Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Mr. Aur-kya?

Asha and Enoch have a name for our friendly shop-keeper. They call him Mr. 'Aur-kya' - since no matter how much you buy from him - he inevitably asks 'aur kya?' (what else? i.e. do you want anything else?).

The shop is a family affair. Our dear man shows up at just after 7 am - and the shop is open to at least 11 PM every night. The family consists of his wife - a lady who clearly has problems with obesity - and 3 (or is it 4?) sons who seem to span the ages of 13 to about 23 or so. The appartment they live in as a family is on the ground floor - on the other side of the building.

The other day I asked him about where he has from. "Rajasthan" he said - and it clicked. Here is another of the amazing trading families. They are called Marwaris - since many are from the Marwar area of Rajasthan - but then there are others too - Gujarathi families and trading clans that are not only present all over India - but have colonised large areas in Africa (think trading outposts like the ones I found in deepest Uganda) and the United States (think 7-Eleven kind of convenience stores and motels).

While visiting my brother in Africa a dozen years ago I was amazed to see these families running shops in remote areas of the country. A small sociological study by a Ugandan academic that I read tried to make sense out of why these families did so well financially - and why the other people groups of native Ugandans did not seem to be moving up economically. The difference seemed to lie in how wealth was used. The 'Indians' as these trading families are called - saved religiously, kept a low profile, lived frugally - and ploughed their money back into their business - and occaionally to giving loans to help other family members get off their feet. The 'locals' (I forget the term used) had a different story to tell. The 'big man' who has made wealth suddenly finds himself called to a patron of many - relatives start sprouting up and making their home in his shelter. Money is meant to be used liberally on others - and on prestige items like the big car. Not for nothing are these nouveaux riches called 'Wa-benzi' since the Mercedes Benz still has the reputation of being the car that matters.

So why did our Indian brethren in Africa do so well and not here in the home land? I thought - and then it struck me - they are doing plenty well here too! The trading family is alive and well. We have one who live in our appartment and run that shop in the ground floor. Hailing from the bleak and barren desert landscape they have migrated far and wide - and take their flair and hard work for business with them wherever they go. While I was in Manipur for 7 months - my local host family occassionally took pity on me and my craving for chappatis. Since my hosts, the Tusing home, were a strictly rice-every-meal home (par for the course in Churachandpur town), they turned to the local Marwari family and requested them to occassionally make rotis for me.

Reality is that since our trading community families look more or less like everyone else - their presence does not strike us as strongly as the sole 'Indian' in a rural African community does. But then I remembered the 'jokes' that attributed stinginess etc. to the Marwari community. I realised that there was more than just the surface ethnic-leg-pulling going on - that there were real senses of envy and greviences by local communities even here about the shop-keepers. There is money to be made selling to the poor - but few smiles are given to the shop-keepers by those who are buying.

As I talked to our shop-keeper friend - I asked him how often he goes back to his native place. Once a year - came the reply. But what about the shop? I asked. I have to trust my family to take care of it - he says.

I have never seen the shop closed. Not for a holiday. Not for nothing. Ok - if there is a violent 'bandh' I have seen the shutters go down - but never for too long. By evening the shop is bustling with customers again. 7 AM to 11 PM. 365 days a year. Every one pitching in.

"Aur kya?"

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Mumbai AIDS Sunday

Its that time of year again.

No - I am not talking about Christmas (which we gratefully celebrate as a family - but usually only for a day or two).

I am talking about World AIDS Day which is commemorated on December 1st.

The papers are breathless with the news that new HIV infections in India are down by 50% from before. The Indian Express article puts it this way:

In another indication that India has managed to contain its HIV/AIDS problem, the latest report by UNAIDS says the number of new cases annually has shown a 50 per cent fall from eight years ago. In 2009, 1.2 lakh people acquired the infection, which is half of the 2.4 lakh who got the virus in 2001.

Note that the issue of HIV/AIDS is already being spoken in past tense. While the figures are encouraging - after all no one really wants more and more people suffering - we know that even if not a single new person were infected from now onwards - the existing damage that has been wrought will take this and at least one more generation to work through.

Being in care for the long haul - that is one reason why we focus on working with Local Church congregations and prayer groups.

Each year the advent of World AIDS Day gives us an opportunity to call congregations to learn about God's heart for people with HIV, understand the context and needs of people in their communities, examine themselves, pray fervently for God's loving interventions - through us, and make real decisions to bless people with HIV and their care-givers.

One of the highlights of this year's Mumbai AIDS Sunday is a special meeting for all the churches in the Mulund area as well as neighbouring suburbs. We are focussing this Praise and Prayer to help reveal that Father heart of God for people living with HIV - and how we need to joyfully and thankfully respond both as individuals, as well as a fellowships faith.

The meeting will be held at 6.30 PM - 9 PM at the Marthoma Church, Mulund (opp. Fortis hospital). If you are in Mumbai or anywhere nearby - please do come by! We will be so blessed by you. If you are not going to be physically in the neighbourhood - we would deeply cherish your prayers!

A simple site has been set up at: www.aidssunday.wordpress.com

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

on the farm

Though Thane is an urban sprawl with a good 2 million or so folks living here (we will find out next year when the census results are published) - there is still place for nature and growing things.

Just near our house - we have the low Pokhran hills - which are the Eastern border of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park - the green lungs of Mumbai!

And last week we also had a full-fledged farm... in miniature of course...

Enoch was hard at work again with the legos (the pictures of this are now the only record it was made - he has already recycled the bricks for his next set of projects...
On the farm that Enoch made, however, Mr. Farmer goes for a walk to see how his animals are doing.

The sheep, pigs and ducks are doing mighty fine. In fact, looking at their size compared to the farmer, you might wonder if there is any doping going on - they look like they are all on steriods!

But then who am I to say - the lego farm has certain challenges that are scale dependent. Its not possible to make recognisable animal models below a certain size threshold! But it is just this limitation that combined with the durablity and connictability of the whole set - which for me enthrones lego as the 'king of games.'

In another part of the farm, Mrs. Farmer takes a small break at the picnic table in the park.

Its not easy being a lady on the farm. The work is never ending it seems - so it is a real blessing to be able to get away from it all every now and then!

Would that Mrs. Farmer's example be followed by us in real life - by the chap whose hands are banging the keyboard at this minute - who really needs to go to bed!

The peice de resistance for me was Enoch bulding a set of men actually repairing the roof of the farm-house. Its one thing to make something and break it. Little boys seem hard-wired toward that sort of thing - but which little boy builds something that is restorative in nature? There is obviously a grateful and slightly-in-awe Dad voice coming through in the previous sentence!

aflame for God

Time for a quote from Roland Bainton's Here I Stand - A Life of Martin Luther (p. 167)

Into a society where the lesser breed were given to gambling, roistering and wenching..., at a time when the choicer sort were glorifying in the accomplishments of man, strode this Luther, entranced by the song of angels, stunned by the wrath of God, speechless before the wonder of creation, lyrical over the divine mercy, a man aflame with God.

For such a person there was no question which mattered save this: How do I stand before God? Luther would never shirk a mundane task such as exhorting the elector to repair the city wall to keep the peasant's pigs from rooting in the villager's gardens, but he was never supremely concerned about pigs, gardens, walls, cities, princes or any and all of the blessings and nuisances of this mortal life.

The ultimate problem was always God and man's relationship to God. For this reason political and social forms were to him a matter of comparative indifference. Whatever would foster the understanding, dissemination and practice of God's word should be encouraged, and whatever impeded must be opposed. This is why it is futile to inquire whether Luther was a democrat, aristocrat, autocrat, or anything else. Religion was for him the chief end of man, and all else peripheral.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Two families

Troubles don't come singly.

One family that Sheba met today - we will call them the Mr. and Mrs. Mali - have a child who keeps getting fits. Three months ago was the last time they came into the clinic. Sheba's notes have her prescribing a simple but imporant epileptic medicine. They did not take it. Rather they have gone through various religious and occult practices to try and get rid of the fits. The child still has them. Sheba expressed how angry she felt with the mother and father for not following through with what is most likely to help. Towards the end of the time Mrs. Mali said that they have a new problem. Mr. Mali's sister - who was married recently - has been abandonned by her husband. She is also living with them. That would mean Mr. and Mrs. Mali, their 4 daughters, his mother, his sister and her child all living in a room no more than 8 by 10 feet.

Another family - Mr. and Mrs. Chandu - came later. The oldest of their 4 kids is HIV positive (like his parents). The middle 2 are negative. The baby is yet to be tested. A 9 month old child the baby weighs less than a 6 month old should. The oldest was recently admitted with pneumonia in a large govt. hospital all the way down in south Mumbai. Why they did not come to us? We had diagnosed from before that the boy had lost part of his lung function because of untreated TB. The big hospital did a CT scan of the chest and came up with the same conclusion. 'Permanent damage' is what the family was told. "Please take our children and put them in some hostel - some place where they can live" is what the parents asked today.

Oh, for some big green button to press.

A one shot solution to all the misery we have around us. All the misery that we are ourselves.

We don't have one of course.

But that doesn't mean that there are not solutions.

The very horrid nature of so much of what we see - the very recoiling and wondering about how much worse can things get - points to something beyond - a hunger for home - a deep-down-desire for things to be right, to be safe, to be as they should be.

Our own anger at the crazy illogic of poverty is real. We have to be moved with grit at the ripping up of lives that continues to go on while the trappings of the material splendour of 'India shining' (Sensex bubblign ever upwards - now over 20,000? homes retailing for 25 lakhs a shot? vegetable prices at what meat used to cost?). If we do not react emotionally to the relational wasteland that so many of us are going through - and the horrible aftermath of foolish decisions that people make - then we would only be made of stone.

Anger is real. The key is not to let the anger overwhelm. Not to allow it to overflow. Never to give it control.

That's not easy. Self-control is low on most of our priority lists.

The Bible talks about the fruit of the Spirit. An amazing list: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law (Gal. 5.22-23).

We don't have simple solutions for these two families. Any answers we have are more at the level of becoming. We cry out to Jesus to help. To be the wonderful counselor that He is. To take our lips and hands and hearts and do that which can be done with these dear families. To seek changes that are real and last - and not just a bandaid over the wound.

Pray for us as we seek to link these families up with people from local churches. It seems impossible - but it can be done. Pray for breakthroughs at different levels - and for rest and hope for the parents as they live through their own HIV status - and make good choices for themselves and their kids.

Ex libris

We are on a diet of Luther right now in the Eicher household.

A book fair which I managed to squeeze an hour in to grab 2nd hand books at rock bottom prices yielded two on Luther.

Kitty my Rib
by E. Jane Mall is a fictionalised biography of Katerina von Dora - who became Katherine Luther after her marriage to 'the good doctor' Luther.

The book takes a breezy look at the life of an extraordinary woman - who left the nunnery and ended up marrying the ex-monk who had set the wheels of her own escape into motion.

The other book - Here I Stand: The life of Martin Luther (available online by clicking the title) - is by a scholar Ronald H. Bainton and gives a dense but concise picture of Luther and his time.

Both books were written in the 1950s. "Kitty my rib" is a straightforward telling of a domestic story. The author tries to put herself into Katherine's shoes - and comes up with a story of a woman who yearns first for freedom - and then for affection (and receives some) - and who lives a hard life caring for the good doctor Luther. I came away feeling that I know more about Katherine - but also about what the author feels is important in life and relationships: freedom, appreciation, intimacy. The big issues of Luthers life rumble on in the background - Katherine's world seems to be circumscribed by her family - and her desire to retire in a nice plot of land.

"Here I Stand" works hard to put the facts down - and paint the picture of the times. To be honest - Sheba and I are just starting into it - but I can already tell that it is written with more than a whiff of earnest 1950s modernism.

Both books gripped me and also left me hungry for more. Ultimately we will have to ask the good folks themselves when we meet up in eternity.

From the "Kitty" book we get the extraordinary picture of the Luthers ministering twice during plague outbreaks in their benighted little village of Wittenberg. We are so insulated today from the terrible fear of disease outbreaks. Where parents would abandon sick children - and vice versa. Where children would be found 'breathing on' their siblings - because it was thought that that the action of 'breathing' on an unifected person would free one of the disease.

The Luthers went house to house - morning to night ministering to the dying, caring for the sick as much as possible, helping to bring out and bury the bodies and consoling the greiving. All this without thinking that they were 'too important' to be exposed to the danger of dying themselves.

Martin Luther had many faults - but what a picture of courage and pastoral care we get here. How flippant and shallow so much of our so-called 'service' is when measured with this plumbline. You hear the echo of our loving Master who said - "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners" (Mark 2.17).

The other find from the "Kitty" book is a sympathetic look at Luther's bouts of depression. A life-long set of episodes - it shows up as a cloud in the family. I would wonder how much of Luther's depressions were public knowlege at the time - something that mirrors what so many of us struggle through - in our own lives - or in the lives of those we love very much.

The genius of Bainton's book is to place a finger (a slightly cool one at that) on the intellectual / emotional struggle Luther has with his sinfulness. Bainton is dead on the money when he highlights that it is Luther's deep religious hunger - and his tortured dissatisfaction with everything that his relgious disciplines and understanding of the time - that drive Luther to the unexpected set of end points where Luther discovers the Bible in a revolutionary way. Particularly helpful for me was the brief discussion of how after confessing for hours at a time - Luther would end up being reminded of some other sin he felt he committed. Bainton suggests that what horrified Luther even more was the realisation that much of sin did not even bring remorse - Jonah sleeping in the ship as a case in point - which lays the foundation for an understanding of sin not as individual acts to be catalogued and then dealt with - but an underlying nature...

Lets see what else we will find out as we travel with Bainton through Luther's life.

Books take us to different places. They offer a commentary on our own lives. As we think through what we read (and we certainly don't need to agree with everything that is printed black on white) we gain insights into our own situations.

Plus the best books end up talking with each other - and most of all with the book of books!

Case in point is what we have just finished reading as a family - Madleine L'Engle's most excellent A Wrinkle in Time. It fairly drips with meaning - while taking you across space and time - and leaving you hungry for more.

Speaking of hunger...

On our bookshelf sits a huge red one-volume book that all of us are itching to read together - The Lord of the Rings. Alas we just do not have a span of a few weeks opening up for us to read through it. We know that once we delve in - we will not be able to extricate ourselves till we have read every page of it.

Saturday, 20 November 2010


You would think that in the midst of the circus that is our life - we would hardly have time ... for well, a circus.

But lo and behold: the intrepid 4 Eichers made their way to the Gemini Circus this afternoon.

We made our way out to a scrubby wasteland that lies near the Kalwa Bridge in Thane. Sure enough a huge tent materialised in front of us and the sparkle razzle of the circus was around us. The kids have never been to one - and so we plunged in.

Looking at the circus as an adult has its own sad twinge to it. There was a sparse crowd for the 4 PM show - so we could see things clearly. I was struck by how sad many of the performers looked. They came - did their thing and left. Who are they really? Doing what they do three times a day - for people in various cities across the country. Where do they stay? When do they eat? What relationships criss-cross between them.

There was so little applause. The announcements were unintelligible. The place was hot - we bought plastic fans to fan ourselves with.

But it was a circus.

The real thing. We were there looking at it all unfold before our eyes.

Since our dear Menaka Gandhi managed to stop almost all wild animals in circuses (no more thrilling lions and tigers as I remember from my boyhood trips to Azad Maidan) - we were not expecting much by way of animals. (by the way - that is not a picture of Menaka being lofted up by a pachyderm - though I am sure many circus owners would be happy for their ele-friends to do that to her).

Oh yes, we did have 3 rather tired looking elephants made occasional appearances - as did 2 camels and a hippo. But as far as animals - there were probably more on the streets than in the big tent.

Instead we got lots of gymnastics. Some of it really heady stuff. Hats off to these men and women who put themselves through so much. The show just kept going on. Act after act. Finally ending with the trapeze artists whirling above us - some 50 feet or so high up near the top of the tent. They finished with a memorable 'black light' effect where they swirled through the air with the lights off...

Enoch liked the motorcyclists best. Four of them driving in crazy loops around the metal ball - the angry buzz of the bikes forcing little hands to quickly stop-up little ears.

Artists on bicycles. The obligatory bare back riding. Jugglers. The odd clown magician. The two and a half hours whizzed by.

This particular show had its smattering of foreign artists too - mainly slavic looking ladies who did acrobatic stuff with ropes - and a jubilant group of African tumblers. A number of others looked oriental - but that could mean Nepal, any of the 7 sisters - or folks from East Asia.

As each act made way for the next, a small army of workers made sure props were ready, cables were swung here and there... The band - up in their tent above the show entrance - warbled away with a vaguely circussy sound - spiced up masala style.

In the midst of all of this - the shabbiness of it all kept coming through. The tent was massive - but our shoddy seating on uneven ground brought us back to earth. As breath-taking as many of the stunts were - so much was shot through with sadness.

The clowns were mainly midgets. You just wonder what their life is like. The constant gaping they go through as people stare at them.

Their jokes were mainly burlesque. Crude hitting of each other. What redeemed them for me was the participation they seem to have in the other acts - often serving as assistants - and occasionally showing their own gymnastic skills.

It was perhaps appropriate that once we exited the tent we could not get an auto-rickshaw for love of money. As a family we trudged past the outer wall of the Thane jail - ending up at the main gate having done a good half-way round circumbulation - before the long awaited Auto was successfully hailed.

Seeing the prison brings the question to my mind: how many of the men and women in that circus are living in their own private prisons? Sparkly costume changes apart - it doesn't take much to see that all is not well.

Our kids were strangely subdued too. I think that their eyes have also picked up a lot about the real state of affairs.

Coming home to our beautiful home. A warm bath and a good meal later. We crash into our soft beds. So amazingly and totally blessed.

Half way across the city the last show of the day is probably still on... And then the tents will be packed up and the circus will move on to the next town.

Monday, 15 November 2010

A day

The last week has been a blur for us as we prepared for the dedication of the new Bethany Hospital. But that did not mean that all our friends with HIV suddenly went on holiday from their challenges.

I think back to one of the days. I think it was Wednesday (last week was a blur - as already mentioned).

Here are some of the people that Sheba and the team had the privilege of working with on that day:

One of our old friends - Mr. Oliver Lal came with his daughter. He and his wife have been living with the disease for years. We have tried to encourage them to get their daugther tested many times. They just couldn't get the courage to do so. Now she was sick. It looked like malaria. He wanted her tested. We did. Mr. Lal came back for the result today. Sheba had to tell him that his daughter had also tested HIV positive. Heart-breaking. I sat with him for some time and held his hand. The mist of tears in his eyes.

Mallika came and was amazingly winged off to Ooty. We were able to get a bus ticket for her - and a welcome in Bangalore (thanks to OASIS for both) and then get her picked up by our friends from Freedom Firm who took her too Ooty. Our staff member took her to the bus boarding point in Dadar - with a packed lunch to eat with her. Amazing that she got off and is starting a new life. God is good.

There were so many others who came during the regular hours. Sheba spoke with each one of them. Listening to stories. Understanding. Speaking words that come from our loving Master's mouth.

At the end of the day, the sisters of Mr. Anmol came to talk to Sheba. Mr. Anmol was a successful businessman. A life-long batchelor who lived with his spinster sister. He had retired and was given a big award by the chairman of his company. We have known Mr. Anmol for the last 2 years. He never told his sisters about his HIV status. He also has had a cancer of the neck. He has not shown us the reports from the cancer hospital to date. He refused house visits. Finally he was admitted at a private hospital - and the senior doctor their revealed Mr. Anmol's status to his sisters. They were shocked and horrified. They came to us demanding why we had never told them. Sheba explained that Mr. Anmol was usually accompanied by another relative. Mr. Anmol's sisters disabused us of that - the man was a friend not a relative. Sheba tried to calm Mr. Anmol's sisters as they worked through their feelings of rage and betrayal. No easy answers - especially when lives are spun around half-truths. Mr. Anmol is dying. May his last days at least experience the peace that has eluded him so far.

How do you end a day like this? One way (and we seem to specialise in this) is to collapse into bed and then arise to the challenge of the next. Life pushes on - in fast forward much of the time! Time waits for no one.

Saturday, 13 November 2010


Today marks a new day.

In a few hours we will be meeting to dedicate the new Bethany Hospital to God's service.

The gleaming new building is getting its final polish as we get ready for the many guests and supporters who will be with us for this time.

"Not to be served, but to serve" is the motto of the Bethany Trust - which runs the Bethany Hospital - and the Jeevan Sahara Kendra too. We have seen this lived out in the preparations for this day. Many hundreds of hours of behind the scenes work have taken place to get this hospital to where it is. And many more are needed to get the hospital moving forward.

When Dr. Stephen Alfred and his wife Claire returned from the UK to start work in Thane all he thought was that he would run a small 4 bedded nursing home. That changed with the Bethany Trust opening the Lok Hospital in 1996 - first as 2 floors and then expanded to 4 floors. Today we will be dedicating the next step, with the Lok Hospital work moving into the purpose-built 125-bedded facility at Bethany Hospital.

For us at Jeevan Sahara Kendra this means that we will start our work in a new phase at the current Lok Hospital building. We plan to start by using the first floor and offering a 10 bedded inpatient care facility for people with HIV who need hospitalisation.

We also want to scale up our work in providing and monitoring the life-long (and life-extending) AntiRetroviral Therapy (ART) treatments. We hope that our application to become a link-ART centre and be able to dispense govt. ART medications will soon come through. In addition, we intend to continue the integrated testing and counselling centre where people can come for confidential and voluntary HIV testing.

Jeevan Sahara Kendra also hopes to develop into a centre for excellence in HIV care and training. We know that the experience that we have gained over the past 8 years of service here in Thane is invaluable - and want to share it with others.

All this while continuing what we have tried to do from the beginning: caring for people with HIV in their homes - challenging local churches to reach out in love and welcome people with HIV and their families into a broader family of care - working with people who are living with HIV to make positive and life-enhancing decisions!

As the dedication of the new Bethany Hospital takes place today, we are so grateful to the Lord Jesus Christ for His grace in letting us see this new step forward.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Road called hope

We have walked some way along the Misery Road with Mallika.

By God's grace our friends in Ooty are willing to take Mallika on board - offering her a job with a handicraft unit - while working with her to build a new identity and work through the many scars she bears.

Small. Boyish in her dress and appearance. Mallika is all of 21 years old. But she has already seen such sorrow.

We are now working to getting her down to Ooty as soon as possible. Today one of our friends managed to book her a ticket to Bangalore on a bus for Thursday afternoon (trains are way over-booked since we are still in the Diwali festivities). We hope to have someone meet her there on Friday and then she will be taken up to Ooty, and the new parts of her life.

Everything still hangs by a thread. Will she come? Will she go all the way there? What are the things that are tugging her heart? What thoughts go on through her mind?

No easy answers. No quick fixes. But everything, everything we do for God and in the amazing name of Jesus, makes sense. And each life invested in - as slight and inconsequential as that life may be to the vast grinding wheels of history around us - each life is of collossal worth...

We continue to walk along a road called hope.


Post Script - 13.11.2010

Mallika has safely made it down to Ooty where she has been given a job and will be living in a transitional living arrangement that the Freedom Firm helps run. We are so grateful for the amazing work that Freedom Firm does. Thanks also to our friends at Oasis India Trust who helped Mallika transition through Bangalore yesterday. Thanks for your prayers too!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Fun and Games

There is something deeply wired into the core of who we are - a deep love for play. We may spend a lot of time denying it - but the very attention that we pay to others - the slight quicking of our hearts when a good game starts shows our pretense for what it is.

Hunger for games is mirrors the itch to move our limbs in dance upon hearing the lilting strains of a melody - or joyous drumbeating rythyms. Playing is a wonderful joy of letting go - in creating another world with its own exciting rules - that mirrors and enhances the world we experience.

Consider a heap of mud that was shaped outside my office.

The red mud was gradually shaped a beautiful house - complete with a miniature working well. The sons of the miller who runs the flour mill next door (these same boys who were so often beaten by their father in the past) spent many happy hours building this marvel. I was delighted to see it take shape - every addition a testimony to the genius of play.

Note the small plant that was added (above) - and the styrofoam wheel (below) that was crafted so that a small bottle cap could draw water out of the well. A few days after this shot a carpet of green sprouts had made a virtual lawn...

Pictures courtesy Enoch Eicher - who was fascinated by this beautiful house.

Games take us into other worlds. Even the simplest one. Take the vicarous thrill of 'snakes and ladders'. A big equaliser. No real skill required. Just the joy and minor sorrow of seeing your playing piece move ahead - or slip back.

And then there are the more physical contests. We had special games times at the Church Camp - but these were relatively poorly attended. But at the same time spontaneous circles of sport opened up. Vigorous dodge-ball contests provided much entertainment - for participants and spectators alike.

Being a game of some skill - the group self selected. Most of the time it was the late high-school and college / young professional crowd that made up this particular set of games.

Asha and Enoch were masters at Uno - and spent many happy games at home (with us) and at camp (with tons of other eager players).

For me - I thank God for the plastic heirloom that Enoch spends hours playing with - our Lego set from days of yore.

Having a 7 going on 8 year old son allows this old man plenty of opportunities to play. Our latest project is below:

Our first swimming pool - complete with real water and lots of mini-men doing the float (they don't seem to be very active).

What is it about Lego that keeps bringing me back to it? I think it is a combination of the joy of seeing things fit together - the pleasure of seeking out pieces from the mountain of bricks that we have - of seeing a design take shape - constantly tweaking it here and there.

And also the joy of making something that is our world in miniature.

A small world that mirrors out bigger one. The pleasure of creating a similacure of something that we experience - or wish to experience. The delight in seeing the big in the small - an ordinary beauty of seeing the known scaled down into miniature settings.

And then the incongruity of our size which towers Gulliver-like over the land.

Play is of course robustly therapeutic. But more than the knock-on benefits - we play because we delight in living out stories.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

To camp!

We are about to leave for camp in 45 minutes.

So here goes the quickest entry ever:

About 200 odd folks (most like us - 'odd') are going to spend 4 days together at an old Parsee boarding school in Khandala. Singing, praying, listening to God's word, discussing, playing, sleeping, talking, eating, talking, eating, sleeping, playing, praying... you get the picture.

The centre of all of this is the person of Jesus Christ. No getting around it. And that's the theme of the Family Camp this year "Looking Unto Jesus"

Here is an amazing quote I just heard, attributed to a person called Ray Hilderbrand:

"God loves you just the way you are,
But too much to let you stay that way."

That's why our lives revolve around the person of Jesus. Strip him out of the picture and whatever we do is the worst form of crock. But oh the glories of knowing Him and growing in Him....

We are off to camp! Ciao!