Tuesday, 1 December 2015

World AIDS Day 2015

I just did a search for 'World AIDS Day' on this blog ... and surprise surprise, a good many posts of 'Chai Chats with the Eichers' have had those words.

Well.  Here is another one.  And it is being written with a difference - it is the last one that I will be writing while still serving with Jeevan Sahara Kendra.

World AIDS Day comes on the 1st of December each year.  And for us in India we are now drawing to a close for this World AIDS Day - while folks on the other side of the earth-ball are waking up to Dec. 1st 2015.

This 1st of December marks an amazing anniversary for us.

A year ago today (of all days) Yohan came into our lives.  We had been told in the last week of November 2014 about a sick orphan boy whose parents had died of HIV and who needed to be stabilised and then sent to an orphanage.  We told the concerned folks to bring him over to the JSK centre.  We were not sure what we could do, but we wanted to try.  As I recall they were supposed to come on the 30th of Nov.  Instead, they came on the 1st of Dec. 

Who would have imagined that a year later he would be part of our family.  This evening we told him that we would be celebrating his birthday on the 13th of December - and have a party for him on the 12th!  He is thrilled.  We had hoped to have the legal adoption papers by now, but the year is slipping by and so we prayerfully made the choice to step forward with this.

This 1st of December is also pretty melancholy in some ways.  It marks the beginning of our last month with Jeevan Sahara.  We gave a letter to Bethany Trust in early October saying that we would be handing back the leadership of JSK back to them on the 31st of December.   Amidst the hustle and bustle of this year's World AIDS Day and Mumbai AIDS Sunday work, we have a small voice saying... this may be the last time you do this, and hmmm wonder if that will happen again...

But having said all of that, here was our day!

We started bright and early with Sheba and I having our cuppa and spending time with the Lord on our own.   A recent Family Camp has challenged me to see this as my 'most important meeting' and really look forward to it - and I am reaping some of the benefit of this.

Sheba made the tiffins for the kids while I showered and then revved up our Papaya for our school-car-pooling run.  We were down-stairs by 7.25 and had picked up the other two kids 5 mins later and were whizzing off to BSS in Powai before you can say Jack Robinson.

After I dropped off our treasures, I hared it back to Thane to attend the monthly Pastors Fellowship breakfast which we have each first Tuesday of the month.   I was able to share with my dear friends about the upcoming Mumbai AIDS Sunday - we are hoping that many church fellowships will have a special time focussing on the needs of people with HIV on Dec. 6th - the first Sunday after World AIDS Day.   We had special time of prayer this morning as well.

The Jeevan Sahara Kendra team had headed out early for a special day-long HIV counselling and testing camp in Kalwa along with the Sahwas organisation.   It was a grand success with 126 people being tested in a very underserved slum community.  Our whole team pitched in and the church volunteers were great.  We will find out tomorrow if any of the tests came back positive - but we are very grateful for everyone who chipped in.

After the Pastor's meeting I picked up some boxes of books that we are hoping to give as gifts at the upcoming Positive Friends Annual Thanksgiving time (Dec. 19th - mark your calendars and call us at 9321112065 if you want to participate or help out in any way).

Then to pick up Yohan - who had been given early morning home-schooling by Sheba and then had 2 hours with Mrs. Priya Sane - his tutor.   We then had a quick lunch together and read from one of the Ladybird books which has survived my childhood.

A quick lay down (my back has been acting up again this week) and then I hit the computer to finish off the Monthly Prayer Calendar (sent off just after 1 PM) and then I needed to find out how to get to Govandi west.

Sheba came back from the clinic so that I could head back out again for an HIV awareness programme that Vision Rescue had asked me to do.  I thought I was getting late - and had not been to Shivaji Nagar before so our humble Papaya started acting like she was an F1 racer (not really, but I did go a shade faster than normal).

Shivaji Nagar is a massive slum settlement on the edge of the city.  Literally.  The place where the Vision Rescue folks have a small community centre is right at the edge of this sprawling settlement.  Beyond you see some open ground, then a large land-fill with hundreds of plastic bags flying in the sky - behind which are the mangrove swamps of Mumbai... and then the dirty sea that laps around the city.   The slum is just off the main air corridor, so we saw plane after plane fly by on their way to land at one of the Mumbai airports.

I was brought up to a tiny room with sewing machines lining the walls.  There were posters of sewing implements and clothes.  This place is used to train local women in tailoring skills.  A number of the young women were there - most dressed in hijab - and on the other side of the room their mothers.  We had a good time going over the basics of HIV and how to prevent its spread - and what can be done if we have it.  Knowledge is power - and being able to talk about things openly really helps.  One middle aged lady said that she is so relieved now - since she had been in fear of people with HIV - but knowing that it does not spread in routine daily contact really took a load off her.

We then went out to a near-by cross-roads for a street play which was put on by the NSS group from a Mumbai college.  The play was of course about HIV, but was a bit of a disappointment.  Earnest young folks who had clearly practiced for it - but too many words, too confusing, all in Marathi (when most of the local population in this slum only knows Hindi)... A goodly crowd which gathered did not really what they really needed to see.  But commendable that the group had come out all the way to share what they could...

I had another session to take.  This time with men.  Well, make that 2 men, 8 adolescents and a smattering of boys.  It was good fun to go through the same presentation with the other gender.   The boys seemed to have shorter attention spans - but I think I was able to get through to some of them.

Then it was back in the Papaya and into the gradually rising traffic flows back to Thane.

Tuesday nights are Bible study nights for the Eichers.  We have been meeting in the home of Sister Shanti for the past 3 years now.  Tonight's topic was not about HIV - but almost all those present have some experience with the disease.  Either living with the virus, or the children of someone who does... or did.  A small group - but one with very special needs.  One dear young woman had a mild epileptic fit during our time together.  She expressed at the prayer time how sad she is to be taking medication and still be getting these dizzy spells.    A widow lady thanked God that she was getting an adhaar card soon.  Just 3 months previous she had had virtually no identification proof.  Now slowing the JSK team has been helping her build a set of documents which will help her and her children in the future.

We then all had supper together.  All that is except Yohan.  He had had his meal at 7 PM since he needs to take his 9 PM meds on an empty stomache.   His cheerful presence was with us, however, in the small room as we dug into our rice and rajma.  Our little Bible study is made up of very imperfect people - but the simple and profound truths we uncover need a life-time to implement.  We left with the assurance of the amazing love of King Jesus - and I could see it in the hug that Sheba gave our dear friend who has been suffering from Epilepsy.

So we come to the end of another World AIDS Day.  So much more to be done.  But so very much to be thankful for.


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