Saturday, 13 April 2013

Blessed wedding

In the blur of the last few weeks (so what's new?) one event does stick out a bit more than others.

The wonderful marriage of two lovely people - Giri and Sushma.   April 5th will remain with us for a long time - a day when these two became one!

We have known Giri for seven years now - as a faithful - often stoic member of the Jeevan Sahara Kendra team.  After doing his Masters of Social Work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, he worked for a year in Pune and then joined us.

We have watched him grow and develop as a person - and have been praying with him for a life partner.  What a joy to see him find Sushma!

Sushma is a member of a local church who has been very involved in reaching out to people with HIV.  We knew her originally as 'Pinky' - and have seen her come many times with our team as a volunteer.

Its wonderful that these precious people are now one!

On the big day we were at the wedding in full force as a family.

I had been asked to serve as the MC.  It was a first for me and something and a real honour.  And that too in Hindi.

This marriage was a meeting of worlds.  Giri comes from a village in the interior of Odisha.  Sushma's parents are from UP but have been in Thane for many years.  His relatives travelled across the country to be here - hers came down from the north.  The message was translated into Oriya since a number of his relatives only spoke their mother tongue.

Our dear Sam Thomas was also there from Dehra Dun - with a powerful message - and the joy of joining Giri and Sushma through the sacred promises that brought them into union as husband and wife.

Each time we are part of the vows it reminds us of the miracle of our marriage.  What an amazing and impossible challenge it is to live up to the promises we make - and how much grace we receive to see so many of them fleshed out as the years roll by!

We have seen that the work of having and holding - of being united as husband and wife - is a life-long affair.  For me it is particularly sobering to be looking at myself 13 years into our marriage - and gauging where I am with where Mum and Dad were when I was an eleven year old.  We stand on the shoulders of giants.  We look forward to stepping deeper into life each day.

But for me, on the 5th of April, it seemed barely a blink of an eye and the new couple was walking down the aisle. 

There they were - Giri and Sushma - making their first steps together as a family.

Their first hike as a couple was a short walk down the aisle at the room at the end of the marriage ceremony - out the front door of the hall - around the side and then back in and onto the stage where the reception was to begin!

Fittingly, there were a set of thrones ready for them.

But as with most marriages in India - they did not do a lot of sitting in their seats of honour.

The marriage reception is a time when everyone who you know is invited to come and meet and bless the couple.

At the end of the ceremony - two lines appear.  One outside in the dining area where the guests line up for being served the food.

And inside the hall, another line emerges - of people who have come to meet the new family.

Each well-wisher gets their photo taken with the happy couple.   There is a lot of smiling going on!

I remember that at the end of my marriage day my cheeks ached from all the smiling - but I would happily keep on smiling - it was such a thrill.

As I saw Giri and Sushma being married it was such a total dream come true.  Here were our dear friends united in love and service to each other.   United in their desire to follow Jesus in their lives.  United though so much of their cultures are totally different from each other.

With Sheba having being born and schooled in Odisha - we were able to communicate with all of Giri's relatives.

What an honour to meet his mother.  We had not met her before.  Here she was, in Thane for the first time in her life.   Tragically, Giri's father had died earlier this year after suffering from a stroke some years ago.

We were able to mingle with others in Giri's clan - two of his three brothers were there with their families.   We could see just how proud they were of the youngest in the family - and how grateful to God that he was marrying such a godly woman.

And then outside to the food line!  What a kaleidoscope of people we saw.  What fun to guess who they were and what their connections with the two families were.

Being Giri's wedding it was wonderful to see that so many of the people there were people who are living with the virus in their body - and are able to live life with purpose and wholeness.

We are so grateful for each person in the crowd - and it was a crowd - no less than 500 people were there - is a testimony of the varied relationships that make up our lives.

Each person a precious reminder of the chords of love the bind us together.  Of the varied relationships that we are blessed with.  Of the value of our marriages and our shared lives.

Every marriage ceremony - especially marriages in our dear land - costs money.  But as I looked that the beauty and simplicity of Giri and Sushma's wedding - and the whole-hearted love with which their whole church pitched in to make this day such a beautiful experience - I have to say that every paisa spent was worth it.

Here's to our wonderful new couple.  As they are currently visiting the relatives and others in Odisha - our prayers are with them as they move forward in God's love.

True to form - marriages are also great times for kids - Enoch was off like a shot, running around and playing with his friends.  He is the one who took the lion's share of the photos in this post - since I was up on stage.  Here is a click of him and his friend Joash just before we had to pry him away from the venue. 

As we got into our 'Papaya' - our trusty almost-one-year-old Nano car - and drove off into the night - our hearts were very very happy on a wonderful day for all of us - and the blessings that Giri and Sushma are to each other - and to so many more!

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