Monday, November 30, 2009

Alternative Christmas Shopping - more photos

Save a life while shopping for people on your Christmas list! Authentically Nigerian items will be for sale at First Presbyterian Church on Sunday morning, December 6 & 13, from 9 – 11 am. All proceeds will go directly to the Save-A-Life Program at Faith Alive. Items range from $5 - $40, and include keychains, jewelry, fabrics, wood items, ornament, bookmarks, and notecards. If you make a donation in someone’s honor, we’ll give you a special Nigerian card to send them.

(Posted photos are samples of items for sale. See other blog post from today for more photos.)

Alternative Christmas Shopping

Save a life while shopping for people on your Christmas list! Authentically Nigerian items will be for sale at First Presbyterian Church on Sunday morning, December 6 & 13, from 9 – 11 am. All proceeds will go directly to the Save-A-Life Program at Faith Alive. Items range from $5 - $40, and include keychains, jewelry, fabrics, wood items, ornament, bookmarks, and notecards. If you make a donation in someone’s honor, we’ll give you a special Nigerian card to send them.

(Posted photos are samples of items for sale. See other blog post from today for more photos.)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Faith Alive on Break

While Americans are eating leftover turkey and gearing up for Santa, Nigerians are taking a five-day break for the Muslim holiday Hajj. It’s one of two Islamic ‘biggies’ representing their annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudia Arabia; the other is Ramadan (in September) when they fast during the daylight hours to purify themselves and refocus on Allah.

About 35-40% of Faith Alive patients in Jos are Muslim. The city sits at an invisible yet palpable fault line between northern, Islamic Africa and the southern, Christian countries. While religious tension occasionally erupts into violent massacres, at the clinic Christians and Muslims sit peacefully side-by-side waiting for hope and healing.

(Photo courtesy of Frank Lozano)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I'm Thankful to God for...

...cell phones and email to keep in touch with those I love in Nigeria, ARVs to give AIDS’ patients a second chance to live positively, Dr. Chris who really is God in the flesh, that three of my four immediate family members have been to Faith Alive, and that He works all things for good.

As much as I love Nigeria, I’m grateful to be in America today with my family (minus Jenny and James who are still in S. Africa) for this feast that includes turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, and ESPECIALLY my mom’s gourmet potatoes. Thank you, God.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Every month Faith Alive has a spiritual theme that’s preached daily during morning devotions for all the staff and patients. Generally Pastor Ben gives an electrifying sermon on the first day to introduce the topic (which this month is ‘courage’). Other staff, including Pastor Esther, take turns presenting the devotion. Much like EF Hutton, when Pastors Ben or Esther talk, people listen.

Pastor Esther’s examples of courage are in the book of Daniel. He was thrown in the Lion’s Den for refusing to worship the King rather than the one true God. Or think about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo who were thrown in the blazing furnace for the same reason. Talk about courage at the threat of immediate and agonizing death! But both times God was faithful to those who were loyal only to Him.

Courage isn’t the absence of fear, but looking fear in the eye and doing what’s right anyway.

(View September 7's blog post to see a hungry lion.)

P.S. Today President Obama pardoned a turkey named 'Courage.' I have no idea how this relates, but if YOU do, please comment.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Jenny's in Africa

I’m so proud of my daughter Jenny. She’s the one who convinced me to go to Nigeria the first time, and now she’s in South Africa for a medical rotation as part of her Physician Assistant program. When she’s home at Christmas I want to learn all about her trip, and how the medical services there compare to Faith Alive.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Leading Cause of Death

As Nigerians would say, whaoooooo. The World Health Organization reports that HIV is the Number One killer of women aged 15-49 worldwide. In developing countries, HIV/AIDS, maternal conditions (like dying during childbirth and unsafe abortions) and tuberculosis account for 1 in 2 female deaths. They blame that on unequal access to sex education and health care. In high-income nations the top causes are traffic accidents, suicides, and breast cancer.

These are sobering facts to keep in mind as we approach the 21st World AIDS Day on December 1. After wearing pink ribbons in October for breast cancer awareness, let's wear red ribbons to remember AIDS.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Update on Little Chris's Surgery Needs

Praise God, we have a good lead on potential surgery for little Chris! I’m in conversation with the President of Gift of Life International, a non-profit based in the United States. Since 1975, they’ve coordinated and helped finance thousands of similar surgeries for children with heart problems. Just last week they flew a Nigerian child to the United States. Please continue to pray for little Chris to be a candidate for this lifesaving surgery he so desperately needs.

Learn more at ‘When you cure the heart in a child, you cure the heart in all humankind.’ Also see my previous post on November 2: Hole in the Heart.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

To Tell The Truth

Remember the television show ‘To Tell the Truth’? Three people introduce themselves as the same person; obviously two are lying and only one is telling the truth. A panel probes them with questions about their proclaimed identity before voting for the one they believe. The honest one has a profession that ranges anywhere from a brain surgeon to a circus acrobat. At the end of the show, the host asks for the real one to stand up.

I’m honored to know a man who’s the real deal, a Christian in name and in life. Dr. Christian Isichei likes to say he is nothing apart from Christ. “See, if you take away ‘Christ’ from my name I’m left with just the ‘ian’ and that means ‘I am nothing.’” But because there’s no separation, he IS something, and somebody, who is saving thousands of lives in every sense of the word.

If you were lined up with two other people and you each introduced yourself as a Christian, would you be telling the truth? How would you convince others that it was really you? Could you field the questions thrown your way? Do you think people would be surprised? Would you be able to stand up at the end?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Preparing Soup

Yesterday I went to a party for Mollie and her baby where we showered her with gifts, ate deliciously rich pumpkin cheesecake, and played Pin a Kiss on the Baby (like Pin the Tail on the Donkey). Mollie’s been to Faith Alive; actually this baby was conceived in March after she got back and is due to make his debut in about a month. Anyway, today I talked on the phone with her Save-A-Life patient who told me what they do for Nigerian baby showers – prepare soup. Sounds much more practical, really.

(Mollie is about the same height as Dr. Chris, so I'm bending down quite a bit. Reminds me of the Nigerian song 'Bend low, bend low, bend low, and see what the Lord can do.')

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Nigeria is Going to the World Cup!!!!

It’s true!!!!! And just when we thought all hopes were lost for the Nigerian Super Eagles to play in the first World Cup on African soil. It was a long shot, but we’re thrilled that both things that HAD to happen DID! We beat Kenya 3-2 today and watched as Mozambique handed highly ranked Tunisia a loss.

Nigeria qualified for the World Cup in 1994, 1998, and 2002, but what makes this win so sweet is that it’ll be in "nearby" Capetown, South Africa. It's only fitting the the most populated African country will be there to represent. You can keep up-to-date at

(Read my blog post, Soccer--The Unifier, on September 7 when Mark and I watched a game from the Faith Alive guesthouse.)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Warning: It'll Change Your Life

I just got back from coffee with Kristen Draskovic, who's visiting Fort Collins so her husband Jon can do some 'seminary business.' Almost two years ago she and I visited a Nigerian village where children had bulging stomachs, stick thin arms and legs, and brittle, red hair. Being a nutritionist, she was moved to tears. Later that year she went back to Nigeria with her husband; it was during those three months that Jon felt called to change his career path and apply to seminary.

They're just one example that you can't go to Faith Alive and come back the same. It could be your profession, your bank account, or your living habits, but be assured that your perspective will change after seeing God in action.

(Read my September 3 posting 'Fine, Thank You' to see photos of the village children this fall.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Musa at the Market

This morning I called my friend Musa, who’s a maintenance worker at Faith Alive. It sounded like he was in the midst of a crowd all talking over each other, so I asked if he was at Faith Alive. I’m glad I was in the privacy of my home because I had to repeat “WHERE ARE YOU? “. “I’m in the market,” he said. Immediately I could envision the commotion of people snaking their way along dirt paths around the stalls and beggars, bargaining for the best prices of gigantic yams and multicolored fabric, and breathing exhaust fumes from motorbikes and roadside trash fires. It was nearly impossible to continue the phone conversation, so we said our saanjumas (see you laters). Thinking of Musa at the market will help me today while I’m writing my book at a quiet, cozy coffee shop.

(Photo courtesy of Cathy McDermott)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Fly the Friendly Skies -- Finally

In January 2010, the United States will officially lift the ban on HIV positive people traveling to the United States without a special waiver. The ban began 22 years ago in the Reagan-era, a decision that President Obama describes as “rooted in fear rather than fact.” It’s a great step (although long overdue) to remove stigma and discrimination against people with HIV. However, UNAIDS reports that 59 countries still impose some form of travel restrictions on people living with HIV.

(Photo of an Air India plane in honor of World AIDS Day 2007)

Friday, November 6, 2009


Only 48 shopping days until Christmas, a day intended to celebrate Christ’s birth but usually spent ripping wrapping paper, untying ribbons, and removing bows from the mountain of gifts under the tree. If you have small children, you watch them open the latest and greatest must-have toys you bought them -- sometimes at great sacrifice to your bank account. Then while you're busy refilling Grandma’s eggnog, the kids are ignoring their presents and playing with the recycling pile!

I asked my Nigerian friend Maria what she played with as a child, and she had to think. Did she have a doll? No. Games? No. She and her siblings didn’t HAVE them, but they PLAYED them. They dug small holes in the ground, got handfuls of tree seeds, and played a version of Mancala (or Ncho) – what I know as a wooden board with deep spaces to drop marbles or stones. Part of me felt bad they didn’t have toys, but an even stronger part is in awe of their resourcefulness and imagination.

Turns out children (and adults!) in any country don’t need a lot of fancy schmancy store-bought things to have fun. (Check out my September 26 post: Plastic Chairs and Checkers.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Going to Prison

Pastor Esther, a counselor at Faith Alive who just earned her chaplaincy, is going to prison – as a visitor. On December 27 she and the Faith Alive Praise Team will preach and sing there based on Isaiah 61:1-2 (…proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners). I wouldn’t be surprised if the walls themselves come tumblin’ down from the power of their voices! That would be a sight to see, because when Pastor Esther speaks (and sings), people listen.

To learn about a specific prison experience, see my August 31 post 'Good Cops, Bad Cops.'

Monday, November 2, 2009

Hole in the Heart

In August 25’s post (More Interviews) I wrote about little Chris, the charming three year old boy who desperately needs a miracle. Named after Dr. Chris, he was born to loving and educated parents (‘Handsome Daniel’ and Rachel) and with a hole in his heart. He started preschool in September, but has already missed weeks at a time because he didn't feel well.

The lifesaving surgery he needs isn’t offered in Nigeria, so his only hope is to receive someone’s or some agency’s generosity. Please join me in urgent prayer for God to work a miracle and save little Chris’s life. And if you have contacts with a person or agency who can make this happen, please let me know as soon as possible. In the meantime, my heart aches for him.