come to the Mumbai area for work and with hopes of achieving something. People who make up this great, complex, chaotic, alive city - by whose sweat the millions are made for the people on the top. So many of these folks are living in fear. And many will spend tonight hungry. Another day without work. Another set of customers lost. Another wasted collection of inputs that no one will take. How many families are affected by one set of violent actions. YB Yeats sums up what we are experiencing in many ways: The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

Stones were thrown today. The rowdies came and went. The shutters remained down.

Thousands of years ago, a man who was no stranger to violence and injustice wrote this:

Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like
the noonday sun.

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.

For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.
A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace. Psalm 37:1-11

Monday, 11 February 2008

Beauty and cruelty

Down in the depths of the ocean - unseen by (most) human eyes - teeming life unfolds with amazing beauty. A flatworm - swimming by in startling scarlet. A tiny crustacean with its minute crystaline beauty - multiplied millions of times. Seen only under a microscope. The odd one in a billion making it into obscure scientific books. The overwhelming mass living their perfectly formed lives in the darkness of the see.

And so many more - unseen except for the eyes of God.

But above ground and in the company of humans so much of the beauty seems to evaporate. The utter cruelty and depravation that so many undergo as part of their daily lives defies belief. How is it that humans - whose bodies are beautiful and astounding at so many different levels - choose such squalor of relationships? We do not need to be sent into prison like Samson bound - we have already gouged out our own eyes.

How merciful of our Father God not to just put an end to our whole sorry lot at once - while and continuing to enjoy the splendours of the unseen world under rock and wave.

When I look into the night sky and see the work of your fingers, the moon and stars suspended in space, oh what is man that you are mindful of him?

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Tiger, Tiger, burning bright



The Tiger - by William Blake

TIGER, tiger, burning bright

In the forests of the night,

What immortal hand or eye

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies

Burnt the fire of thine eyes?

On what wings dare he aspire?

What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art

Could twist the sinews of thy heart?

And when thy heart began to beat,

What dread hand and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?

In what furnace was thy brain?

What the anvil? What dread grasp

Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,

And water'd heaven with their tears,

Did He smile His work to see?

Did He who made the lamb make thee?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright

In the forests of the night,

What immortal hand or eye

Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

We are a good 250 years on from when Blake wrote about that fearsome animal. And even today, in the scraps of forest scrub that still dot part of our land the fear of the tiger continues.
I was reading a Ladybird book about lions and tigers to Asha and Enoch and got to thinking about the amazing way these animals are built. Their massive teeth that tear off the flesh of their prey and then swallow the chunks of meat whole. Their muscular limbs that spring with such force. The deep eyes that probe the undergrowth, while their nose and whiskers twitch, analysing the wind for news of prey or danger. We talked about how many people had worshipped these animals because of their strength and the fear they invoked.
What is it about these big cats that evokes such strong emotions? Fear, awe, reverence, passionate desires for protection - the whole gamut is there. Part of it must be the sheer beauty of muscle and sinew, the deep feline intelligence and the real frisson of uncertainty associated with the possibility of having those massive clawed paws swipe at us instead of at the deer or other prey the tiger stalks.
Blake questions whether the maker of the lamb made this killing machine. The question remains with us and I believe provides one of the reason for our fascination - we are drawn to the drama of life and death - and to see a large animal that lives entirely off the mammals it can stalk and kill resonates with something deep in who we are.

A clear-eyed look at creation includes the amazing set of relationships that make up the web of life - the myriad connections between living things. The presence of top-predators - as rare as they are becoming (especially in the ongoing saga of super-predator - man) - reminds us of the complex sets of food-linked relationships in nature. The fear in our heart, though, is more than just that of being eaten - is speaks of a deeper sense that we as humans have of the dimensions of death and beyond.

As we continue to lose our nation's tigers - we mourn the ruthless harvesting of them by poachers who send their parts for medicinal compounds in Chinese markets. At the same time, we yearn for some approach to their conservation that does not criminalise forest dwellers and place a higher value on the tiger than on the many who have succumbed the last few years to tiger (and leopard) attacks. How to balance these apparently conflicting demands of personal security for people living in and near the jungle, with the need to keep the local ecosystem - top predators included - intact - is a continued struggle.

Would that we don't have the tiger and others only remembered in poetry. But thank God for poetry and its ability to capture what is deepest in our souls.

Friday, 8 February 2008

Training Time Again!

One of the key things we do at Jeevan Sahara is train people in HIV care.

As I write, the office is abuzz with our staff putting together the materials. Tomorrow we start our first session of our current series of 4 fortnightly training days aimed at preparing church members in HIV care.

We are blessed to have James D'Costa on board at JSK - his phone calls and our letters to different churches and community based organisations means that we have 60 people who said they will come!

Sometimes we want God not to answer all our prayers!

The key to the whole training is to see men and women realise that God has a plan for them.

That He has always used weak people.

That He has always sought care and healing to take place in community.

That His body is His chosen instrument here on earth.

That the only hope we have for people with HIV is for God's people to love, include them, heal and be blessed by them.

We know that in today's India no church should be without a person with HIV.

And no person with HIV should be without a church!

Pray for us as we go into this series of trainings.

Ask God to speak through each one of us.

Ask God to prepare hearts and minds for action.

Ask God to make sure that what is learned bears fruit - and that many families affected by HIV will be blessed by God's people.

Pray for our staff as well as they juggle many different responsibilities. We need to see a continual growth in each one of us - to take on bigger tasks and expect greater outcomes for God!

We would love to have you come and participate in our training!

Our staff Sunita Benjamin and Sandhya Aind are at the door waiting to welcome you to this unique opportunity to serve others as Jesus did!


Wednesday, 6 February 2008


At the dedication of Enoch, our beloved brother Stanley Nelson shared from the Bible about children being like a quiver full of arrows.

An arrow is an attacking weapon. It leaves our hands. It travels along a directed course. It keeps going even when we are not there.

As I look at our parents I see how much we have been blessed to fulfill their desires. My mother reading about the high Himalayas in German books with titles like Tigers in the Snow.

How amazing that her dreams were fulfilled through me when she (very bravely) gave me permission to go on a mountaineering expedition which ended up with me summitting on 8th July 1985 on Dharamsura (21,148 ft - pictured above) at the tender age of 16.

Likewise with studies. Though she was not able to really study after 8th standard because she did not join the Communist Youth Party, all three of us kids have been able to fulfill her dreams through studying at different levels. To think where we have all gone. Premila in Idaho, Stefan criss crossing the world (all 6 inhabited continents in one year) and now in Delhi, myself and Sheba here in Thane after working in Manipur and Jharkhand.

For Sheba: her father grew up without a Dad - since his father left for Malaysia when Appa was just a boy - never to come back again. Appa left home early and set out to get a job in the new steel plant the Germans helped build in the jungles of northern Orissa - a place called Rourkela. Today, after over 40 years of slog, Appa and Amma have 4 children scattered around the world - all having done higher studies and all involved in meaningful work - as well as being involved in their local churches.

What of the next generation? Will Asha and Enoch move beyond the tragectories of our lives? What we want most of all is that they love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength - and their neighbour as themselves.

And may they fulfill our dreams too. As arrows speeding on into the light.


Last month we helped organise a conference on ethics for Christian doctors which helped get the Greater Mumbai Network of the EMFI (Evangelical Medical Fellowship of India) off the ground.

One of the things we did was do a simple survey among church members - and then gave the same survey to the conference participants. You can see the survey results at:

A key question was the one about end of life care.

When is it right to stop trying to cure - and let the person pass away?

Its a hard question - with no one clear cookie-cutter answer.

This evening in an appartment very close to us a man is in a coma.

He has HIV. He has not responded to the various treatments we have given.

His wife is at her own wits end. The other day she even slipped out the question of whether we would give something to help him go. Recently her brother came to help look after Mr. Taragan (as we will call him). The brother is a trained nurse and gave a full body sponge bath.

Our staff meet Mr. Taragan every day. He has not eaten or drank for days. He gets a few drops of water through a cotton wool. But we still talk to him - and let him know that he is special. He cannot talk and does not respond to various stimuli - and his breathing is laboured.

Next to me are the book of death certificates - which Sheba will take over to his home if his wife calls to tell that he died tonight.

A life on the brink of eternity.

When will it be my turn. When yours?


We live in the midst of contrast. At times it becomes unbearable. And yet we live in it.

Tonight the kids are warm in bed. Layers of clothing and a soft blanket for them. We will turn in a few minutes ourselves.

Just 200 meters from us Mrs. Candy and her family are huddled under a bush. The slum house the were living in got demolished a few weeks ago. The slum lord was ousted by another political party - and the area of the slum walled off.

Mrs. Candy lived on the footpath for some time - and finally went over to a near-by empty plot of scrub-land (where no doubt a building will come up in some near future). She stores her things under one big scrub bush - and at night she and her daughter and son go to another family who are under another bush and sleep with them.

Mrs. Candy has TB and HIV. She comes from a family of professional beggars. She says she has stopped sitting outside the local temple to get alms - but gets some money by collecting garbage from bins like the ones in the picture above. She has not been responding well to the TB medications and is probably resistant to the first line drugs.

It is so crazy for us to live in luxury and our sister in Christ to be under a bush.

Mrs. Candy has a faith - it may be the size of a mustard seed - but we believe that God has a place for her to rule and reign throughout eternity. There are many in this world who will end their lives having given large endowments (I just got a publication today saying that my alma mater is constructing a US$ 459 million cancer hospital - and much of it funded by one man) - but if they are not adopted into the family of the Maker, Owner and Sustainer of all...

what good is it if you gain the whole world but lose your soul...

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Electing a leader

One thing you have to hand to the Americans (or United Statians) is the remarkable process they go through in electing their president.

It may be ridiculously long (almost as long as the person is expecting to serve). It may be fabulously wastful of money and resources (the amount spent on advertising could pay off a number of countries debts). It may be downright silly at times.

But they are actually choosing a leader. And even the choice of who will lead their party is open. Totally open.

When we look at the grim dynastic powers here - where the molly-coddled sons and daughters of the high and mighty are groomed for their posts - you just have to wonder.

I have nothing against the dear young lads who are waiting in the wings for their elders to pop off (our friend MK Stalin from Chennai is still called a youth leader though he is anything but young - and the list goes on). But would that they were not just foisted on us as the only choice left. The current set includes the Hnble. MP from Amethi - who has only given one speech in parliament so far (as I am told) but is now made one of the most senior leaders in his party - because he bears the Nehru-Gandhi name is the most obvious case. But each little regional party has its own dreary set of 'young leaders' who are mainly there because of their genes instead of their jeans.
And how wonderful for real local people to actually vote and choose. To meet in school rooms and restaurants and libraries and say that I want so-and-so to be the party's choice for president. And to have your vote count.
Hats off to the Americans. We may quibble with many of their interesting (make that infuriating) ways - but the basic choice that they have - and do exercise - only brings respect for their system.

Prodigal son

Mr. Sakunath went home to his village recently.

He went home after running away from his parents over 15 years ago.

15 years of silence.

Why he left home he did not tell us.

Was it a fight? Did he steal someone? Was there a woman involved?

Whatever it was, he did not tell his family where he was.

Mr. Sakunath went home as a sick man. Mr. Sakunath has HIV and has been responding poorly to the TB medication he takes over the past few months.

He returned to his parents house not knowing what was in store.

Last week Mrs. Sakunath got a phone call from her husband.
He arrived safely. His parents are rich. They own 52 acres of land. He was welcomed. Tears, many tears flowed. They are treating him at a hospital there. He will come back when he feels better.
We don't know what will happen next, but we know that one broken son has met with his family again.
The image used is "Return of the Prodigal" by Frank Wesley -
a wonderful Indian Christian Artist from the last century