Tuesday, 25 December 2012


Each year we gather to say thank you.

It started in 2002.  We were maybe 15 max. 

4 or 5 families who were affected by HIV.  Gathered in a local church to say 'Thank you" to God for having lived through another year.

Each year we have added more people.  More JSK staff.  More church volunteers.  More people who are living longer.   We had over 375 this year.

                JSK staff met people with HIV in their homes in the weeks before the Thanksgiving time and asked them to   write 1 thing they are thankful for on a star - we then displayed all the 'thankyou stars' at the programme
We have lost a number of people over this past year to AIDS.  But the vast majority of our friends who were alive with HIV at the end of 2011 are still alive at the end of 2012.  And for this we are very thankful.

Each person who came is very special.  Each person - whether they are HIV positive, a family member of a person living with HIV, a church volunteer or one of the many people associated with JSK in some way - each person has a story to tell.

How amazing to have a God who cares for the broken and the left out.

As the meeting got underway I couldn't help but think how crazy a meeting it was.  To bring such a number of people together who are hidden from the eyes of society, and to celebrate outside in the open.  The loudspeakers would definitely carry over to the swank appartments next door.  If the residents of the Rs. 80-90 lakh homes would open their windows and turn down their plasma TVs, they would have heard some amazing stories.

But before the stories began there were other things to do.

To sing for one. 

From the heart.  We were blessed to have the Marthoma Church Thane youth and choir join us for the special day.  They poured their heart into the songs - and we could all feel the love.

Everyone joined in.

The JSK Thanksgiving time was a time for everyone to be thankful.  We had special times for the adults - but also for the kids - and for the first time we had a seperate session for adolescents as well.

We are always thrilled when we see families come together.

In so many ways HIV is a sad reminder of how broken our relationships are.  So to see people come with kids gives us all such hope.

Just looking at the happy faces reminds us too about how valuable the work of our JSK staff is - and how precious the often unseen caring hands of members of various local churches are.

We had plenty of church volunteers at hand for the programme.  Almost 70 folks - counting the Marthoma choir and our own JSK staff were on hand.

And work they did.

Well before the programme started, we had meeting after meeting to plan and prepare.  We packed a gift hamper for each.  Generous gifts by individuals and local churches made this possible for us.  Food was ordered.  The set up was arranged.

And on the 15th of December a hive of activity descended on the JSK Centre.  The stage was set up.  Carpets laid.  Balloons hung up.  The banners put up. 

As the guests started arriving each person swung into action.  Our dear Positive Friends and their family members were welcomed and ushered to their places.  Over the course of the evening food arrived and was put onto plates.  Tea was served to the masses.  After the programme the snacks and another round of tea was served.  The gift hampers were given to local church volunteers who were then brought to each family to share it with them and pray with them.

For me this year's Thanksgiving time was summed up by one of our Positive Friends.  We will call him Harish.  Harish came in touch with us this year.  He is the sole bread-winner in his family and found out that he was HIV positive a few years ago.  This year he came in contact with a church just outside Thane who knows us well.  Since Harish was just not getting better, they brought him to us for care.  We admitted him for 2 weeks and he improved some.  Then he came back again.  We found out that the tuberculosis which seemed to respond initially was in fact multi-drug resistant TB.

It was hard for Harish and his family to deal with this.  But deal with it they did.  They stuck to the medication, and we were able to source the 18 month course free from another agency which helps people with HIV and TB.

Harish came to the programme.  He could not sit the whole time.  But he made sure he came.  As I saw him being cared for by his wife I wanted to cry.  This precious man and his loving wife - and the extended family - both their biological family as well as their new family in the church - who are looking after them have done such an amazing work over this year.  Who will know what happened?  Only they and the loving God who has helped them through some very dark times this year.

So much to be thankful for!

And this at the end of the day is the main focus of the time that we have each year.  Speaking out what God has done in lives.

And so as the night fell we heard story after story.  Some eloquent.  Some abrupt.  Some guarded.  Some no-holds-barred.  People telling what they are going through.  And how they are making steps forward.  And how God is helping.


No comments:

Post a Comment