Coconut trees. Green paddy fields. Rounded volcanic red hills. Aquaculture ponds. Thatched roofed huts in small cluster villages.
We are deep in Andhra country.
And we are coming closer and closer to Amma and Appa.
What a difference a year has made.
A year ago we celebrated Christmas with Amma and Appa – and were back to Thane by New Year’s eve where a sick boy was being cared for at the JSK Centre.
This morning the boy is one of us. We are returning to Vishakapatnam as a family of five. It’s the first time Yohan has been out of his state. He still does not have a clear idea of what Maharashtra is, let alone Andhra. It’s the first time he is on an overnight train.
A year ago I was feverishly trying to put together Mum and Dad’s “100 year of ministry surprise.” Most of the Christmas hols were spent late at night putting together the many contributions people had sent to us by email from around the world, ready for the Jan 6th surprise meeting that we were able with God’s grace to bless them with.
We had asked Mum and Dad to be with us for a month, since I thought I was going to Rwanda for a week at the end of January. That did not happen, and I was a bit embarrassed to tell them that the plans were not working out. But God had a bigger plan for us.
During the first weeks of January, we went through a season of prayer about where Yohan should go… and gradually came to the decision that he should join our family. What a blessing to have Mum and Dad with us during those days. We were so glad when they welcomed our decision – and when Amma and Appa were so supportive of our choice too when we told them on the phone. And to have Mum and Dad with us on the 24th of Janaury when Yohan came to our house was a great blessing.
Saying good-bye to Mum and Dad in early February, we expected only to see them in May on our annual summer hols pilgrimage up to Mussoorie. We were glad to have had them with us for a whole month - and wished they could be with us longer.
Our wishes came true – but in dramatic fashion.
Early March. Late at night. Talking on the phone with Stefan who was with the family visiting Mum and Dad for a weekend. Sheba and I had just come back from a 11 PM meeting with Dr. Stephen. Stephen had told us that Dad will probably die, based on the MRI scans of the lump that was totally blocking his common biliary duct. We prayed and talked and made the decision to bring Dad to Thane immediately. We booked the flight tickets miraculously for the next day – and then had Stefan wake up Mum and Dad at 6 AM with the news that they would need to pack up and leave in 3 hours for Mumbai.
The next few weeks were a whirr and a blur. Mum and Dad here with us. Dad in hospital. Tests and procedures. Decisions. Stefan and Neeru in and out to help. Prayers from all over. Dad’s big smile through it all. Mum’s faithful love and cheerfulness and seeking to ‘help us out’ all the time. The blessings of being able to serve those who have served us and others for so many years. Bethany hospital as our second home. The miracle of the surgery and wonderful post-op recovery. The disappointment of finding a cancerous node post-surgery. Decisions to go ahead with chemotherapy. An amazing 6 month chemo-experience with Dad. Constant, unbending, unending prayers of many holding us up and taking us forward. Finally, being able to send Mum and Dad off on their way rejoicing – 8 months after they had arrived in such an emergency. Amazing grace.
And then the other stuff of this year.
Who would have imagined a year ago that we would be returning to Vizag having resigned from the Jeevan Sahara Kendra work?
And after 14 years in the Mumbai area (13 of which we spent in Thane) to be heading back north to work at the Harriet Benson Memorial Hospital in Lalitpur. We left the Emmanuel Hospital Association in 2001 in response to a call from the Lord to work among churches and people with HIV in the Mumbai area. Two 7-year-spells later we are set to rejoin EHA for the next phase of our pilgrimage.
We are 2 days into the new year.
Down in Chennai, Peter and Yashmeet’s daughter Anmol gets baptized today.
I just got an SMS from Victor saying that they are just leaving Raipur, Chhatisgarh – and that their train is 2 hours late. We expect to meet Victor, Sarah and Joanna tonight. Joy unbounded.
I am tired but happy. We are coming home to Amma and Appa for a few days R + R before we plunge into the next big things.
The coastal hills of Andhra and the coconut groves outside the window, the spick and span train stations that flit by tell us that we are nearing Amma and Appa’s love.