Saturday, 26 December 2015



Expressing our gratitude.

For another amazing year gone by.

It was a bitter-sweet time for us as we gathered on the 19th of December at the Jeevan Sahara Kendra.

Our dear Positive Friends came.  And their families.  And our friends from local churches.  And our staff and their families too.

How many came?  Well, the 450 food packets we prepared were all gone at the end - and a number of our staff 'went home hungry' (including a certain family with 5 who have a well-stocked fridge).

Once a year we pull out the stops.  To stop and say thanks.

Thanks to God - and thanks to each other.

Looking back and looking forward.

For us this marks our last annual thanksgiving time.  We have had at least 12 of them so far.  Usually on the second last Saturday of December.  A time for our HIV Positive Friends to look back and thank God for the year... and that they are still alive.  And look forward to what God has in store for them next.

This year's programme started with a lively worship set by bro Selvam Nadar and his crew.

Our limited budget - and the fact we are in a silent zone - meant that we could not have the full scale sound that Selvam wanted.  And he also came with a stripped-down team.  But the trio got us all off our feet and praising the Lord.  The man has a big heart and it what a joy to have him lead us in worship.

Next up was a skit by the local church youth group - and then a full scale set of dramas by the Living Hope team.

Minimal voices.

Maximum moves.

Mime to sound.

The team expressed the existential dilemmas that we face well.  And the hope that God through our Lord Jesus offers freely.

The 10 person team had us enthralled for half an hour - and the echo of their moves resonate in our minds.  Theatre has the ability to capture the very essence of something and take you deep into the heart of the matter.   Living hope lives up to its name!

As a team, the Jeevan Sahara Kendra loves to sing.

So we finally got a chance to put our voices to action - and gave a lusty rendition of the Urdu Christmas song "ho shadaman, saara jahan..."

The sun was now going down in the sky and we split up into three groups.   The adults stayed outside in the area behind the Lok Hospital building, framed by the coconut trees above (thankfully none fell down) and the garden on the side.

Tea was served by our eager volunteer teams.

Kids went off to the back of the campus where a team from the Childrens' Bible Ministry had a special programme for them.

And the young people were blessed by a team from the Borvali Hebron Fellowship who had a super session for them.

Each one is so precious - young and old.

It has been a privilege of working with the different families over these years - and seeing God shape lives in different ways.

We are so glad that none of the children born to HIV positive mothers under our care over the last 13 years have been born with HIV.  God's grace, lived out through the hard work of our staff and the love and generosity of church volunteers.

When we look into the faces of these dear young ones we see the future.  And it looks a lot brighter than the past from which many are emerging from... for which we are so grateful!

In a time of so much seeming hopelessness we are grateful for the Word of God who has revealed Himself in His word.

It was fitting to have John Gabriel share with us.

John has been with us as a family since our days in Borivali way back in 2001.

And over these years he and Nalini and their daughters have stuck to us.  Encouraging us. Praying for and with us.

As a family they have also supported the work with our Positive Friends - joining a number of Positive Friends retreats - and helping as a church to stabilise and support families in the locality.

One of the Positive couples from their church is today down South living an amazing life as an auto-rickshaw driver and pastor - with a son who is studying engineering.

Even as I am writing this a phone call has come from John - asking help for a contact of his down South who needs HIV counselling.

John shared from his heart about how our Lord forgives all our sins... and heals all our diseases.

We then had his words put into practice.  Our Positive Friends came forward to share what God has been doing in their lives.

What a joy to men and women stand up and publicly share their journey.  Some are far along the road to wholeness, others are just starting.  Each life is a miracle of grace.   We are obviously not showing their photos on this blog - but in our minds we see their faces and their words are still fresh in our hearts.  What a privilege for all of us to be part of this journey.

Sheba and I took the stage to say thank you - and to tell our friends that we are moving on.  Looking out at the various faces in the crowd was deeply moving.  Each one represents a life that we and the JSK team have partnered with at some point.

Sheba and I have been blessed to see so many of our dear friends pull through.

And we also know that many did not make it.

Even this year we lost a number of our Positive Frieneds.   The young boy Kim comes to mind as a particularly tragic case.   There were a number of folks at last years meeting who were not here this time.  But by God's grace, the medications are working and they are doing wonders.

We have folks who have been with us for years.  Some come back especially for this meeting each year.

We were able to thank God for His goodness in helping us this far - and share with our friends how we see our Lord leading us forward to move to the North again after the 13 years of work in Thane.

After the meeting a number of our dear friends cried with us.  We cannot imagine you not being here was something we kept hearing from our Positive Friends.

It was my real joy, to introduce my dear friend and our successor as leader at Jeevan Sahara: Thomas Phillips - known to one and all as 'Jolly.'

Earlier in the day I had gone back to our old centre for a very specific task:  to pluck a leaf.

This was no ordinary leaf.  It was the leaf of what is now a large tree growing on the street outside the old JSK office near Happy Valley.

About 8 years ago, it was a small sapling that an 8 year old boy called Sachin had planted there with his uncle.  Sachin died a few months after that.

But Sachin's mother was here with us at the meeting.  And his sister too.  And the once small sapling is now a mighty tree outside our old office building.

I handed the leaf over to Jolly as a symbolic passing on of the baton.

We are not worthy to be part of the lives that God has linked us up with.  Our model is the Lord Jesus who said that unless a grain of wheat dies, it will not bear fruit.   The lives that we see transformed in front of us are so often the result of our staff 'dying' to self - putting in the many hours of care and work that most do not see.

Jolly shared how deeply moved he was to be with everyone - and how much he looked forward to serving come February.  He then called the JSK staff forward for prayer.

It was now time for a snack and a gift.

We asked all those who had come to sit with their family members while our volunteers scurried about serving packets of vegetable biryani and hot tea in the slightly cool night air.

At the same time, we had our guests from local churches line up for joy of gift-giving.  Our JSK staff would take a church volunteer and steer them gift-in-hand to a family and introduce them.  The volunteer then gave the gift and spent some time talking and praying with the family before reporting back to our gift centre to be deployed to the next family.

It was a happy mayhem.

It was not possible to meet each person in the crowd, but Sheba and I did shake a lot of hands as we mingled with our dear friends.

Looking back, it is a perfect end to our time here.

A time to give thanks to God for His goodness in giving life to so many who would otherwise slip away from this earth largely unnoticed.

A time to rejoice in the wonderful way our team put the programme together, working as a seamless unit to get the 101 things done needed for a programme of this magnitude.

A time to make a clear statement that our time with Jeevan Sahara is now at an end... and the joy of being able to introduce our dear friend and brother Jolly to our Positive Friends.

And so we gathered as a JSK team with some of our family folks after the programme for a photo.   What an amazing bunch.  We are proud of each one of our JSK family and are already mourning our upcoming going of different ways.

But oh how thankful we are.

p.s. a big thanks to Sharon Joseph for the superb photos - a few of which we were able to show here - but most of whom because of confidentiality and privacy issues will not be posted on the blog! 

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