Saturday, 13 December 2014


Each year we give thanks.

For another year.

For another set of miracles (some seen and many unnoticed).

For being alive.

When we do this with people who are HIV positive it has a special spin to it.  A number of the folks who were here last year are no more.

Some have moved away.  Others have died.

But so many are still around.

And then some show up again.  Like young Samir (name changed) who had run away from an orphanage, and whose widowed mother had moved away with the man she was living with.  But just last week we got a call from Samir.  And here he was today.  All of 15.  'Grown up' almost feral.

But the bulk of folks who came tonight of the Jeevan Sahara Kendra annual Positive Friends Thanksgiving time - were folks who are moving deeper.  Deeper into stability.  Deeper into relationships.   Deeper into health.  Deeper into making sense of the challenges they face.

Not everyone has everything figured out.  But what a privilege to be along with the our friends for the journey.  And how humbling to see so many come tonight.

We prepared for weeks.  With over 100 volunteers of various kinds.  There was just so much to do.

Our staff and volunteers met for prayer and preparation for weeks before.   They invited families.  Planned the refreshments.  Ordered and purchased.  Gave generously. Made last minute orders when our cake-suppliers backed out at the last minute.  Made a large display out of over a hundred slips which our Positive Friends filled out - expressing their gratitude for what they have experienced in 2014.   Purchased gifts for each family.  Packed and wrapped.  Decorated the campus.  Registered and welcomed our guests.  Sang and did skits.  Served refreshmenst and gave gifts.  Spent time with families.  What a blessing to have folks from so many different churches all serving together.  A seamless stream of people helping out in so many ways.  Living answers to prayers.
And suddenly - today is the day.  After a thunderstorm woke me up at 2 AM - and caused a mild flutter of worry, we were off and running at 3 PM in the golden afternoon sun of a Mumbai 'winter'  (short sleeves of course).

Our dear friend Danny got us off to a great start and ably guided the programme through - a 3.5 hour programme that smoothly and beautifully unfolded as lives were shared - songs were sung with joy - and we enjoyed looking back with gratitude and ahead with anticipation.

What do you do when you are happy?

Why you sing of course!

And when you have Dr. Emmanuel Isukuru tickling the keys - well, then you sing all the more.  We were blessed to sing together - as one big family.  And to have folks from the Living Water Community Church and the UBM Thane Sunday School sing for us.  A poignant skit from the Thane Marthoma Church youth rounded off the first part of the programme - and that was after we heard the heart-warming story of Titing - a young Burmese theological student who is volunteering with us for a week.  She told of how she had stepped on a land-mine and lost her leg - but how later she found the joy of Jesus - and what a difference it is to her.  Despite the pain of her prosthesis, Titing keeps wanted to go out with our home-based care staff to meet our Positive Friends in their homes - and what a blessing to hear her share her story.

Further blessings in store...

Dr. Stephen Alfred teamed up with bro Devraj, his translator (always fun to hear a message twice when you know both languages) to let us rejoice in the wonderful news of God who has become one of us.  Has made himself knowable.  Has taken flesh.  Who cares.  Who cries with us.  Who comforts and changes us.  And who has triumphed over sickness and sin and death.

All through the evening we heard stories of people's lives being changed.  Shaped anew.  Blessed and touched by our dear Lord Jesus.

Some were able to stand up and say that they have been living with HIV for 15 years.  Others told about how they just found out they had the disease.  Some spoke eloquently. Others simply.  Some with tears.  All shared what God has done.  As the sky went dark around us, we came to the end of our time of thanksgiving.  Grateful.  Glad.

And so another amazing time had come to an end.  We had prepared 550 food packets.  All were gone at the end of the night. What a blessing to be alive.  And to be able to tell the tale.


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