A special day slipped by the day before yesterday.
Our country celebrated Sept. 5th as 'Teachers Day.' Many sent SMSs to their teachers. Yesterdays newspapers splashed photos of cute kids 'teaching' others in front of black-boards festooned with A,B,Cs.
One of my greatest teachers was born 70 years ago on that day.
My wonderful father - Ray Eicher.
How do I count the ways that Dad has built me up? I can't.
But here are some snapshots.
Dad taking me along. Travelling in a car with him on a Scandinavian summer. Dad took me along as he went to visit friends in Sweden and Finland and talk about the work he was doing in India. I was all of 9 years old. In Sweden I was so taken by a family that we stayed with (who had a boy my age and were living out in a forest wonderland) that I persuaded Dad to carry on to Finland without me and pick me up on the way back. Over the years Dad included me into his work of leading a mission organisation. He explained so much of what he was doing - treating me with huge respect. His words were always helpful, even when he shared about the struggles that he was going through.
Dad leading the way on our family hikes in his beloved Kodaikanal. We were grumblers - but he moved us forward with stories. About how he and his friends would go down the Shola forests with their butterfly nets (we even took up collecting butterflies ourselves for a brief season) and bird books. On our hikes he would try and help us identify birds using the trust Salim Ali book - and would tell us about the 'whistling school-boy' - a bird whose call sounds just like the aimless whistling of a little lad on holiday. We were thrilled when we heard the uncanny notes ourselves.
Dad greeting all and sundry - wherever he goes. Our father seems to have a one-point agenda - to love everyone he meets. As a result anywhere we go with Dad he is constantly smiling, namasteing, shaking hands, saying a smattering of whatever local language is being spoken, giving out gospel portions, entering into conversations with his big smile. Truth be told - I have not always appreciated this constant barrage of good-humour from Dad which he broadcasts 360 degrees wherever he may be. My own pettyness and frank irritation often got (and still get) in the way. But looking back over the years - I will anytime say that I prefer Dad as the lover-of-every-soul rather than an aloof, self-contained person.
Dad excited by one of the 'big ideas.' Growing up the son of a preacher - I heard Dad many, many times. He speaks passionately. He speaks with the joy of sharing something that has really blessed him - and that is the current 'big idea.'
As a kid I remember hearing often about us being 'destined for the Throne.' Dad passionately shared about how each follower of Jesus is being prepared to live and rule together with Jesus for eternity - and not just sit around strumming harps - but actually administer the whole universe!
These last few years Dad tells about inner healing and forgiveness. He loves to pour his heart into helping people understand how they can forgive others - and see the amazing changes in their own broken lives through prayer, confession and deliverance.
Dad putting us first. We grew up in an open family. There were always visitors at the table. Years later when it was only the 5 of us in Mussoorie there were times when we seemed at a loss for things to talk with each other. Dad and Mum had many, many responsibilities with others - which they poured themselves into. But they worked hard to treasure us kids. Evening times were for us. Reading a book and the Bible were key. Sunday afternoons were for games. A month's holiday was taken each year. Cycle trips and other adventures peppered our times too. Looking back I just wonder how Dad was able to do it all. But am I ever grateful.
As with any man Dad made his share of mistakes. But whenever they are pointed out Dad apologises. Immediately. Sometimes he apologises so profusely that you are embarrassed even to have brought it up. Dad values openness and has modeled a life of seeking forgiveness and restoration as long as I can remember.
There is so much more that can be said.
But lets end with this.
We did not have any spectacular celebration for Dad's birthday. And I think that is what he prefers. He spent the day like he does everyday. Praying. Greeting. Blessing others. Listening. Talking. Emailing. Being.
We are very, very thankful and proud of Dad - and amazed at the 7 decades that passed since he was born at the Wanless Hospital in Miraj, Maharashtra.