Wednesday, 14 December 2016

This is my lover, this is my friend

Seventeen sun-spins ago, on a cold December Fifteenth morning in Rourkela, Odisha, in the last year of the past millennium, Sheba and I stepped into married life together.

2 years into our marriage - a visit to Kenny and Judy David at CMC Vellore

What a journey it has been.  We started our life together at the Nav Jivan Hospital in Satbarwa, Jharkhand.  Our first home had gauvas dropping onto the roof and a custard apple tree in our back courtyard.

A year and 10 months and 1 beautiful daughter later we had an unexpected call to shift to the big city of Mumbai and work with local churches and people with HIV.  Another year later saw us move over to Thane and begin the Jeevan Sahara Kendra.

Our stay in Thane was book-ended by sons.  Enoch was born 4 months after we shifted at the end of 2002, and our foster-son Yohan entered our lives on World AIDS Day 2014.

The 13 years we lived in Thane are the bulk of our life together.  Our family grew.  We delved deep into our house-church.  Relationships deepened and people died, many having tasted peace and entering into the Kingdom of the Son.  Asha and Enoch grew up like vines and stepped into their teens.  We have shed our share of tears - most of them in secret.  We have had far more joy than we ever deserve.  Our lives have been a fairly big blender - and looking back we have to say that the upshot is some pretty interesting flavoured lassi.  Enoch once made a peanut and chocolate and banana flavoured smoothie... something like what we may taste like.

And through it all, Sheba and I continued to walk together.

We knew from the very beginning that our life together would not be easy.  And it has panned out that way.  We are quite, quite different from each other.  And what a blessing that is too!

Sheba has enriched me and shaped my walk with God in innumerable ways.  I hope that some of who I have become by God's grace has rubbed off in her too.

And so we step into our 18th year of marriage with a sigh and a smile.

There are still plenty of things that are not neat-and-tidy.  Despite our attempts and anguished prayers, our foster-son Yohan remains in institutional care in the Mumbai area for the foreseeable future.  The pain of leaving him is fresh.  17 years of togetherness has not turned us into one unit - there are still areas that rub.  Our work seeps into who we are in varying ways.  Asha was suddenly swept off to boarding school (she is home for the next 2 months to prep for her 10th board exams at the end of Feb 17) and Enoch is being hoovered off to join her in March.  A new place has meant new challenges to worship together.  Life moves on at a dizzying rate.

But we also are so very, very blessed.  That we are still together.  That each morning we get up and drink ginger tea and read our Bibles.  That we are privileged to have worked with each other from the word go - and have been able to spend almost every day in each others company since Dec. 15th 1999.   That so many known and unknown uphold us in their prayers.  That we were able to be with Dad in his final weeks this year - and have our parents stay with us at various times over the past 2 decades.  That we are being knit together despite our groanings.

The Song of Songs says:  "This is my lover, this is my friend."  (SoS 5.16).

Both are choices.  Both are intertwined with each other.  We want to be lovers and friends to each other even more this year.  And to radiate grace to others in greater measure.  So help us God.

As we munched on some goodies that Sheba had brought back from her trip to Jhansi earlier today, the four of us celebrated our anniversary already.  We looked at each other and said: "who would have imagined we would be like this today?"  We are grayer and more gritty in some ways, but also smoother and more pliable in others.

I salute Sheba and her immense capacity to step boldly forward and full-heartedly trust our precious Jesus.

It's a beautiful life.  17 years down.   Hopefully many, many more to come.

The two of us at Lalitpur near the end of 2016

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Oh little town of Chinchpada....

Chinchpada is a village.  6575 inhabitants as of the 2011 census.

I stepped out into darkness.  The train had stopped at 2.15 AM.  I knew that the next stop was Chinchpada station.  But I didn't see a platform next to my train.  I opened both doors and went from side to side.  Outside, darkness.  A vague shape of a platform on either side - but that could be a good's platform - I was supposed to be at Chinchpada station.  My fellow passengers were fast asleep in the cold of a November night in northern Maharashtra.  The red light gleamed in the darkness.  Just as another red light had gleamed when our train had stopped in the countryside 5 minutes earlier.

Get out the mobile phone.  Daniel was waiting for me at the station.  I got through.  "How much longer to the station?" I asked him. "or are we already here?  I don't see anything outside" "You are here" Daniel replied "get out soon."

I did. I scrambled down to the ground and got one bag out.  The other was at the door. As I reached up, the train started to move.  I pulled it out and watched as the train juddered away into nocturnal ink.

The stabbing beams of a torch come toward me.  Sure enough, there was Daniel and a watchman from the hospital.  The welcoming committee had arrived.

We finally got to the 'train station building' - a quaint relic that looked like Jim Corbett would walk out of it and enquire whether his workmen should start unloading the goods cars.

The new station is being built but the electricity was not on - and hence no clue to me that this was my destination.  In fact, I was the only one on the Surat - Bhusaval passenger train to get off at Chinchpada at that ungodly hour.

Daniel and the watchman helped me carry my luggage (why was I carrying so much) on the 10 minute walk to the Chinchpada Christian Hospital, which was hosting the "RAC meetings" our semi-annual business meetings for two regions of the Emmanuel Hospital Association of which our beloved HBM Hospital in Lalitpur is part of.

The next morning we were up at the crack of dawn to participate in the morning devotions held at open chapel building in the middle of the hospital.

Almost the entire staff of the Hospital were lined up in front - singing with voices of angels.   I have heard my fair share of Hindi Christian hymns - and most of the are the 'make a joyful noise' variety.  With the emphasis on the latter word.  
Dr. Ashita and Dr. Deepak have been leading more than just the singing hospital staff - they have plunged into helping rebuild the small village hospital into something very special.  Chinchpada Christian Hospital - where Deepak has been posted a decade or so earlier as a fresh MBBS doctor - has been struggling for years with low patient loads, debt and decay.   Started by TEAM missionaries 2 generations ago - the hospital has had many dark years...

... but today, you can say that Chinchpada Christian Hospital is a ray of light.   Dr. Deepak (a freshly minted paediatric surgeon from CMC Vellore) and Dr. Ashita (a medicine consultant from the same illustrious college) have poured their lives into the hospital community.  The whole team is energised. We were thrilled to see real signs of renewal - with the decades of crumbling being replaced with rennovated buildings - with most still maintaining the 'cottage hospital' style buildings with their distinctive tiled roofs.

But what is more amazing is the state-of-the-art ICU and the straight-from-the-heart medical care being given.  The fruits of much prayer and much deep-pocket generosity by donors near and far.

Chinchpada Christian Hospital is one of our sister hospitals - and we and 7 other hospitals from the Northern and Central Regions of the Emmanuel Hospital Association gathered for 3 days to share our strategic plans for the next 5 years - and our next years budgets and personnel projections.

Here Dr. Vikram Tirkey from Champa Christian Hospital, is sharing their plans.  To the right of him are Dr. Sunil Gokavi, Dr. Deepak Singh, Dr. Ashok Chacko and our dear Victor Emmanuel.   It was a privilege to share the HBM strategic planning process - and some of what we are hoping to see happen - as well as the figures that our HBM leader Mr. Biju Mathew had worked tirelessly to project for our next year's work. 

We are a 'fellowship for transformation' and I was again struck by how important our fellowship is. The fact of so many amazing folks choosing to stick it out for so many years - like the evergreen Dr. Ashok Chacko who actually started his career of service at Chinchpada and shared some of the experiences of grace during a morning devotion.

More recent vintage are our dear Daniel and Yerusha Kautikkar who are doing a phenomenal job with the palliative care programme.  They have enrolled over 60 cases in the past 3 months - and have already dealt with numerous deaths as these dear ones have been so uncared-for prior to them being met by the Chinchpada Christian Hospital team.  Daniel and Yerusha were with us at JSK before and what a joy to see them taking wing in this tribal dominated part of north-western Maharashtra.

Our EHA Executive Director - Dr. Sunil Gokavi - took the opportunity to remind us why we are here in the first place "We exist for Christ and His Gospel - A Fellowship for Transformation through Caring."

Sunil wants to see us effective - and is passionate about getting us to work in a more focussed and coordinated way.  EHA is now a big beast - 20 hospitals spread out over North India.  45 plus community health and development projects.  Nursing schools.   Tie-ups with government and academia.  Over 2000 staff.   We are blessed to be this far.  We still have a long way to go.

It was entirely appropriate that we could celebrate Deepak and Ashita's 16th wedding anniversary while the whole motley crew of us were there together.  It's a long long way from Bible Club in Mussoorie in the late 80s when Deepak (then at Wynberg) used to join the 'holy gang' from Woodstock.  But what a blessed journey it has been!

As I left the hospital to go up to Delhi (and pick up our dear Asha whom Mum had brought down from Mussoorie) I left with many happy conversations and many big questions buzzing in my mind.

Thank you Chinchpada Christian Hospital for hosting us.  The food - each meal - was cooked by teams of staff (some who came back from being on leave).  The love was real.  We were treated like kings.

A final picture - the humble but functional building that houses the Emmanuel Public School which also operates out of the Chinchpada Christian Hospital.   What an investment in the future!  We are so glad for yet another way that the hospital is shaping lives - and wish that every hospital will have a sister concern like this!

 Onwards.   Upwards.   Soli Deo gloria.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Two ladies

We live in an age where we are agog.

Amidst the brouhaha of a turbulent US election (yes the votes are being cast even as your 'umble blogger types away in far-off Lalitpur) we have a brouheehee of a sudden announcement by our eminent first citizen that as of now all the Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes in India are not valid any more (how can you just mandate that?  Who is our govt. accountable to?).

O Freunde, nicht diese Töne! sondern laßt uns angenehmere anstimmen, und freudenvollere....

Lets take a step back and think about two ladies.

We were in old Calcutta 10 days ago.  It now seems a year back, but that's the pace we are living at.

Sheba, Enoch, Victor and I arrived in Cal for a conference on a red-eye flight from Delhi, to find out that instead of starting right after lunch as I had thought.  And so since this was the very first time Enoch was in Kolkata, we were able to look around a bit.

We dropped off our baggage at the Baptist Mission Society - which was where Victor was put up... and wouldn't we know it, but just 30 meters away was the "Mother House".

Yup, the place where Mother Theresa of Calcutta lived.  Where Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu lived and where she died.  Where the Missionaries of Charity are head-quartered.  A non-descript, dumpy building on what could have been any large road of the mighty city of Kolkata.

Would they allow us in?  Was there anything to see?  I was totally unprepared for this, but there we were at the entrance and saw this sign:

Yes, the dear Mother is 'in,' and yes, we could come in and look, said the gentle nun sitting just inside the door, clad in the blue bordered white sari of the Missionaries of Charity.

I caught my breath at the next sign:  no photography allowed, except at the grave.  

At the grave?  

Sure enough, just a few steps away, and without any fan-fare, we were suddenly in a room where the mortal remains of the little woman whose heart burned with love for Jesus and for the poor has been laid.  

I couldn't believe that I was just there, standing next to the plain white marble cube that is her grave, with a few people praying and some flowers spelling out a message: "You did it to me" 

Ordinary people praying.  A sense of the total normalness of devotion.

In a simple room next door is a mini-museum.  What a life this lady lived.  Stepping out of the safety of the convent to minister to the poor.  Being feted by the glitterati of the world - and still staying mission-true to her calling.

Fascinatingly, the day before I had a conversation with a very experienced development leader. Somehow she mentioned that she had once called Mother Theresa on the phone.  This lady had worked with a Scandinavian country's foreign aid agency, and the royal family of that country was visiting Calcutta and wanted to meet Mother Theresa.  "What should they bring with them" was the question my friend was to ask Mother Theresa.  This she dutifully did.  Mother told her: "Milk powder.  Tell them to bring milk powder for the children."  When this was conveyed to the powers to be, my friend was asked to reconfirm.  Same reply.  And so the royals met Mother T and handed over a few boxes of milk-powder.

I was deeply moved to see the utter simplicity of these lady's life.  Her hidden world of prayer is of course well known, but I was touched by the spartan reality of a life of renunciation - and yet a life of fullness.

Seeing a letter she wrote to her beloved sisters in her order, informing them about one of the many honours that were given to her touched me deeply.  The spidery, fading hand-writing was written all over... an old envelop which had been addressed to her.

And then the picture of her room.  It was Thursday, and for some reason that is the day of the week where her room is closed, but we saw a picture of where this little light of Jesus lived.  Talk about basic, stripped down.  It looked to me like a store room where some old tables were being stacked, rather than the dwelling place of a Nobel laureate and one who received a full state funeral when she was finally called home.

The compactness of it all meant that we were immersed in the life of Mother Theresa for an hour, and then were out on the streets of Cal again.

What do next - with the precious hours on hand?

We decided to go to the Victoria Memorial.

I dimly remember it as a white building with a museum gallery about how Calcutta was formed.  So we hopped in a yellow Ambassador Cab and were scooted away to the centre of the city.

Wow.  Most times when I see something after many years, it always seems smaller.

But this time was the opposite.  Was it having come from the austerity of the Mother House? Anyway, I don't remember at all the place being so huge, and lying in the middle of a massive expanse of open space.

We had to take an obligatory touristy picture with the lions (and sleeping dogs) that guard the memorial!

As  we walked along what seemed an endless space from the gate towards the main structure, we passed the crusty statue of a monarch long dead:  Queen Victoria (the then) Empress of India.

The contrast between this dead woman, the small shrivelled nun, who had emptied herself as her Lord did could hardly be greater.

Her royal doughtiness sits on her throne, with selfie-taking tourists arrayed in front of her (I cropped them out of this image of course).  For all the pomp and glory she enjoyed in her life-time, I doubt whether even 1 in 10 of the folks passing her statue even knows who she is.

At the base of her statue, is this rococo brass work (originally made for another statue - so perhaps an early example of recycle, reduce, reuse).

And the theme continues as we come close to what is a colossal building.

It just towers above you.

Inside, we are part of a stream of folks looking around.  There are statues galore - with a lysome young Victoria portrayed idealistically in her youth in the central done - and other royalty of that era (Princess Ann comes to mind) standing in life-size in various nooks and crannies.   We take the steps up to the viewing gallery in the cupola - and realise that it is a view down to the main floor, and a view up to 12 iconic paintings showing the key events of her Victoria's life - all the way from her christening with Bishops galore, to her funeral.  Ditto.  And Bishops in between too.

I looked at our fellow visitors.  Many seemed strangers to the big city.  Very few glanced up at her gilded life, as portrayed in the 12 art-deco scenes.  The memorial is huge, but few seem to grasp that this is a building to celebrate a great lady.

Reading the origins of the monument heightened the disconnect.  The inscription informed us that after the news of the death of Victoria came to India, the great and the good decided to raise a monument in her honour - so that the whole populus - native and european - could glory in her memory....   We were also informed that the funds for this vast project were raised by public subscription.

Initially I thought of little boys carrying collection boxes and raising funds.  But then I looked at the base of two of the royal statues.  "A gift of the Aga Khan" was inscribed on the base.  Public subscription thus probably meant milking the rich and powerful to make something dazzling.

Now, it's another matter that we don't seem to have made anything really noteworthy as a nation since the Brits marched back to Blighty three score and nine years ago.  We do understand that some collossal statue is being built in Gujarat of course, but will have to wait till it actually is constructed before making a comment.

But the deeper question for me was comparing these two ladies.

Who remembers Victoria anymore.  Yes, you can say that she died a century before Theresa of Calcutta did.  But then another famous British royalty died on the same day too.  Who remembers Princess Di these days?

But a simple, broken lady, who poured out her life in rigorous prayer and focused care for the broken and rejected is feted and remembered all over our land... and in many parts of the world.

As I wrote in the guestbook at the Mother House, I could not help be moved to tears by what others had written too.

I saw no such wonder - neither among the 'Native' nor in the (scattered) 'European' visitors - as they filed out of the cavernous Victoria Memorial.  Selfies - yes.  Tears of wonder - no.

The grand memorial to ole queen Vic is still in fairly good shape.   There is no ruin as Shelley talked about in his poem Ozymandias.... but at the same time, the very purpose of memorialising Victoria has lapsed as generations of Indians have grown up without her successors ruling over us.  So here the voice of the poet anyway:

And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away

Far better, far deeper, far more reaching is to do small things in the face of God.

Theresa of Calcutta lived this out.  We have opportunities to do so like wise.

The US is choosing their leader as we type this out.  You and I can choose which of these two ladies we seek to emulate - the white-saried nun, or the ruler of the empire where the sun never sets.  Both lie in the grave, but one's life shines forth...

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Ray Eicher: "See you later"

Our dear older brother Rudy Gomez spent a memorable week with us here with Dad from the 25th of July to August 1st this year.   Dad was fading over these days.  Rudy captured some of the experience with his video cam and has put together a montage for which we are all very grateful.

Dad died 12 days after telling Rudy: "See you later."


RayEicher-See You Later! 720p from Rudy and Aneng Gomez on Vimeo.

God be with you till we meet again;
By his counsels guide, uphold you;
With his sheep securely fold you.
God be with you till we meet again.

Till we meet, till we meet,
Till we meet at Jesus' feet,
Till we meet, till we meet,
God be with you till we meet again.

God be with you till we meet again;
When life's perils thick confound you,
Put his arms unfailing round you.
God be with you till we meet again.

God be with you till we meet again;
Keep love's banner floating o'er you;
Smite death's threat'ning wave before you.
God be with you till we meet again.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Kolkata Daze

We fell out of the sky and into Kolkata last weekend.

The contrast between the celestial and the terrestrial was pretty stark.

The sight of a city from above is always a delight - and as you swoop down you start seeing the its-bitsy vehicles moving like so many ants, the houses become more than tiny little fairy boxes, and then you come lower and see individuals flitting by and the earth rises up to meet you.

Once out of the airport we get into living history - the yellow ambassadors which still ply the streets of old (and new) Kolkata.

My memories of Kolkata as the rickety city seem to still be true.

The busses look like they have been around the world and back.  We pass 2 trams stuck while workmen do something on the overhead electric lines.

Sheba, Enoch and I are in Cal for a few days as part of a conference.  Most of the time we are in the Seva Kendra premises where Christ-following medicos from India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka... and Myanmar are meeting up (our Pakistani friends wanted to come, but the current political scene is not conducive of them making the hop over).

We didn't plan on sight-seeing, but end up with a quick peek at the Victoria Memorial (more on this in the next post), 

 Life on the streets of Cal continues to amaze.

The normal amongst the decaying.  Every little bit of land in use, at the same time, much of the old in genteel disintegration.

The thong of my chappal broke.  All I needed was to step 15 meters out of the Seva Kendra premises - and there was my man.   I watched a neighbouring barber ply his trade as the cobbler worked on my chappal - while talking to a young man who had dreams of emigrating to Canada.

Post monsoon showers were with us and had cooled the city down a bit.

I was fascinated by the old - much of where was being overgrown

I had also expected to see more of Mother Theresa around.   The 'Mother House' itself did have a small library and exhibition area, but all so very modest.  We did pass this shrine in a by-lane of Cal, celebrating the declaring that Mother Theresa is officially a saint now...

Enoch wanted to see a tram.  We saw lots of tracks, but few trams plying.  I was shocked to see that there are still some human-pulled Rickshaws around.   All those years of Marxism hasn't removed this misery... and the current govt's "poriborton' (change) does not seem to have touched many parts of the city (other than the now ubiquitous 'blue' on most public utilities.

The long shadow of the British remains.  I am amused to see street after street bearing their original colonial names.  The rest of our nation has happily renamed them at whim and fancy, but in old Cal they keep the hoary past marching forward.

And as we came close to Howrah, we look up to see these gems from the days of the John company...

All very propah of course, but down on the streets the Bengalis do what Bengalis in Kolkata do... they celebrate in a big way, with the local 'youth clubs' making sure every one knows what festival it is (and collecting money from the locals to finance the decorations and other sundry expenses).

We are on our way out, having dropped Sheba at the airport to Chennai (and then on to a week at Vellore), while Enoch and I were heading to Howrah station to catch the Chambal Express.

Who isn't impressed by the mass of steel above our heads as we cross the Hoogly river?

And along with us, escorting us on our way out of old Kolkata, are the rickety busses again.

We get to the station 1.5 hours early.  Plenty of time for a masala dosa and a visit to Wheelers Bookstall to load ourselves down with various newspapers and magazines for the trip.

Before we know it, the train has whisked us back to central India, to scenes outside our window like this:

Kolkata is now a distant dream.  Did we even go there?  It all seems Rip-Van-Winkelish here.

What a city.  If I had grown up in it I would have loved it.  But Mumbai was my childhood city and so my sentiments flow freer for that paradoxical place.  

Adieu Kolkata, till our paths take us back to you.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Wearing my father's clothes

I am wearing a lot of Dad's clothes these days.

After Dad died here in Lalitpur in mid August, I was up in Mussoorie twice, and each time came back down with more of his clothes.

Today I am wearing his khadi kurta and a set of black slacks.

At first the clothes smelled strongly of Dad.  Or should I say of the Keo Karpin oil that he used liberally on himself.  As the weeks have gone by, and successive trips to the washing machine, the scent has faded a bit.

The memories come and go these days.  Normally when I am slipping on one of Dad's shirts or kurtas, or when I hitch up a pair of the splendid pants I have inherited from him, my mind goes back to him.

How strange to have him not 'around' - at least in the sense that I know he is there with Mum in Mussoorie - praying for us multiple times a day - meeting people with his big smile and welcome - sending emails to various parts of the globe (and to us too of course) with his SOOOOOOO MUCH exclamations.

How strange to know that I am wearing these clothes, because Dad is dead.  Because he does not need them anymore, and because as Eichers we are quite comfortable with hand-me-downs and hand-me-ups.  It's very much what Dad would have wanted.

In the rush of life after Dad's translation to glory, I have to admit that I have not taken much time to be quiet and just reflect and pray.  The on-going cascade of minutes filled with things-to-do (and various levels of leisure) swirl around us, and the business of the present crowds out much else.

So feeling the cloth gives me some opportunities to process.  Little glimpses and reminders.  And I try to say a quick prayer of thanks when the memories come.   The Lord has given, the Lord has taken away.  Blessed be His name.

It's humbling to be wearing Dad's togs.  It is inevitable, and I think in some ways right and healthy, to compare yourself with your father.  The high bar that Dad and Mum have lived out in their open vulnerable lives, their generosity of spirit and deed, the commitment to the Lord and His plans on their lives... all these are hard acts to follow.   As I put on a shirt of Dad hurriedly in the morning a small thought comes to mind - how would Dad have lived this day?   Feeling the still slightly un-used-to feel of his pants when I sit down occasionally spurs a thought about him - and about how my life is being lived out.

Of course, Dad would never want me to imitate him.  His own life was a careful imitation of His Master, the gentle carpenter, the wounded healer, the patient shepherd of foolish disciples, the one who spent hours in communion with His Father.   I hope that I can gratefully look beyond Dad to the source of His strength and the author of all that was good within Raymond Elmore Eicher.

I hope that my actions, my attitudes, my words and my decisions will bear the fragrance of the sweet Jesus that Dad loves so much.   I am not concerned about whether Dad can 'see me' today - as David Rendall said at Dad's funeral - Dad's face is probably glued to the beauty and shining majesty of His Saviour's face.  But I would like the one whom Dad loved to fill me with His love, and clothe me with His beautiful character.


Last weekend had another clothes-related experience which moved me deeply.

Sheba, Enoch and I were attending the South Asia regional conference of the ICMDA (the International Christian Medical and Dental Associations).  Dr. Arul Anketell from Sri Lanka, a saintly man of deep love for God and His word and all the many imperfect followers of Jesus was giving the evening devotions.  On the final night, Dr. Arul was sharing about exchanging a garland of joy for the ashes of despair.  He talked about how he had wanted to get a flower garland and give it to someone in the room, but was not able.  Then he took out a purple shirt and said that instead he had decided to give his favourite shirt to someone.  And then he told the entire crowd that he would like, if I permitted him, to give it to me....

What to say?  What an amazing privilege to have Dr. Arul drape the purple shirt around my shoulders.  Even now my eyes are rather moist as I think about his offering of love - and the amazing privilege of being 'chosen' out of all the other folks whom Dr. Arul knew so well in that room...

We stand on the shoulders of giants.  We are draped with the mantles of those who have quested before us.  We are clothed in the garments of righteousness.

Let us step forward, knowing that we are not worthy, but grateful for the abounding love that is wrapped around us like a cloak.

Friday, 21 October 2016

A sparkling memory - a shared joy in a time of division

In the quest of truth and beauty, my dear brother Stefan has transplanted himself and his amazing wife Neeru and their three children Ashish, Anjali and Anita to the US for two years as he pursues a Masters of Fine Arts.

Stefan and family have been pretty busy - and here is one of their projects - an ambitious public art project called '38th and Shine.'  In this project, they tirelessly worked to bring together 4 quite dissimilar neighbourhoods together to a mass lighting of sparklers.   A beautiful moment was created.

A short film has been made on this.  It has just been released on the '38th and Shine' facebook page, and you can see it here.   In the mean time, here is an early version of the film which is worth seeing in itself....

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Stepping out into the dark night

Our HBM Hospital is smack opposite the government district hospital.  

At times, when I seen the free govt. ambulances drive into the gates of that hospital I wish that some more of those patients would get help from our healing centre.

For the last 3 days, that has happened.

There is some kind of strike going on in the govt. hospital.  No small children are being admitted.  We have a steady stream of very, very sick babies coming to us.  Our modest nursery is full.  Over-flowing.   The extra ward which we have been allowing a local paediatrician to use is also full.

Today we had the sad experience of seeing two of these young lives slip away under our care.

It would have been so easy to just tell the attendants right at the beginning to go to Jhansi.  100 kms away.  Big hospital there. All the facilities.  Except that we know that 3/4 of the families will just not go and the babies will die at home.

So we have been caring for them.  Well beyond our comfort zone.  And with the sadness of seeing these tiny bodies stop breathing.


Sheba was on call this evening.   Amma and Appa and Enoch and myself went off the hospital campus to a Bible study at our palliative care staff member Amit's home.   The hospital jeep, carrying a good 25 folks joined us.  The room was packed.

Meanwhile, Sheba was on call at HBM.   As usually she went and did her evening rounds.  And then things happened.  A child who had been admitted by the paediatrician and who was under his care died in the ward he is using for his patients.

A mob collected.  30 - 40 people barged into the hospital.  Chairs were broken in the melee.

Our cool-headed Medical Superintendent Dr. Tony came out to talk with them.   An hour was spent in confrontation.  Tony is an amazing man.

And then another group formed.  This one about one of the previous kids who had expired.  Tony talked with them too.

And then another group came.  They had been at the govt. hospital with a sick child.  They wanted to admit the child at our hospital.  We are full.  We are reeling with two mobs already this evening.

The group that was refused admission for their child was enraged.  More shouting.  Some threats. And then somehow that mob was also dissipated.

Unsurprisingly, Sheba is flat out in bed right now.  The quietness of the Lalitpur night may yet call her back to the hospital, given so many sick kids who are admitted.   I have said some quiet prayers on her behalf - and on behalf of the families who have brought their sick ones to us for healing.  We may have been their second choice given the strike at the govt. hospital - but we wish that their loved ones will be touched.  And that we as a hospital will keep growing to be the first choice.  A place where people know that we care and love and treat in the name of spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ.   We are locally known as 'Isahi Mission Hospital' - and would like to live up to our local name.


So spare a thought for the young doctor of today's India.

Who in their right mind would like to come to a place like this?

Why would anyone want to meet a mob.  And not one, but three in the same evening?

It is no wonder that mission hospitals - real ones - that are really in places that need medical care - are finding it harder and harder to attract and retain doctors.   Why would a young medical grad want to come here - when a plush corporate hospital awaits in a big city?   And given that most young medical grads (in India at least) are not really making their own choices, but rather making Mummy and Daddy happy - why would any parent want their young adult to spend 'the best years of their life' (and the crucial years of getting into higher studies) in a 'God-forsaken' place?

The days of the missionary doctor setting up a small clinic under a tree and having scores of happy villagers line up for his (or her) wonder-drugs are long, long, long gone.

The days of the mob are here.  And are here to stay it seems.

Almost 20 years ago, when working at the Nav Jivan Hospital in Jharkhand we saw how deeply entrenched the law of the mob was.

A lady had died.  The mob collected.  Glass was broken.   A fresh specialist doctor from Vellore was on call.  Her face was very close to where the glass splinters were flying.  The hospital filed a case in the police station.  The perpetrators came and asked the hospital to remove the case.  We asked them to give us a written apology for the damage done.  They refused.  And filed a case in the consumer courts that wound on for years before it was finally closed in our favour.  The lady doctor in question had to travel back to the hospital a number of times.   Unsurprisingly, she and her specialist doctor husband are not serving long-term in one of our hospitals.

And then this.   Nav Jivan was (and is) in a hot-bed of Naxalite (or 'Left-Wing Extremists' if you prefer) activity.  One fine day our administrator and medical superintendent are called 'into the jungle' to meet a commander.

When you get that kind of a call, you go.  They went.  There they met the folks from the underground who were holding court.  And who should be with them, but a well-known trouble-maker who had set up shop (literally) just outside the hospital gate.

The reason our good folks were called to meet the men with the guns?  Well, it seems that our 'outside-the-gate-man' had some issues to accuse the hospital of.  "you do not have a paediatrician!  You need to get a gynaecologist.  You need better equipment in your lab."  and on and on.

Our medical superintendent and head of the hospital was a tough-talking Odiya doctor.  He took the bull by the horns.  Pointing at Mr.-know-it-all, he asked him point-blank about who had looked after his father and nursed him back to health from certain death.

The Naxalite leaders soon realised that they had been led along by a man talking through his hat.  They ended the meeting soon and sent our friends back to our hospital and we did not hear from them about this issue at least.

But the absurdity of it.  Being called into the jungle and told in the presence of men-with-guns that we should improve our staffing and get 'better doctors.'

So there you have it.  Voices and experiences from 2 decades ago.  With our dear country showing not an inch of improvement.  If anything, we see more and more mobs taking over and forcing things.  Put the word 'mob' into the search feature of this blog and you will find that over the past few years I have written about the actions of angry masses a fair bit.

Today we got the news that in Bangalore more busses were burned because people are angry that the supreme court made a judgement on how the water of the river Cauvery should be shared between the states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.  What took my breath away was that the Karnataka govt. gave Rs. 10 lakhs to the families of those who died when the police opened fire on a rampaging mob.  The deaths were tragic, but these were people who were breaking things up and could have killed people in their anger and refused to stop when the police fired in the air.   To give them a 'reward' seems absurd...

And so we continue to live in the midst of love and leaves and the at times aching paradox of broken humanity.  

We are only here because we are called.  Called to see if others would like to taste and see that the Lord is good.  Called to welcome and model a life of Christ-following, strengthened by His very presence, humbly living out a life of (hopefully) joy-driven service in the midst of the sometimes ugly face of a world which is upside down.

Its 11.55 PM.  Sheba has been woken for a call.  She has just stepped out of the home into the dark night to go to the hospital.

I say a small prayer of hope.


Pause. Stop. Take a deep breath.

The last few months have been very much about Dad and his final days.   Its been a month now since he died.  Translated to glory.  The chariot of fire came and whisked him away.  Quietly.

There is much still to write.  A whole life-time.  I was up in Mussoorie last weekend and just peeped into a few of Dad's many files in his office.  A whole set of life-times.

But I have intentionally not written for the last two weeks.  And will probably not write about Dad for some more time.

Just to sort things out a bit in my own head.  In my own heart.  To go back to the rhythm of life.  To discover the new normal.

I need to pray more and talk less.  To be quiet in the presence of the Lord.  To sing more and walk in the morning coolness.

There are letters to reply to.  But they will have to wait.  There are thoughts buzzing in the head, but they will have to settle.


The German word is spelled the same way.  Pronounced 'Pow-seh'.  It means 'recess.'

Some days ago my sister Premila posted on social media that she was stepping away for a while.

I have done the same - and want to extend the time of quiet for some more - at least on the many-faceted Dad-shaped hole in my heart. 

Monday, 29 August 2016

Some words on a wall...

Many years ago, when Stefan and Neeru were being married at the Christian Retreat and Study Centre in Rajpur, Dad wrote a message for them on a big chart paper wall hanging we prepared for them.

Here is what Dad wrote - in his inimitable handwriting.  Dad's words written in March 2005 ring out to us today as well:

Dear Stefan and Neeru,

Every day will be a whole eternity as you walk with the Lord.

All that happened yesterday is over and gone.

Whatever happened that wasn't so good or disappointing, put in God's hands and let His blood cover it... never let that thot ever bother you.

Whatever happened that [was] good... offer it as an offering to the Lord - for HIS GLORY!

"Tomorrow will never come" so you needn't worry about that.

By worrying anyway you cannot change anything.

So what is left? TODAY!!!

Live it to the fullest.  Enjoy every minute, every relationship.

See God in every moment, every object, every person.

At the end of each day, thank Him for having been with you, commit each other to Him, commit Tomorrow into His hands + have a goooooood restful sleep.

Love you both,



Thanks to Vinay and Melanie Rao for sending us this image and for their many ways of living out love to us as a family.   Much appreciated.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

A joyous goodbye, a delight-seasoned yearning: Ray Eicher's funeral

Dad spoke about his funeral many times over the years.  He told us on numerous occasions that he did not want some ponderous, solemn affair.   What he wanted was joy and thanksgiving and celebration - because Dad knew that he was going to be rejoicing with his Lord Jesus.

Dad got what he wanted.

Our time together at the Kellogg Memorial Church in Landour Mussoorie on the afternoon of the 15th of August 2016 was as joy-soaked as it can get.  "I have just come back from the happiest funeral I have ever been to" wrote a young man on a social media platform a day ago.  He was talking about Dad's thanksgiving service and funeral.

You can see the whole service here:

[the youtube url is:]

Pastor Timothy Patiraj welcomed us all and asked God's grace to fill us, praying in the name of Jesus, the conquerer of death.  We then moved into the well loved song Yeshu Masih - tere jaisa hai koi nahin.  

What a joy to look out over the hall and see so many dear ones from near and far who were there because of the love that they had experienced through Dad.  

It was always going to be hard to select folks to share testimonies of thanksgiving, but we finally chose 7.   We had to start out with Mum of course.  

With an amazing smile on her face, Mum talked about her companionship with Dad over their 48 years of marriage. About how blessed it was when Dad talked to her about going on a final trip - and how she was able to tell him that this would be the very best journey he has ever been on.

Our next two speakers were not present 'in the flesh' but were very much with us in spirit - Premila and Stefan.  I had the privilege of reading out messages that they had prepared for this time.

Premi wrote a letter which had been sent just before Dad passed away - and asked that we read it out at the funeral:

Dear Dad and Mom,

Over these few months I have been asking why? Why is God doing this to dad. A man that has sacrificed so much to serve You. A man who has so much compassion and zeal. That has obeyed. No answers have come to me.

But as I sit here, in my living room listening to the rain and looking out my window through the trees towards the mountains and listening to the Olympics in the background, and listening to the men a d women who have won. They have spent years training. Training hasn't come easy it's been painful, there have been injuries, disappointments, times where they have wanted to give up. Times where they are spent. And then the big race comes and they put their all into it, and that feeling when they cross that finish line. The feeling of relief. Peace, joy. And I'm sure their coach tells them well done, your faithfulness in training has paid off.

And I think about dads life, and all he has done, and went through. And he is where he now. I'm sure frustrated. And in pain, possibly some anxiety. And I just feel that God is saying to him " well done my Good and faithful servant" ( quote dad used to say in his sermons). And hopefully if you get this, I hope you can read this to dad MOM. And somehow dad will be encouraged.

Again, I love you both so much. My heart is with you both everyday.

Always yours, 

Premi Maus

It was my privilege to read a comments by my brother next.  Stefan sent a deeply moving meditation on Dad and the nature of forgiveness that you can read in full here.

Here are some of Stefan's words:

Forgiveness is a wonderful thing. It changes everything. It literally changes the world. And I am grateful for the many opportunities my father and I have had to forgive each other, to be forgiven by each other, and to set things straight.

My father has departed. But over the years, I have been grateful for many departures, up at the top of the hill behind Sisters Bazaar, where having walked up the hill from Shanti Kunj after yet another visit, I get into a taxi, and wave till the last moment possible and Mum and Dad disappear from view.

The ache of each impending separation became opportunities to set things straight, to seek out Dad’s forgiveness and in turn to forgive, to stand there at the top of the hill and experience the bliss of a father’s embrace of total love and acceptance. And I am grateful to Dad for that. Having had the chance to resolve so much, having experienced so much grace with my father, somehow this last goodbye here on earth isn’t as hard as I thought it would be.

Not only did he help give me life 45 years ago to this day, August 15th, but in deeply significant ways he also taught me how to live that life well: through his compassion, through helping me experience the reality of grace, and through knowing the wonderful freedom that comes from forgiveness.

Pastor Edwin Singh shared about how Dad met and greeted everyone he me with such compassion and love.  Be it the coolie laboring under a load that he is carrying, or a rich tourist up to see the sights of Mussoorie.  

Dr. Stephen Alfred talked about knowing Dad from when he was a teenager, but how he had the special privilege of knowing him as he had operated on him for the cancerous tumour at the Bethany Hospital in Thane.  Stephen shared how Dad would pray for him and all the other doctors - and how Dad faced the operation he was undergoing without fear. And how he blessed everyone in the whole hospital - from the person running the lifts and the watchmen outside to the nurses and the doctors.  He spoke about Dad's humility, his passion for the gospel and that he had no respect for persons - that he believed that every life was valuable.

Uncle Alfy Franks shared he and Dad had been such brothers - and that if it was his funeral Dad would have done anything possible to be there.   Uncle Alfy said that he has never seen a man who fulfilled the two great commandments like Dad did.  To love God with all his heart, and to love his neighbour as himself.   "Ray fulfilled these commands all his life. I could never find a man with such a hunger for God. Waiting on God, worshipping God... and such a desire to serve to fulfill the second commandment."  Uncle went on to share how early in their work they had s situation at a conference when a toilet was totally blocked and nobody knew what to do.  Dad took his hand and plunged it into the filth and cleaned it out.  "Those brothers will never forget what they saw.  All their lives they will have remembered it....   What a welcome Ray will have had when he arrived in heaven!"

Bro PM John share that earlier this year Dad had encouraged him and other Ex-Omers to gather together in different parts of India to worship the Lord and encourage each other.  Bro John shared how grateful he was to have Ray and Alfy as his leaders during the 18 years he served with OM India.  He talked about how his children had worn the clothes that Andi and Stefan had worn before them. "That's the kind of relationship we had... very few people are living in this world like the Lord Jesus - brother Ray was one of them. No words can express our gratitude for him."

A group song by some of the Eicher clan summed up some of Dad's favourite thoughts:

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know, yes I know, He holds the future, 
And life is worth the living, just because He lives.

And then one day, I cross the river,
I'll fight life's final war with pain,
And then as death, gives way to victory,
I'll see the lights of glory and I'll know He lives

The word of God was shared by David Rendall.  David is a man from whom Dad delighted to hear unpack the Bible many times over the past 2 decades (it helps that David enjoys Jesus so much that he has memorized the book of Romans).  David started out by telling us all that it was OK to be sad.  Loss is real.  Grief is real.  Our Lord Jesus Himself experienced sorrow and sadness.  To experience tears is only to echo what our Lord Himself did.  We all know that Jesus wept.  It is totally normal and right to feel sad at times of loss like this.

But the other thing that David shared with us was a living, throbbing gem of light.  The glorious truth is that we do have a real and genuine hope.  A hope that Dad has spoken of, has lived out, and has lived in anticipation of.  A hope of actually meeting the Lord Jesus and gazing in delight at His holiness.  A real and genuine fact that as marvelous and grace-filled as this life may be - and Dad experienced much grace and joy along the way - we are just getting the faintest taste of what is to come, the lightest feather touch of the weight of glory that is to be revealed.  Having read a passage from The Horse and His Boy David said that "Now at last Ray Eicher is beginning chapter one of the main story which no one on earth has read and which goes on forever."

David finished his sermon by saying:  "You know what Ray would like me to be saying to you?  My Friends. come home with me. Look at the Father who I am looking at right now.  You will never be disappointed. Finish the race. Keep the faith." 

We responded to this joy-bursting sharing of God's truth through His revealed word of scripture with Dad's favourite hymn: Martin Luther's A Mighty Fortress is our God.  The earthy Luther had apparently set his soaring God-drenched, experience-tempered words to the tune of a popular beer-hall tune.  And according to the biography of Luther that I was reading aloud to Dad when he died, Luther was a fine singer himself.  And his words reflect some of the struggles that Dad has lived through his 50 plus years of living out his life for God:

And though his world with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear for God hath willed,
His truth to triumph through us.

We had been celebrating and thanking God for Dad's life.  His funeral was just as he had wanted it - full of a deep joy in the Lord.  A tangible aroma of thanksgiving which mingled with our tears at not having him in our midst any more.  A church full of dear ones from near and far - the local shop owners sitting next to aging colleagues from the early days of OM, folks who had flown in from Bangalore and Hyderabad mingled with variouis members of the extended Eicher clan (some of the wonderful foster brothers and their families whom Mum and Dad have parented over the past 2 decades), pastors of local churches and members of the broader hill-side community.

And then, wonder-of-wonders, we had Dad addressing the group himself.   Over the past decade as a family we had many a time heard Dad say that he would like to have a video of himself shown at his funeral.   Amazingly, with the help of John Paulraj and Bhagat Pun, we were able to record 2 messages by Dad.  We showed the Hindi message at the funeral.  It was uncanny to see how spot on target he was - and how much his presence resonated through his God-directed words:

For those who can't understand Hindi, here is a similar message that Dad shared in English.  It was recorded at the same time, in the Prayer Room at Shanti Kunj.  Dad was suffering from terrible pain in the nights, but rallied around to record these messages which express his essential thoughts in the way that we knew and loved so well.

What better way to respond than our well-beloved hymn - How Great Thou Art

When Christ shall come, 
With shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And there proclaim, my God how great Thou art

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to thee,
How great thou art, how great thou art.
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to thee,
How great thou art.... how great... thou ... art!

It was such a privilege for me to thank the many who had worked behind the scenes for us to celebrate Dad's life in this way.  The leadership teams of the Kellogg Memorial Church and the Friends of Garhwal Church, the HBM Hospital community, the many who had prayed and helped out in so many ways.

We then had one of Dad's many dear friends come up to close the time in prayer.  It was an apporpriate choice as Dr. Raju Abraham was a trusted prayer partner of Dad's, who along with Dad and others used to meet in different Landour hillside homes for a daily 6-7 AM prayer meeting - a practice that went on for a number of years just after the turn of the Millenium.

It was time to move to the actual burial.  We had earlier put Dad's favourite Garhwali hat on his head and so as the family filed out past Dad's coffin, we saw Dad's body the way we had seen him many times before - dressed for service - and at peace with God.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.  And precious is the meeting of these saints as they offered words of comfort and condolence to all of us as a family.   

Mum was practically beaming as she met different loved ones. 

On the way from Lalitpur to Mussoorie she had expressed concern that she would not be able to emotionally handle it when people who loved Dad very much would meet her.   We prayed for courage and composure.  She got both in massive measure.  The joy of the Lord was her strength as she told person after concerned person about how much peace God was giving her. 

We then started on the short walk from the church to the Landour Christian Cemetery.   Many willing hands carried the coffin as we walked through the lush greenness of a Mussoorie monsoonal afternoon.  Our worship team walked ahead, leading in songs of worship as the procession made its way along the path that Dad had walked along with Mum many a time.  The difference was this time Dad did not stop to meet a stranger and give him or her a tract, or greet an old friend with a quick round up of news.  Dad's tongue - for now, and here on earth - is silent.  His body was being carried by some of those whom he had invested his life into.  It is now the turn of others to speak.

As we came to the cemetery, we left the road and walked down into the vivid greenery of the huge deodar trees and the lush ferns dotted with purple monsoonal flowers.  The path is steep in places as the hill drops down in breath-taking fashion.   'What a place to be buried' I thought as the clouds opened up momentarily and I saw the awesome beauty of the forested hills on the other side of the valley open up.  How glad I am that Mum and Dad had soaked in this beauty over their 29 years of living in Mussoorie - their countless walks together - and their hikes with us and other offering many times to praise the loving Creator of such heart-stopping beauty.

We passed the graves of the known and the unknown on our walk down, down, down to the bottom left corner of the cemetery.   Our path took us past British tombs large and small, glimpsed through the greenery.   More modern concrete markers reminded us of loved ones who had gone before Dad.  Diana Biswas - long-serving Woodstock teacher.  Joe and Marrietta Smith - dear friends of Dad's whose graves lie next to each other - their bodies having been laid to rest as a testimony to their love for each other, their adopted country and their Lord.   

And now it was Dad's turn. Scripture tells us that it is appointed once for man to die, and then the judgement.  We finally came to the place where a large hole had been dug - the place where Dad's mortal remains were to be interred. 

As we gathered next to the grave, waiting for folks from the long procession to catch up, my phone buzzed.  I looked at the number and saw '3444' which meant that it was Stefan calling (he uses a web-based app I think).  How amazing to be there next to the grave, and to have a link with Stefan and family there in Indianapolis, USA.   Stefan talked to Mum and was able to listen in to the final prayers and scripture readings and told me afterwards that he could actually hear the thud of the mud hitting the coffin at the end.
Our dear brother Rajesh Dongriyal prayed for us all.  And so we went into the final part of the funeral itself.  As followers of Jesus Christ, we believe in the resurrection of the dead.   Jesus, rose from the dead on the third day.  His spirit, which He had surrendered into the hands of his Father, was reunited with his body.  His physical body was itself transformed into a glorious eternal body - Jesus appearing to John later says "I was dead.  I am alive.  I will live forever more."  Jesus' resurrection is a triumph over death.  We lay the bodies of those who have accepted His free gift of life into the graves (or cremate them, or remember those whose remains we cannot find) in the sure hope that one day they will be resurrected by the power of the Lord Jesus Himself.

 It is in this hope that we had the well-known passage from 1st Thessalonians read out by the grave side: Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or grieve like the rest of men, how have no hope.  We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him. 

We know that Dad died in the arms of his loving Saviour.  And so it was with great hope and comfort that we were able to consign his body to the grave.

What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer.

The strains of this hymn rang out among the tall silent deodar trees of the cemetery.  Sung by many a loved one of Ray Eicher - echoing Dad's belief and experience over the many years he had spent in this life.

The other scripture reading was lived out in so many ways in Dad's life:

Love is patient, 
Love is kind,
It does not envy,
It does not boast,
It is not proud.
It is not rude,
It is not self-seeking,
It is not easily angered,
It keeps no records of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil, 
But rejoices with the truth.
It always protects,
Always hopes,
Always trusts,
Always perseveres.
Love never fails.  (1 Cor. 13.4-8a)

In many ways, Dad's life lived this out.  With the help and transformation of his dear Lord Jesus, Dad's days on earth radiated this character of Jesus in his words and deeds.  We have watched this and can testify this to be true.

And so after the final prayers by Pastor Timothy Patiraj, all that was left was to actually fill up the grave.  Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.  But the mud that we filled the grave with being the very substance that God used to fashion our dear departed father and friend to many.  Our dropping of the mud was a humble acknowledgement that our days too are numbered - and that we look forward to the glory that is to come.

 Our strong, gracious and loving mother was also among those who dropped mud into the grave.  She tossed a single rose in as well.   A life-time of love has come to an end.  God has chosen to separate them at this time after 49 years of married life together.  We know that He is good and are so thankful for the many years that He gave them together.

What hope we have.  What joy to know that this is not all there is.  That the mortal remains will one day be clad with the immortal.  That our Lord has walked this bitter path before us and has conquered death and the grave.

Dad was born in Miraj, Maharashtra. Abandoned by his birth-mother as he had been born out of wedlock, Dad was adopted into the then childless Elmore and Alice Eicher family who were serving as missionaries in Maharashtra.

His adopted father served at one point as head of the mission and came to Mussoorie on a number of occasions.  Many a time Elmore Eicher would have passed the cemetery where his son Ray would be eventually be buried.  One of the greatest stories of grace that I know of happened on my grandfather's watch, in Mussoorie to boot.

Dad's life was rich.  He ran his race well.  He kept the faith.  He died on the 13th of August in the year of our Lord 2016, in our home on the Harriet Benson Memorial Hospital campus in Lalitpur, Uttar Pradesh.

He leaves behind a rich legacy of people he and Mum have impacted together.  Our immediate family of Stefan, Premi and myself and our spouses and children of course.  The wider foster family of Rudy, Narendra, Upendra, James, Ken, Rajesh, Ram Surat, Luka, Chris, Bison, Lissie, Phil, Bhagat, Dhan Prakash, and their spouses and children too.  And then the ever further rippling layers of friends and colleagues from different times in his life.  All impacted in amazing ways by the love of our Lord, living through him and Mum.

For Enoch and Asha, their beloved Opa's death is a big step forward in their lives.

Enoch was blessed to spend a month with his Opa and Oma from mid-May to mid-June this year - and helped out with looking after his Opa here in Lalitpur as well.

Asha has been in boarding at Wynberg Allen for this period of time, but we were thankful that the authorities allowed her to be with us for this week, which was very helpful.

After the interment, there was more time for fellowship at the Kellogg Church as tea and samosas were served.

A number of Mum and Dad's friends from OM days were there - here is a photo of some of them along with Mum.   More had come, but were not in this photo...  We are so grateful for those who came at a drop of a hat to be with us.  And for all those who sent messages of love through SMS, email and social media - but most of all through prayer - we coasted through this day because of the prayers of so many.


With the funeral over, it was time to go back to Shanti Kunj.  As always, it hosted many, with Uncle Alfy staying back for 3 days with us, and the Lalitpur team and Victor and Sarah also staying an extra day. 

Pancakes the next morning were eaten with joy.  We missed Dad flipping them on the electric plate that we still are using from his mother Alice, but filled in the gap with grateful memories and thanks to the Lord.  

The next day the Lalitpur team left with Victor and Sarah - and dropped of our dear Narendra to catch his train back to Varanasi.  Once again, we were up at Sister's bazaar to say good-bye to our loved ones.  Just like Dad and Mum have done on myriad occasions with us (and which Stefan alluded to in his comments).

Our process of grieving and dealing with Dad's departure continues.

One of the ways we were able to keep bringing closure is to talk about the Dad's life and thank the Lord for him.  To share some of the funny and heart-warming stories and place them back into God's hands.

Uncle Alfy has always been an older brother to Mum - and so to have him with us for those three day was very special.

 We also gathered on Thursday with our foster brothers and their families who lived in the Musoorie / Dehra Dun area in order to share our stories, to laugh and cry and thank God for a life-well-lived.

Each one of us had a story to tell.  Make that many stories.

 And as we spoke them out - and sang and worshipped together - complete with all the drums from the prayer room - so much like Dad used to enjoy - we experienced some more of the healing process that will have to continue to take place over the coming months.

Many years ago, while at Grad school I met a very young married couple, where the wife had lost her beloved brother suddenly in an accident.  I asked them how they dealt with their grief - with the painful memories that were bound to come up.  Their answer helped a lot.  They shared that when a pleasant memory of the brother came to them, one that brought pain as the loss was so raw, they would bring it back to God in prayer.  They would thank God for the specific event they remembered, and then consciously give it back to God in prayer.  Similarly, when a regret came to their mind, or an event which they wished had not happened, or they remembered something that they had done against the now departed brother, they would ask God for forgiveness, and consciously ask God to take that memory away.   Closing a chapter of a book.  Moving on in grace.

  As we came to the end of our Mussoorie sojourn, there was one task left to be done.

We needed to put up a small cross over the grave.   We found some wood in our home, and cut and hammered the pieces together and painted Dad's name on it.

Then, after dropping Asha off back into boarding at Wynberg Allen, we went back to the cemetery.  Mum, Sheba, Enoch and myself.

 The beauty of the place once again took my breath away.

And down at lower left hand corner, we placed this humble cross over the grave of the man who lived his life so well.

It was a joyous good-bye for our dear father.  And we are already yearning our eternal reunion.