Long ago (it now seems like an age), when I used to live in Mumbai (Bombay to us at that time), there was a place I used to love to visit during the angst of late teens and early twenties. It was an area then called Nana Chowk, and in that area was a compound called the John Wilson Education Society Compound. In that compound Operation Mobilisation had its base. Ray and Christa Eicher used to live there with their family before they moved to Mussoorie in Uttarakhand. Ray and Christa played important roles in answering some of my questions when I was searching for meaning in life, but what was really the magnet, was the warmth, welcome and hospitality, the feeling of home and hearth, that they would exude with their God-given ability to make you feel like you were the most special person in the world. They became more than parents to me and have remained so to this day, Ray going to be with the Lord three months ago, notwithstanding. I got to know many of the O.M. team then living there, some of whom became more like brothers than friends.
Those were special moments, even after the Eichers left for Mussoorie. Looking forward to stopping by for a chat (often dinner) and chai with the O.M.ers, listening to Neil Diamond with my dear friend Romy, talking about life, praying together, asking questions about difficult passages in the Bible, I used to feel like it was an oasis in the busyness of Mumbai life. It was a place where life filled to the brim (as Neil Diamond says in his song Brooklyn Roads), as we sat on the grassy lawn and chatted, prayed together, laughed and shared our lives into the evening, and often the night. The O.M. base was aptly named Elim, after the oasis of 12 wells and 70 date palms, where the Israelites camped after leaving Egypt and before heading into the wilderness.
Today, we took our little Bible study group to Lodhi Gardens for a picnic, and later, as we were heading out of the park, we decided to spend some time in the bonsai garden, and in that quiet, tucked away corner, I feasted on the sight of leaf and bark, trunk and root. It was then the appreciation of this truly wonderful place: the oasis of Lodhi Gardens in the hostility and busyness of Delhi, dawned on me. I’m grateful for the oases that God keeps and makes available in our lives; oases that give us encouragement, refreshment, beauty and rest in the midst of the pressure of life. It was a beautiful day, gentle golden sunshine, everything green and verdant. It was possible to do as Steve Stockman says in his beautiful poem to his wife Janice on their 20th anniversary:
Yes, we’ll find a place for us to stop
To look, to listen and to learn
Allow our candle just a little flicker
Instead of that pressurised burn.
You can listen to the full poem arranged by him and Sam Hill in their 2001 album Grace Notes below. And you can scroll down and enjoy the photos while you’re listening. I hope the photos and the poem bless you and give you a little oasis to come away to, where God is more than happy to meet and chat.