Friday, 30 October 2015

A testing time in a village

Most of our work at Jeevan Sahara is urban.  But every now and then (make it more like every 'then') we do reach out to the countryside.

Thane is a big district.  A very big one.  In the 2011 census it had over 11 million inhabitants. That is just less than the population of Cuba today - and just more than Tunisia.  If Thane were a country, it would be the 79th largest in the world by population.

Just over a year ago Thane was split into two with a new district called Palghar being formed out of the northern portions - and thus we have lost 3 million or so folks.  Our remaining 8 million odd souls live largely in urban areas (77% of the population were in urban areas of undivided Thane) which include the largely railway-station-clustered sprawls of Thane city, Kalyan-Dombivili, Mira-Bhayender, Ulhasnagar and others including the 1.2 million folks in Bhiwandi.

Any way there are lots of small villages around - and even though the bulk of folks live in the big and getting-big urban areas - Thane still has a population that lives on the land and is linked in with the cities.

Last week Jeevan Sahara Kendra was invited to do a one day Family Life Seminar and HIV Testing Camp at a church in a village well beyond Kalyan.   We jumped at the opportunity.  It was going to be a testing time in the village - and in more ways than one!

We got to the village after a delightful early morning drive down a wonderfully smooth highway - and met our host outside the nearest railway station. Our trusty Papaya was carrying the equipment and the Eichers - Sheba, Enoch, Yohan and myself that is (Asha had a day off on her own).  We had a cup of tea in the local tea shop.  When they said 'full cup' I thought it would be a tiny serving as usual - and so was surprised when the brought out two huge glasses with enough tea for 4 people each.

The rest of the team arrived by train shortly afterward, but our host had already put a local gent into our car and off we went off the main road and onto a tiny - but well paved - single track off into the bush.

The sheer delight of seeing forests and fields and small villages after so much noise and glitz and concrete (even the decked up kind) was just tonic.

As we came close to our destination village, our guide pointed out ladies that we passed:  'they are believers who are coming to the meeting he said.'   And then we finally came to the church a simple building, on the outskirts of the village, with a beautiful ridge of hills behind.  

Our team arrived in a jeep shortly afterwards and we had already started to set up.   Sheba was sitting with village women - talking with them using another lady who translated into Marathi. 

Folks were trickling in when we got the first inklings of trouble.  Everyone went to one door of the hall and I could see a man carrying a child in his arms and people around him.

An accident.  In the first confusion we didn't know what happened.  I thought one of the jeeps that was hired had hit a local child.  It was actually the opposite.  A local man, drunk and riding his bike, had hit one of the children who were coming to the meeting.  The child was bleeding profusely from his nose, and he and his grandfather were whisked off to the nearest town.

But the problem did not settle down.  The biker got a group of local folks together.  And they were angry.  Before we knew it a group of men and women had entered the area.  I saw a man with a big log of wood, trying to swing it.  Folks were asking him to stop.  Many prayers were said.  People were talking loudly in Marathi.  Stochastic actions here and there.  Folks coming into the hall.  Dust and movement outside.  Then a settling down.

Who was who was not clear to me as other than our JSK team I was seeing almost all for the first time.  But things settled down and the folks in the hall - mainly women - settled down and the singing began.   The young leaders sang out in Marathi and the assembled village women, with a sprinkling of men and children sang along too.  A harmonium and drum added melody to the earnest joyful singing.  We were taken into glory land.  Outside things were still unclear.  But in the hall the beautiful village faces were singing.

And then we had our first possession of the day.  One of the ladies fell on the floor and writhed around.  The young man leading the singing came close to her and prayed.  Other ladies were praying too and singing.  After a few minutes the lady settled down, a little while later she sat up.  And soon she was singing again.  All in a days work it seems.  The songs continued.  The morning light poured in.

It was then time for me to speak. We were here for a special Family Day.  I had the privilege of sharing the first message about God's plan for our families.   What to share in such a short time.  How to relate to folks with such different experiences to me.  How good, though, to know that God cares so much for our families - and that the Bible is all about relationships and the transforming love of Jesus.  As I looked out at these dear ladies - dressed in bright clean sarees, many of them with weather-beaten faces - and the men who were on the right hand side - I saw my sisters and brothers in the faith.

What a privilege to share about how God desires all our marriages - and families to be united.  The reason a man leaves his parents and cleaves to his wife is for union.   How much everything around us seeks to split us up - especially our own selfish natures.    The second huge desire of God for us is to be holy.  Our Lord says 'be holy, for I am holy' - and purity seems the last thing possible in a world that celebrates sensuality.  But how gracious and helpful God is to keep us growing and being cleansed.  Finally, we talked about God wanting every marriage and every family to be one of service.  We are not here for ourselves, but to seek the good of others.  Our Lord Jesus laid aside His heavenly majesty, stripped Himself down to the clothing of the slaves of the day, and washed His followers feet.  How much each of our families should be serving in various ways of grateful obedience to God.

It was the first time I had talked in Hindi and been translated into Marathi - and soon after this my translator - our own Daniel Kautikkar - had the floor to himself.   Daniel took a session on HIV prevention.  We had our LCD projector - and the hall had electricity.  Thankfully for the entire period of the presentation!   Using simple Marathi, Daniel walked the 70 or so adults and 20 odd kids through the basics of HIV.  At the end of his talk, Daniel shared that we had come to do HIV testing on whoever wanted it.  He explained that we would counsel them before hand and then take a small blood test and give the results 2 days later.

It was now time for lunch.  Our JSK team of Peter, Nissi and Kamal had already eaten and were ready to start the HIV counselling and testing camp.   Amazingly, the folks started lining up.  Daniel ate a quick lunch while Kamal started counselling after the candidates had been registered by Peter.   Enoch helped out by taking folks to Daniel's counselling room and then bringing people to Nissi who took the blood samples.  As the numbers started to take off, Sheba also was pressed into service as a pre-test counsellor.

Then it was time to start again.  The threat from outside also started up.  We heard that a group of folks with sticks were assembling.  The coordinator of the programme went out.  Most of us stayed and prayed.  Later he said that one of the participants was a lady village pradhan (chief).  She had come with him and gave him a running set of instructions on what to do.  When to engage the others, when to pull back.  God had sent and angel, a calm young woman who brought dignity and savy to a tense situation.  And the prayers of those within continued to keep the peace.

After another session of lively singing - and another set of dealing with women affected by spirits - done with grace and confidence - it was time for another blessing. We had a very special person with us.  Shobha.  Shobha has HIV and shared her story.  Openly speaking in Marathi.  Giving her new friends a picture of her life.  Shobha also has only one arm.  She lost one of her arms as a child.  Her husband had died.  She raised up her 3 children by making papad with her one arm.  And then she started falling sick and came in touch with us at Jeevan Sahara.  In between, Shobha had also met the Lord Jesus.  As she stood in front of her brothers and sisters from the village, her face was lit up with joy.  What a privilege to see this amazing lady tell her story.

The counselling and testing continued and it was now time for our final session of the day.  The counsellors had their steady stream of folks and all roads led to Nissi who took the blood samples.  In one end of the hall Sheba and Shobha met with the women and discussed the challenges they faced.  I had the men with me, talking about how we should behave as men.   We looked at what roles we play normally, and asked ourselves how Jesus wants us to be.  Good stuff.  Time ran by too quickly.

And then the day was over.  There were still folks being counselled and tested.  We ended up doing a whopping 53 blood tests among the 70 odd adults!  Thankfully not a single one came back HIV positive!

It was still not clear whether all was clear in the village, but the first jeeps started back.  We got the phone call that there had been no trouble.  The sun was setting behind the forested hills.  Sheba, Shobha and the boys went for a walk down to the village hand pump. 

Then the final packing up and thanks giving all around.  A special prayer for having taken us through a testing time.

What a privilege to be with such dear people.  The genuine smiles of our new friends will linger on in our minds.

As will the scenery.

As I type these words a week later, its 9 PM.  We are back in our urban home with 24 hour water, linked up with the wide world through our internet connection, with Sheba working with Asha and Enoch on their homework and Yohan taking his bath.  Mum and Dad have gone for a 2 day outing.  So many blessings we have - and yet the greatest joy is that we were able to worship along with our new sisters and brothers, and we know a time will come when people from every tribe and tongue will be around the throne of glory.  We have had a small taste of glory under the woody slopes an hour and half, and a world away from us.  But a world that we are linked with through the love of He who loved us first.

Monday, 26 October 2015

A day to celebrate!

 Today was a red-letter day for us.

Dad and Mum went over to Bethany Hospital to meet his oncologist Dr. Ashish Bakshi and show him the blood tests and the CT scan he had requested over the weekend.  

The plan was for them to call Sheba and myself when their 'number' got close.  We would then drive over from Jeevan Sahara to have a conference with the oncologist and see what the next steps should be.  Usually Dad spends about an hour before he gets to see his doctor.  

This time was different.  When they arrived, they were whisked right in to see Dr. Bakshi.  No waiting this time.  So when we finally got the call, Dad had already been seen by his doc.

And the news is good news.

Nothing at all on the tests to suggest any need for further treatment.   Hooray!

Dad's cancer treatment is over for now - and by everything that we can see it has been a success!

And what a journey it has been.  Our initial concern when we got a copy of the ultrasound from Mussoorie showing a mass blocking the common bile duct.  Dr. Stephen Alfred insisting that Dad come down to Bethany immediately.   Mum and Dad being woken up by Stefan and Neeru and told they have to be out of the house in 3 hours to get the flight to Mumbai. Dad's ridiculously high bilirubin levels. The initial stabilising procedures.  Stefan and Neeru's coming down to help.  Then huge step of the major surgery - a Whipples procedure - to remove the large cancerous tumour and a goodly portion of Dad's digestive plumbing.   The post-op care - at the hospital and then at home.  Then news of one of the nodes being positive for cancer post-op and finally the 6 months of chemotherapy...

Well, the journey reached a milestone today.  A happy milestone that says all is clear... for now!

No mo chemo.  No more diet restrictions.  Dad and Mum are free to go back to Mussoorie.  Amazing stuff.  And all the fruit of so much love and so many prayers.

Dr. Ashish Bakshi would like to meet Dad again in 4 months.    The shift to surveillance has begun.  Pancreatic cancers are aggressive and could very well show up again, having micro-seeded in the initial outbreak.   But we will take one day at a time.  And we will celebrate this amazing recovery and the good news that nothing was detected in the blood tests and CT scan.  

We are so proud of how Mum has soldiered through all of this - especially being with us in the heat of Thane (and October being very much a second summer - we had 5 over 37 degree days so far this month).   Her dogged love.  Her on-going care and willingness to adapt and be a blessing to us all and a support and help for Dad is such an example to us.

We never imagined we would be living 9 months this year with Mum and Dad - what an amazing blessing it has been to us all!   We would of course never want them to be here because of cancer... but this has been one of the many silver linings of this extra-ordinary experience for all of us. 

We had a small celebration at supper this evening. 

Out came some cards and a bunch of flowers.   And a big thank-you to God for bringing Dad to this amazing place.

And a big THANK YOU to so many of you who have been reading along and praying - both near and far.  We have had folks 3 floors below us tell us that they are reading about Dad on the blog - and folks in remote parts of the world send emails (and prayers) our way.   Each prayer has been such a treasure - we will never be able to thank all of you in our extended family enough.

But suffice it to say - today is a day of celebration.   And so after supper we broke out the coffee and caramel icecream.  Speaking of which, I am off to get another bowl from the freezer...

The day to celebrate is not yet over!

Results day

We have an appointment with Dr. Ashish Bakshi - Dad's oncologist - at 11.30 this morning.

Dad has finished his 6 months of chemotherapy and has been asked to do some blood tests and have a CT scan done.   He will be showing the results to Dr. Bakshi and talking about the next steps.

This will be a mini conference for us with Mum, Sheba and myself planning to sit in on the conversation.

We are so grateful for all the prayers and support of various kinds by so many which has allowed us to see this day.

Stay posted!

Friday, 23 October 2015

Conscience Keepers - part 2

So what about our conscience?

Is it old hat?  An anachronism of a by-gone age? A feeble gasp of an old man looking blankly out of a window at snow falling in quiet whiteness?

Well, there never was a nice old time.

Human history is red with blood.  The miracle is how any shred of goodness has survived.

The fact of the matter is that we do know when something is wrong.  We have a gut feeling, a gnawing back in our heads that this is not kosher, that this is not done.

And that very fact points to something well beyond us.

Consider this - no one teaches a small kid to lie.  But we take to it like ducks to water.  And to some lying is even considered cute:  most children in India are 'taught' and execrable 'nursery rhyme' that goes:  Johnny Johnny, yes Papa? eating sugar? no Papa, telling lies? no Papa, open your mouth! Ha, ha, ha!

But somewhere we know that there is something called the truth - and if we bend it, twist it, refashion it, replace it with something else, that this is a lie.   And though we may use this reinvention and pass it off as 'truth' for our convenience, there is that little twinge there.

Why should we have something like that if all we are is protoplasm that seeks to move our genetic material forward into the future?

That twinge is one of the soft voices that points us, if we choose to listen to it, towards God Himself.

What is also beyond doubt is the way that our consciences can be dulled - and ultimately shut off or put in such deep-freeze that we end up doing the unthinkable, the repulsive, the bestial... and then wonder how we could have ended up there.

Consider the case of Hansie Cronje.  You may not know the name, but to me he was a far-off hero.  A decent bloke who loved his cricket and his country and captained an attractive South African team that was reintroduced to the world after the miracle of Mandela.

Cronje was also the first big cricket star to admit to match-fixing... it was dragged out of him, but he did testify that he had participated with a betting syndicate or two (though he claimed he never swung a match).

Hansie Cronje was finally banned from cricket for life.  Here is a take on his fall from grace that a local newspaper had when he finally admitted to being involved. Tragically, Cronje died in a plane crash about 2 years later.

Enoch and I watched a biopic on Cronje's life a year or so ago - a film called Hansie.  It's frankly not the best movie in the world, and I found the depiction of Cronje to be mealy-mouthed and too much of a goodie-two-shoes innocent - you kept feeling that 'everyone else was bad' but not dear Hansie.  But then when it comes time to fess-up, he doesn't.  And then when he finally gets around to it, he (in the movie at least) just seems too trite...

What did hit home, and powerfully too, was the gradual slide into a trap.  We may disagree whether it actually happened to Cronje or not, but the way the film shows him 'groomed' towards match-fixing is dead-on.   The bookies are nice friendly Indian guys who are crazy about cricket.  They love to hang out with the best of the world - and have cash on them in generous amounts.

And so it goes.  A nice-guy just 'gives' a few thousand dollars to Cronje.  Hey.  No strings attached.  I know you can use the extra little bit of cash.  Cronje accepts it.  A little extra to buy something for his wife with.  A mobile phone is given too.  Wow!  Remember this is the early 1990s when mobiles were from outer space.

And then after a few gifts and nice dinners in good hotels, a simple question.  What is the pitch like.  Hey, nothing serious.  Just a little information.  And some cash as a small thank you.

And gradually the stakes rise.  More information.  How about 'fixing' a dead game.  Just for the heck of it.  Why not just tell it to your team-mates as a joke.  See what they say eh?

The genius of the film is the slow and slippery way that Cronje's conscience is put to sleep.  A little bit here, a little bit there and then he is trapped.    The film alleges that it was the bookies who turned Cronje in when after a certain point he decided not to play along with them.  This sounds a bit contrived - but what we did see was that oh-so-subtle way of self-deception which lands us in the place where we know is wrong, but where we are.

I was reminded to this in the latest set of sorry skeletons tumbling out of the box - testimony which is being given about a fearless New Zealand cricketer Chris Cairns who seems now to have been the centre of a match-fixing gang.  A fellow player testifies about having used women and money to try enlist his help to swing games.

The Bible says at one point that 'the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure, who can understand it?" (Jer. 17.9).

So lets look closer to home.  It's one thing to shake our fingers at bad boys who make lots of bucks and then make some pretty immoral choices.

What about myself?

I remember an earlier version of me, when I was in 9th grade, handing in a music notebook as a student at the Deutsche Schule Bombay (the German School in Mumbai).  We were a 'big' class of 7 students (the whole school had 75 pupils and most were in kindergarten).  My best friend at that time was a super studious chap who had re-written his whole music notebook so that it would look neater.  I had not kept my note-book upto date and asked him for his 'rough' version so that I could copy and update my notebook before the end of semester grading.

So far so good.  Conscience asking a small question about whether I should copy his book, but quickly quietened down with the idea that it would anyway take lots of work for me to do so.

Well, I took his notebook, but kept procrastinating without actually updating my own exercise book. And so finally, when D-day came for grading, I actually took his rough book, put a new cover on it, and gave it to our teacher as 'my book.'

Remember we had only 7 people in our class.  And my handwriting was (and sadly still is) a barely legible scrawl, while my friend's writing - even in his 'rough' book was highly structured.

How could I ever even think I could get away with this?  My conscience had been silenced long before, and the blindness of evil had clouded whatever was left of my understanding.

On the day she returned the notebooks, I got 'my book' back from the music teacher.  I don't remember any more whether I got the 'F' I deserved or not.  But I do remember this.  She did not shame me in front of the class.  But she just looked me in the eyes and said "Andi."

30 plus years later, I still hear her voice.  And the voice I hear behind her words is that of Him who pricked the consciences of a mob of men intent on stoning a woman caught in adultery.  This was 2 millenia ago, but the question about why they were not dragging the man who was party to the affair sadly not too surprising given the violence towards women across the centuries.   Jesus started writing something on the ground, and the men began leaving, starting from the eldest.  Finally, Jesus asks the woman where her accusers are, asking her whether any one was there to condemn her.  She replies that there is no-one and Jesus replies: "Neither then do I condemn you, go now and leave your life of sin." (John 8.11b NIV).

How much our nation needs conscience keepers at this time.

Yeats said it well in his poem The Second Coming
 Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

We have people lynched for the 'crime' of allegedly storing cow-meat in their fridge - and 'investigative agencies' that actually 'test' the meat to see if it was beef after all (it was mutton - but the man is dead anyway).

We have children who are sexually assaulted - and Dalit kids being burned.  The list of horrors that our dear morning papers serves us up is stomache-churning.

We have wave after wave of folks who will throw ink on people ('non-violently mind you), while others will block roads, beat people up, burn cars and busses in order to be heard and seen and get their sound-bites on the evening TV news.

So are these our 'conscience keepers'?  They may use some of the words of morality, but their deeds show how hollow they are.  Bitterly sad to say, however, their raw power looks to be gaining the day.

2K years ago, a crowd of people thronged the streets of the 'City of Peace' and bayed for the blood of an innocent man.  How many of these would have been healed earlier by him, or had eaten some of the bread and fish he multiplied?  We really don't know, but we do know that many a conscience was beaten down in the murderous mob that cried out for the slow, painful, shameful and accursed death of being nailed naked to a stake.

Thank God.  Literally, that death was not the end of Jesus.  A third day resurrection set the world in a spin and gives hope for people with seared consciences like me.  My wickedness, my beating down of that which tells me what is right, my easy slip into things-that-are-wrong-but-feel-oh-so-good, is healable, restorable, because of the living Jesus.

Here's the catch - He knows how hard it is to stay true, to stay pure.  He has suffered under temptation - but did not slip like I do.  And instead of being proud of His achievement and scornful of my falls - He is the opposite: compassionate to me because He knows how much it hurts - and because He is the embodiment and source of love itself.

I pin my hopes on Jesus as the conscience-keeper, conscience-restorer and life-changer No. 1.

I still have a long road to travel in some areas, but I am so grateful for real victories in other parts of my life - thanks to my loving Lord.   And I don't only want my conscience clear and tender.  I want to keep seeing real

Feeling remorse is not enough (though most males think that if you feel sad about it that you are genuinely repentant).  I need to see genuine repentance.  And restitution and reconciliation.  And real change.  I can't do this on my own - even with the clearest and cleanest conscience in the world.  I need my Lord shape me on this journey.

And what I want for myself, Sheba and I want for our family and our country... and our world of course.   It seems absurd to think about a place and time where everything is right - but that's what the Bible talks about taking place sometime in the (near?) future.

Our consciences are antennas for a coming age of righteousness.  Which is why so many have over the eons tried to tune them out - and today's crop of assorted nuts seems oh-so-close to succeeding.

But they too will pass.  A new day is dawning.  And our pricked consciences are signs of the coming storm.  We need our consciences as much as ever - and real conscience keepers as opposed to ink-throwing (and worse) lumpen senas.

Lord have mercy.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Conscience Keepers - part 1

“When I was at Yale in the mid-1980s, studying at the School of Managment” the man said “Yale University was the conscience keeper of the nation.  Why has this changed today?”

The questioner was a well-dressed middle-aged man, and he was addressing Peter Salovey, the current president of Yale University at a high-tea reception in Mumbai last week.

Salovey’s response was telling.  He made a comment to the effect that “that is not language we would use today” before going on to make a fairly tame (lame?) statement that the university still grappled with hard issues and that students and faculty are dealing are in a dialogue about the challenging topics of the day.

“Conscience keepers” in deed. When I was at Yale in the mid 1990s I actually attended a class where a position was put forward that paediastry was not so bad after all – and who are we to judge adults who are attracted to children.

Conscience only makes sense when we hold to clear values of right and wrong.

Salovey is right to the extent that the language of even talking about conscience-keeping seems quaint and out-dated in a relativistic, make-your-own-values-as-you-go-along world that the university champions today.

But surely today is when we need consciences the most?

Consider the fall of the mighty Volkswagen car company.

Over my lifetime, VW has grown from strength to strength from being the ‘cute’ German car company to a global monster of a firm.  Last year it was ranked as the largest automobile company in the world by revenues (US$ 220 billion – 5 billion US$ more than Toyota). 

A dear friend of mine is a manager for exports of a needle roller bearing company in India which supplies many of the large auto-makers in the world.  He has told me about the stringent standards that the big car companies demand of them as suppliers – and how quality control does not only end up with the final product meeting a raft of different specifications, but how the car-companies actually have their staff come and inspect the supplier’s factories and do quality audits in the actual manufacturing plants that his company runs.  For a big company, if there is a recall of cars for any reason, it means huge losses.  And so they want to make sure that sub-contractors and suppliers will give them fool-proof products.

My friend’s company has been supplying Diamler Benz for a number of years with needle roller bearings – and experienced the Diamler engineers going over his company with a fine-toothed comb well before any contract was signed.

So a year or two ago, my friend approached Volkswagen to see if they would be willing to get needle roller bearings from his company.   After an initial inquiry, my friend was refused.  The good folks at VW who were dealing with my friend said that the quality control that the Indian company was offering did not meet up to their standards.  “But we supply Daimler” said my friend “and they are happy with our process.”

“Ah” said his counterpart “But we are Volkswagen.  We are not Daimler.”   End of story.

Well, not quite.

Last month the revelations of all sorts of skeletons in Volkswagen’s closets have started tumbling out.

This company, which has built its reputation on touting Teutonic engineering, has been systematically cheating the US environmental agencies for at least the past 7 years.  How?  They have installed a ‘defeat device’ into the diesel cars they made.  This software programme was able to ‘detect’ whenever their nitrogen oxide emissions were being tested.  While the emissions tests were being conducted, the car engine would adjust itself to give less harmful emissions and so meet the emissions norms set by the agency.   Once the test is over, the car would go back to its normal state, which emitted between 10 to 40 times the amount of nitrous oxides permitted in the US.  

How much extra nitrous oxide have the VW cars been emitting?  Estimates are hard to make but reports suggest between 14,000 to 59,000 tonnes of NO2 into the air.

Someone needs a conscience badly.   And this has been going on for years and years.  Each quarter profit margin boosted by illegality.  As time went on, the cover-up of this programme would have become wider and wider until it blew up and now the world knows the truth.

The VW deception has led to a loss of 1/4 of its market value.

We are living in an era where utilitarian values rule.  If you can do something and get away with it, what is to keep you from doing it?

Germans have often placed themselves as the good guys - the folks who play by the rules (as opposed to, say, a stereotype of the Greeks being lazy and corrupt),  The difference in cultural understandings of what 'debt' means can be revealing.  But these days the myth of the 'upright German' is taking a bit of a beating.  

With the big bad world of FIFA unravelling before us - with all the sleaze and bribery that the quadrillions of dollars minted from our global fetish with the beautiful game - is it any surprise that we should have new revelations tumbling from the closets?  Revelations that include the Germans?

This week Der Spiegel (the Mirror) a prominent German magazine has published its investigation that suggests that the German Football authorities (DFB) bribed their way into getting the 2006 Football World Cup awarded to them.

How do we judge right from wrong?

As much as we don't want to bring this up, there was a prominent German (or Austrian who came to Germany and then annexed his own homeland) who wrote the following:

"In this world success is the only rule of judgment whereby we can decide whether such an undertaking was right or wrong." My Struggle (Volume One, Chapter XII), 1925-26

Put simply - the man says that 'success is the only earthly judge of right and wrong.'

This man is the chap modern Germans hate most to be reminded of: Herr A. Hitler himself.

But the utilitarian attitude that grounds so much of our world today is quite happy to take this philosphy and run with it.

Cheating is not a matter of right and wrong - it is a matter of getting ahead.

We are currently reading through a whole sordid set of revelations about how top class cricketers have swayed games in return for money (and in some cases women) from betting syndicates.  More on this in another post.  

For me the most clear statement of this comes from a man who many lifted up as a hero.  Cancer survivor.   Tour de France winner.  Never took drugs - only worked hard" world champion cyclist Lance Armstrong.

Over his amazingly successful career Armstrong repeatedly said that he had never taken performance enhancing drugs.  His Nike ads boasted that others thought he was on drugs, but he said that he 'was on his bike, Busting my ass 6 hours a day.' Armstrong was lying.  The whole time.

And when he was finally cornered, he grudgingly admitted it.  But said that he would probably do it again if he faced the same situation:

One thing is clear.  Success reigns in most people's hearts.  As long as someone is getting things done - almost everything is forgiven.

But is that all there is?

History shows us where moral utilitarianism leads us to.  The 6 million deaths in Nazi camps continue to haunt us.

Who will stand up for the truth?  Is truth even relevant?   Is there a role for conscience keepers?  Or is that just a quaint hold-out from 'simpler days' in the past?

It is more than ever.   One man said something totally different to the world of success-driven ethics. He said that He was the way, the truth and the life.

More on this in the next post.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Ways of Seeing

Stefan and family are far away in the US of A.  And we have hardly heard from them over the past few months as they shifted over to Indianapolis as a fivesome and found new schools for the kids and set up home and hearth in a very different place than their previous New Delhi home.

But one thing seems to have continued - Stefan's sleep deprivation as he juggles various worlds and whirls around touching many different people.  He has begun his Masters of Fine Arts in painting at the Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI).  And has been busy with his church too - which runs the superb Harrison Centre for the Arts.

In fact, Stefan has already curated his first exhibition there: Ways of Seeing which collects some of the work which the Art for Change foundation has done in New Delhi - and for which Stefan constructed a special monster-size set of spectacles.

Take a look at the video below and see if you can spot Stefan in animated conversation - and see how some of the younger art-appreciators have taken to the 'big specs.'

Ways of Seeing, First Friday October 2015 from Harrison Center for the Arts on Vimeo.

No mo chemo ? ! ?

Dad was admitted to the casualty department at Bethany Hospital this morning.

It was not an emergency.  In fact, it was the last dose of a very wonderfully mundane set of chemotherapy doses that have stretched back the last 6 months.

Why at the casualty department?

Because Bethany Hospital’s 125 beds are completely full.  Yesterday there was not a bed free for Dad to get his chemo, so they postponed his final treatment dose till today.  This morning the hospital called up again to say that Dad would be admitted for his chemo in casualty because once again the beds were full and they did not want to delay the treatment further.

So we come to the end of another phase in Mum and Dad’s life.

What a year it has been!

We started out in January with the joyous surprise celebration (for Mum and Dad at least) of 100 years of their combined service to our Lord in India since 1964.

Then at the beginning of March we had a sudden overnight shifting of Dad and Mum to Thane from Mussoorie after we found out that Dad had what turned out to be a cancerous tumour blocking his common biliary duct.  This lead to the miraculous surgery at Bethany Hospital at the end of March – and a wonderful post-op recovery with us here.

But the biopsy showed that there was at least one lymph node was positive for cancer – it had spread at least some beyond the tumor which had been removed.  And so Dad started a 6 month chemo therapy using Gemcitabine as the molecule to knock out as many of the roving cancer cells as possible, while not knocking out too many of Dad’s healthy cells.

Those 6 months are now over.  Today was Dad’s last dose of the 6th cycle.  Eighteen doses done.  Many prayers said and received from all over.  Much care by the Bethany Hospital staff.  Much love by the Thane Eichers young and old.  And much blessing to us as a family to have Mum and Dad with us for these past 8 months!

We will have a final CT scan next week to see if there is anything that has ‘cropped up’ in the mean time, but by all indications we are now ready to send Mum and Dad home.

So ready to go, that they are planning a quick trip down to Bangalore to meet up with some of their dear ones for a day or two.

No more chemotherapy?  No mo chemo?   That’s what we hope.

We are putting Dad back into the Lord’s hands.  We are very grateful for every day God has given us together.

I told Dad I would take one more picture of him as the last bottle was draining the meds into his chemoport – and then into the aortic vein and then through the heart to the rest of the body.   Here he is at the Bethany Hospital casualty ward getting the last bit of this chemo.

Lets see what the future holds.  Thanks for being along with us on this journey!

Friday, 16 October 2015

Meet el Presidente

It’s not everyday that you get and invitation to meet the president.

No, we did not get an invite from Raisina hill to meet our dear Bengali ‘husband of the nation’ (Rashtriyapati).

Neither did the good folks in the White House send an invitation over to us asking us to meet Barack and Michelle and the girls.

Alas and alack.  The closest I have come on the track of meeting POTUS was meeting Bill Clinton… in one of my dreams.  It was pretty vivid and recall us having a good time together.  But that was a long time ago, and only in a dream.

We did, however, get and invite to meet the President. 

The president of one my my alma maters…  good ole Yale.

Peter Salovey, who was Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences when I was doing my masters of Forestry and my masters of Public Health in New Haven back in the day, was in Mumbai.  And we were invited to a ‘high tea’ with him at the Taj.


Yesterday I drove down with Asha in our Papaya – using the magnificent new freeway that snakes over Mankhurd and Chembur and Wadala and over sundry dockyards and touches down just a hop skip and jump away from Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (but on the other side) – a long straight road that ends at the magnificent Reserve Bank of India building.    We followed the road past the various gates and ended up finding a parking space (miracles!) at Horniman circle, just opposite the Asiatic library.  

For us out-of-towners, walking around in South Mumbai (SoBo as it is sometimes called) was almost like being on a different planet.  The stately Indo-gothic buildings.   The quaint splashes of gardens in between.   The oozing of wealth (yes, that is the house where Tatasons is headquartered, yes that is the Bombay Stock Exchange).  The perennial oddness of many odd people loitering around, sitting in gardens in the cool of the day.  The garish hawkers selling mobile covers and other brick a brack along the collonades between Flora Fountain and Regal Cinema (in my day they were ‘smuggled goods’ with cheaply made ‘walkmans’ for sale at ridiculous prices).  Culture everywhere you looked.

We had some minutes to burn – and so we ducked into the Town Hall library and grazed the titles of the books there, wandered past St. Thomas Cathedral (I had never seen it before!), tried to get to the Jehangir Art Gallery (too late) and managed finally to arrive sweaty but on time at the Taj Mahal Hotel.  Mumbai in October is a sweat bath.  The plushness of the Taj welcomed two sweaty Eichers into her embrace.

And there we were, wandering the elegant halls of that 110 year old pile that has had the rich and famous generations as its guests (with photos to show for it…).

We were of course here to meet the President.

We were among the first.  Our badges on – telling our name and where we had studied (Asha’s said she was a F+ES Child).  And the first few folks present in the magnificent “Gateway Room” – waiting for the pres to show up.

The room slowly began to fill up.  Asha and I parked ourselves on one of the couches near the windows that overlooked the gateway outside and the bobbing ships at anchor.  Waiters sidled up to us with a procession of little delicacies and the ubiquitous fruit of the vine (the two of us sampled various unfermented fruit juices).   Folks were milling around.  Suited booted.  Chatting animatedly.  
We relaxed and enjoyed the view.

Finally the man came.   We almost didn’t notice him arrive – he was not mobbed by paparazzi.  Instead, Peter Salovey walked in with a genial smile and mingled around while the organizer of the evening called folks to attention and introduced the introducer of the pres.

Friendly, but to the point, Peter Salovey laid out where Yale is today and what their vision for tomorrow is. 

the only photo I was allowed to take by my daugther!
This truly is a president – Peter Salovey told us that giving to Yale has been up 11% from last year – and that today the Yale endowment is over 24 billion US$!   No wonder we were at the Taj Mahal hotel.  This amount of money is more than many countries have in their foreign exchange reserves (if Yale were a country and put all its endowment into foreign exchange reserves, it would rank between Belgium and Austria!).   

And the Yale corporation manages a vast educational empire.  One that not only runs 22 separate libraries (how does 15 million volumes sound to you?) for the umpteen colleges and graduate programmes that flourish under the Yale umbrella, but also have 2 art museums, a rare book collection, a natural history museum and that not to talk about the Yale repertory theatre, the multiple lectures of the great and the famous which the different programmes have on offer almost around the clock…  And besides this, there are start-ups for new companies, multiple layers of research, students from far and wide attending the different colleges and grad depts.  Yale is not just centered on the town of New Haven Connecticut, but has hundreds of different collaborations with other universities, companies, government agencies etc.  

So here is the head of all of this.  And he uses his time to say that the University wants to keep getting better.  And that it cannot do everything – but wants to do what it does do superbly.  And wants the experience to be one which builds community.

He gave a few snap shots of life at Yale including a current controversy about the name of one of the colleges – named after a certain John C. Calhoun.   In his day, this man not only supported slavery, but he championed it, writing numerous pieces which basically said that slavery was very good.   So now one group of students wants the name of the college changed, because of how repugnant this man’s views are.  While another group of students disagrees, saying that we cannot wipe away history – and even though we don’t applaud Calhoun’s ideas, erasing his name would cut away something about the past that we need to know.    President Salovey clearly was not taking sides, but brought it out to show some of the issues that are taking place, and as an example of the push and pull that each institution goes through, and as an example of the idea of the university itself - a place where ideas are exchanged and lives are shaped.

At the end of the day, Salovey was making a pitch for the liberal arts idea of a university – and said that his graduates all find jobs.  Salovey’s gist is that the ability to think clearly and communicate well and work together  in teams that comes out of the lived-out community of scholars will always trump just information that is gathered for a purpose – no matter how focused that may be.

A few more bon-mots and he was thanking us all for coming out to meet him and encouraging us to meet each other too.

I assumed that there would be a mad scramble to have a word with the good don afterwards – and there was … but in a very genteel way of course.  I doubted that Asha and I could meet him and soon fell into an animated conversation with a young Telegu doctor who had done his MPH at Yale a decade after me – and has been  involved in a dizzying array of consultancies with the WHO and the government of India as well as starting a company to make safety labs and, and!  

Well, my eyes looked over to Peter S. and I saw that he was just talking with 2 suited chaps who clearly were known to him already and so we sidled up to him and had our chat with the Pres himself.
Peter listened graciously as I gave a quick summary of what we do and chipped in that he used to come to Pune as part of a Yale research programme with the National AIDS Research Institute there – and had done work on stigma and discrimination faced by people with HIV in 3 hospitals.  I had to tell him that sadly the issue of HIV stigma continues to be very much alive.

He then asked Asha if she had started thinking about college yet.  She said that she had not.  The pres then told her that he hoped she would consider Yale when the time came.

In many ways that small comment sums up the beauty of the American approach.  Here is a president of a top university asking a school girl to apply to his institution.  The planting of a seed of a dream is taking place.  The thought that you can do it too.  The open access to those who try and strive.  Yes, only 6.3% of the 30,000 applicants actually get admitted to Yale college each year, but the president is doing his part to spread the name and attract more folks.

We stepped out of the hotel into the muggy heat of Mumbai having seen a number of different worlds.  The world of the jet-set go-getter elite (I was one of just a handful of men who was not wearing a suit coat... in Mumbai in October too!).   The wide world of international academia and that men like Peter Salovey criss-cross.  And the world of the servants - a whole bevy of young men who were serving us appertifs and passing the wine glasses around.  Young perky men, many of whom will have taken the local train from a small 1 room kitchen home somewhere in Badlapur to be serving the customers at the Taj.  Young men with dreams of advancement, and who have a small foot in the door by being hired by this hotel establishment.

Asha and I enjoyed the lit-up Indo-gothic sights of SoBo and then were into our Papaya for the 1.5 hour drive up north to Thane.

We walked into our home in Thane at just after 9.30 PM, as the Wednesday men's prayer meeting got underway.  After meeting a president, and walking the corridors where kings and queens have walked, what a blessed time to talk with the King of Kings.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

The Positive thing about this training is....

What a week it's been...  enough to write a book on - if we ever get time to catch up on things!

But here is a small snapshot of one of the more remarkable trainings we have done so far:


Ever since we started working with Jeevan Sahara Kendra we have been training people.  Our desire is that God's people - simple ones who Jesus loves and has touched - will love people with HIV.  In practice.  In reality.  By visiting in their homes.  By welcoming into the church.  By being family.

Utopia?  Yes.  And possible.

Have we seen it happen?  Well, at least to a certain extent we do see some fellowships stepping forward in this.   One of the largish group of churches in Thane, for example, told us that they now have 17 people with HIV as part of their church.

Our trainings follow a 4 day curriculum which for Mumbai/Thane folks we have been conducting on alternate Saturdays.   But what about people who want to attend from other parts of the country?

Well, in 2008 we started doing 1 week courses for the Christian AIDS/HIV National Alliance (CANA).  We used the same 4 day curriculum and added 2 days of exposure visits with our staff to homes, an afternoon participating with our Positive Friends support group, as well as a day with a local church who are caring for people with HIV.

And we conducted the training entirely in Hindi - focussing on folks from the North and making a low entry bar so that church leaders and volunteers can also participate - not just social work professionals.

The response was superb.  Folks from the first batch we trained are still doing things with HIV in their areas.  The request by CANA for us to do another training for them was prompt - and in the first 3 years we did 3 annual trainings.  Then we upped it to every six months.

This was our 11th batch of trainees who have come to us through CANA!

We had 15 participants this time, plus and old friend of ours who came for the first day.

Now here is where it gets unusual....   The aim of the course is to help churches reach out to people with HIV in practical ways.  The idea is to equip folks so that they can in turn mobilise their prayer fellowships and churches to reach out and care.  So that people can understand the pain that people with HIV go through.

HIV still is an invisible disease in our country.  We have a relatively low number of people with HIV (the US has a higher percentage than we do) - but those who have HIV go through so much suffering - and there is still so much fear that and real stigma and horrible discrimination attached to having the disease.   Many people die of fear - their fear of others knowing about their condition keeping them from accessing life-saving medications.  The terrible procrastination of saying - I will do so later....

So what was different this time?  Did we have folks coming from far and near?  Yes.  check.  A big group from Delhi, a trio from Kolkotta, a guy from Gujarat and a young tribal man who is doing the work of a pastor in rural Maharashtra.   And to add to this mix,,, we had a lady from China too!

Difference was this.  For the first time, almost the majority of our participants were HIV positive themselves.

It was weird using our training that is focussed on helping church people understand what people with HIV go through - with folks who have gone through and are going through all those issues themselves.

It was exhilarating to have our HIV Positive participants visit homes - and tell their stories too.   To have people who have come through the issues share their stories with our Positive Friends here - and also for our friends who have come from afar to see what God is doing here as well.

In one of my group discussion we were talking about helping children with HIV take their ART medications.  A lovely young woman in her early 20s chipped in:  "I am HIV positive, and when I was small I did not want to take the tablets.  But my mother was wise.  She told me that I was special.  And that because I was special I needed to take these pills regularly."

On Tuesday afternoon we had our final session of the week-long training and sent our trainees on their way.  The candles were lit in the darkened training hall and we sang 'ek aag har dil mein, humko jalana hain'.   

This evening our trainees are back where they came from.  Our desire is that they will be lights themselves.

How will our HIV Positive trainees do?  We wish we had known before hand that such a large number were living with HIV.  Most of them were attending the training to be equipped themselves - and not really to mobilise their churches.   We would have refocussed some of our topics to deal more directly with their own personal experiences.

But that's the beauty of all of this.  To think that we would have 7 positive people (and a young positive boy whom one of the families have adopted) participating in our training...

God is good. He has always used the weak and small for His glory.  The little boy who gave his tiffin of small breads and fish to Jesus was used mightily.  The young girl who served as a maid in the home of the powerful Assyrian general Namaan.

How will our Positive Friends do?   We put them into the hands of our loving Lord!  It has been our joy to share with them what we know - now they are in the unique position to leverage what they have learned with sharing more openly and focussedly about their own reality of being HIV positive.

Our training programme is titled 'Love Your Neighbour... with AIDS' - we could rename the programme for this batch as 'Your neighbour with AIDS loves you!'

Soli Deo gloria

Friday, 9 October 2015

17 out of 18

Dad is home by now.  It's just past 4 in the afternoon and he has had another dose of his gemcitabine treatment today.   He had his blood tests done yesterday morning, met his oncologist at 8.30 in the evening and booked his bed for today's dose of his blessed poison.

He then went over to Bethany hospital at 9 this morning and got assigned room no. 407.  I was waiting for an appointment with the CEO of the hospital, when one of the office staff told me 'oh, your Dad is admitted today' and then proceeded to tell me his room no.   I made a mental note so that I could walk up 2 floors to see him and pray for him.

Amazingly, we are now nearing the very end of this course of chemotherapy.  Amazingly, today was dose no. 17 out of the 18 that are planned for this course.  We started half a year ago - and are now coming down the the very last week of the therapy.  One more dose - scheduled for next Friday the 16th - and then a CT scan the next Friday... and then?

When Dad met Dr. Ashish Bakshi last night, Dr. Bakshi told him that "after the scan you have chutti! You can go home!"

So watch this space.  Dad has one more dose to go... and then we do the scan and see.  Should we start booking Mum and Dad's tickets for the mountains that are calling them in the middle of our second summer?  October is a nice and hot month for Mumbai/Thane folks - I have the fan on full blast as this is being typed out - and Mum finds the heat hard to take - but has of course made narry a peep or squeak of complaint through it all.

When I did get up to see Dad at around noon today, I found him happily giving a geography lesson to the nurse who was administering the chemo - all about how to get to Mussoorie!

This fine lady had hardly left to tend the next patient, when around the curtain comes the remarkable figure of Uncle Robbie Andrews.   A living legend, this dear saint goes from bed to bed at Bethany Hospital, offering to pray with anyone who wishes it.

And here was today - 9 decades of experience - visiting a youngster who has only 7 decades behind him and is getting his 17th dose of blessed poison.

You can't make these things up!

Stay tuned for the next steps in our life together.  Your prayers and love and support through it all are so totally appreciated by us all!

Next week - 18 out of 18!  

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Good bye Kim

We lost Kim yesterday.  Heaven is richer by one 14-sun-spins-old boy.

We knew it was coming.  Bro Raju from ACCEPT Bangalore had called us a number of times over the past 2 weeks.  Each time the news was grim.  The occasional silver lining was still only the lining of the dark cloud of Kim's fading away.  His little skinny body being kept alive with the love and care that our dear friends at ACCEPT in Banglore poured into him.

What do we make of it all?

We just do not have any simple answers.

But these things we know.

This boy was a precious boy.  An image-bearer of the Most High God.  Created for love and very, very special.

We also know that Kim has suffered multiple rejections in his short life.  Having seen his parents die of HIV.  Having been spurned by other relatives.  Having lived in a tiny shed, alone while his parent's siblings continued on their houses.  We know that internal damage, wounds of the heart so often and so tragically result in deep seated reactions.

Kim refused help many, many times.  

When we first met him in December 2014, we thought he would die.  He was skin and bones.  Semi-conscious.  He was brought in while we were celebrating a year of God's favour with all of our Positive Friends and their families outside the JSK Centre.  As the meeting was going on, I could see that there was someone being admitted in one of our rooms. That someone was Kim.

We have been through so much with Kim over these past 9 months.  Three times he was admitted at Jeevan Sahara.  Each time he recovered some what.  But through out the first two admissions was a deep, deep sorrow.  A withdrawn, depressed little boy who was hard to love, did not want to eat, did not want to take his medications.

But then, over time, love won out.  Especially in the last admission to JSK in May this year.  When Kim was brought in semi-conscious, we thought he would surely die, and that too within hours.  He didn't.  Rather, he pulled back to life.

Over the weeks he was with us he started to smile.  Started to eat.  Even started to talk (Kim was quite hard of hearing for much of the time).  We began discovering a new boy.  He would read the Bible and memorise verses.  He began walking and towards the end of his time with us would accompany our nurses to the house fellowship near by and then tell the verses to everyone there during the sharing time.

We were in a fix for Kim.  He is 14 and a boy and HIV positive.  No care home that we approached was willing to take him.  His relatives were a dead end.  He needed stability and love and supervision for the many meds he needed to take to stay alive.  JSK is not a liscenced home to rehabilitate children.  We are a home-based care programme - but Kim had no home.  And we are a hospital - and Kim was moving towards health but needed longer term rehabiliation.

We were so happy when ACCEPT in Bangalore took Kim in for care.  A huge amount of work to persuade Kim's uncle, with lots of prayer and finally the great day came for Kim to go.

I remember sitting next to him along with our Yohan during the Sunday evening gospel meeting we had at JSK.   We prayed with him and Yohan hugged him.   A family that had taken a special interest in Kim (partly from reading this blog) had sent a bunch of letters from their children and were praying for him every night.  So it was with much joy that we sent Kim off to his new home, a hope for a long term blessing.

Vikas, our staff member, saw Kim next when he took another boy down to ACCEPT a month or so later.  Kim was doing well.  He was loved by all.  We were so happy.

But then the news started trickling back up to us that reminded us of the old Kim.   Kim was not taking his medicines.  He was refusing food. He was becoming weak and sick.

We wished it wasn't happening, but reality bites.

When Kamal, our staff member went down to Bangalore for a conference, she confirmed what we had been hearing on the phone about this dear little boy.

Kim was surrounded by love, but was wasting away.   Kamal told us about how she saw Kim being held in the lap of a doctor and falling asleep there before being put gently back on his bed - his thin little frame at peace in sleep.   Kamal shared about how every day people would come and pray with Kim.  How Raju Mathew had asked a Maharashtrian lady from the staff to make rotis for Kim.

We contacted Kim's uncle and told him to go and meet Kim as he was in a serious condition.  Initially he was angry, stating that we were at fault.  Saying that he was sick and would not travel down south. But eventually his uncle did go and meet Kim.  He spent about an hour and then came back.  He told Raju to go through whatever final rituals needed - that he would not come back if Kim died.  He gave this in writing.

Yesterday morning Raju Mathew called me up at 7 AM.   He told me that Kim had died at 1.15 AM in the morning.  We find most of our HIV Positive Friends dying at night.  Around noon Raju and another staff took Kim's thin light body to the crematorium.   We had had a prayer time thanking God for Kim's life and the inputs our staff and others had given this precious boy.  The phone rang - it was Raju saying he had come back from the last rites.  Saying sorry that more could not be done.

When we look back over these past 9 months we see sparkles of grace through our misty eyes.   Kim could have died any number of times, in any number of places - most of which were horrible.  The fact he did not die during the times he had been admitted in government hospitals prior to coming to us was a miracle.  The fact that we saw him come back three times from the brink of death - each time growing a little more open, allowing love to shape him just that bit more - is a blessing.  We know that our loving Lord has given him new life too.

Vikas told about how when Kim would take his medicines, he always stopped to pray before swallowing the pills.  "Like David said about his own dead son" Vikas told us yesterday morning "we can say about Kim: He will not come back, but I will go and meet him."   Mahesh talked about how grateful he was that Kim's last days would be surrounded by such love, even if those who were giving the love to him felt the pangs of sorrow that their inputs into this precious boy did not end up with him recovering and playing again.

I was personally dreading telling Yohan about Kim's demise.   Yohan loved Kim very much.  We all prayed together for Kim's healing.  Yohan had encouraged Kim to eat during two of admissions that Kim had at Jeevan Sahara.  He wrote Kim 2 letters which we sent to Bangalore.

But Sheba went ahead and told Yohan the news yesterday morning itself.  As expected, and as is completely correct, Yohan cried copiously.  But he was also comforted.  Comforted with what Jesus said: I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me will live, even though he die.  Death forces us to face truth and hope head on.  Mum and Dad spent time praying with Yohan over the course of the morning.

We are all still processing another loss, but we are tempered in our grief by knowing, really, fully knowing that Kim died as a child of our loving Lord Jesus - and that we will meet him again when our Lord returns in glory.

Good by Kim.  God be w'ye!  We will meet again.

We will meet, we will meet, we will meet at Jesus' feet
God be with you till we meet again.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Dad's Chemo - Round 6

Well, we are in the final month.   Dad has had 16 doses of chemo-therapy, including the first dose of this final cycle which he had on the 2nd of October (Gandhiji ki jai!).  

We are in the 6th and last month of this course of chemo-therapy and now have 2 more doses scheduled for the 9th and 16th of October.

The system is now down pat.  Dad gets his blood test done the day before - then meets his oncologist at around 8.30 PM.  The doc takes a look at the blood reports (this time the WBC count was just over 4000) and then takes a call about whether to go ahead with a dose the next day.  Dad then reports at Bethany hospital at around 9 in the morning and gets admitted to a room where he is prepped for the chemo.

After running a bottle of fluid, the real stuff is put in and it drips away into Dad's chemo-port which then sends it up the aortic vein and into the heart - which then sends the blessed poison to all the other parts of the body.

Overall Dad has been doing really, really well with his chemo.   We are now looking at the next step...

It looks likely that we will have a full body CT scan after his final dose on the 16th... and then?

Well, we would love to hear that 'there is nothing to see' and be able to have Mum and Dad head north for Shanti Kunj and the coolness of a Mussoorie October.  It is rather warm here in Thane at present - and though Mum has been at her never-complain-about-anything best, we know that the hills are calling her.

However, we don't want to put the cart in front of the horse.  At this point we still need to hear from the oncologist what he thinks.  And then have a good chat and pray and make a choice based on what we know.

Yesterday night was a bit rough for Dad - one of the rare nights where he has not slept well with a fair amount of discomfort and even some dry retching.  Dad woke up this morning with a fair amount of vertigo and so he and Mum decided to stay home today and not go to church.

He seemed a bit better at the end of the day.  I did not see him much since we had a blizzard of meetings.  I shared in church on 'God's dwelling place' and then we had a time of prayer in the afternoon, then a listening and personal prayer time with a couple before a final gospel meeting at JSK in the evening.  But at the end of the day, I sat with my dear Dad in the cool of his and Mum's room while he ate his 3rd bowl of suji for the day.  He was sitting on his chair. They had read the printout of my morning sermon and were in a calm and cheery mood - despite Dad still suffering from some vertigo when he is lying down or getting up.

And so the fourth day of October, the Lord's day, ends.   Sheba and I still have some praying to do, however.  The rest of the family have retired for the night, though.

Thanks for your prayers and walking along with us on this journey.