Sunday, 30 December 2007

Top 10 for 2007

Its time to make lists.

We could make hundreds of them based on all that happened in 2007, but here is just one - a quick top-10 areas of common grace which we as a family we are grateful for in 2007.

10. Family holidays - just take a look at the photo above - no more words needed.

9. Enoch being able to 'repeat' his junior kindergarten. We are so glad he is so much happier and more confident at school now - and he has been saying that he likes his 'second Hummingbird class'

8. No serious sicknesses in the family - and this despite the almost daily contact with people who are dying of various infectious diseases - with multi-drug resistant TB being the most dangerous of the lot.

7. Asha has a believing teacher - at a Jain school!

6. Having Stefan, Neeru and Ashish with us in the Mumbai area for 2+ months in May-July.

5. Mary Auntie - who has been helping us out home over the past few months with cleaning and picking up kids from the bus and cooking and other miscellaneous things

4. Good food - and chai - all year round. We are all nicely 'healthy' - and perhaps need a bit of an active exercise regime?

3. Such a joy to see Peter and Yashmeet in a totally new way - this year they are active in helping local churches in Kenya - there have been deep changes in their lives and today we had the joy of hearing Peter give a message at the local Hebron assembly where Amma and Appa attend here in Gajuwaka, AP.

2. Deep opportunities to bless people through our work at Jeevan Sahara - and be blessed by them too. Our Thanksgiving meeting on the 15th was such a deep blessing to us - we were overwhelmed with God's love.

1. Experiencing God - in big and small ways - throughout the year. The word of God continues to speak - we need to listen more and obey.

Friday, 28 December 2007

Bonfire on the roof

Recipe for joy:

1. Take four beautiful cousins.
2. Add the excitement of new clothes.
3. Mix with a song and dance - practice this for 2 days in anticipation.
4. Put flowers for the hair (girls) and a big smile for the boy (the smile is infectious)
5. Whip up excitement with an evening bonfire - on the terrace of Ammama and Thatha's house
6. Add various spontaneous games in the mean time (like the train game on the left).
7. Sit back and enjoy!

We had a bonfire last night. It was Sarah's 37th birthday till 12 AM - when we celebrated Daisy's 40th (over skype).

A small fire under the egg-yolk moon. All of us together. A lovely evening of laughter and song - dance, drama and games.

The theme of thanksgiving kept showing up. Thankfulness that we are together. Thanks for how God is leading us as families. Thanks for all the mercies and grace we received over the year.

The kids did a lovely song and dance. Enoch singing and the three girl cousins doing a lively choreography.
In between two Swahili songs - a Rajan sibling reunion around an Oriya favorite (with plenty of laughter in between).
Later there was a play where a rag tag bunch acted out the 10 lepers who came to Jesus for healing. Where are the other 9? Asked Jesus (acted out by Enoch). The question remains with us... how many times over the
past year we have been like those 9 - quick to ask for help - and even quicker to forget once the help has been received.

And so the time in paradise continues.
As I type a good meal of rice, sambhar and fried fish is nestled inside me. The mid-afternoon nap beckons. Wonderful conversations are all around. The excited chatter of cousins colours the air.


The paper this morning had sobering news.

Benazir Bhutto is dead. Assassinated. Bombs, riots, chaos all over Pakistan.

At the same time we have deaths from police firing in Orissa where VHP activists are burning churches.

A sea change is taking place in Kenya as the results seem to indicate a change of government.

It seems wherever we look we see chaos - something heightened by the beautiful surroundings of family, good food and love that we are experiencing here in Vizag.

In this context the amazing picture of the future we see in the book of Revelation - with all its austere glory - takes on such an amazing hue.

A new city. Coming down from heaven like a bride. The white linen being the righteous acts of the saints. A place where the Lord and the Lamb will live with his people for ever. And ever. Where there is no need for other illumination - because the Lamb is the light!

This certainty - thus utter complete certainty - helps us move forward into tomorrow.

Come Lord Jesus. Come quickly Lord.

Thursday, 27 December 2007


The cousins and Appa on the beach in May 06 - this time Frankie (right) is replaced by Anmol

The cock is crowing outside. The palm tree has a cluster of coconuts on it. Appa says that we will have a man climb up and harvest them so that the kids can have tender coconut water. Sarah (Sheba’s sister), her husband Victor and little Joanna have just arrived. The delicious smell of chicken biryani - being cooked by Yashmeet and Peter (Sheba’s brother) is wafting out of the kitchen. Excited shouts of Asha, Enoch and their cousins Joanna and Anmol are mingling with the other sounds of paradise.

We are in a small heaven – at ‘Jeba Villa’ – Amma and Appa’s home in the little village of Tungalam – just outside Vishakapatnam. We are at rest.

It is just lovely to be quiet. To read the Bible. To sleep. To plan small outings to the sea shore.

I realize just how tired I am. Though we have the whole night to sleep through I still get up several times. I find myself dozing while reading. But at the same time the therapy of quiet, good food, loving people who we have not seen for so long is making its happy work of restoration felt.

Barring Daisy, Ramesh and Frankie in the US, the other three Rajan siblings have made the pilgrimage to Jeba Villa. Peter and Yashmeet and Anmol had come from Kenya and had spent 3 happy days with us in Thane before we took the 1.5 day train trip together here. Sarah and family were doing the rounds of Victor’s relatives here in Andhra Pradesh and have showed up here on Sarah’s birthday. We have a bon-fire planned tonight with the cousins and their parents due to present various items.

We are grateful to God as the year slips to an end for all the very very many good things that He has given us. The Rajan family is sponsoring a ‘love feast’ at the local Hebron assembly on Sunday – at which time Victor, myself and Peter will be giving messages in the fellowship. On the 31st night we will all be together for the watchnight service. It is fitting that we should end by thanking God – and looking ahead to what He has in store for us all in 2008.

--------------- x ------------ x --------------

We got a call from Mum and Dad on Christmas day while we were traveling on the train. The day before the door bell had rung – and they saw with a shock that little Ashish was sitting on the doorstep – alone. Around his neck he had a sign saying ‘Happy 40th Anniversary plus 1 day”. No one else was in sight.

Well, almost – around the corner Stefan and Neeru were peeping at our shocked parents. They had made an unexpected sortie to Mussoorie and spent 3 heaven-sent days with our beloved parents.

Paradise all around!

Monday, 24 December 2007

Celebrating Emmanuel

Its the 24th of December and we are off to Vishakapatnam today for a very long awaited holiday with Sheba's parents. The train leaves Kalyan at 4 PM and we get to Vizag on the night of the 25th at 9 PM.

We have been bone-tired for the last few months. Its hard to believe that the time has actually come.

Having Sheba's brother Peter, his wife Yashmeet and little Anmol with us for these last 3 days is a long-hoped for dream come true. How precious it is to be with our loved ones - esp. ones that live so far away - in this case Nairobi, Kenya.

Yesterday was a special day.

We celebrated 'Emmanuel' - remembering that our Lord was really born - and that God's plan really is that all should be blessed.

Peter and Yashmeet were part of the worship time we had at our regular Sunday meeting at Jolly and Suma's house in Samata Nagar. We focussed on Luke Ch. 2 and were amazed at the breadth of different joyous insights this beautiful account of Jesus' birth and youth gave us. Starting with the fact that he was born at a time when a cruel Roman goverment was in charge - and yet God uses the very act of census to bring Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem at the time of Jesus' delivery - and so fulfilling the prophecy of old...

No matter who comes to power (or stays in power - like Mr. N. Modi showed today) we know that God is in control.

And we know that he loves all people - and told this to the poor and outcaste of the day. Shepherds doing the night watch in the fields.

We also had the joy of testifying how God had heard our prayers - and how one lady who was so hopeless has now found a home in a Christian Ashram - and also how Mr. Babulnath passed away - and yet God gave Sheba the insights and ability to share comfort with his wife and parents - through God's beautiful word.

A lovely lunch and then it was on to a time of baptism. We had the joy of baptising 5 of our church members. Then a quick visit to brother Babukutty - a Brethren evangelist- and home for dinner and Emmanuel.

Its a long Eicher tradition to read from the Bible and explain the joy of who Jesus is - and the real purpose for his being born.

We Eichers taking talking about the Gift seriously. The junior Eichers have their thoughts on other gifts. I remember similar times in my own boyhood days. What a thrill to see the same excitement 'from the other side.'

After sharing about the joy of Jesus and thanking him for being our greatest gift, we have the joy of giving each other gifts too.

The next part is a treasure hunt.

The kids are herded into one bed-room and the gifts are hidden around the living room. Then finally the impatient little ones come to search. A hilarious time is had - and we end up with a small pile of gifts in the centre - which are then delivered to whose name graces the wrapping.

An inspired idea by Sheba got us looking for a bongo for Enoch this year.

We found one for a lot less than I had expected and it was spirited into the house last week.

A blue wrapping job and it was ready to take its place in the treasure hunt pile.

Enoch was just thrilled to unwrap his new treasure.

Immediately his hands were on the skins - beating out a simple but steady beat.

He has a long way to go - of course - but we hope and pray that Enoch will learn to make sweet music to God - and make a joyful noise as well (which he already is pretty good at).

Asha was thrilled with her tamborine - and shoes - and did a dance hopping on one foot - while using both gifts - till she had a small fall and decided to wait a bit before starting again!

There is something very very exciting about seeing the kids with musical instruments.

A whole new era is opening up for us Eichers.

We thank God so much for being with us - living out his name of Emmanuel.

As we finished off the day with a heavy chocolate cake - we are so grateful to God for all he has done.

We leave for Vishakaptnam later today with very tired heads and hearts - but the joy and realisation that God is lovingly looking after us.

We want to thank you again for standing with us - so many of you - and especially for your prayers.

We are not sure whether we will be able to blog from Vishakapatnam - but if not - then see you next year!

Merry Christmas and a very very happy New Year.

Happy Emmanuel - and may God shake right-side up in the new calendar year we are shifting into!


Sunday, 23 December 2007

A lifetime of Marriage

40 years ago today Raymond Elmore Eicher and Christa Roesli Fischer became Ray and Christa Eicher.

For the last 40 years Raymond Elmore Eicher and Christa Roesli Fischer have been becoming Ray and Christa Eicher.

Both of these statements are gloriously true - and we are the very grateful witnesses to this miracle of God's grace and faithfulness.

In scripture we see the number 40 representing a life span - a life time.

Stefan, Premila and I can testify that we have seen a life-time of love and faithfulness in Mum and Dad's lives. We have seen so many expressions of love and faithfulness to us as their children - and to the extended set of children that Mum and Dad have parented over the years - and still do. We have also seen the many many ways that Mum and Dad have poured themselves into others. Beyond the 'programmes and activities' that Mum and Dad have been involved with over their years of service to others - we have seen the way that God's love has been lived out to person after person, couple after couple, family after family.

Sheba and I have been watching over the last 8 years of our lives together - and we join our hands in thankfulness to God for giving us two sets of godly parents. Today we thank God especially for the example that Mum and Dad are to us - and pray that we may one day have the joy of celebrating 40 years of marriage (on Dec. 15th 2039!) with a rich legacy of love like we see in Mum and Dad's life together.

For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.

Thank you, Mum and Dad, for living out the reality of this wonderful mystery - in our midst. We love you and are very, very proud of you.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

A bit of heaven

We are in another season of grace.

Sheba's brother Peter and Yashmeet are here with us, along Asha and Enoch's long awaited cousin Anmol.

Peter and Yashmeet have been living in Nairobi, Kenya for the last 3 years. The last time Asha and Enoch saw Anmol she was just over a year old. It is such a joy to see this lovely and loving little girl - so full of life and charm. It is wonderful to see the three cousins discovering each other.

Having arrived on an overnight train from Hyderabad early this morning, we did not give the Peter family much time to rest - we were off in the afternoon to Igatpuri to participate in the Christmas programme at Purnatha Bhavan.

Purnatha Bhavan is an amazing place which the OASIS India Trust runs. It is a home for women and children infected and affected by HIV. But that simple sentence does no justice to what is actually happening. There are more than 70 dear people who are being loved and transformed in so many different ways. Lives which were hopeless are being knit together. People who are so broken are discovering new hope. Disparate people are working together. We saw some of the results at this celebration of Christmas.

We have a special reason to be so touched because Sheba has been involved with the medical care for many of the women and children who have HIV at Purnatha Bhavan. To see so many, who we have seen in various stages of sickness and dejection - to see them up on stage - radiant in happiness - doing dramas and dances - was just magical. We are so amazed to see the transformations that have taken place and know that the Lord is in this place. It is the person of Jesus alone who has brought about such changes - and we give thanks for his loving hands and feet who have been serving these women and children.

Mrs. Quilon and her 4 children went to Purnatha Bhavan 2 years ago. The children are almost unreckonizable now. So big. So talented. So full of life. The eldest dancing vigourously. The younger girl reading beautifully as a narrator. The youngest boy lovingly holding our hands and not letting go. The second youngest darting around full of joy. Their smiling mother - TB ravaged lungs and all - wreathed in a smile of thanks. Just one of the many, many lives that Jesus is touching at Purnatha Bhavan.

We are in a season of grace.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Nunc dimittis

There are tears tonight.

Tears of sorrow. The wail and grief of a father who has lost his son, a mother who lost her boy, a wife who is now a widow.

Mr. Babulnath died at 11 AM this morning.

We got a call from the AIDS hospice where we had finally sent him on Saturday.

He had been there for 5 days.

His body was cremated this afternoon.

Daniel and Sanjeev - our staff were there with Babulnath's father, wife and brother. A small knot of people in a big city that continued to grind its way through another day.

Mr. Babulnath was a small, slight - and mostly sad man.

Our experiences with him were mainly on the sad side. We met him two years ago when he came for ART medications. His HIV was kicking in and his immunity was low, so we wanted to start him on medications. In the meantime he also got tuberculosis. And lost his job. And lost his place of staying - the workshop he had been working at.

Glimpses of Babulnath come to mind - his miserable life in a shanty shack after being sacked, his loving mother and father who poured themselves into their son, his going back to the village to tell his wife about his true status. Glimpses of hope are mingled with the sorrow - his coming back from the village with his wife having testing negative - and going straight to the goverment ART centre to get his medicines. His fiercely hopeful wife who cared for him - and their sons. His getting a room on rent - thanks to a church family - and his returning to work. But then the sickness and depression kicking in - and the gradual decline over the last few months.

The last few weeks were horrible.

His landlord kept calling up and telling him to leave - loudly abusing him for being sick and saying that she did not want them there and that the family should get lost. We talked with the woman so many times but whenever a son came to visit it was the same story - shouting and chaos. Finally it was too much - Babulnath had been under a constant fever for a month and was not responding to any of the medications - and the home situation was too horrible - so we referred him to a hospice run by an order of Catholic sisters.

But through all this suffering there were also glimpses of hope. Though he was usually very sad - and often depressed - Mr. Babulnath believed in Jesus - and was confident of where he was going. His son started at our child care centre and has just blossomed. His wife has shown her self to be a remarkable woman - full of life and determination. And we did have many opportunities to talk, pray, listen, sing and just be with Babulnath.

When Simeon saw the eight-day old Jesus he said: "Now, Lord, you let your servant go in peace: your word has been fulfilled. My own eyes have seen the salvation which you prepared in the sight of every people; A light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel."

We do not know what Mr. Babulnath's last words were when he died in the presence of his wife. But we do know one thing. This life of suffering is over. He is delighting in the presence of his loving Lord.

I look forward to seeing him in glory.


The call came about 3 weeks ago.

A mother very sick, the neighbours don't know what to do.

They mother and her daughter were brought to JSK in a pathetic state. She was gaunt and not able to speak. We understood that she had been suffering from psychiatric problems for over a year. Her husband was HIV positive and living in a Terminal Care Centre. The child was a mass of open sores. When she sat on one of the white chairs at the JSK centre she left some of her blood behind on it. The mother did not respond much - so the people who brought her did the talking.

We asked them who they were and they said they were neighbours of this family - that the husband had been admitted and since then the family had been evicted from their house and so they as neighbours were trying to look after the mother and child. They said that they could not look after her any more - and would be putting her on a train and leaving her in the village if nothing could be done here.

We will call the lady "Noreen" and her daughter "Ovi".

Over the next few days we started visiting the place. By God's grace Ovi's sores responded well to being dressed properly and the antibiotics that we gave her. The girl was able to smile again. We needed to do some tests for Noreen to understand her situation - and though she still did not talk much - she was cooperative on the trips to the hospital labs.

Our normal partners were unable to accomodate this family - and we were on the verge of giving up before we thought of asking if SEAL would help. SEAL is a radical outfit - they run an ashram that cares for the destitute and dying - and have started a new work at a village called Akurli (click here to learn more about them). The two pastors who form the core of the work - Pastor Phillip and Pastor Bijoy - are pentecostal variants of Mother Theresa - men of amazing zeal and tenacity. When we called them up, they immediately said 'yes' they would take Noreen and her son and daughter.

And so yesterday came when it was time to take them to SEAL.

Suddenly the neighbours had a different take. Since the HIV test for Noreen's son was negative, and he is studying in 4th standard, they said 'we will look after him.'

We had already been suspicious - but this confirmed it.

We could not leave a boy with 'neighbours' and so told them that unless they were his relatives he would have to go with his mother to the Ashram.

Then it came out. They were relatives. The main man was the brother of Noreen's husband.

They were 'sorry' for having lied to us.

we face so much brokenness, so much deception, so many layers of cruelty within cruelty
our only hope is Emmanuel
that family, who thinks they have 'been relieved' of Noreen and Ovi don't realise that Noreen and Ovi are now living with children of the King of Kings
... many who are last, shall be first...

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Thank You

Its a season for Thanksgiving - and we want to thank you - gentle reader - for coming along with us on the journey we are travelling.

Writing this 'blog' (such an ugly word) is a real joy for me. I love to see images and words come together and take a life of their own. We are in an extended conversation - with each other - with who we were and will become - with the thoughts and ideas of others...

As we read (again) the Silver Chair to Enoch and Asha the question comes up again: "Is Narnia real?" No easy answer - it is not 'real' as in 'sit on a chair real' but it is not 'false' since there are gleams of truth the shoot forth from that magical land - pointing us to a deeper truth that lurks beneath the world. Our image of the Kingdom to come pokes through thrillingly - and whets our appetite for more.

We hope that we are in this kind of a conversation together. And want to grow and veer in directions that bring light, life and fruitfulness to bear. Your comments and thoughts - gentle readers - as you key through this site - are sought after.

Obviously there is a bit in there that wants to be patted on the back - as we say 'shabaashed' - but even deeper than that - is a desire to speak truth and receive that beauty that is wrapped up in truth.

As we come to the end of 2007 - and remember our loving Lord's amazing birth - childhood - adolescence - public ministry - death - resurrection - and his living life through His body the church - we want to thank you for what you have meant to us - and for walking along with us these few steps.
Day by day, and with each passing moment
Strength I find to meet my trials here
Trusting in my Father's wise bestowment,

I've no cause, for worry or for fear,
He whose heart is kind beyond all measure,
Give unto each day what He deems best,
Lovingly it's part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Sunday, 16 December 2007


As said before some folks log onto this blog because they are interested in finding out what the Thane Eichers are up to - and what is happening at JSK etc.

Others come on board more serendipidously. The main culprit seems to be the good old guys at Google. Whether some of these friends stay on to read what is written is something unknown to me - but the last five google searches that lead to people clicking onto this blog site make interesting reading:

1. newlife church in ghatkopar - the person clicked onto this posting: Church training - Loving your neighbour... with AIDS
2. home medicines which kill - the person clicked onto this posting: Medicines which kill
3. three highest angels in heaven - the person clicked onto this posting: Three Angels in Heaven
4. dr. raju abraham - the person clicked onto this posting: Disturbing the Peace
5. John Forbes Andi Eicher - the person clicked onto this posting: Living Legends

The raw computing power that is available at this point is amazing. How much actually helps is another matter.


Day before yesterday morning our dear friend James D'Costa took the beat up JSK scooter to get some bread. He slipped and got bruised on his arm and leg.

The pain was massive - and got worse so we sent for an assessment with the orthopaedician at Lok Hospital. The x-ray showed a hairline fracture (the image above is just an illustration - medical sleuths take note...).

Pray for James. The doc said no cast needed - but 2 weeks of bed rest. We had our big thanksgiving meeting yesterday and James was there. It was Sunday today - and James had to make food for himself - so he was up much more than he should have been - and is now in pain.

It is very very hard to be injured. May James' bones be knit back together soon.

Saturday, 15 December 2007


Eight years ago today Sheba and I started into the adventure that marriage is.

In the last two weeks of the previous millenium we joined our lives together. A huge leap of faith - a big step of trust - knowing far more about our common Lord than each other.

We celebrated today - and are still celebrating. Our first was in the company of our dear friends and colleagues at Jeevan Sahara Kendra.

Fittingly it was our annual 'Thanksgiving' time - when we look back at the year gone by - and really thank God for what He has done. We were overwhelmed with the folk who came - a good 150 or so adults and another 80 kids showed up. The stories were deeply moving - how many have seen real change and hope come into their lives over the past year. Our colleague Adam Black stood up to thank our positive friends for sharing their unforgettable stories - and choked up - which was totally how I felt too. Each life is so precious - and so many of our friends have been through the worst experiences of brokeness, rejection, hopelessness and grief.

At the same time, what a blessing to be sharing our lives, our times with these dear people. We are glad that Asha and Enoch are growing up with the words 'HIV', 'death', 'very sick' on their lips - not because we are sadistic - but because we live in a world where suffering is real - but hope is unexpectedly and gloriously real too.

One of the songs was an energetic little dance by the children from the Child Care Centre that JSK helps run to allow children to remain with their HIV positive parents. In it one of the enthusiastic dancers was little Hari.

Yes, the same little boy who almost died just over a month ago (click here). Hari was not only dancing, but he acted in a play and was so full of energy and joy. And to think that we almost, so very very nearly lost him that night.

I am very proud of my colleagues and others who have been with us in prayer to make miracles like this happen.

It is deeply fitting that we should remember the beginning of our journey together as a couple, the genesis of the new family of Eichers, in the company of so many saints.

Looking across the sea of faces today - the image remains locked in my mind - I cannot help but be so glad for the intimate way God has allowed us to come into contact and relationship with so many. It is inconceivable for me that this would happen without Sheba and I having trodden the road of marriage over these years - following our dear Lord Jesus together.

Thanks for being along with us on this journey. We have many areas where we are still growing. Many edges of selfishness and pride that still need to be rubbed smooth. Many areas where we are being used to shape and mould each other.

We look back with gratitude. Sadness at some of the mistakes we have made. Joy at the blessings we have received. Thankfullness for eight years of life together.

How many more years? Don't know, but as the sweet scent of the big bunch of roses next to me continues to waft my way - I have to say that if the Lord chooses to take one or both of us home right now - it will have all been worth it.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Living Legends - Uncle and Aunty Cyril Christian

We continue to be blessed by meeting living legends.

This past week we Eichers had the joy of hosting Uncle Cyril and Auntie Snygdha Christian from Sambalpur, Orissa.

Uncle Cyril had worked with Dad in 1966 on OM - and has continued with the same fervency and global vision since then. A died in the wool Gujarati, Uncle Cyril was married to Aunty Snygdha - then a school teacher - and they settled in Sambalpur Orissa where Aunty was working.

A life well lived - this precious couple have been fostering pairs of children over the past decade. We at Jeevan Sahara are privileged to have Sandhya Rani Aind - one of our nurses - who Uncle and Aunty have raised and nurtured. We can see their love in action through the life of Sandhya. As a trained nurse she has been a great blessing to the team and has grown to love people with HIV deeply.

At the same time Sandya was being groomed in the family, Uncle and Aunty also looked after Pinku - a young man who is now married and teaching at a school in Orissa. Currently they are looking after Daniel who is doing his 10th standard classes and a girl who is in 7th standard. Uncle and Aunty are currently praying about taking on another pair.

Having retired after being head-mistress in various government highschools in Orissa, Aunty Snygdha retains her razor-sharp mind - and deep desire to serve.

Talking with these dear saints is like drinking deep, clear water. Their enthusiasm for God - their desire to serve - their life of prayer - their love for finding out new things - their desire to encourage others - trully, the world needs many more Uncles and Aunties like these two.

Will we be like this when we see our few grey hairs become the crown of righteousness that Uncle and Aunty can boast of? We hope. We pray.

Don't fire - its a donkey!

Things don't change much in 2000 odd years. There are still lots of soldiers - and lots of donkeys in the middle east.
We just read as a family how Jesus sent his friends ahead of him to get a donkey for him to ride into the city of Peace. We also read how just a few days after that the brutal soldiers of a pagan occupying imperium brutally beat and humiliated our Lord - something his own countrymen and relgious authorities also took joy in doing.
As we remember the birth of Jesus - let us not forget his death. For the Christian the festival that many celebrate as Christmas is nice - but it is Easter which is the pivotal point of everything. Christ was not the lamb who was born before the creation of the world - He preexisted all known existence - but he is the lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world. The act of his sacrifice prefigured the very creation of time itself. And his act of physical resurrection is what turns history on its head - and gives hope deep deep down to the very bones. Death - where is your sting?
In the meantime - and in a time where much is mean - donkeys and soldiers continue to co-exist in the middle east - for some time at least.

Monday, 10 December 2007

What's in a name?

We have an interesting family name: Eicher.

Its a Swiss German name - linked with the oak tree (Eiche in German). Other German names are similar Bucher is linked with the birch tree (Buche in German etc).

The roots of our family tree apparently go back through the Mennonites who came to the US via Canada (great-grandad Christian was born in Ontario) to where they had settled in France (Alsace - or Elsas Lodringen as the Germans say it) and before that Switzerland. Oldest known ancestor is Jacob Eicher (1756 - 1815) who was born in 1756 and who died on 3 July 1815 in Aspach, Alsace, France. According to his records, Jacob's father Jean Eicher died on 9 July 1779. We are dealing with the time of the French revolution here and the hardy Mennonites were fleeing Europe in order to live out their faith.
But what twists and turns the Eicher name has had.

Today the two most common connotations with "Eicher" are as follows:
1) In Europe: Stephan Eicher - Swiss pop star

A talented lad who sings in many languages. German, French, English, Italian...
The one time I heard a tune of his in English... let me say that it was a strange kind of English.
Hats off to Stephan though!

I have noted that my own talented muscian brother has started to write his name as Stefan Prakash Eicher. Perhaps to put a bit of distance between our Stefan and that dopplegaenger Stephan...

2) In India: Eicher Motors
A long time ago - in 1959 to be precise - a small German tractor company set up an Indian joint venture in Harayana state. After some time the German company parted ways and fell into poor times. The Indian counterpart, however, went from strength to strength. I understand that it even bought out what remained of the German company in the late 1980s.
Today Eicher is a household name - in India at least. The Hindi translation fits the south German way "I-sher" instead of our 'Iker' (rhymes with 'hiker') that we are somehow straddled with.

We commonly see commerical vehicles with the Eicher logo on it - mainly trucks with a big EICHER written on the back - because the company has a dominant position in the light commercial vehicle sector - producing Mitsubishi based vehicles.

Enoch and Asha go to school each day in an Eicher bus similar to this one.

Interestingly enough, the Eicher company has sold its tractor division to TAFE, and is now minting its money from trucks, busses, gears, maps and the Royal Enfield motorcycle division it owns.

I once wrote to Eicher and asked if they could give us a small retainer - maybe just 1% from 1% of their profits - for using our esteemed family name. No response from the good folks at Eicher motors yet.

Today Eicher announced that they are forming a joint venture with Volvo to make trucks and other commericial vehicles in India.

Whatever the corporate behemoth this company may become, in one way it is all moot to us - since Dad is adopted we have no biological ties with the Eichers anyway.
Point is - a name is more than genelogy - we are culturally far more Eichers than any chromosomal inheritance.
Having been called "Itcher", "Itchier", "Acre", "I-kar" (income tax in Hindi) and having once heard Stefan's name being pronounced as "Stepan Evellier" on PA system at an inter-school sports meet - I know that we have an interesting name.
We even have a student dining hall at far off Taylor University on its Fort Wayne campus which is called the "Eicher Commons" to remember the involvement one branch of the family had with the then Fort Wayne Bible College and the missionary activities of the Eichers over the years.
There is an interesting account in the book of Revelation when Jesus tells the church in Pergamum (Revelation 2:17) "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it."
What will our new name be?
The Eicher name has served us well - but we will gladly trade it in for our new one which will be written on the white stone we receive.

Monkeys and Leopards in Mussoorie

This just in from Dad - writing about happenings at the Shanti Kunj homestead:

We sometimes joke about these two species, but THIS IS NO JOKE:
Saturday, we had prepared a small packet for one of the girls from EMI to take to the States to mail to Premi. As Vickey walked out our upper front gate, there were a few monkeys beside the path. He took no notice of them. All of a sudden, two of them jumped up and grabbed Premi's parcel from his hand and one of them rushed up the tree. At the same time, a third money came up from behind and grabbed his leg and began to bite. Fortunately he had on jeans and so the teeth did not get thru to his skin.
He was so SHOCKED, he rushed back into the house, took a stick and rushed back up the path. He began shouting and waving the stick.
AMAZINGLY, the monkey who had the packet dropped it AND Vickey reached out and caught it. We are truly thanking the Lord, becausethose creatures could have taken the packet and gone off anywhere and ripped it to shreds!
Yesterday, Sunday, Vickey had gone for a walk into the woods in his chappals. He walked down the back path to Jabarkhet. He then cut down to Fairy Glen and then thot to keep going down into the woods. It was all so quiet and peaceful. When he was way down, near the stream, all of a sudden he noticed all the birds around were shouting and chirping.
Then something moved in front of him off the path. He looked down and there, barely 15 feet way was A LEOPARD in a crouching position, it's long tail spread out behind it. They both looked into each others eyes. Vickey's heart froze, he was so scared. The next moment he just turned and raced STRAIGHT UP THE HILL, thru the bushes and all. He got his hands all scratched up, but he said he had INCREDIBLE ENERGY AND SPEED.
Fortunately, the leopard must have been as surprised as Vickey and did not wish to follow him, PRAISE THE LORD! Finally when he reached Fairy Glen he just collapsed and realized what a miraculous escape he had had.
Probably the leopard was coming along the same bath and when he (or she) heard Vickey, he/she jumped down OFF THE PATH, to about 10 feet below the path. Vickey really feels that is he/she had BEEN ABOVE HIM, he/she would have jumped on him.This was about the 4th time Vickey has had an encounter with this species in the near past.
We prayed over Vickey, especially to ask Holy Spirit to remove every spirit of fear and trauma thru these two experiences, one right after the other.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Florence next

What will the future look like?
Mercifully we do not see what will take place - especially since we know that much sorrow is in store for most of us.
But at the same time, there are some hopeful pictures too.
One is the potential that we see in Asha and Enoch.
Last week Asha was asked by her teacher to dress up as a nurse.
She did so with great joy.
We have been blessed by Asha's caring nature and sensitive spirit. More than once she has 'nursed' one of us 'big ones' when we were feeling less than up to speed.
Where will she go in the future? What will she do for God? We are excited to know that her future is in God's hands - and that like her name there is much to hope for!

Saturday, 8 December 2007


Ever noticed the sad forlorn single pieces of footwear that dot the streets?

Where do they come from? Where is their partner?

Here is the story of one - make that two single shoes.

Mr. Lambu - one of our long-standing positive friends - has not been doing well.

Though he recovered from the door of death - and has started working again - things have not been rosy.

His income has not added to positive change. The rupees earned from his auto-rickshaw driving have fueled the old addiction to alcohol - the reason why he and his family were forced to leave their home and are now living on the pavement.

Last week he came to see us at the centre.

Mr. Lambu is in a terrible state. He can hardly swallow - because his oral candidiasis has spread down his throat. He can hardly feel on the left side of his body. We suspect he has a toxoplasmosis infection of the brain. Treatable - if he takes the meds and the prayers work...

Last week he lost his footwear - twice.

He was walking along and did not notice that his chappal had fallen off - until some time later.

Pray for this dear man and his family.

Next time you see a stray chappal or shoe on the road - remember Mr. Lambu.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

YAA Fest 07 - A state of grace - Part 3

Grace is tangible - we felt it in buckets during the YAA Fest 07.

As the evening rushed to its conclusion it was time to gather again for the final bit of the programme.

After a song by Commonunion one of the JSK staff members - Daniel Kautikkar - gave a testimony. It was on behalf of Raju (name changed of course) a young man with HIV.

The sting in the tail was this: Raju is dead.
Instead of him standing up and sharing about his life - he is one of the many whom AIDS has taken over the past few years.
Daniel shared about how Raju had been deathly sick - and made a tremendous recovery physically - only to fall prey to his old demons of drink and self-pity. Despite many inputs into his life Raju kept making choices that lead to death rather than life. His behaviour became more and more erratic - people reported him threatening others with broken tube-light bulbs.
The final days of Raju were miserable. He passed from this world as a young 25 year old. In a psychiatric ward of a government hospital. Daniel ended by saying that we all make choices - and that he wished that Raju could have been here to tell you his story like Shubhangi did earlier...
The stage was set for the finale. Indrajit Sunderam had come down from Delhi to be part of the YAA Fest and now was his turn.
A compact bundle of energy and determination - Indrajit put it straight forward in chaste Hindi to all those present - we have to choose between appearance and character. Working the theme, Indrajit helped us to see how valuable our purity is - and how possible it is to live a life with the help of the Holy Spirit. But how the choice is in our hands - and in the hands of this generation.
Indrajit capped off his sharing with a song he wrote - a Dylan-soaked number that talked about the angst around us - and offered the light of seeing the door to hope opened.
It was decision time. We explained that this was totally voluntary - but that it was important to put our will into action - and sum up all that we had learned over the evening. We were asking those who wanted to - to commit themselves to choices that led them on the road of purity.
We also explained that we had a small token to help them remind themselves of this - a simple friendship band - but one which had been put together by ladies who themselves already have HIV. The band is an outward reminder of the promise that we made to God and before our peers - and a nudge to keep us going forward - together.

And so jointly said (in Hindi and English) our final statement:

In the presence of God and my friends, I freely make this promise:

I decide to live a life of purity – and I want to lead the change

I will move forward on the road of purity – choosing to make God’s
standards my own – and asking forgiveness quickly if I fall.

Together with those I love – and whom I must love more – I choose to honour and respect relationships – regardless of the cost.

I choose to be faithful to my marriage partner – whether I know him or her yet or not. I want to give my best to him or her.

I admit that I need help from God. I will seek Him through his word and others who are on the same path as I.

I will honestly share my failings with God and others who are walking with me on the road to purity – that we may all be changed.

I put this friendship band on my wrist to remind me of my promise:

I will pray for the sister with HIV whose hands made this band –


I will encourage others to take a stand and stop AIDS – starting with me.

So help me Jesus.

Once more Commonunion came on - to do our closing song: just reach out - and He'll reach in - take your broken heart - and make it whole again.

---------------- x ---------------- x ---------------- x ----------------

Grace is tangible.

The amount of work that went on behind the scenes to make the YAA Fest 07 was just phenomenal. For each of the 500 odd people who attended over the course of the afternoon and evening we had lots of hours of work in preparation - and much prayer.
During the whole time there was a great sense of peace and security - any of the small hitches that came our way were overcome amazingly - and with minimal fuss.
We saw so many young people come and really enjoy themselves. We saw people being deeply moved. We saw people being challenged and provoked. We saw models of excellence in the drama and music. We were changed - glory to God!

YAA Fest 07 - A state of grace - Part 2

A bit of prodding and the crowd assembled at the stage. Varkey took the mike and welcomed people and then Commonunion took to the stage. The lads in black gave it what they had - good grooves, good moves and a focus on the Lord in all they did.
Mixing in standards with their own tunes that they had written just for the YAA Fest 07, the lads gave it their best, something that the crowd appreciated

Good music can't be enjoyed sitting down.
The lads had us up on our feet pretty soon into their set.
Someone said that you need hard rock for hard hearts. Whatever the style - it is clear that music speaks the language of youth - and that the message of purity and faithfulness - with the help of God was well put forward by the Commonunion guys.

After the storm came the quiet. Relatively at least.

A very funny - but painfully true play called Lead the Change saw a mock cricket-style commentary following the lives of two handsome young men on their way to the women of their lives.
As the commentators discected their every move - we saw one gorge himself on everything available - and try to get his friend to do the same.
Be it gobbling "Chinese" food from a pavement stall - while on the way to a sumptous feast at the Taj Hotel - or taking in pornography on his mobile - and flirting with multiple women - on his way to meeting his 'beloved' - the man was willing to play the game.

His companion took a different line - and though he looked a bit glum at times - in the end the payback was huge. The hook - you never know when your past will catch up to you - and no matter how dowdy it may look at the time - faithfulness to our future spouse is money in the bank.
After this laugh-riot - with a sting in the tail - it was time to get serious. Very serious.
As the crowd quietend down, very special person called Shubhangi took to the stage.
Shubhangi told us it like it was. That she was HIV positive. That she had married against her parents wishes - and as a young woman had found herself caring for a dying husband with HIV - and how she herself found out that she was positive.

The crowd was rivetted as Shubhangi continued with her story.

Earlier this year she came within a hair's breadth of death.

Her own illness had taken root - and though she had hoped that prayer alone would make it go away she was so sick that it was clear she was dying. A local pastor would occasionally come to her home to pray for her - and when she told him about her condition he urged her to go the Jeevan Sahara Kendra.

Though she was asked to go to one of the large government hospitals for treatment, Shubhangi's mother insisted that JSK look after her semi-conscious daughter. Through those dark days medications and prayers and care flowed and at the end of it - Shubhangi was able to go home.
Today this young mother of two is able to work to support her family - and be a courageous voice (as she was earlier this year when she addressed a similar meeting in the picture seen right).
There were many a moist eye as she signed off urging young people to be careful in love - not to be afraid of relationships - but to include their parents in the picture - and to make sure to get an HIV test before marriage!

After another song from Commonunion it was seminar time.
A bounty of seminars were available for the participants with topics ranging from
HIV/AIDS Basics - to seminars on Relationships and Preparing for Marriage - as well as discussion talks on Choosing Careers, Living Life with a Purpose, and Pornography - a pair of seminars For Girls Only (focussing on issues young women face) and How to be a Friend to a person with HIV rounded off the offerings.

James D'Costa fields a question in the seminar on being a Friend to people with HIV in the picture on the right. The small discussion group ended up profoundly reinforcing Jesus' desire that we should be to others what we want others to be to us - Friends.
And all of this before 8 PM! More to follow....

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

YAA Fest 07 - A state of grace - Part 1

Looking back it almost seems to be a dream. The intense activity of the past week - culminating in an almost round the clock effort to get the show on the road - and then the final day which almost went in slow motion - like Harold Abrams running the 100 m dash in Chariots of Fire...

We had a scorcher of a Dec. 1st - bright hot sunlight burning us to a crisp as we set up. Minor hiccups like no water for a long time - and the threat of our toilets not being given water by the resident power - but over all the peace - as a hundred different parts of the programme came together - as the logistics of setting it up on at the St. John's school took root - and we had the physical reality of the fun-fair and the NGO stalls set up and in place.

By 3 PM the first folks had started trickling in. It took a bit for a buzz to be there in the stalls - but the sheer joy of seeing the long prayed for young people coming in - some tentatively - some boldly was great. A young woman writes an encouraging message to people with HIV. We will be displaying this 'wall' at our year-end celebration for our Positive Friends and their families. We are expecting over 250 folks this year.

At other tables a number of games incorporated HIV prevention and information messages. The face-painting table was well frequented - but mainly for 'arm-painting' as most did not want to have their faces tatooed for the evening!

Edison runs a sound check in prep for the evening concert. The band Commonunion was our headline band this year and really put up a good show. Young guys who are in college and in workplaces - they do what most Mumbai bands have to do - cut down on sleep time try and meet up together after work to jam and practice.

A lady and her son from one of the JSK self-help groups. The 'Ruth' group made carrot halwa, poha and peanuts for sale at the programme. It was the first time that they had got together to do something like this and was a real encouragement for the ladies. We have seen a significant change in a number of the ladies since the self-help groups have slowly started to gather some steam. We were blessed to have an excellent turn out by our fellow workers in HIV issues. In the above picture, our colleagues from World Vision share with participants about their work while selling products made by HIV positve people. In the table behind them our friends from the International Justice Mission show their aftercare work through the candles their clients have made. We were thrilled that IMCares, Oasis India, In-touch, CBM, Salvation Army, ACT-Chiraag and our own JSK were able to display information about HIV and our responses to it - as well as products people with HIV had made.

While the fair was in progress below - a small film fest was taking place in the first floor classrooms - 4 films showing simultaneously - that is until the power went out! Our dear film affectionadoes had to come down and do some more milling about in the fun-fair and NGO stalls. The power did come back - all was cool - and tempers remained very tightly controlled. Throughout the time we were blessed with peace.

- next up - Purity Rocks! The Concert.