Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Noah the Boa

After lots of posts about the grimness of life here in Thane - especially for people with HIV - here is something on the lighter side.

Would that all our problems could be solved this way - though you have to hand it to the long one for lateral thinking. Read (or look on) courtesy of Richard Scarry...

Richard Scarry

As we all know the great stories of our childhood stay with us.

For us who grew up Eicher this meant Richard Scarry. The two huge books that we had as kids are still with us - and still give delight - both to the new gen of Eichers as well as to the balding (ok bald) one.

Just look at the details that the man was able to fit in. Amazing. Every picture tells a tale - multiple tales - and you just keep having to come back for more and more.

What we have is two very faded books - which have been bound multiple times but are still falling apart - but which are called upon to be read repeatedly. The other set of living antiques that we read regularly are our Ladybird books. I was recently reading one on space to Enoch and saw a diagramme of the Saturn V rocket shown next to the St. Paul cathedral in London and a caption that said 'the Americans are planning to build a rocket..." I looked at the date of the book - 1964. Written before the moon rocket was made. But the quality of kids lit to have cutting edge science / technology available for young minds...

Back to Richard Scarry. One of the things that I love about him is that there is always something going slightly wrong - and yet folks (or more precisely the friendly beasts that inhabit his world) are carrying on cheerfully. There is a basic order in that world and though things go amok for a while, at the end all the kids are asleep in bed and Policeman Louie is driving outside making sure everything is safe (though the odd robber mouse still seems to be lurking about).

The other thing about the Richard Scarry books are how he manages to illustrate basic socio-economic transactions in such an engaging way. The panel on the left shows farmers producing, then selling to the market (this is clearly an abridged version). The farmer then has enough surplus to purchase a new vehicle, plus gifts for his family. The next pages then show how the grocer resells it, and how profits from it and then buys from others in town etc. keeping the whole value chain going.

And this is only one of the stories. There are treatments of forestry, law enforcement, mining, electricity generation, travel by ship, train and airplane, hospitalisation etc. All with the same zany cast of animals. Amazing.

We know of at least two small Eichers who would be happy to host any extra Richard Scarry books that are lurking around your cupboards and could do with a postage trip to India.

Sunday, 28 October 2007


We just finished our latest training course for church members in caring for people with HIV.

Just before our last session of commissioning and prayer we spent a short time reflecting on what we had learned. All of us in a circle. A ball of red wool. One person shared what they had been touched by and then threw the ball across to someone else, while holding their end of the yarn.
We were overwhelmed with how positive everyone was. At the end of the session we had a beautiful star made out of red yarn.

Each one was connected with each other. Holding up our little part kept the picture going. Each person had shared something valuable. We knew that we were going to go our different ways, but the picture of unity and family that we had is precious.

There is so much that can be done to work with people who have HIV/AIDS - and to really make a difference in stopping the further spread of the disease.

The good news is that we do not need more experts. We need lots of ordinary people - like those who were part of our training course - which was taught by ordinary people - being willing to do loving actions. Consistently. In obedience and joy to our loving Lord.

As we said good-bye to our course participants it was a bitter-sweet parting. We are sad to see our new friends leave - but happy that God is going to use them to make a real difference in the lives of people with HIV and their families.

A Marriage

In 2 hours, our friends Joseph and Caroline are going to get married.

A new life together. A big step of faith. Two lives twined into one. A miracle.

As we get ready to go over to Mulund to be part of the public promise before God and all of us, we cannot help but think back to the time just under 8 years ago when Sheba and myself took the joyful plunge together.

Its been a lot of hard work. Many deep dissappointments. A lot of hurt and issues that we still are working on - and others that are saved for tomorrow.

At the same time - we are changed people. The polishing continues to take place. Iron sharpens iron (and sparks fly). Two are better than one. God is using each other to form and fashion ourselves to be what He wants us to be.

And we have had such joys. Every day we wake up to see our two sleeping angels. We look back to the unthinkable journey that we have been wandering along together. This road that we are on - like to one to Emmaus - and on which our Lord joins as a friend to our path.

Here is a poem that our dear friend Greg Jackson gave us at our wedding:
Gift Beyond Measure
to Andi and Sheba - December 1999

We are oft measured by the gifts we give -
their width, depth, and height packaged
into some known form for others to set
with the giver on the scales of the world.

But this day, there will be no such trifling measure.
The gifts and the givers are each the same and together
are joined into one gift - a miracle that only
the greatest of givers can reckon.

It is he who taught you of giving
and its fulfilment when you yourself are given -
with all your scars and tears along the edges,
that he is ever reshaping to a glorious image.

And remember that he alone weighs your gifts
this day - and he will shape them uniquely,
beautifully with his life, which he has given
to you, for you, each other - an immeasurable gift.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Another day over

Its 10 PM.
Where did this day disappear to?

It seems like such a blur.
Sheba just came back from checking in on Mr. Babulnath. He has started TB medications - after finding out that his sputum is highly contagious. For the first 2 days he vomitted, but today he was able to keep his meds down.

Just before Sheba went over to the JSK centre, I returned from there.

We had a Youth Against AIDS Festival Volunteer meeting. Though we did not see as many folks as we had wanted to see - we are grateful for each hardy soul who showed up. 38 days to go. Lots of things still very much up in the air.

Spent a short time with the kids before they slept. We talked about the little girl who worked in Namaan's house. What an amazing trust her mistress had in that girl. How one small nameless girl could change the destiny of kings! The kids are asleep now. They love stories.

Looking back to the afternoon: latter part was a mad scramble to get ready for the evening meeting. How to structure it to get the best use of the time? Who will come? How to move the process forward...
Early afternoon. Staff meeting. Reviewing visits to different homes. Some of them so broken. Some showing signs of physical healing but still rotten inside. Others where some signs of change are present. What to do with Mr. Babulnath - switch him to the government TB programme. Do we know whether he will stay?
Before noon - supervised Asha and Enoch's lunch. Read Bambi while they ate. Prayed for Asha as she went to school. Enoch had holiday because of his Open House - Sheba had gone there in the morning - and then came to the JSK centre for her normal 11 - 3 shift.
Just after noon - had a long talk with Indrajit Sunderam - our main speaker for the YAA Festival. How are we going to end off with enough of a bang to make a longer term impact on the young people we are catering to? We talked about the process of pledging - and also the challenges of intentionally walking towards accountability and life.
Mid morning. Emails - proposals sent. Planning for the day.
9 AM. Team devotions around Mr. Babulnath's bed at the centre. Giri talked about how Jesus must be exalted in our lives. Powerful stuff.
Showed up at the office at 8 AM. Got some computer work done in the first hour there.
Early morning (no specific time given to keep pride at bay) loving wake-up by Sheba - Bible - prayer.
Many hours ago that was. This day is history. What will tomorrow hold? If tomorrow comes?
Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord by soul to keep...

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

And now for something completely different...

We've had a lot of pretty intense 'medical' posts recently.

Here is something completely different:

Above is the ship's manifest from when my grandfather Elmore Eicher and his brother Albert arrived in the US on March 25th 1911 along with their parents Christian and Susan Eicher.

They are listed as Canadians and have as their home address: Alliance Mission, Grant Road, Bombay, India.

This is the ship they sailed on across the Atlantic. The HMS Campania, which left from Liverpool and deposited them in New York.

The Campania was built by Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Company, Glasgow, Scotland in 1893. She weighed 12,950 gross tons; was 622 feet long and 65 feet wide. Her service speed was 21 knots. She carried 2,000 passengers (600 first class, 400 second class, 1,000 third class). I would assume that the missionary Eichers travelled third class.

Campania was built for Cunard Line, British flag, in 1893 and ran the Liverpool-New York service. She was sold to the British Admiralty in 1914 and renamed HMS Campania. The royal navy rebuilt her as an aircraft carrier. She sunk following a collision in the Firth of Forth in Scotland on November 5, 1918.

Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a humble donkey. Spare a thought for the many different craft we have been on over the years. The next generation of Eichers have yet to leave Indian shores (though young Ashish has had a hop over to Thailand already). When will their first cross-border experience be? Stay tuned!

Medicines that kill

Man's inhumanity to man continues to astound.

We met a man recently. We will call him Ashok. Ashok has HIV. He works as a daily wages labourer. Lifting things. Shifting mud. Using his muscles for some rupees at the end of the day.

As our staff got to know him, they found out that Ashok is taking treatment for HIV from a local doctor.

"What drugs are you taking?" they asked. "HIV medication" the man said.

"Can you show them to us" our staff probed further. Sure, said Ashok and fished out the capsules that you see in the photo above.

There is no way, no possible way that these are anti-retroviral drugs. Ashok has been duped. He has paid more than 3000 rupees for these bogus pills. He has been doing this for 3 months before we met him.

Another example of the parasitic way that people make money off the poor and those in trouble. These bogus drugs have not come cheaply either. They have cost many days of work for Ashok. In addition, the doctor has done certain 'tests' at astronomical rates.

And then there are the dozens of quacks who claim various 'ayurvedic' cures that will 'cure guaranteed'. They are never free - and they don't work. We have too many dead friends to vouch for that.

Dead men don't tell tales. Dead people who died from HIV don't come back to the quacks asking for refunds.

Monday, 22 October 2007

The inhumanity of it all

One of the things we believe in is using the government health system as much as possible.

But it can be so heart-breaking.

We are grateful that our government now provides free Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) to people with HIV whose immunities are low.

But the process of accessing the treatment can break the spirit.

One of our long-standing patients came in today. She and her brother and sister-in-law had made the long trip to Sion hospital in Mumbai for her ART. She was not feeling well - has been vomitting for 2 weeks and suffers from incontinence.

The took the train - the crush - in her sick state.

When they finally got to the hospital - they were told that: "All the doctors have gone to a seminar. Come back in one and a half months."


Even if this dear lady misunderstood what was told her - and that is unlikely given that both her brother and his wife were with her - and they are sharp people. Even if there was a miscommunication - surely this lady has just received a death sentence?

Come back in one and a half months.

The inhumanity.

Come back again.

As if this lady is coming on a lark. As if this is the only thing she enjoys doing - dragging herself off to Sion in her incontinent state only to be refused.

Refuse-d. And treated like refuse.

This is where our participation in the public health system breaks apart.

There are many other pathetic stories that we could tell. But we won't. Many lives are not here because of experiences like our friend had today.

Why should she go back? Even though she may be getting the correct medicine - its clear that just getting drugs is not going to save this lady.

How to change the system? What should we do?

Protest? And waste days running from pillar to post trying to find the responsible person?

Set up our own alternative system?

Gnash our teeth and carry on?

Pray? Cry out with anguish for our dear friend - and so many other nameless, faceless poor who have to put up with this because they do not have money to pay the private medical sector?


One thing is for sure. He who sees all will set all things right. Every person involved with the rot that we see around us will one day have to give account. Lord have mercy. Literally.

Saturday, 20 October 2007


Our old enemy is at it again.

We told you yesterday that Mr. Babulnath has been admitted at the Jeevan Sahara Kendra.

His x-ray came today. Massive Tuberculosis damage to the lungs.

Its been a long slog with Mr. Babulnath. It looks like the road ahead will be a long one too.

Mr. Babulnath took medication for TB last year. He was in a terrible state of mind as he did not have a house and was destitute - being looked after by his aging parents who came for the village to look after him. Depressed and vomitting at the medicines he would take the drugs on and off. Finally he decided to go back to the village and tell his wife about his HIV positive status.

We supported him in this - and it seemed to work wonders. He called from the village with the good news that his wife tested HIV negative, and that he was doing better on his anti-retroviral medications (ART). After sometime he came back to Thane and immediately went to the govt. centre for his ART. His wife and youngest son was with him. He started work and a church member helped him find a room to rent in one of our shanty-towns.

Then things started to unravel.

He tried to work but found that he did not have the strength. He lost his appetite and became very depressed. His wife finally got a job - but he had no joy in her working and him being at home. His appetite plummeted and he lost 12 kgs. His father came back from the village earlier this week to help look after Mr. Babulnath.

And now we have the x-ray. Its more than just depression that is killing Mr Babulnath. TB is back and it has spread extensively.

The challenge ahead: an immuno-compromised man, a TB bacteria likely to have at least some resistance to the medications that we use, a soul that has already gone through so much - and knows depression inside out, a man who wants to pack up and go back to the village - but with no hope of any cure there...

Do we start on the re-treatment therapy? Do we wait and try to get a culture and then start on treatment for drug-resistant TB?

At this point we will probably try to get a culture - which will take 6 weeks to grow - but in the mean-time restart Mr. Babulnath on a retreatment course of TB meds. And pray. And talk. And sing.

This morning when Sheba went to meet Mr. Babulnath and his brave wife on morning rounds they all worshipped together. Mr. Babulnath prayed to "Jesus, you who endured temptation by Satan for 40 days."

Our old enemy is back. We don't have high hopes for Mr. Babulnath's full recovery. Things seem stacked against him and his family. But we still do have hope.

His wife is willing to fight. Mr. Babulnath, though still deep in depression, is also trying. His father is along side. People are praying. Father God is loving this dear broken man.


As I type at 12.45 AM, the raucous sounds of the dandiya dance fills the air. A bare 50 meters from this revelry lies Mr. Babulnath at our centre. Is he asleep, or does the cacophony keep him up? We don't know, but we know that our JSK nurse is on duty, and even more so, our loving Father God - who does not sleep or slumber - is looking over this young man.

Sleep well, sweet prince.

Friday, 19 October 2007

In Patient

It has been a long time since we have had an in-patient admission at the Jeevan Sahara Kendra.

That changed today.

Mr. Babulnath has been admitted. He has been suffering from fevers and loss of appetite for a number of months. He is on ART, but does not have the strength to work. His wife has come from the village to look after him. She is negative and has been working hard to look after him and their younger son who is with them.

Last year Mr. Babulnath had started on TB medications - but was depressed and kept vomitting and so stopped taking them and went back to his village. He took the TB meds irregularly there and then came back after some months feeling somewhat better.

His aging father has just come back from the village to help out in looking after Babulnath. The day after arriving from the village the old man already went to find work. He will be working as a night watchman.

So we have Mr. Babulnath back at the centre. Our hope is that he will start TB medications and will be able to tolerate them. We will also have to change his ART medication to one that does not interfere with the TB meds. Its one of the few things that we think we can do medically for Mr. Babulnath now.

This disease is a horrible disease. It just eats people away. What this family have already gone through - and what steps will they take from here on?

The kind, sad and tired face of Mrs. Babulnath this evening when we had ward prayers. The sweet song that our staff shared with Mr. Babulnath. The simple words of encouragement and prayer. How will it end up for Mr. Babulnath?

Your prayers are vital. For Mr. Babulnath - and also for our future in-patient work as we are severely short on space - especially as we want to start voluntary counselling and testing too at Jeeevan Sahara Kendra. Pray for wisdom and guidance as we seek out local alternatives - and that they will materialise soon!

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Testing Times

Asha had her first 'exam' today.

It was entirely as we had hoped. She was well prepared and low stressed. Before she went to school she played and we read a story during lunch.

When she came back she was bouncing up and down. "It was easy."

Its a long way for a little girl. As she comes to the end of her first semester in 'big school' we are so pleased at the desire she has to read and to learn. She loves to study and her handwriting is something to be seen (your humble blogger was given an unheard of 'E' grade for his handwriting in standard 5 by a generous teacher).

Our prayer is that as Asha grows more and experiences more of the educational system, that she will continue to develop in body, mind and in her relationship with God and others.

The Heart of God and HIV

Our dear friend, Dr. Santhosh Matthew has been asked to speak at a conference in the US on "The Heart of God and HIV".

What a challenging subject! He has sent us a draft of his thoughts which delve deeply into the years of service he and Dr. Saira and others in the Emmanuel Hospital Association have given to the Lord through their love for people affected by HIV. We will not comment more on what the good Doctor is preparing - and hope he will post his thoughts for public consumption soon.

But think about the topic - the heart of God - the things that stir the very core of the Almighty, the All-loving, the Great I AM! What an amazing thing to even consider. And then to use that set of thoughts to consider the situations that people with HIV face.

One of the clearest expressions of the heart of God is the person of Jesus Christ. Christ is God made visible. God enfleshed. God in a way that we humans can relate to - if we choose to. When we see Father Heart expressed in Jesus we must join the crowds described by the gospel writer Mark who were 'exeedingly amazed'.

Did you see the opening photo to this piece? Its a shot of the ceiling of the Jeevan Sahara Kendra. Shiny metallic foil stars with names written on them. The names of our friends with HIV who we have gotten to know in the last 5 years here - and who have died. One star for each known death among our positive friends.

How many of them are in the Heart of God at this point? How many could have extended the lives a bit longer, if only...

Each person's life is a unique pilgrimmage. One thing we know. These lives have run their course. They have been lived out with various levels of awareness of the Heart of God. For many - the JSK team and local church members have made this heart visible. Some have responded. Others we do not know. All, however, have now stepped into eternity.

We know that one of the greatest lies that our world tells us is that we will live forever. Though it sounds to stupid to say so - that is actually what most of us believe - and spend most of our lives living as such. HIV forces us to put that in check. Our mortality - and the mortality of each person - with or without HIV - becomes so very clear as we work among the dying.

The Heart of God is seen in His dying Son Jesus. Who tasted the bitterness of death so that death could be no more. Who bore our shame so that we would not need to be ashamed. Who took our punishment so that we could walk free - into the Heart of God.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Some questions

Sheba visited a family yesterday - if you can call it a family.

It was 12 PM. Hot as we get in mid October. The woman of the house - we will call her Vanita - was sitting, trying to coax some fire out a small handful of wood.

The house - a small shed of rusting corrougated iron sheeting. A tiny shack that they have to pay a monthly 'rent' of Rs. 600 for!

Vanita looks like a skeleton. Her 6 children are partly in the village - and the youngest 4 are here. She has HIV as does her husband. Last week we found out the youngest 2 girls have HIV as well.

Vanita is on TB medication - but has not been gaining weight. She sat trying to make the morning meal - at 12 PM. Sheba tried to sit down beside her - but jumped up because of the many black lizards. Vanita laughed: "you should see the rats we have here"

Their shack is at the edge of a 'new' slum. It is only a stone's throw away from our house. Two stones throws from the JSK centre. It is near some scrub brush. Somewhat pleasing to the eyes since there is a bit of green - but not to the nose: the entire area serves as the toilet for the slum. There is a constant stench of decaying faeces.

Our nurses have been visiting this broken home every other day to give Vanita her TB meds. Her husband Harish is sodden with alcohol. He is angry at Vanita and the world. The children...

What are the options for this family? We meet and pray with them. We talk with them. We have members of local churches who are praying for them and have donated food from their tables so that this family can be helped through this current crisis (see: A handful of rice).

Will Vanita pull through? Will the kids grow up with hope? What about those who we now know have HIV. Who is going to look after them?

And her husband Harish. What life for him? Will a heart change take place in his life? Though he is not as skeletal as Vanita he also is sick with HIV disease.

So many questions - so few answers. But we have to press on.

How many more Vanitas are there? How many more Harishs?

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Upendra and Narendra

What potential exists in each person!

Over 20 years ago a terrible accident took the lives of the man and woman in the above picture. Their two sons were left as orphans in Central India. Relatives did not want to take care of two extra mouths so the boys were brought to a Christian activist who was living with his wife and two small daugthers in that area.

Twenty years on:

Upendra Kumar (the older boy on the right above) is today studying towards an MBA at Taylor University in teh USA. He has served with various ministries including OM, IMA and EMi.

Narendra Kumar (the younger boy on the left above) is married to Pramila and they have a beautiful daughter Tamana. They are serving in Varanasi, working among children in destitution and abandonned women.

We are so proud to have these brothers as part of the extended Eicher clan. Our years with them have brought much richness to all our lives. As they move forward we pray that God will continue to help them overcome!

Pramila, Tamana, Narendra and Upendra - Mussoorie 2007

Monday, 15 October 2007


We all hurt - and each one of us yearns for healing and wholeness.

Today a woman came in the door. An absolute skeleton. She has 6 children. 4 are here. The youngest 2 have just been found to be HIV positive as well. Her husband is a moody drunkard. She is terrified of him - last week he took the two children away somewhere. They were returned, but the incident haunts her. So she came with her husband today. As Sheba was talking to them she noticed that both had their heads down. They had fallen asleep.

Who doesn't want to be healed?

But what are we praying for when we ask for healing?

Reading about Jesus as told through the eyes of Mark we see a whirlwind of healing taking place. Hansen's disease (a.k.a. leprosy) is cured, deformities are righted, the lame walk, the blind see. People crowd in from all around hoping that Jesus' shadow will fall on the sick and heal them. And yet in this maelstorm of wellness their is a shadow - the hostile and outraged reception Jesus got when he came home to Nazareth. Almost no one was healed and he was amazed at their lack of faith.

Do we see people healed at JSK?


We have Mr. Tamarind who was admitted at the centre in a semi-concious state. His family had given him up for dead and turned to us as a last resort. While with us he started to lose movement on one half of his body.

Today Mr. Tamarind is so well that we hardly see him other than his regular monthly visit to pick up his ART medications. He is so busy with his fabrication business that we cannot imagine that he would have died but for God's answer to our prayers - one of which was His gracious hand upon our work.

There are others of course. The list goes on.

But then we have those for whom we have prayed - and are not with us any more. Did God not hear?

And till now we know of no known person who was well-documented as being infected with HIV and then being completely and totally cured of the virus after prayer. We would so love to be proved wrong on this, but have not had the privilege so far.

Most people with HIV in the world are Christian. At least to some cultural extent. Many are dearly loved followers of Jesus Christ. All have prayed for healing at some time, in some way. That is millions of prayers for healing. Seemingly unanswered.

What is going on?

I think two perspectives are helpful.

One is that every believer with HIV/AIDS who prays for healing will be totally, completely, outrageously healed.

When the Lord Jesus returns in glory - there will be no sorrow, no sickness, no death, no HIV, no AIDS. The Bible is crystal clear on this - in some amazing way, the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God includes total healing. Across the board. For every conceivable malady and deformity and infirmity. Its all going to be gone. AIDS will be total history. Finished.

The prayers said now will be fulfilled at that time completely.

But what about now?

We do see glimpses of glory even now. There are recoveries which beggar the imagination. People have come back from the brink of death and are walking and talking.

Sadly, physical healing does not always translate into whole-person wellness. A number who were at the doorstep of death, and who fervently prayed and are now well physically - are anything but well emotionally, relationally, mentally and spiritually. More than one family has been heard to bitterly say that it would have been better if their family member would have died then...

We do see what we can term as 'works of God' (the Bible uses the word 'miracle' sparingly) - and of course we yearn to see and experience more.

But what is God's view?

A poignant prayer was said by a man called Nick Vujicic - "Lord, if you help me by growing arms and legs - I will go and tell the whole world about you." The answer: silence. For a 15 year old boy who was born without arms and legs and who was starting to trust in a good God that must have been hard. The long-term answer was this: "I want you to go around the world and tell people about Me - as you are - without arms and legs."

I think that is what we have to see in each of our mixed up lives. Healing is possible - and experienced in different ways in each one of us - but one thing God desires even more than our 100% wellness is for us to understand His glory - even if it means we don't get fully well - for now at least.

Not easy by any stretch. One of my neighbours has been vomitting and having diarrhoea for the last 3 months. Continuously. Its hard to see God in all of that.

At the same time we know that Jesus himself was familiar with this suffering - a man of sorrows, acquainted with griefs, by His stripes we are healed.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Who is this Man?

We met to break bread this morning.

A few families meeting in the home of Jolly and Suma at Samata Nagar, Thane. A small visible expression of the invisible church.

Jolly had sent us an SMS earlier in the week asking us to read the Gospel of Mark, chapters 4-6, and be ready to share what had touched us.

There are times when even in our small group we have had a funeral silence at the time for sharing.

Not today.

"Who is this man? " the terrified disciples asked when Jesus comanded the waves and wind to be silent - and they obeyed.

Who is He?

A man who demonstrates the very power of God. A man who does things that only almighty God can.

He spoke and the raging waves and wind stopped. Twice.

When He chose to, Jesus walked across the raging waves - prompting his followers to think that an apparition was crossing the lake.

Jesus commanded unclean spirits to leave - and they did. A legion of them left one man. The man who was cutting himself and breaking chains and living naked among the tombs was changed into a man who was in his right mind.

Jesus showed his power over sickness. He cured a woman with a gynaecological problem that had persisted for 12 years. The social stigma of an uncured reproductive problem. The physical suffering and weakness for the constant issue of blood. The poverty she was in from having spent all she had on the various physicians of her time. The deep loneliness of this woman whom no one could touch because she was considered unclean. The spiritual isolation from not being able to appear in the temple due to her ritual pollution. Jesus understood all this suffering and allowed her to be healed when she touched his robe. And called her back - not to condemn her for polluting the entire crowd with her presence - but in order to let her tell her story, to affirm her and to send her on her way in peace.

Jesus demonstrated his power over death. A young girl of 12 was raised back to life by his word. Professional mourners laughed at him - but Jesus showed that he was no ordinary man when the girl was given back to her shocked parents - alive.

Jesus was compassionate to a fault. After the death of his cousin John, and after his own disciples were exhausted and hungry he took them across the lake to be alone with them. Upon seeing the crowds who had run to that desolate place he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. He loved them and taught them and looked after them when the evening came and they did not have food.

Jesus was willing to stop for one person in a crowd. He marched to the beat of a different drummer. He confounded the expectations of all around Him. Jesus loved and loved fully. He was misunderstood even by his mother and brothers - and rejected in his own home synagogue - yet he continued to do what Father God wanted Him to do. An obedient and loving son to the end.

Jesus had a unique relationship with each person. The healings recorded all take different hues. There is no cookie-cutter approach here. Jesus knows and loves those who come to him. He speaks truth into their lives and brings change - the Kingdom of God which all were waiting for. One person at a time.

Jesus was humble, but yet he retained his authority. He accepted a child's dinner and shared it with 5000 men (plus women and children too). Yet after the meal He packs off his disciples and then dismisses the entire throng alone.

Jesus spent time with His Father. In all of the excitement of what we hear about in Mark we also see that Jesus went up on the mountain - alone - to pray.

Who is this man?

The Word made flesh.

God fully us - and yet not bent and twisted like we are.

Mark writes the following: "...the Son of Man did not come to serve, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10.45)
What a privilege to spend a morning on the first day of the week with God's people. Praising Him and meditating together on who He is. What a joy to hear what God is doing in each others lives. How amazing it is to come together and to sing praises and pray to the one who spoke stars and galaxies and universes into being.
This is our God, the Servant King,
He calls us now to follow Him,
To give our lives, as a daily offering,
Of worship to, the Servant King
- Graham Kendrick

Saturday, 13 October 2007


There are always plenty of things to be sad and depressed about.

Here are a few signs of growth:

We just completed our 3rd session of the Church Members Training in HIV/AIDS care today.

A good day - full of meeting folks - sharing from the heart - discussions and learning.

One of the Church groups who have faithfully attended are coming from Gujarat. They take the overnight train and arrive here at 5.30 am - then head back the same night to Gujarat.

They are so hungry to learn - it almost hurts.

Recently they started a small phone help-line for people with HIV. An advertisement in the local paper - and the flood gates seem to have opened. They have already clocked 165 phone counselling sessions.

So much can be done. Oh, for people to be willing!

A church fellowship from Ambernath attended our previous batch of training. Over the past 4 months they have made contact with over 30 HIV positive people in their area. 6 have already passed away. They are helping out in various ways with 5 HIV positive kids.

The dear brother who has been spear-heading the work had come by to the Jeevan Sahara Kendra for a short visit 2 weeks previously. Though the work had grown - there was still much room for improvement - especially in terms of willing hands and hearts to pitch in. We talked and prayed and then went our ways.

Yesterday he called up and said that things had changed - dramatically. There are a number of men and women willing to help now. He said he would come with 5 people for today's training. A total of 8 showed up. People are giving of their time - here a bit, there a bit!

An elderly lady from a neighbouring church has been attending the trainings faithfully. She told a bit of her story today. They had a relative who was quite sick some years back. No one wanted to be near him - he had HIV. This lady and her grown children started visiting the man - he was skin and bones - but they talked with him and prayed. He got better. His whole family were reunited. Things were looking great.

Then he started to slip back into his old habits. The bottle became prominent again. His body-builder physique is gone again - and so is his peace of mind and spirit. The joy of the Lord is no-where to be seen.

This elderly lady said that when she heard about the training she jumped at the opportunity to serve.

So much is possible.

Signs of growth - small steps taken by finite, fallible people serving a great God!

Friday, 12 October 2007


We lost another of our friends.

Harish died on the night of the 10th of October.



End of life.


We met Harish 10 months ago. He had been sick for the past 2 years and at home. He knew that he was HIV positive since 2004. His wife is also infected. So is one of his two sons.

Its been hard. Hard for Harish as we tried to coax health back into him.

He tried. His wife worked hard to help him. His parents were tired out. He was bitter and angry at why he was this way.

And yet there were times of hope.

Through the 10 months we knew him, Harish had some rays of sunlight.

There were days when things were looking up. His wife continued to lovingly care for him. We met him on days where the tide had withdrawn abit - when the clouds were a bit less forboding.

The tide has come in fully for Harish.

Harish appreciated the visits by the JSK staff - even though their listening ears often left his little shack ringing with the bitterness of the life he was living.

A bitter-sweet memory:

Sheba had told Harish about eating fruit. "Choose whatever is cheapest. Buy guava if that is what is in season..."

Harish replied that he did not like to buy fruit. In his village no one bought fruit. You plucked and ate.

His family had a guava tree which gave the most sweetly succulent guavas around. It was a joy to all.

Then one day his mother told him to cut it down. His cousin sister was getting married - and they needed the wood to cook the marriage feast.

The tree was cut. The food was cooked. No tree left. Sweet guavas only a memory.

Sheba asked Harish: "Couldn't you get wood from somewhere? From the forest?"

"No" there was none near them - people brought wood from far away to sell - and they did not have enough money to buy wood. They had to cut the tree.


A tear glistened in the corner of Sheba's eye as she told this story this afternoon. A tear glistens in mine as I write these words.

We cry for another young life cut so very short.

We cry for our country where so many have so little. And the little, the precious few drops of goodness around are further cut away.

Another star will be pasted up on the ceiling of the Jeevan Sahara Kendra. Over 100 now.

We hope to meet Harish in glory. Until then we have his wife and children to love. May our lives flow together to finish the story.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Living Legends

A true legend refuses to believe he is one - or that she is one.

In our path through life we have been privileged to rub shoulders with a number of men and women whom God has used in amazing ways.

One of them is Dr. Sheila Gupta.

Age? Didn't ask - but clearly has been around for many a year. This amazing lady been helping others, sharing the word, encouraging and healing for over 50 years.

Among the many she ministered to was Bro Bakht Singh.

We met her earlier in July at Mukti Mission in Kedgaon - the remarkable place which ministers to many women and children who are abandoned by others.

It was evening and we sat outside her simple room in the twilight. Bro John Forbes - who was with us - sang a beautiful acappella song. Dr. Sheila was deeply touched.

As we talked, we looked at the roots and stump of a large tree which was in the corner of her small garden. A few weeks before she had just said good-bye to a servant of God who had visited her, and had gone indoors when a loud sound came and she saw the tree fall down on the spot where they had just bade fare-well.

The huge tree had had its roots eaten up by white ants. No one would have known it would fall in the middle of the afternoon on a windless day.

How much of our lives are like that - it all seems so strong and sure - but beneath is rotteness.

Dr. Shiela came out and thanked God for protection. The God's servant had turned back briefly - they said good bye again - and he was on his way.

A small laugh by Dr. Shiela as she told us the story - and then a heartfelt prayer for us. We are so blessed to meet with the depth of what God does - using simple people to further His glory in a broken world.

post script:
Dr. Shiela told us that someone had forced her to use a mobile phone. The next day one of the senior staff told us how Dr. Shiela uses it - to send SMSs of encouragement and Bible verses at all hours. There are those who are perpetually young - esp. those who burn with holy fire...

Golden Words

Asha and Enoch study at a school run by a Jain trust.

Here is one of the things Enoch came back with recently.

The golden words:

1. Please
2. Thank you
3. Welcome
4. Pardon
5. Sorry

If we could use these more - how much of a difference it would make. For all of us.

Out of the overflow of the heart - the mouth speaks (J.C. about 2 millenia ago).

Oh that our hearts would be renewed from within by gold - and that we would add the key that comes only from the Lord: "I forgive you"

Misery loves company

Couldn't help add another shot to my eye-gallery. Anyone need some red to use as a stop-light somewhere?

We live in an age of instant communication. And yet so much of what really goes on we don't want to see. I think that our monstorously large film-based entertainment industry (a.k.a. Bollywood) is based on the premise that we do not want to see the grime and grimness around us. Our 'official' entries to the Oscars end up being laughable pastiches - no where near the vibrancy that small countries like Bosnia are able to produce ...

So here I am putting a pic of my blood-shot eyes on the web - when earlier this week a boy was framed by the shattered wreck of a car in Iraq - when men and women saw dreams evaporate on hearing that they are HIV positive - when so many continue to grind away their lives in utter and total grinding poverty - poverty of resources - poverty of choice - poverty of relationships - poverty of spirit.

We are reading through the Gospel of Mark as a church - the key verse being: "Even so, the Son of man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45).

How radical a picture of Jesus we see. A man who made a difference. A man who led people to be astonished. The very presence of God - among them - in the flesh - and yet so many would not believe.

As a group, we at Jeevan Sahara Kendra have been examining what God's intentions for the future are - especially in the context of the broken, sin-stained world we live in. What a glorious - and real future we look forward to. Not some pie-in-the-sky utopia - but the real, total, complete promise of healing and wholeness.

Sore eyes? No way! He will wipe the tear from every eye. Not only ones who have a bit of conjunctivitis (like yours trully - this day in AD 2007) - but those who mourn and grieve, those who are broken and wounded.

Come Lord, and come quickly!

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Sore eyes

Happy eyes of a little lad called Enoch - who has been cheerfully enduring conjunctivitis since Sunday. A mild case (thank God) this cheerful boy is our model patient!

When it comes to Enoch's father the situation is a bit different. The above is what I looked like yesterday evening. I knew I had it at work and so plugged away till the end of the day.

And this is what I looked like this morning. The most horrible thing was waking up at some ungodly hour and realising that the fluid from my left eye had flowed nicely into my right one! Sure enough - what was a one-eye infection now has me squinting with both eyes as I type this!

I wish love were so infectious! But I know that love is not a disease but a choice. Hats off to our loving caregivers in our family - Asha who bought me a lollipop (like she bought Enoch one yesterday) and Sheba whose love and concern have made this a lot easier to deal with.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

A hospital far, far away

Nav Jivan Hospital

The name means 'new life'.

The location - deep in our forgotten India - far away from any 'India Shining' lustre.

In the rain-fed and drought-prone district of Palamu, jammed up in the north-western corner of the tribal state of Jharkhand ('forest land') this hospital has been the site of healing and service for almost 50 years now.

Patients come from the nearby villages. Patients come from over a day's trip away. The challenges are many, but the miracle that the hospital still exists in the harsh conditions it has to operates overules that.

Amazingly, the hospital has become a beacon of hope for people with Tuberculosis.

Though for many years people had been coming for TB treatment at NJH, a study in the late 90s showed that only 17% of the 700 odd patients who were annually started on treatment at Nav Jivan actually completed the treatment. You can imagine what was going on at govt. hospitals if this was the rate at a dedicated mission hospital.

Some drastic changes in 2000 led to a jump to over 70% completing their treatment that year - and the place has not been the same since. By God's grace Nav Jivan has not only become a leading partner with the Government TB programme - with an over 95% cure rate - but is now managing the entire government TB programme for the district of Latehar!

Much of this is due to the prayers of many - and the sweat and tears of our dedicated colleagues at Nav Jivan. People like Dr. Chering Tenzing (seen breaking ground for the new TB unit above) who has worked at NJH for the past 1/2 decade and has been instrumental in moving the whole programme forward.

People like our colleagues from the community health and development programme (seen getting a jeep ready for a village programme - you can see the report by clicking: here). Young men and women who have put years of their lives into serving others in often harsh and un-rewarding situations.

We had the privilege of working at NJH from 1997-2001 and are regularly in prayer for the on-going work there.

Do you know of someone who God is calling to join the team there?

Could that someone be you?

Please contact us a.s.a.p!

Friday, 5 October 2007

A new life together

Five years ago a young boy lived on the platform of a railway station.

As we write this on Saturday the 6th of October this boy is being married to a young lady from his church.

The story of the change is an amazing one - and tells how God uses people today to invest in others.

While living on the platform, Chandu was befriended by people from OASIS India Trust and Gateway Ministries - and now works with OASIS and is a vital member of his local GMI church.

We salute this new couple and pray that they in turn will bring about tremendous changes in others!

God sets the lonely in families - Psalm 68.6a

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

59 days to go!

The count-down has started!

59 short 24-hour periods, 59 sun-ups and sun-downs, 59 spins of the planetary ball ... and we have showtime!

Astravidh sing about women trapped in prostitution at the inaugural YAA Festival 06

Youth Against AIDS Fest 2007 - Lead the Change takes off on World AIDS Day - Dec. 1st.

This year's World AIDS Campaign continues the basic slogan of Stop AIDS: Keep the Promise with a theme of Leadership. As people who are committed to seeing change happen - and that too the long-term fruit-that-lasts kind of change - we want to see young people at the forefront - hence Lead the Change - go against the flow - make a difference, for real!

We are planning what we hope to be a really stand-out time for young people to take the lead and make a difference - to get the word out that it pays to live life like God wants us to.

The YAA Fest 07 is planned as a 1/2 day event where young people will show their talents and learn - be challenged - and model the kind of Christian counter-culture that our Lord demands from his radical followers.

We have a huge amount of work to be done till then - and need all the inputs we can get. Please get the word out. The website will be refreshed soon - http://www.youthagainstaids.com/ and the publicity stuff is just around the corner.

We have zeroed in on St. John's school, Thane as the venue - and need a real prayer-breakthough to see this materialise.

There are tons of details - the seminars - the booths - the mini-AIDS-film-fest - the open stage - the T-shirts.... any volunteers are deeply and totally requested to come in the flesh to the JSK centre on Wed. Oct 24th from 6-9 PM for our first major volunteer meeting. Commonunion - a feature band this year - is scheduled to play a short set that evening - and we will be laying out the details for volunteers.

Those unable to come - please pray - and suggest - and communicate. There are a lot of things that we need to hammer out - and the more inputs we get the better!

Living Positively

Christopher Yuan

Chinese American



HIV Positive

Delighted in God.

Read his story - which is the story of so many and can be the story of so many more - by clicking: here

Oh, that more and more people who have HIV will be liberated to bless the larger body through their stories, through their experiences.

You can down-load a powerful 1/2 hour film where Christopher and 3 other HIV positive believers tell their stories by clicking: here

Excellence vs. Obedience

Book Excerpt Time!
An excellent meditation on sexual purity is found in Every Man's Battle by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker.
Here is a bit that relates not only to keeping our inner man pure sexually, but really to all areas of our lives.
Join me please, Gentle Reader:

Why do we find it so easy to mix our standards of sexual sin and so difficult to firmly commit to true purity?

Because we are used to it. We easily tolerate mixed standards of sexual purity because we tolerate mixed standards in most other areas of life.


Question: What's your aim in life - excellence or obedience?

What's the difference?

To aim for obedience is to aim for perfection, not for 'excellence,' which is actually something less.

"Wait a minute!" you reply. "I thought excellence and perfection were the same thing."

Sometimes they appear to be. But mere excellence allows room for a mixture. In most arenas, excellence is not a fixed standard at all. It's a mixed standard.

Let us show you what we mean. American businesses are in search of excellence. They could be in search of perfection, of course - perfect products, perfect service - but perfection is too costly and eats into profits. Rather than be perfect, businesses know it's enough to seem perfect to their customers. By stopping short of perfection, they find a profitable balance between quality and costs.

To find this balance, they often look to their peers to discover the 'best practices' of their industry: How far can we go and still seem perfect? By how far can we stop short? Businesses find it profitable to stop short at the middle ground of excellence because perfection costs too much.

But is it profitable for Christians to stop short at the middle ground of excellence where costs are low, balanced somewhere between paganism and obedience? Not at all! While in business it's profitable to seem perfect, in the spiritual realm it's merely comfortable to seem perfect. It is never profitable.

Clearly, excellence isn't the same as obedience or perfection. The search for excellence leaves us overwhelmingly vulnerable to snare after snare since it allows room for mixture. The search for obedience or perfection does not.

Excellence is a mixed standard, while obedience is a fixed standard. We want to shoot for the fixed standard.

- Every Man's Battle p. 49-50

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

The same sad story?

He came in the door yesterday morning.

"I was sent to you by the pastor."

A small plastic bag held some medical papers, an x-ray and a small slip of paper - his HIV report.

'Reactive' for HIV-1.

Diarrheoa on and off for the past few months. Cough and fever. Loss of weight. 30 kgs now (though he is a small man).

His name - a common one - an allusion to the gods.

His face - one of many. The current face of AIDS.

His family. A young wife and 3 children. The youngest just 3 months old.

We have made contact. Now comes the hard part.

Talking through what the disease means. Working to see if his wife has HIV as well. If so, testing the children as well.

Looking at the progression in this dear man's body. Talking hope in the midst of decay. Looking for steps that can me taken forward.

Each life is so precious.

We have just gotten to know this man. We are about to get to know his family. How long will our relationship last? Will we be able to stabilise him? Will he suddenly move away - shift back to his village in distant UP? Will he plunge into alcohol?

Or will he make steps that last for eternity?

His life may not be much longer - a few months perhaps - or it may stretch into years...

We are humbled to be part of this dear man's story.


Gandhi Jayanti

In the midst of a season of festivals - today the nation remembers Mahatma Gandhi.

Perhaps the term remember is a bit strong. Other than a few advertisements from government departments in the newspaper claiming to be following 'Gandhian' principles - and a few desultory activities here and there there is not much to show.

I did pass a small group of well-fed people wearing white base-ball caps were weilding the odd broom - a 'clean-up' campaign which seemed to be cosmetic at best - esp. since I had seen the paid sweeper cleaning the same area earlier in the morning.

The closest most people come to Gandhi today is touching his iconographic image which has been placed on all our currency notes.

Gandhi is basically a non-entity today - other than for a few wizened souls. He remains a distant saint-figure - like Mother Theresa has been turned into - rather than the lively, intelligent (cunning?) leader he was.

Love him or loathe him - the man stood for a complex and vibrant set of ideas. Today the toadies we see strutting around have long since left any shred of igeniuty - and integrity - behind. Heaven help our dear country.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Half Century + Trees!

Gentle Readers!
Just a small note that we are 50 postings old. Thanks be being along with us on our journey.
Its been a joy to share some of our life with you. We trust that you are blessed by taking a peek into the happenings - small and big - in the lives of the Eichers.
We sometimes feel like the monkeys in the trees of the photo above (taken outside Shanti Kunj - Mum and Dad's place in Mussoorie). Where will we swing next? Which way does the forest stretch? What do we do about those strange creatures who live in boxes? The worlds we inhabit are at times strange - but we know where our future is taking us. The good news about eternity trumps all the sadness and strangeness around!
Speaking of forests - here is Asha's speech for her elocution contest (to take place on Wed.). The topic was given to us parents - who have been transformed into resident speech writers.

Trees are our Best Friends.

Trees are our best friends! Why do I say this? Let me tell you the reasons!

A good friend shares everything she has.

Trees share with us.

They share their wood so that we can make buildings and beds and chairs and sheds!

They share their twigs for birds to make nests and their branches for hockey sticks and cricket bats.

They share themselves even through the odd pieces of their bodies - these are ground up into paper pulp - which we use to make books and newspapers!

A good friend looks after others.

Trees look after us. They stand tall and strong - their roots keeping the soil from washing away. Their leaves falling down and making the soil fertile. The forests working like sponges to keep the water from flowing too quickly to the sea.

Did you know that trees help us breathe? Their leaves breath in carbon dioxide - a poison for us - and then breathe out oxygen - which we need to live!

How well our friends the trees look after us!

A good friend gives joy to her friends.

Trees give us much joy!

Their cool shady branches help us live through our hot summers.

Their tasty fruits make many small children smile. Even poor children in the villages can climb up and pluck small sweet mangoes from the wild mango trees in the jungle!

The beautiful green of their leaves helps soothe our eyes.

Their branches and stems and roots are home for many animals - small and big.

But most of all - trees are beautiful - when we look at one of them - or a hundred thousand in great forests of the Deccan plain- we see that God loves the world - because he gave us such beautiful friends. When we look at them - we remember the beauty of the one who made them!

Trees are our best friends!

I wish we had more of them here...