Sunday, 30 August 2015

Home blessings

Today was one of those blessed Saturdays when we were (largely) at home.

We said 'no' to two big invites to meetings.  We slept in to a blessed 7.45 or so (Yohan needs to have the first meds of his day at 8 AM) and various family members had breakfasts at different times in the morning.

Sheba did a number of study sessions with Asha and Enoch as the term examinations loom up next week - and Yohan had his class from 10 am to 12 today.

My major work of the day was to finally get the income tax returns ready - and handed over to our chartered accountant in town - while a stop into Bethany Accounts had me fill up what we are expecting to pay for next year already...  Yesterday's newspaper headlined a stupendous race at the Bird's Nest Stadium as 'Death, Taxes... and Bolt!'

The day had lots of other things stuck in as well.  Times with God and His word.  Cups of tea.  An unexpected visit by Hepsi and Prisci - Sheba's 'family' from her med school days in Cuttack.  A family prayer time around the world map well past Yohan's bed time.

Sheba did two longish visits to Jeevan Sahara on her 'off day' - as there are four very sick folks being cared for there as in-patients - and another at Bethany Hospital.

But perhaps the high-light of the day has been the action in the kitchen.

Lunch was a simple but scrumptous soup and cheese toast affair.

And then the cooking really started.

Sheba got going with wadas which were wolfed down for a tea time snack.  But the real purpose of the largish batch she made was to make her famous 'dahi wadas.'

Sheba and the older kids had made a shopping run during Yohan's afternoon nap - and so there were two different kinds of chicken prepared for dinner - and then Oma finished off her apple pies after dinner.

We go to sleep with full bellies and a great big helping of gratitude.

My mind's eye goes back to a short conversation with a young man and a boy who were selling roses to motorists. I was on my way back from the accountant.  The man told me he was from Kholapur.  Where will this man sleep tonight.  The boy told me that he was from the same village.

One day will come when everything is set right.

It is off to sleep now... we will be waking up on the Lord's day in a few hours!

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Misty eyes

We left her with tears in her eyes, in the dusk of a Thane night.

Standing outside our centre, our paths seperated.

She walked off... to where - I do not even know where she lives.

We will call her Meera.

Meera had come to our Sunday evening Good News meeting.  Anil had shared about how God loves us even when we are lost - and how heaven rejoices when even one lost one comes home.  

After the time together we prayed.  

There were only 3 Eichers at the evening meeting - Oma, Yohan and myself since Sheba, Enoch and I had arrived from New Delhi early this morning and plunged straight back into life here.   Sheba did visits to JSK in the morning before church and in the mid afternoon.  The Eicher home tuition team was in full swing in the afternoon as Enoch has a Marathi test tomorrow.  Opa and Oma had worshipped earlier in the day at the Bethesda Fellowship where Dad shared, and then they had had lunch with Dr. Stephen and Claire Alfred and the throng that gathered there.

Meera had been prayed with by Oma and Sandhya when we broke up into small groups for prayer after the meeting.

I then wandered down the hall to meet the two men who are admitted at the JSK centre.  A short time with each of them and their families and I was back, ready to go home.

Oma was with Meera near the exit.

Meera asked me to pray for her husband.  He has terrible back pains.  Is not able to work.  He has been on medication.  It all seems to hopeless.

Last week he had come to the meeting.  This week he cannot.  Meera had tears in her eyes.

We prayed in the hall.  A simple prayer to Jesus.  My faith is no superfaith.  Just shreds of hope and a request directed to the One who loves. 

Meera's eyes are wet with tears.  Oma hugs her.

As Oma, Yohan and myself walk with Meera to the gate, 

It is time to part ways.  Meera's eyes still have tears.  What does my heart say?  Is their any real hope for her husband?

How I wish we had a great red button that could be pressed and make 'everything all right.'

We don't.

And so we pray.  We left her with tears in her eyes.

Would that the tears become replaced by joy in the morning.  

We will see.  Our eyes are misty too.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Eyes wide shut

Never happy when someone dies.

Never.  Death is just not a sweet smelling rose.

Today a man died at JSK.

We had been caring for him for a few days last week.

He was stable. He had been cared for at a famous HIV care centre in central Maharasthra too.  For months.  In and out.

But since he was from Thane, his relatives brought him to us.

He was sick.  But things seemed under control.

Then his relatives insisted they wanted to take him home.  Our medical staff said that it would not be a good idea. The relatives insisted. The man insisted.  He left against medical advice.

Last night (Sunday night).  Late. They said he was sick and wanted to come back.

They brought him this morning.

Sheba told me that he was dying.

More and more relatives came.  He died early afternoon.

I saw men carrying his shroud-draped body down the hall, past my office door.

Yesterday I had shared with a small group about a man who had conquered death, and whose empty burial clothes people found in the tomb.  Whose head-cloth was folded neatly on the side.  And who greeted the woman from whom 7 evil spirits had been driven by name.

But today this man's life came to an end.  Full stop.  No more breath.

Many tears for his mother and others.

I remember his eyes the last time we met.

They have no light in them now.

Eyes wide shut

Friday, 14 August 2015

Neutro bounce-back

Well, well, well.

I injection of Grafeel 300 ncg (filgastrim) at 9.30 PM last night + prayers of various kinds and intensities =  an increase of Dad's WBC from 3500 to 7200 in and his neutrophil percentage shooting up from 18% to 56% in 12 hours.  

So we saw Dad's neutrophils go up from about 630 per cubic mm of blood to a healthy 4200 or soso at 9 AM this morning.  This is well above the 1500 threshold that chemo is given at.

Meds and prayer go well together it seems.

And so after meeting Dr. Bakshi at 11 AM, Dad was admitted for today's dose.

I stopped by with lunch - including fresh baked bread that Mum had made.  There is a blessed normality to it all - with the Bethany Hospital a second home to Dad.  Mum was picking up Yohan from his classes and will be joining Dad later after she has her afternoon nap.

Needless to say - Dad is really doing great.

"You just don't know that he is a cancer patient" is what many people tell me as they marvel at his cheeriness.

Sheba and I wish he would eat more (I ended up eating two of the pieces of bread) - but we are happy that Dad's weight is slowly increasing with him hitting 74 kgs last night!

I popped down to the Bethany Cafeteria to get some coffee for Dad and myself and when I got back he has already been hooked up and was taking a nap himself.

The first course is some normal saline and then there is a small bottle of the blessed poison gemcitabine.  Dad had taken a small nap by the time I was back with the coffee.  A peaceful sight - Dad in a room on his beloved 5th floor of Bethany, with the meds seeping into his body - and his very person upheld by the prayers of many. 

This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel says:  "In repentence and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength..."  Isaiah 30.15a

Dad's neutrophils have certainly bounced back.  We are grateful for another step on this journey. 

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Giving Dad's neutrophils a boost

Dad met his oncologist Dr. Bakshi this evening.  The complete blood count that he had done earlier in the day was not 'good.'

Overall his white blood cells are at 3500 per cubic mm of blood - and the percentage of that which are neutrophil is only 18 percent.   That means Dad has only about 630 neutrophils per cc of blood at present.  An oncologist will want at least 1500 or so before he starts the next dose of chemotherapy - which is due tomorrow.

So for the first time, Dr. Bakshi asked Dad to have a shot of filgastrim (you learn so much about the body and pharmacology when there is cancer in the family).  This drug stimulates the bone marrow to produce more neutrophils.  It came at Rs. 1800 a shot. 

Let's see how it does (and your prayers are much appreciated to get it to do what it should).  Tomorrow Dr. Bakshi would like Dad to have another complete blood count done and meet him at 11 AM.  If the neutro count is up - then Dad gets admitted for the next 2nd dose of his 4th round of chemotherapy.  If not... then we will see.

Here's to Dad's neutros getting a boost - at least enough for him to be able to get the next dose of chemo tomorrow!

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Click clack

A train is plunging its way South as I click some keys here in Thane.

Click clack goes the rail track.  Click, click click go the staccatto keys here.  Mirror sounds growing farther apart.

The train has lots of people in it.  Surprise, surprise.  Shall we say 1500 at least?  It is headed for Bangalore city (oops - make that Bengaluru).  And with each minute the Udhyan Express (the name of our train) is getting closer to its destination.

Its a 24 hour trip and they have covered 7 hours already.  The engine of the Udhyan Express is a WDP-4 - a diesel electric combo and somewhere in South India people people are seeing a scene of this powerful engine pulling the 22 odd bogies onwards, onwards.... 

What the passengers will not know is that the train is also being powered by prayer.  Each click clack of the track is made possible because people are praying for this train - and especially for 3 passengers aboard.

Our staff member Vikas is taking another special boy down to the ACCEPT Society Children's Home outside Bengaluru.  With him in the train are Indrajit (name changed of course) and his father Lakwindar (ditto).

Indrajit is a boy with multiple challenges.  His father doesn't know what a father is, since Lakwindar became an orphan at a small age and ran away from his home in Punjab, coming to Bombay before he was a teenager and growing up in the streets.  Indrajit's older step brother is in jail.  His other brother has taken to drugs for comfort.  Indrajit's mother died 4 years ago from HIV.

There is a young man who has been living with Indrajit's father for a year or so.  He functions as a kind of foster son and confidante to Lakwindar.  Who this young man really is not clear - he also seems to have been on the streets and now is a part of this disfunctional-functional family.

Indrajit had meningitis when he was two.   That was when his seizures began.  For the last few years, he has had severe seizures almost every day. Indrajit  is blind in one eye and can hardly see with the other.  All of 13 years now, his father brought him to us with the hope that we could do something.

Indrajit was admitted at JSK for 3 weeks.  We tried to stabilise him - and found that his seizures were becoming less.  There were even a few days when he did not have them.

His father would put him in a room and go to work - as he was the only wage earner.  And feed Indrajit milk.  For the past few years, Indrajit has only been drinking milk.  At the beginning, he refused to eat normal food when admitted at JSK, but lately started eating a bit too.

Indrajit is HIV positive too. He had been given a sub-optimal dose of medication for some years - crushed and mixed in with his milk as he would not swallow tablets.  His immunity is currently low - though we were able to start him on the proper dose and combination of drugs.

Lots of prayers have been given on behalf of Indrajit.  We just did not know what to do for him.

And so we knocked on some doors - and were thrilled when Bro. Raju Mathew of ACCEPT said that they had prayed about it and were willing to take Indrajit.

We then went into a small tizzy of getting things ready.  A quick booking of train tickets (on stand-by initially, but mercifully confirmed by this morning).  A trip to the Sion hospital to get Indrajit's ART medication transferred to the Children's hospital in Bengaluru.  No go the first time. Then tried again yesterday.  A trip by Lakhwinder to get his own ART medication.  Then the matter of the legal document where Lakhwinder gives custody of Indrajit to ACCEPT...

Some how.  Some very how. It all got done.  We booked a set of back up tickets in case it did not. But this morning at 7.30 AM the trio left Jeevan Sahara to start out towards Bengaluru, and a new life for young Indrajit.

Click clack. The train wheels are turning.  We don't know how the others in the compartment are reacting to Indrajit.  We don't know whether he is having seizures due to the fright of hearing loud sounds.  Our prayers continue. Directly to this small group of folks moving south.  Further and further away from us.  Deeper and deeper into the next steps of their lives.

How do you help a person like Indrajit?  No easy answers.  How much does he understand of our words?  Hard to say.

More prayers on his behalf.  Click, clack. Clickitty clack.

Tomorrow, when the trio arrive in Bengaluru East, they will be picked up by the good people of ACCEPT.  Then a new day will begin.  A new chapter for Indrajit.  A new step into the impossible.

Click clack.

Your prayers are the fuel for Indrajit - and many seemingly hopeless, but amazingly precious persons like him.

What will tomorrow hold?  We just don't know.  But we do know who holds tomorrow.  And cling desperately to Him.

Click clack.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Taking the plunge

This afternoon was a special one.

Seven folks ranging in age from 12 to 70 years old stood up and told a gathering how and why the believed in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord - and why they wanted to obey him by being plunged in water in His name.

Plunging is what the Greek word βαπτίζω means.  Oh, you don't read Greek?  Well that makes at least 2 of us!  βαπτίζω is transliterated as baptizó and has been shaped into the English word baptism (why is a different story for a different time).  By being plunged into water, these seven are telling the world that they have trusted in Christ - and that they are now dead to their old lives and alive with him.

The youngest of the lot was our very own Enoch.

It was a joy for me to baptise our second child - after having the privilege of doing so for Asha last year.  This year we are blessed that Oma and Opa are also here to take part in the joy.

So there was Enoch - reading out the testimony that he had prepared before hand.   

Earlier in the day, our dear bro Jolly told us all in church how happy he was that Enoch was being baptised - especially as he has known him since the day Enoch was born!

I was pleasantly surprised to see bro Stanley Nelson with us at the meeting - especially since Stanley had spoken when we had dedicated Enoch to the Lord those 12 years ago.

At that time, Stanley had talked about how in Ps. 127.4 children are talked about as being like arrows in the hand of a warrior.  Stanley pointed out that in the ancient world an arrow was the only weapon that left a person.  Swords, spears, shields all were held on to - an arrow flies away.  Guided in the direction of flight by the archer - but winging away at the target.

Our children are similar.  We can help direct them - but they will not remain in our hands - rather they will fly ahead to do what Sheba and I are unable to do.

We saw a small step in that direction today with Enoch standing up and giving his testimony.

And then going down into the water where Jolly and I baptised him.

Plunging - a symbolic act of obedience to our Lord.

Done in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as Jesus asked His disciples to do.

An outward sign of inner change.

A public step of following Christ.

"I have decided, to follow Jesus... no turning back, no turning back"

A symbolic dying with Christ, and being raised up in the power of His resurrection.

How blessed we are to see this day - and to be personally part of another step of faith - by Enoch and the other 6 candidates who testified to their faith in our Lord today!

August 9th has entered our group of special days!

Friday, 7 August 2015

Chemo round 4 begins...

Dad was in and out of chemotherapy today.

We started chemo round 4 after meeting with his oncologist Dr. Ashish Bakshi last night.  Dad's blood counts were decent and his ultrasound, x-ray and CA19 tests did not show anything untoward.  Dad has completed 3 cycles of the 6 cycles of chemotherapy drugs that Dr. Bakshi has prescribed.  So far, so very good.

And so this morning Dad and Mum went over by autorickshaw to Bethany be checked in for his drug administration by the chemo nurses.  Dad likes the 5th floor of Bethany and so when he went up to the room he was assigned - he was surprised to find it occupied by another patient.  With the monsoon time, hospital beds are at a premium.  No problem for Dad.  A little adjustment from the good folks at Bethany and up he was on the 6th floor in a private room with a view framed by the spur of the Pokhran hills of Borivali National Park.

The actual administration of the chemo drugs took a surprisingly short period of time.

I looked in at just after 1 PM, and found that Dad was having his last drops of the meds go into his chemo-port (and which sends the chemo into his heart and off merrily to the rest of the body).

Another small surprise was that the chemo-nurse was a sister.  Yes, most nurses in India are called sisters - but this was a sister sister - a Carmellite Nun.

Dad asked her whether she was living with other nuns, and she said yes - that she was with 4 other of her order.

I have seen her in the past, arrive at Bethany hospital on her scooter.  She wears a white habit along with her white nurses uniform - the only one in this hospital to do so.  After Dad was taken off the drip, she explained him the discharge summary - and he was free to leave.

And so by 2 PM we were walking out of the hospital - with Dad greeting all and sundry.  They love him here and he loves them.  Each person with a smile and an encouragement and a question about how he is... and he in turn with a word or two to cheer them up.

Earlier in the day, the indefatiguable bro Robbie Andrews had come by to pray with Dad.  He has a list of people admitted at the hospital and offers to pray with anyone who is willing.  Dad asked him a bit about his life, and uncle Robbie shared how he had come to Christ and has been a member of the Fort Assembly for 70 years.  That's right - seven zero!   Robbie's age?  A sprightly 89, running 90!

God is good.  We were joined on the way home by our dear friends John and Nalini Gabriel.  John turned 46 today (he is in good company) and came over to meet Mum and Dad and be prayed for. When Asha and Enoch got back at 3.45 we had a song and cake.

Life continues with big dollops of grace.  We talked for the first time last night about the end of the chemo.  Looks like sometime in November at this pace.  The oncologist said we will do a full body CT scan and then...  perhaps radiation?  Lets see what happens.

For now, we are very, very grateful.

One day at at time, sweet Jesus....

Birthday boy John Gabriel on the right with an assortment of Eichers in various poses arrayed along the left...

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Sunday afternoon prayer

A small group of us sat around for prayer this afternoon.

We start our first Sunday of the month with both of our house-fellowships in Thane meeting together for worship - and having a fellowship lunch afterwards.  The idea is then to spend time together in prayer and sharing - and hopefully go out and visit folks that we need to as a church.

The visiting part seems to have dried up right now.  And most folks head home or out for other things right after lunch.  So the praying gets done by small number.  So it goes.

And who do we have in this number?  We have a young woman whose mother is deeply depressed.  We have a couple expecting their second child and where the husband is on medication to deal with anxiety issues.  We have a couple who has adopted an 11 year old boy and who are working through various issues in their lives.  We had a young man who has been heading his family since his widowed mother died when he was age of 14 - who is looking after his two younger siblings - one studying, the other sitting at home.  We have a young unmarried executive who has just been promoted up the ladder in a new company, who started out his working life living in a slum home similar to the one where the other young man lives.

A small flawed group.  Sharing with each other.  Telling of the small steps forward we see our church taking.  Bringing these matters to the lover of our souls - our dear Lord Jesus.

As I looked at this small circle, I could not help but wonder at the mystery of prayer.  How we with all our flaws can approach the Holy One - and know that what our hearts are speaking out, with that little smidgen of faith we have, is actually listened to - and answered in various ways.

And so our prayers went up.  Sharing then prayer.  In twos and threes.  Ordinary people, with lots of things hanging out, calling on the Lord.  And that's the way it has always been. Jesus with his small number of misfits - not the rich and famous and successful - but the available.  And the called and recalled. 

Here we are 2K years later.  Recreating this small group.  Talking together, and talking with the Lord together.  A good way to spend part of a Sunday afternoon.  A good way to impact a slice of eternity.

Saturday, 1 August 2015


I have an image in my mind.  And every time I think of it, my eyes mist over with tears.

Its an image of two young boys close to each other, pressing against each other.  The older one with his arm around the younger.  They are looking at each other.  Their eyes are full of tears.  Big tears dripping down their cheeks.

The boys are half-brothers.  Their mother died last November.  They are being cared by two different families at this point. They have not seen each other for months.  Unexpectedly, one of them was brought to meet the other.  It was an afternoon visit. 

The younger boy is in a rural part of Thane.  He was recently released into the care of the woman who is looking after him from a remand home.  The issue is still confusing, but it seems that he was abducted at some point after his mother's death and his care-giver doggedly pushed the police to find him.  But when they did, it meant a full 3 months of being in a remand home.  Something that no small 8 year old would like to go through.  The care-giver had brought the younger one to Thane on her way to her daughter's place in Mumbai - as the boy has to appear before a court next week. 

She called up and told us that she was coming through.  We knew this day would come.

The older boy is our Yohan.  The younger is his half-brother Arjun.  He has a different official name, but Yohan always calls him Arjun.  Yohan has told us stories about their childhood years.  Most of them are very sad stories.  Yohan thinks about Arjun alot.  He prays for him at night.

And so here the two of them were.  Spending some precious time together in the JSK training room.  Yohan was teaching Arjun to draw when I came in, bringing with me Asha and Enoch - who had just come back from school.

They live in very different worlds right now.  Yohan has come out of deep sickness and is still being medicated heavily for his epilepsy.  Arjun does not have any health issues - and lives in a village - swims in the village pond and is outside with his friends most of the day.  Yohan is working to master basic English and Hindi reading.  He should be in class 7, but no school would be able to give him the attention he needs and so he is being lovingly tutored by Mrs. Priya Sane.  Arjun is enrolled in 3rd standard of the village Marathi medium school.

Arjun looked so small, and Yohan so big as they stood beside each other.  It was time to leave.  Arjun's care-giver said that they had a long trip ahead of them.  But the two boys just did not want to part from each other.  They stayed close together.  Pressing against each other.  Looking at each other.  Looking down at the floor.  Tears flowing.  And not only the boys.  Each one of us in that small group had our eyes swimming.

The last few months have been the proverbial roller coaster for us.  We have focussed on getting Yohan stable - and there is still work to do - but we are blessed to see a big jump in his CD4 level.  We are trying to get Yohan enrolled in the National Open School curriculum - and are still not where we want to be - but are making progress.  We have switched his epilepsy meds as he has had 3 seizure episodes while on medications.  We are working as a family to adjust and adapt to our new member.  Lots to still learn and grow in this area.  And we are now 3 months into our initial 6 month foster care order from the authorities in Bhiwandi.

Sheba and I have been keeping track of Arjun through his care-giver - but for most of the time he was still in the remand home.  Only now has an opportunity arisen for them to meet.

Oh, how hard it was for the two to part ways again.  I said a prayer for all of us and we took a few photos, and then Arjun's caregiver took Arjun and they walked away.  I can still see the image of the little boy and the old woman, going up over the small bridge outside JSK.  She has her arm and sari around Arjun.

When will the boys meet next?  We just don't know and have to live it out one day at a time. 

We hope to take the next step in our process with Yohan on Monday, as the authorities have told us that they have an order ready for us which will enable a local adoption agency to start the procedure for us to have Yohan legally adopted.  This seemed a distant thought just 2 weeks ago, but prayer led to us take courage and approach the authorities again.  And it looks like we are moving forward, albiet slowly.

I have a haunting image in my mind.  It is of two boys.  Pressed closely together.  Mouths curled up.  Tears pouring down.   I have this image in my mind.  It triggers a fresh ache in me - and again my eyes are misting.  I bring it back to the Lord.  We feel so helpless.  We cry out for comfort for Yohan and Arjun.  And for the Lord to bring hope and healing to these precious ones. 

We don't know what the future will hold, but want these boys to grow up together, to know each other, to share a life.  We are open to discovering which ways that can happen - and cherish your prayers for us along the way.

But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.  Psalms 10.14