Sunday, 8 April 2012

A call from across the sea

The mobile phone rang.

I could tell it was not a local number.  Some kind of foreign call.  Who could it be?  One of our relatives?  A long-lost friend?  Someone who is trying to meet my dad?  Or someone who has a problem?

It was the latter.

The voice said that he had seen our website ( and would like to know whether we do HIV testing with the results given on the same day.

I explained that we counselled the person and then took the blood sample - and then give the result with counselling the next day.

I asked him why.  And what his name was.

He said that he was Suraj Kumar (obviously we have changed this) and that he was calling from abroad.  Suraj said that he had had an sexual exposure with a prostitute some time ago.  He had already been tested once but recently had gone to a massage parlour and was worried.

We talked some and I told him that if the time period he was talking about was correct - that he had nothing to worry about since he had an HIV 'negative' test result and it was over 7 months after the exposure.

He seemed relieved and we ended the conversation cordially.

I had just been dropping Asha off for her violin class when the call came in.

A few days later Suraj called again.

Would it be possible to have the test done on the same day.  He wanted to fly in and out.

The details seemed the same.  I tried to tell him that he need not worry so much.  And that the cost of flying from the Gulf (he told me what country he was working in) was prohibitive for such a simple test.

A few days later.  Another call.  This time he said that he really had to come.  I asked him to send me an email with the details.

The next day Suraj called and said he had booked a ticket.

He came.

We counselled him and tested Suraj for HIV.

We had asked our part-time lab tech to be there early on that day.  Immediately after the test was done our counsellor Giri Nayak called Suraj in and told him his result.

It was negative.  As we expected.

What a joy for Suraj.   He went out and hugged our lab tech - he was so happy.  He tried to give Giri and Vinod (the lab tech) money to celebrate.  They gallantly refused.

When he met me, he told me his real name.  'Suraj' is a name he set up for himself - complete with its own email address - so that he could make enquiries about HIV without having it linked with his real name.

'Suraj' has a wife and children in Chennai.  He lives in the Gulf.  He has a well-paying job.  But the cost of it all is a life away from his children and wife.

Sheba counselled 'Suraj' on the changes that he would have to make.  His pornography.  His unfaithfulness to his wife.  He had to change from the inside - and only Jesus can help in that.  'Suraj' told her that this was the first time anyone had addressed the real needs.   He had been to a top HIV service institution in Chennai - and they had just told him that he was negative - and to be safe.  They had not address the inner man.

We had a happy man leave that afternoon.

Will 'Suraj' change?  We hope so.

Chances are that he will go back to his previous behaviour patterns.  The mind - especially the mind fueled by sexual fantasies - shapes our actions.  The old testament prophet Jeremiah said that the 'heart is deceitful above all things.'  Ancient wisdom that rings very true today.  We are experts at self-deception.

But we move forward with hope too.

We believe that people can change.  Our hope and desire is that 'Suraj' will shift back to live with his wife and family in Chennai.  It may not be as lucrative a life as in the Gulf - but it is a life well worth living.  A life that God has called us to if we are married.

To have and to hold, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, till death do us part.  What God has  joined let no one put apart. 


  1. Rejoicing with you over this opportunity to point a man to Christ as the only solution to his need!

  2. Thanks Scotty and Lisa!

    We face so many situations where we do not have the answers in our pockets (in fact we do not have any answer at all...) but we know He who was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, tempted in every way - and yet obedient and without sin - He who cares for those who are struggling with temptation - and who is mighty to save!

    What hope we have in Jesus. How precious He is to us every day on this pilgrimage we are on.

  3. I have been working in HIV field for last five years and yes, this is not a isolated case like Suraj. These are familiar inquiries. And alas, as I worked in a secular organisation, I could not really help people beyond offering condoms. I agree that we should offer them as minimum. Real need is for inner person which we never touch here.
    Sadly I have witnessed even our most rational and determined clients get HIV.
    I pray that you should get to more and more Suraj.