Saturday, October 31, 2009

Dear Theopholis

Sound like a letter from the Apostle Paul? This time it’ll be a greeting from an American missionary family to someone I met recently at Faith Alive. They haven’t seen each other for at least 15 years, but Theopholis showed me two of the family’s photos that he’s carried with him all that time. The reason: they brought him to Christ.

He said he wanted to write them a letter sometime, so I handed him a piece of paper and pen and said “why not now?” With the help of Google, I located the family and am sending the letter with Theopholis’s photo and contact information.

Never underestimate your long-term influence in someone’s life (hopefully for the positive!). Who might be carrying YOUR picture?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thanks For The Condoms

How often do you hear that? Well, I did today from a Nigerian friend who works at Faith Alive. She’s grateful for the visitors who brought over thousands of condoms this summer. They’re being given out to prevent spreading HIV/AIDS. Did you know that even a married couple who are both HIV+ should use them? They have different strains of the virus and need to keep from cross-contaminating.

The condoms were among other medical supplies donated by a generous non-profit called Heart To Heart International, based out of Kansas City. I received two pallets of boxes this spring from that organization and many friends helped transfer and itemize the contents into about 25 50-lb boxes (the luggage weight limit for airlines). The photos above show the packing process.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Snow in Nigeria?

Of course not, but a few feet of the white stuff IS falling in Colorado. It reminds me of the story Dr. Chris tells of the first time he saw snow. He was in Minnesota on a fellowship at The Mayo Clinic when he got up one morning and looked out his window. The only thing moving was snow -- no people, no cars, no activity. My first thought would be “who’s going to shovel the driveway?” or “is school cancelled?” His first thought had more dire consequences. “Has there been a military coup?” In American that would be equivalent to Chicken Little’s panic that ‘the sky is falling!’ Fortunately it was more like ‘Cloudy With a Chance of Snowballs.’

(Photo is me shoveling in winter 2006 after a deep snowfall.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Healing from Malaria

My heart is sad, yet hopeful. A dear friend at Faith Alive has been sick with malaria for five days, and was even too weak to answer the phone when I called a few days ago. She’s a single mom with two boys, so the girls from her shop have been taking care of her (doing her wash, probably helping her with food, etc.). Oh, how I wish I were there to make some soup and hold her hand.

The hopeful part is that there’s medicine to treat malaria, which strikes nearly everybody there on a regular basis. The question isn’t ‘have you ever had malaria?’ but ‘when was the last time you had it?’. I’m in awe of how much their bodies can fight a variety of major diseases – they are definitely survivors.

Please join me in prayers for healing, for her and for others.

Friday, October 23, 2009

From Victim to Victor

I’m on a quest to hear how people have gone from being a victim to being a victor. This week I went to a conference for Victims Advocates (I’m one with our local police department) and heard from a number of people who’ve turned their traumas into triumphs. They‘ve redeemed their traumas by using what they learned to help others in similar situations.

It made me think of some of my dear friends in Nigeria who’ve done the same thing. It’s been a long process for them, but they share a few things in common. All were surrounded by people who believed in them. All leaned into their faith in Jesus Christ to transform deaths into resurrections. And the hardest thing of all -- they all (eventually) forgave their oppressors.

I invite you to weigh in on this – any thoughts about moving from victim to victor?

Rec Center Opens!

An email excerpt from Dr. Chris reads: “On the 7th of October, we dedicated the Faith Alive Car Park and Recreation Center to meet the needs of children in the neighbourhood and our orphans whose ministry of Angel Kiddies Club we also launched… This recent event has been the most amazing as I watch children enjoy themselves and be ministered to by some of our staff…THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU HAVE DONE IN THE PAST AND ARE STILL DOING FOR THE HOLISTIC MINISTRY OF FAITH ALIVE.”

Bayside Church in Granite Bay, CA provided the vision and support for this land about a block away from the clinic to be used for neighborhood children. God is expanding that to include a high school that’s requesting to shoot a Christmas Carol video there (which I hope to post on this blog at a later date)! I can’t contain my excitement and feel confident that this will be a favorite ministry for Faith Alive international visitors!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Appreciating Water

Did you use any water today, and did you think about how you got it? If you’re in America, you simply turned on a tap to brush your teeth, wash your face, flush the toilet, make some coffee or tea or just drink it plain, take a shower, wash a load of clothes, water your plants, etc... If you’re in Nigeria, chances are high that first thing this morning you or a family member first took a few buckets outside to GET the water. If you’re fortunate, you got it from a well. If you’re not, you walked a ways to a muddy, infested stream that’s also used for sewage.

When I’m in Nigeria, I’m thankful for those who buy bottled water for us to drink and brush our teeth, and daily fetch water from the well just outside our apartment. If it's a cold day, we boil our water on a gas stove for a comfortable bucket bath or steaming cup of tea. We resourcefully use one bucket of water for our bath, and then wash our clothes with it before using it to force-flush the toilet. There isn't a day there that I don't appreciate the water.

As I'm using water today, I'll be mindful of how precious it is.

(Photos: neighbor boy at the well, water buckets in our bathroom, and friend washing her hair in Nigeria. Note: there is plumbing but no running water.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More about the strike

A few of my Nigerian friends shed more light on the strike. They say government funding for schools is very poor and the lecturers are underpaid. Most officials send their children outside the country for college so they pay less attention to Nigerian schools. Also, in Plateau State (where Faith Alive is) the elementary and secondary schools had been on strike. I'm not sure what agreements were reached, but it's good to know they're all back in class.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Strike's Over!

Life for Nigerian public university students will change tomorrow as they begin classes after a nearly five month strike. I've heard shouts of 'praise God' and 'great news' from students who want to get on with their educations. Frequent strikes push back graduation dates; it took one Faith Alive doctor eight years to finish a six year degree!

The students have spent their time off volunteering, working temporary jobs, helping their families farm, and for those fortunate enough to be internet-savvy and have access to computers, playing lots of computer games (you know who you are, Mafia Wars star!).

Lecturers (including Dr. Chris) will now carry a double load as they finish teaching the classes that were interrupted AND begin teaching new ones. The pay they continued to receive during the strike wasn’t much of a consolation for all the disruptions and unknowns. They still had to do necessary administration and research work. One student I know didn’t see any admin work being done – nobody would give her an official transcript so she was prevented from starting a Master’s program in the United States this fall.

Also, Dr. Chris planned to take a sabbatical this school year from Jos University Teaching Hospital so he could spend full days at Faith Alive. Now he won’t be granted time off for that or travel. Makes it hard to plan your life when you’re at the mercy of strikes.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mother-Daughter Mission

Three years ago this month I was sitting in a Denver emergency room with my daughter Jenny who’d just sliced her hand while icing my birthday cake. (Note: never hurriedly ice a cake with a large serrated knife or you’ll undoubtedly sport a fresh line of stitches!) During our three hours of unexpected quality mother-daughter time, I mentioned the idea of us going to Nigeria the next summer (2007) to a clinic I’d just heard about. After all, she was interested in being a Physician Assistant and I was interested in finding my niche during my soon-to-be-empty-nest years.

An ER staff member overheard us, left the room, and came back with a printout from the U.S. government warning citizens not to travel to Nigeria. Long story short, Jenny ended up going that summer (and has since gone back with her husband James and two other PA students -- pictured above with Amos). I, however, was too scared to go. It wasn’t until Jenny and a few others from our church went and came back alive that I decided to surrender to God’s calling. Since then I’ve been there three times and, God-willing, will continue to go until I’ve had so many birthdays they have to help me off the plane in my wheelchair!

Even though Jenny and I have traveled at different times, we share a heart and love for Faith Alive. I'm SO proud of her! Maybe one of these times we’ll go there together.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Writer's Heaven

What a joy to have the support of friends and family for this book project! In addition to their prayers for inspiration, one friend is lending me her mountain home for a few days to finish my book proposal without distractions (unless you count breathtaking views of golden aspen leaves and snowcapped mountains). No barking puppies, no ringing phones, and no chores calling my name. Ah, a writer’s heaven. God-willing, the proposal will be ready by Friday for my writing coach.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Claim Your Name

Meet Success. She’s in Grade 5 at Elim Elementary School in Jos, Nigeria. During a recent school relay, I watched her strong, tall legs propel her swiftly through the hard dirt playground. It was no surprise to me that she was fast, even with unbuckled sandals! After all, her widowed mom had the foresight to bless her with a winning name. How could she do anything BUT triumph?

Maybe that’s why I chose her to receive my scholarship. There was just something about her that stood out, in a quiet but powerful way. She embraced both gentle femininity and bold confidence while still being so young. She wants to be a nurse and I believe she WILL achieve great things because she claims her name.

(Photo: Success is on the green team)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Best of Times, Worst of Times

It was the best of the times and the worst of times for Daniel’s friend just a few weeks ago. On a Saturday Daniel sang and danced and laughed and clapped and cried for joy at his friend’s Nigerian wedding in another town. A new life, a union of two people and their families, was off to a blessed beginning. But the next day Daniel’s tears fell for a different reason. He was riding home in a convoy of vehicles literally stuffed to the brim with wedding guests when life changed. What he saw happened so fast -- one of their vehicles bust a tire, somersaulted a few times, and landed in front of him. Bodies, blood, and bus parts scattered. He remembers carrying someone whose leg had to be amputated, and having to make the difficult call to his friend to say that the wife’s aunt and some of their colleagues didn’t survive.

How do you tell your friend, a groom of 24 hours? How does the groom tell his wife that some of her family and friends were killed on their way home from the wedding, and that others are severely injured? What comfort do you offer when you’ve witnessed this tragedy?

I can only imagine what Daniel did -- wept alongside them, listened to them, prayed for them, and told them that we have a savior who can relate to and comfort us during such excruciating pain. Please say a prayer for Daniel and his friends to receive that comfort and remember the resurrection.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Facebooking Nigerians

Facebooking might not be an official Webster’s Dictionary word, but it will be. I admit it can be a time waster (think Gameboy, Solitaire, etc.), but it’s been a great way for me to stay in touch with my computer-using Nigerian friends. How cool to learn instantly about someone’s new baby, someone’s love life, and someone else’s school acceptance! I won’t reveal their identities, but they know who they are (because if they’re Facebooking me then I hope they’re also reading this blog!). I’ve learned people’s birthdays and seen photos of the girls with various hairstyles (I hope the upcoming docu-comedy ‘Good Hair’ about black people’s hair struggles will shed some light on this...!). A good FB chat is an inspiring catalyst for my bookwriting days.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Writer's Ramblings - Day One

Day 1 of Intentional Writing (it’s actually Month 6 of this book project but it’s the first day I actually wrote ‘Writing Day’ on my calendar!). Here I sit at the public library surrounded by shelves of books, hoping the best words and ideas will seep into my brain. Like their authors, I write to be published in the hopes that people will read what I write. But unlike the majority of them, I have a specific message of hope and healing. So many of the titles I see don’t share this goal– Dragons This and That, Vampires Blah Blah Blah, and Murder Ad Nausea.

My book is about inspiring people through faith in Jesus Christ. Surely a few of these library books share that goal, but they’re in the minority. What I want is a table and chair near the inspirational section (is there such a thing?). Maybe I need to go to a Christian bookstore or our church library instead. But I’d be without Wi-Fi and mochas there…wait, I’m without mochas HERE. After my break, I’ll move to Moxie Java.

Enough about Day 1. It’s time to quit procrastinating, stop writing about writing, and actually write!

Calling Nigeria

Don't I resemble the photo of this white woman? :-) Anyway, I want to pass on a few tips for talking on the phone (Colorado to Nigeria and vice versa). It's a highlight of my day when I talk with one of my Nigerian friends.

1. Americans, buy a Nigerian calling card (I recommend www.uniontelecard). Be prepared to enter about a zillion numbers!

2. Nigerians, dial + 1 before the American telephone number.

2. Remember the time difference (please!). Nigeria is 7 or 8 hours ahead of Colorado, depending on the time of the year (daylight savings time). More than once I've been woken from a sound sleep....

3. Speak loudly, clearly, and slowly. Even though English is the official language in both America and Nigeria, our accents and even word choices can be confusing.

4. Remember that laughter translates into all versions of English -- laugh heartily!

5. Try to keep your cell phone charged (this is more for my Nigerian friends who are often without electricity and have to plug in their phones when a generator is on).

Enough advice. Time to call someone.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Container Counselor

What do Coca-Cola and counseling have in common? They’re both dispensed by my friend Jummai who works for Faith Alive at the container-turned-soda shop. It sits at the curb directly in front of the clinic, and seats four Americans (or seven Nigerians – they don’t have an issue with personal space!). People (including doctors, nurses, maintenance staff, and patients) often stop there for a brief rest. They sip their sodas (usually lukewarm if the generator’s not on), talk about their day, and get encouragement and advice. She’s proof that you don’t need a PhD in counseling to be a compassionate listener who offers comfort and wisdom.

Because she sees everyone come and go, she helps people find out where someone is (has Greg come in today?), pass along a message (will you please tell Nkiru I’ll be late for lunch?), and let people know where you’re going (I’m going to the sewing school). One day Dr. Chris showed up at the hair salon with a Save-A-Life patient as I was getting my hair washed; I was surprised until I remembered Jummai was on duty.

In a perfect world she'd clone herself and run a container shop outside my house!