Thursday, July 26, 2007


Last weekend the staff of Jeevan Sahara Kendra and myself took a journey to Mukti Mission for a retreat. The theme of the weekend was "God Meant it for Good" -- Telling His Story and Our Story! This proved to be a very blessed time. We took the bus ride up -- which ended up being a bit of an adventure in itself -- We had to drive slower than normal because there was something wrong with the gear box -- so a 4 1/2 ride took 7 hours. I found it a bit of a challenge as my back started acting up -- but yet again, I had another opportunity to go with the flow. Speaking of flow -- there was plenty of that -- as this bus driver never shut the door -- so the air just blew right through the bus during the whole trip -- which really helped cool things down. However, there were additional things that managed to blow in -- but I will spare you the details.

Mukti was started by an incredible woman, Pandita Ramabai who was very small in stature (about 5' tall) but very large in faith. She lived over a hundered years ago and was quite the pioneer for christian womens education and for establishing a very solid christian work in this little town. When I toured the grounds of the mission and saw the way things were laid out, I imagined all this inside of someones mind so long ago -- it really brought new meaning to the word visionary. There are great stories of faith where she prayed and perservered despite great setbacks and even the scoffing of some -- especialy with regards to digging the well for water. They dug and dug and never hit water -- when the crew announced that they were quitting, she told them "tomorrow the water will come" -- they thought she was crazy -- she prayed through the night -- the next day the water came -- still is coming today. All the stones that were dug up out of the well have constructed a cathedral that rivals most churches in Europe -- unbelievable! You can learn more about Pandita Ramabai and the mission see:

The group that came - had such a varied background. Some individuals who had made a big step to participate -- families, where the husband and wife were infected, as a team -- wanting to move forward in their lives. There was a gentleman who was illiterate, who was a laborer who worked extremely hard -- and had told when he found out he was positive in the hospital -- the nurses wouldn't touch him --confirming his fears that because of HIV -- he was unlovable - a throw-away He, in desperation, attempted to climb to the roof of the hospital and throw himself off -- God spared him -- he didn't succeed. Only later to have an accident on the job where half of his skull was cracked open -- you can see the stitching of his skin down his face. His face beamed during the times of worship and as he heard the stories of others living with a similar disease and the sense of new found community that he had not know before - he had found a new family-- what a privilege to see the change. There was another young man -- who was a worship leader in his church -- who did not want to talk about his status at first. By the time the weekend was done -- he was feeling that perhaps God gave him that position to influence others -- transfored before our eyes. For me -- I am floored at the suffering that people go through -- I received far more than I have given.

As we settled into our humble accmodations, we attempted to begn the process of leading those who attend the retreat to a place of discovery. The Retreat was designed for those who were living with HIV/AIDS to take a look at thier lives and to get a different perspective on their disease and God's plan. I spoke on the topic "Diagnosis to Discipleship" and shared my journey from a place of denial and shame to a place of freedom and purpose in Christ. Andi shared with the group of the life of Joseph from the bible. We saw how Joseph had a dream when he was young and his brothers sought to destory him. Even in this, God established his will for Joseph and the fulfillment of his vision. Joseph, as the story tells us, endured many difficult things in his life, wrongly accused, etc., but God still brought him to the place of his destiny. Being HIV positive isn't the end of our life but in fact can be a new beginning.

We had one session where we asked the participants to make a time line from birth to present -- and to list the most signifant events in their lives. It was really powerful to see people work this process -- liberating for some, challenging for others. Some of it was a journey back to things that were painful -- for others it was a reminder of things to be thankful for. When the details were set -- we were asked to creatively express the events with pictures or drawings -- it was really cool to see what people came up with. I admit -- when doing my own -- it was hard to look somethings that I am not proud of in the face -- or be reminded of painful experiences. However, "God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love -- He doesn't treat us as our sins deserve" -- Reminded of this, we find a place of peace. Once we were finished with the timeline -- we dedicated them to the Lord -- the good and the bad and everything that goes with it.

One of the highlights for me was to coach the participants in telling their story. I gave them some basic techniques about speaking in public and it was a joy for me to watch them move through their fears and for some to really soar in their attempt to express what God has done for them. I knew they had understood when you could feel the group as a whole -- observe when someone spoke to early out of nerves and didn't fix themselves behind the pulpit first -- you could feel the collective 'no no -- that was too early" and then releax when the person tried again and got it right. One of the most amazing things was -- they spoke in their native tongue and I didn't understand one word of what they said - -but the Lord gave me the ability to see how they were communicating overall and to make adjustments their. Andi, worked with me on addressing the content. It is wonderful to know that for those who would like to share about living wit HIV -- to help bring awareness - -to encourage other christians to get involved in the work in their churches -- or people in their community -- they have a few tools that can move them in that direction.

I am reminded when I see people at the stage where I was when I first agreed to look HIV in the face and to take responsility before God for my life and actions -- to see that it was actually an opportunity for me to Surrender from the illusion that I could run my life anyway. I think back to how in that place of brokeness that God so graciously lifted my head up. Only in His loving hands can a life that is presented with great trial and brokeness be transformed into the beauty of its original design.

"Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.

He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.

Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;

but those who wait on the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.