Tom Sutherland writes
As always, there is good news and some news that is not so good. Let us start with the good news, and it is very good news. During the two months since I've been back Shibu hasn't drunk alcohol, or smoked - he was always a heavy smoker also, and he's looking so well and happy and neatly dressed and shaved - when we meet different ones they all comment on the difference and Shibu is so happy to hear them say so. And he's eating well and putting on weight - in the past he was pretty skeletal. I think you would have noticed the difference when you came. I know many people are praying for him and surely God has answered our prayers. In the past he has been off it for shorter times and has slipped back so let us keep up our prayers to Jesus. I've heard that it's one of the most difficult addictions to completely get over.
The bad news is that Shibu's uncle, his mother's brother, and the only one in the family who was close to Shibu and his mother committed suicide on Monday. I was on the point of heading off to Madurai (more of that later) but instead we took an auto and collected Shibu's mother and went to the family house - about 50 km from Trivandrum. The body was just being taken for post-mortem. Shibu's uncle was a very heavy drinker and had a bad skin disease and this was his fifth attempt to end it all. A couple of days earlier, Shibu has spent quite a bit of time with him comforting him, organising to go to a hospital with him etc, but I guess in the end the drink won. Both Shibu and his mother have got over it well. Members of the family all contribute to the cremation and other expenses and the family provide meals for all the family for 10 days or more - they stay on at the family house - there are various procedures that go on for quite a while. After the cremation the family have a conference and everybody makes a contribution to the expenses and these are all recorded by the member who convenes the meeting. So they were each giving Rs.1500, Rs.2000 and Shibu's mother was feeling awful as they couldn't do anything but earlier Shibu had mentioned this and I gave Rs.5000 from HHI so Shibu was really happy, and as he said he 'gained weight' with the family when he nonchalantly handed over Rs.5000. If Shibu's not getting a proper salary, it's great we can help in these ways and in the expenses of taking his mother there etc.
I was sitting back complacently in the wake of your very generous visit, with nearly all debts paid, and a comfortable fixed deposit in the bank when it began to rain - and it never rains but it pours. (We all wish it would really rain as even our faithful well has virtually given up). There are two very fine young men, both from Hindu families, who have come to Jesus, and are now working as 'missionaries' in northern India, which is much less Christian than southern India. I've been giving them just Rs.1000 a month each to help them out, but not as regularly as I'd like to, though there was a bigger amount that was needed earlier. The mother of one of them came to say that her son had been seriously ill, had had to be admitted to the ICU of a private hospital, improved, but needed 130,000 rupees [£1600] or he wouldn't be discharged. So we rang up different ones and it was agreed (I think) that I'd send Rs.10,000, and instalments each month, and he was discharged. I find in these sort of cases that the aggressiveness of the demands is soothed with time (there are so many other things to get aggressive about) and after a few instalments I'll write saying we've done what we can (with money designated for other poor people) and would they kindly be happy with what they've received. Jesus said we have to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves, and if I'm not so good at that let us keep trying. (If they don't agree we will pay up).
Then I met Shibu and he took me up to Ward 15 which seemed to be half full of moneyless patients waiting around for implants. One of the comments I rememeber from Sir William Slin, who wrote the book 'From Defeat to Victory' (Chris would enjoy that book if he hasn't already read it) was "Things are never as bad, or as good, as they first seem". And that proved to be the case with Ward 15.
1. The most immediate was Surendren, from Nedumangud. He has a wife and three small children. Following a fall about a year ago, he has already had two major operations, and for that year there has been no income for the family other than what relatives and others may give. He has a below the poverty line medical card which allows him free treatment up to 100,000 rupees. 80,000 of this money has already been used. As he could not meet the cost of the implant he was to be discharged but due to our intervention the operation is now set for this coming Saturday. It is a big joint implant and is very expensive - Rs.97,000. Because of persistent infection and a couple of biopsy reports I suspect titanium is being used, as was the case with Sunil Kumar. The Rs.20,000 from Surendren's government medical card can only be used at the Government Surgical Supplies agency and they won't offer part credit so we had to pay the full amount on the spot - with the private medical stores we can get on credit. So Rs.20,000 came from the medical card, Rs.48,000 from the Fixed Deposit, Rs.20,000 from Ron's money for the tentmakers and Surendren's wife said she would borrow Rs.10,000. With such big amounts you begin to wonder, but it's his life at stake and surely we must go ahead in faith. So if HHI might refund Ron's money that would be great.
2. Thankachan (from Neyarthinkara) was brought by the police the day before yesterday - a sad story. Again a very heavy drinker, who in consequence was rejected by his wife and all other relatives and having drunk he jumped in front of a moving vehicle in an attempt to kill himself. He has several fractures, but the one that will surely need an implant is on the lower section of one leg where the bone has impaled into itself to become 3 inches shorter than previously. We have spoken and prayed with him and Shibu is especially spending quite a lot of time with him. He has become more positive and has told Shibu he will give up drinking. When I last saw him he still hadn't been inspected by the main doctor of that unit.
3. Kuttappan - from Nedumangad. His family members would come to Trppadam. An operation will be necessary but they should be able to do half.
4. Thankappan - obviously very poor. A relative is giving him a hand. He comes from the reed-working village of Parathenoor - where Sini (heart operation) came from. Her parents are Joseph and Symala. I wrote the little story "And then Symala laughed" about Sini and her family. Thanduppan was very happy to know that we know this family. He will need a big operation, and won't be in a position to do anything.
On Sunday one of the lottery ticket sellers in front of the hospital said that Subinlal - one of our kidney patients - was seriously ill in the Super Speciality Hospital (a branch of M.C.H.). He was thought to have a tumour on the brain. You may remember that he and his brother have both had kidney transplants and that their mother died recently. I helped as I could and spent time with them, praying and I know you and Chris will also be praying. The next day things seemed much more hopeful - the doctors now feel it is not a tumour and can be treated without an operation. Let us thank God for his loving goodness.
Another event is that Brother Marakan, who comes from a Hindu family and does some missionary work in Orissa, has brought to Trivandrum, to the Medical College Hospital, a small girl and her parents and brother - they are a tribal family from a very backward village in the forests, who have come to Jesus - as she couldn't be treated in Orissa - so there is quite a bit of expenditure - accommodation, food, travel expense - by train (about 3 days). Shibu is helping out with everything. After 2 days we'll know if an operation is possible.
I'm writing this from Julie's place - I'd promised to visit her family at Easter - on my way to Bangalore. After you left I went to the Regional Cancer Centre about that little sore on my cheek and they asked (I don't quite understand why) me to get the result of a biopsy fro Bangalore, where I went earlier. Events back in Trivandrum rather delayed my journal but I finally got away on Tuesday afternoon.
With different expenses pending I wonder if I could ask you to follow up your kind offer on the phone and send, if possible, R40,000 from HHI if possible or from your little fund. Or whatever is possible. Thank you so much, Edmund. If it could be sent soon, rather than waiting for next month.
With all our thanks and prayers
I'm sending this from Julie's - Madurai. Do you remember Esther the girl with Julie? You spoke to her about empty churches in the UK and people not having faith. Since this, every day she has prayed that people will come back to Jesus. And before she dies. She has such faith. We can't guess how God will use our words.