Friday, April 30, 2010
And finally, the Faith Alive staff recites this at their weekly meetings:
"To my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I say: However, Whenever, Wherever and Whatever You ask me to do, my answer in advance is YES! I want to be used by You in such a way that on that final day I'll hear you say, 'Well done, good and faithful servant.'"
What's YOUR answer?
(Image from Google Images. BTW, does anyone know if I have to always cite this?)
Thursday, April 29, 2010
The Faith Alive bookmark’s OTHER side says:
We have gathered to declare that we will refuse to settle for less than God’s best! Therefore we make the following affirmations:
I AM CONFIDENT IN GOD’S PROMISES. My past has been forgiven. My future is secure and God has a purpose for my life.
I AM COMMITTED TO GOD’S PURPOSES. I will live my life serving God’s purposes with God’s power for God’s glory. I will value character over comfort, serve over status and people over possessions.
I AM COMMITTED TO GOD’S PEOPLE. We declare that unity in Chris bridges all differences. We are one in Christ! Standing side by side with my brothers and sisters, I commit myself to grow spiritually, love unconditionally and serve faithfully.
Tomorrow’s blog post will have the bookmark prayer that’s a great creed for all of us. Stay tuned!
(Photo courtesy of Frank Lozano, of some of God's people outside Faith Alive. This gathering area is where patients and staff sign in or wait for patients, and one of my favorite places.)
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
The Faith Alive bookmark (side one) says:
“The God of heaven will give us success; therefore we His servants will arise and build…” Nehemiah 2:20
1. RELY ON GOD! “…the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Neh. 8:10
2. REFUSE TO GIVE UP!
-Fatigue – “the strength of laborers is giving out…” Neh. 4:10
-Failure – “…we cannot rebuild the wall!” Neh. 4:10
-Frustration – “…there is so much rubble…” Neh. 4:10
-Fear – “Also our enemies said, ‘Before they know it or see us…we will kill them and put an end to their work!’” Neh. 4:11
“So we continued to work…” Neh. 4:21
3. REMEMBER WHAT’S IMPORTANT! “Don’t be afraid! Remember the Lord is great and awesome. Fight for your brothers and your daughters and your homes.” Neh. 4:14
“So the wall was completed…in fifty-two days…with the help of our God.” Neh. 6:16
(Photo from Google images)
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
In many parts of the world, mosquitoes are more than pesky. They’re deadly. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, male or female, young or old. They don’t discriminate. However, some people—including those with HIV/AIDS and weakened immune systems--are more at-risk to die from malaria.
“Counting Malaria Out, Count Me In” was the theme for this year’s annual World Malaria Day (April 25). I hope we’re counting mosquito nets and anti-malarial drugs for this preventable, treatable, and curable disease. Praise God, Faith Alive staff distribute nets and anti-malarial drugs to their HIV/AIDS patients.
According to Nigeria’s National Coordinator of the Malaria Control Programme, Dr. Folake Ademola-Majekodunmi said that about nine out of 10 Nigerians were at risk, and that about 50 per cent of the population would have at least one attack in a year. “It is estimated that about 66 per cent of all clinic attendance is due to malaria,” she said, noting that about 70 per cent of pregnant Nigerian women suffer from malaria, while about 11 per cent of them die of the sickness every year. It contributes to maternal anemia, low birth weight, and other pregnancy-related complications, including miscarriage and stillbirths.
Yes, let’s count out malaria. Click here for more facts about it, or click here to read a previous post about how malaria affected someone from Faith Alive.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Recently there have been small pockets of violence in and around Jos as the tension continues between differing groups. I'm really sad for my dear friend Lydia, one of the leaders at Faith Alive's sewing school, who lost her brother this past weekend. While I don't know the details (and probably wouldn't print them here anyway), I do know that she must be in great pain and grief. Please join me in prayer for God to comfort and strengthen her, and make a way for people in Jos to live peacefully. May He stop the cycle of violence and remove the fears and hatred that feed it.
(Photo of me with Lydia and Susi,from the UK, at the Jos zoo last fall.)
Friday, April 23, 2010
Unfortunately we’ve postponed the Colorado FA Family event scheduled for tomorrow. Was it the idea of singing that scared you away? :-) Instead, we’ll plan an event in June with a garage sale to benefit FA, so start cleaning out those closets.
My hope and prayer is that all the people in the Fort Collins area who’ve been to FA (or whose summer trip was cancelled) will join together, regardless of church or affiliation, to continue to support FA.
(Photo from Google Images. Do you think we'll get more shoppers with this young blonde woman?)
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Dr. Chris asks for prayers for:
1. Faith Alive (FA) to have a smooth & speedy transition to a new major donor/sponsor (in addition to Save-A-Life) for care, support and treatment for HIV/AIDS
2. FA patients to continue to get the best care,treatment and support
3. FA staff to be safe and encouraged that God is in control in Nigeria despite the recent crises in Jos
4. Peace and reconciliation in Jos among different groups of people
5. Nigeria Presidential leadership and 2011 elections, with outcomes for honest, wise, and compassionate leaders
6. The Isichei and Faith Alive Families
With gratitude for your heartfelt prayers.
Okay, I admit I'm a fan of the American Idol singing competition. If you want to know why yesterday's "Idol Gives Back" show touched my heart so deeply, click here. Annie Lennox's video highlights a young African girl with AIDS, followed by a moving performance of Annie's song, Universal Child. What's so exciting is that stories like that little girl's happen regularly at Faith Alive.
I HIGHLY recommend that you watch the video if you want a GOOD cry. Before going to Faith Alive, I'd watch the Give Back show and weep. I was exposed to the world's needs but didn't know how on earth I could help address these problems. Now my tears are of joy because I'm personally connected to a place that DOES know and is part of the solution.
(Annie's shirt declares "HIV Positive," which she says is to show solidarity with the millions of people around the world who live with HIV/AIDS. Her blood doesn't have HIV, but her heart flows with compassion for women and children with HIV.)
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
The overall prayer for little Chris is that he gets lifesaving heart surgery. Selfishly we thought it would be in the United States (and it still might be), but it won’t happen at the New Orleans Children’s Hospital as hoped. Big bummer.
Fortunately that’s not the end of the story. Gift of Life International (GOLI) is pursuing other hospitals in the U.S., as well as a hospital in Uganda. The GOLI Executive Director is traveling to the Uganda Heart Institute later this month. He’ll take little Chris’s medical records, visit with doctors there, and see if they can perform the surgery in October when a visiting surgeon from the U.S. will be there.
Advantages to surgery in Uganda instead of New Orleans are a shorter travel time (and not through volcanic ash!), hopefully easier visa application process, and more similar environment (culturally) for little Chris.
So while one door is closing, another is opening. As always, we pray and choose hope as we wait expectantly for God.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
CNN's Christiane Amanpour interviewed Acting Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. In one of the taped segments at cnn.com she said, "May I ask you, how did Goodluck come to be your name?"
"I don't know," he said while laughing (funny? nervous?). "I'll have to ask my father."
I doubt Dr. Chris is laughing. One of the first things he asks new patients and staff is what their names mean and why they think their parents chose their specific name. I admit my answer isn't profound (it means leader, and my parents just liked the sound of my name). But for an Acting President in a country where tradition and religion reign supreme, I'm with Dr. Chris.
(Photo from Google images. Speaking of babies, Dr. Ben and his wife recently had a baby girl, not to be confused with Pastor Ben and his wife's new baby girl.)
Monday, April 19, 2010
Did you know that at least 30 people from Colorado have been to Faith Alive? If you're one of them, you're invited to gather at my house this Saturday from noon - 2 pm for fellowship, lunch, prayer, and singing. I'll have the latest prayer requests for and news from Faith Alive so that we petition God on their behalf. We'll also brainstorm ways to support them during this difficult time. Please come with an open heart and mind to how God might be leading.
If that's not enough incentive, I might make jellof rice!
Click here to see the invitation or rsvp.
(We'd LOVE to have Larry's group join us! Their trip to Faith Alive this summer had to be cancelled due to safety concerns.)
(Photo from Google images)
Friday, April 16, 2010
"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen." (1 Peter 5:7-11, NIV)
(Photo from National Geographic)
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Dr. Chris regrets to inform Western visitors that due to security advice and concerns (the recent violence in Jos and upcoming presidential elections), he does not wish individuals or groups to travel to Nigeria until at least April 2011. He says, "It's very sad and a painful decision but I have struggled with Faith and Reality."
Sally reminds us that "this is a most difficult time for the Isicheis and the whole FA Family, especially because FA is ending its PEPFAR "partnership" with AIDSRelief (Catholic Relief Services-Nigeria) and working on transitioning to another, more reliable partner. Without foreign visitors, the need for financial assistance will be especially critical. If any of you want to donate funds to keep its programs going throughout this hard time and are not in the habit of wiring funds directly to FA's bank in Jos, it would be best to send checks made payable to "Hope for West Africa Foundation, Inc." and mail them to 1810 A York Road, Suite 122, Lutherville, MD 21093 or donate via its website at www.hopeforwestafrica.org, noting that the funds are for its Faith Alive projects. Heartfelt thanks for your prayers and other support in all the forms it has taken thus far. I know you will continue to help in whatever ways you can."
I don't know about you, but I'm going to ramp up prayer and support efforts for Faith Alive until, God-willing, I can be there with them again. (Garage sale for FA in Fort Collins next month -- anyone want to help?)
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Acting Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan says, “For now, our domestic focus must be on electoral reform.” True enough, as Nigerians anticipate a presidential election in January or April of 2011. I’m not sure why there’s uncertainty about when. Anyone?
But I AM sure that what Nigeria needs most is a Godly leader with wisdom and courage. And a peaceful transition of power. Please join me in prayer for these things. The Faith Alive Family’s lives depend on it.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
According to NPR, “Nigeria’s Acting President Goodluck Jonathan’s meeting with Obama highlights the strategic importance of Africa's most populous country at a time of crisis. After last December's failed bombing of a U.S. airliner by a Nigerian national, the two leaders are expected to discuss closer ties in fighting terrorism, as well as Nigeria's substantial oil reserves. Jonathan is also looking to portray himself as the legitimate leader of Nigeria, having assumed control of the government in February due to President Yar'Adua's illness.”
All this is good and well, but I want to know if each of the 47 world leaders got a photo op in that chair?
(Photo from AP)
Monday, April 12, 2010
Walking through a lush green path nestled in Florida swampland this morning, I saw a sign. It said “Warning: Do Not Approach Alligators or Poisonous Snakes.” Hmmm. Maybe overly curious or risk takers really need to be told, but not me. I stopped dead in my tracks just to let a back-raised raccoon cross the path.
Like most everything, it got me thinking about Nigeria. What signs do and don’t I see there? Maybe they’re there, but I haven’t seen any signs saying not to approach men with AK47s or roaming lions. Either Nigerians don’t see the value in spending (or have) money for these signs, they believe people foolish enough to approach danger are due the natural consequences, or they’re just plain smarter than Americans.
Speaking of signs, this is the exact place I was a year ago when I read an article about Ellen Sirleaf Johnson’s autobiography. I was so inspired by how she overcame extreme hardships and dangers to become the first woman President of Liberia.
“Wow,” I thought. “Dr. Chris’s life is at LEAST this inspirational. He needs to write a book about Faith Alive. He so BUSY, though. When would he have the time? Who else would write it? It should be a Christian who really believes in all aspects of Faith Alive and has the time and talent.” I had the first two, but knew my English Literature degree was rusty. “God, is this your will? If it is, I need Your power and strength to guide me.”
At dinner that evening, I timidly asked my husband for his opinion. He knows me better than anyone. Would he inwardly scoff and think it was too lofty, just another one of my crazy ideas?
“Of course you can write it,” he said, as if I’d asked if he thought I was able to walk across the room. He’s been my biggest supporter (and even brought me back to Rosen Shingle Creek again this year while he’s toiling away in business meetings).
Sometimes the best signs are verbal.
(Photo of Mark and me at a Habitat For Humanity Voyage to Africa fundraiser last week.)
Saturday, April 10, 2010
On Monday, Nigeria’s Acting President Goodluck Jonathan will meet President Obama in Washington, D.C for a Nuclear Security Summit. According to CNN, “The goals of the Nuclear Security Summit are to come to a common understanding of the threat posed by nuclear terrorism, to agree to effective measures to secure nuclear material, and to prevent nuclear smuggling and terrorism. The Summit will focus on the security of nuclear materials, leaving other broad topics such as nonproliferation, disarmament, and peaceful nuclear energy to different forums.”
Since the Christmas Day wanna-be bomber’s actions, Nigeria is on the “country of interest” list. Just wondering if Goodluck’s underwear will be given an extra security patdown.
Friday, April 9, 2010
Dr. Chris says that the best investment you can make is in human lives. I agree. However, I’ve struggled a LOT this week with investing in my dog’s life. For ten years Mark and I have had two small dogs who provided us with love, laughter, and regular walks. Cinnamon, our 12-year-old cockapoo, was losing her sight and hearing, and had a tumor that was stealing her healthy cells. Rather than invest in surgery, we chose to euthanize her in December. VERY painful experience.
We’re left with our nearly 10-year-old silky terrier Toby, who is a vibrant, non-stop, ball-fetchin’ machine. He’s been a true comfort for our mental health since we lost Cinny. We learned this week that he needs to have an expensive surgery for a bladder stone that won’t dissolve on its own. The option is to pay for surgery to have it removed, or wait for the stone to get lodged and end his life. What to do? How can we justify spending that money on a dog when our Nigerian family needs the money?
Thanks to MUCH prayer (and a Godsend – tax refund) we feel good about our decision. Toby is at the vet for surgery today, and we’re going to send an equal amount to Faith Alive. Thank you, God, for the win-win.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Hurry up and wait seems to be our motto. QUICK, get important information to Gift of Life International as soon as possible, then patiently wait. It's just the nature of this experience, I suppose, and definitely the way of all things Nigerian.
We're waiting for final approval by New Orleans Children's Hospital that they'll do the procedure that tests little Chris's physical ability to withstand surgery. If they think he can, then they'd also agree to perform the lifesaving surgery.
The GOLI Director says there are no guarantees, but we're choosing hope. And hopefully we'll have an official "yes" by the first of next week.
(Photo taken by Holly Hagena)
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Who ya gonna call when you want to know April's spiritual theme at Faith Alive? Nurse Musa. Not only does he know a LOT of scripture by heart, he faithfully carries his Bible and I've seen him at nearly every devotion and prayer time. He didn't disappoint when I called him today.
"The theme is Repentance, based on 2 Chronicles 7:14," Musa said. Then he instantly recited it by heart.
"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
"Thanks Musa," I said. "I KNEW you'd know."
The monthly theme is the focus for every morning's half hour devotion with staff and hundreds of patients, 15 minute afternoon prayers with staff, and each staff meeting. Just a singular focus, repeated. MUCH more effective than three-point sermons.
(Photo taken at Musa's church last fall with Jummai, Victor, and Musa in the white shirt. See my blog post from 2009.)
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
"So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun." Ecclesiastes 8:15, NLT
(Photo from Google Images)
Monday, April 5, 2010
Our friends at Faith Alive are enjoying their four day Easter weekend break. Except for a few emergency personnel, the staff is resting and spending time with friends and family. It's a well-deserved break after weeks of hard work amidst a tense calm in the Jos area.
Elim Elementary School students and teachers generally take a spring break, but I think this year's is longer than normal. They'll resume again at the beginning of May. While major violence has been at bay for almost a month, there have been pockets of small violence. One day headmistress Kate said she was at school and they heard gunshots at nearby Jos Polytechnic.
Yes, a rest will be good for everyone.
(Photo by Cindy Frost, of Mollie monkeying around at Elim last year.)
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Oh, how I wish I were in Jos today to celebrate Easter. I would get up from a white plastic chair at church and, in my thick black and blue/green Nigerian skirt and top, sing and dance for hours. Together with my Faith Alive Family, we would pray and laugh and cry tears of joy that HE IS RISEN.
Instead, I wore my thick black and blue/green Nigerian skirt and top to my church in Colorado. I sang joyful hymns with my husband, son, mom, dad (who has a fabulous, deep voice), friend Joyce, and new friends Debbie and her two-year-old daughter Teye Gyang. We came back to our house to eat a traditional American Easter ham, made even tastier with Debbie’s delicious Jollof Rice with curry. After the meal I got up from my chair to get the angel food cake and Debbie said, “Cake too? Wow!”
I have a newfound appreciation for that cake, because it’s such a luxury for many of my Nigerian friends. My options were to eat it and feel guilty, eat it and be grateful, or not eat it. Since I’d already bought the cake and didn’t want to waste it, I opted for a combination of the first two choices.
(Photo from Google Images)
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Friday, April 2, 2010
Around the world today, Christians remember Christ’s death on that old wooden cross. Since last Easter, three things have given me a new appreciation for just how brutal, how torturous, how painful the first Good Friday was for Jesus. And for His loving Father who watched.
This week I walked my 15 lb. terrier Toby and watched helplessly while a vicious dog attacked him. That dog held my Toby in his jaws like a bunny ready to be a midday snack. Somehow Toby was able to escape and darted, cropped tail between his legs, across the street toward the safety of our house. My relief quickly switched to panic before a driver stepped on her breaks to avoid hitting Toby. In less than two minutes, I thought I was watching my baby’s life end mercilessly. Granted he’s just a dog, but still.
Last fall our friend Solomon took Mark and me to a Nigerian zoo to watch the zookeeper throw live goats to hungry lions. It was both fascinating and disturbing to hear the goats helplessly bleating, bleating, bleating, and then…silence as they became breakfast. They’re just goats, right? Then why do I see parallels between the goats and Jesus?
Just last month near Jos, hundreds of innocent women and children were surprised in the middle of the night by murderers who torched and hacked their homes and families. I have the luxury to stop looking at gruesome photos of lifeless children splayed on the ground, some wearing just torn shirts and dried blood. What’s life like now for the surviving villagers who watched their innocent sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, uncles and nieces and cousins senselessly murdered?
Easter, you can’t come too soon.