Thursday, September 30, 2010

Big Chris, Little Chris

I never thought I'd refer to short-statured Dr. Chris as big, but that's the best way to describe him when I'm also talking about little Chris. We praise God that both of them are on the road to recovery.

Big Chris is healing well with the help of retired nurse Diane Blattner. While I bring him cold compresses, Diane knows to ask, "On a scale of 1-10, what is your pain?" Today is a 1, with 10 being excrutiating. He enjoys his Cokes, high-speed internet and visitors, although surely he must long to be home with his wife and children. Right now he's reading what I've written so far in my book (aka "manuscript" to all you agents and publishers) about Faith Alive.

Little Chris is doing so well that he keeps begging, "Daddy, take me out of this place." Not fond of the tubes and needles, his desire to go home is a good sign that he's feeling better. Who can blame him for not liking intentive care--there is no television with endless cartoons.

God-willing, they will be reunited with their Nigerian families in October.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Operation Little Chris: Two Critical Days

I didn’t want to widely publicize this, but the surgeons have said all along that the first two days after little Chris’s surgery are the most critical. It’s during this time that they know whether or not his heart can adapt to the changes. I’m not sure what the indicators are, but I have a feeling that they involve his breathing…or not.

We’re nearing the end of Day 2 (Bangalore time) and all is well. As they say in Nigeria at the top of their lungs—Praise the Loooooooooooord! Praise the living Godddddddddddddd!

Tomorrow, God-willing, I will be posting from Baltimore and hope to include some snaps of Dr. Chris and the Blattners.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bound for Baltimore, God-willing

I have a United Airlines ticket to fly to Baltimore, Maryland tomorrow, home of the Orioles, Ravens and Hope for West Africa. It's also where Dr. Chris Isichei (founder and leader of the Faith Alive Hospital) is this week at Bill and Diane Blattner's home.

Notice that I didn't say, "I'm going to Baltimore tomorrow." I'm learning from James 4: 13-15. "Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.'"

God-willing, I will go to Baltimore tomorrow.

Little Chris update: all is well, praise God!!! So far, his recovery in intensive care is going well. He even was awake enough to greet his mommy on the phone and take some tea from his daddy. God-willing, he'll be back in his regular room with Daniel by the end of the week.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Operation Little Chris: Success!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!!!!! I've been told that professional writers use exclamation points sparingly, if at all, but I don't care. I want to fill the page with them in thanks to God who has heard our prayers and answered favorably.

In what Daddy Daniel termed "the longest day of his life," little Chris underwent and survived a seven-hour heart surgery in Bangalore today. Because India is 11 1/2 hours ahead of Colorado, it was a long night for me. I think I talked with Daniel at least three times. It wasn't fair for me to get under my comfortable bed covers and try to sleep while Daniel was waiting alone in the hospital room. He would sit, then stand up, then sit, then get up and walk a bit, then come back and sit, then stand, etc.. "Where did you go?" I asked him. "I don't even know," he said. "I just kept my head down."

Normally upbeat and making jokes, Daniel's somber voice reflected his fear and vulnerability. We didn't dare speak the truth, that maybe he would not see his four-year-old son alive again. Instead, we prayed, talked about his childhood and my son's surgery a few years ago, and even sang a bit. Anything to keep him occupied and not feeling alone.

Now our prayers begin for a successful recovery. We need God to help little Chris's body respond well to his altered heart. At least in this phase, Daniel is able to see and touch his precious son.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Goodluck for President

It’s official. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has announced that he will seek reelection for another term. Well, he hasn’t actually filled an entire first term. He only became President earlier this year after then-President Yar’Adua died.

This unprecedented situation has many implications. Click here for a clear, concise video explanation. Whoever wins, we pray for a peaceful transition (or continuance) of power.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Event Cancelled

Due to unforseen medical reasons that make it inadvisable for Dr. Chris to fly next week, he will not be able to come to Fort Collins as planned. Therefore, the October 1 community-wide benefit dinner in Fort Collins for Faith Alive has been cancelled. It seems that our favorite Nigerian male doctor needs to be a good patient and heed his own doctor's advice. I qualify "male" because his surgeon wife Dr. Mercy is equally wonderful.

If you planned to attend the event, please accept our sincerest apologies.

Little Chris update: surgery is scheduled for Monday. Please pray that little Chris and Daniel discover unexpected blessings while they wait and that the surgery will be successful.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mollie Dollie

This post is especially for you Nigerians who want to see Mollie and her family (with Naomi). I call her Mollie Dollie because she's so petite. When we went to Faith Alive Hospital together last year, the shirts and skirts in her suitcase looked as tiny as doll clothes.

Anyway, Mollie stood up in front of our church's congregation last Sunday and told how she saw God at work at Faith Alive. Tears rolled down her cheeks and her voice jumped a few octaves as she shared how her Save-A-Life patient's faith in Jesus has inspired her own spiritual growth. Her patient's husband, a minister, abandoned his wife and three children, all HIV+, to fend for themselves. He also left the ministry. Mollie said, "I expected her to be really angry at him, but instead she asked us to pray that her husband come back to Jesus."

On another note, little Chris and Daniel are feeling restless while waiting for surgery. They have to stay in the hospital room so that little Chris doesn't pick up any infections. Yesterday he "taught" his daddy how to color with crayons in the coloring book he got on the airplane.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Operation Little Chris: Final Tests

Little Chris scored very high on his preschool exams; let's hope his scores are equally as good for this battery of pre-surgery medical tests. We're waiting on one final result. While there are no outward signs of sickle cell disease, the surgeons need to be sure before starting this delicate surgery.

While we're waiting, feel free to click on these words to learn more about little Chris's condition and treatment: VSD (Ventrical Septal Defect), Fontan surgery (what he'll need in a few years if this surgery is successful), and tricuspid atresia.

You'll learn how risky this surgery is and why we need a LOT of prayers. With God, all things are possible.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Operation Little Chris: Cartoons

What does a precious four-year-old do at an Indian hospital while waiting to have surgery? If you're little Chris, you eat fried plantain and rice, run around and talk to all the nurses, and watch many episodes of the Tom & Jerry cartoon until you fall asleep at 2 a.m.. Who can blame him? There's no NEPA to turn off the electricity, there's an endless supply of food, and all the nice nurses know his name.

We're waiting to find out when the surgery will be; our best guess is tomorrow. It's getting to the scary part and we really need prayers for a successful outcome. If you have access to a prayer chain, would you please include little Chris?

Friday, September 17, 2010

New Blog

Check this out--another blog about Faith Alive Hospital. It's also about the Anawim Home that Hope for West Africa supports. Click here to read Teresa Pompa's first weekly post.

I was in Jos last year with Teresa and her team from Church of the Nativity in Baltimore, Maryland. It was Teresa's second trip there because once wasn't enough. I totally get that. On one of her last days there, she told me that she wanted to sponsor a Save-A-Life patient. I waited for a great match, and in walked a beautiful young woman who had just learned that she had AIDS and needed to start taking antiretroviral medications right away. I tracked down Teresa at Faith Alive's beauty salon, and she rushed over (with long, blonde wet hair!). The meeting was a true blessing for both of them.

I look forward to reading the blog she's writing for HFWA and hearing more stories. Hopefully her next post will be about Dr. Chris's visit to Church of the Nativity this week.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Up, Up and Away

For those of you who’ve ridden in airplanes, do you remember your first ride? To be honest, I don’t remember mine, and a lot of things in the passenger process have changed since then.

As I’m writing this, Daniel and little Chris are in an Arab Emirates airplane flying from Lagos, Nigeria to Bangalore, India. I wonder what amazes them the most. It could be the big things, like looking out the window and knowing they’re so high above the ground. Or realizing how they can be on one continent on Thursday and another one across the ocean on Friday. But I imagine that a lot of small things are equally exciting, especially for a four-year-old. Tray tables that fold down from the seat in front of them. “Free” food trays brought to them by the women and men in matching uniforms. Toilets that flush with the strength of a high-powered vacuum. Non-stop cartoons on the t.v. screen.

It’s good for little Chris to focus on the wonder of the trip. He doesn’t need to worry about what lies ahead for major surgery. We’ll leave that up to his mommy and daddy (and all of us who are earnestly praying for a successful surgery).

(Photo is from a random book I found online.)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Operation Little Chris: Traveling Mercies

Little Chris and his daddy Daniel are leaving Jos today for their two-three day journey to Bangalore, India. About the time I'm writing this, little Chris is saying "sai anjima" to his mommy. It means "see you later;" Nigerians don't say goodbye because that seems so final. And Mommy Rahila definitely wants to see little Chris later. May her tears today be followed by tears of joy when her husband brings home a healthier son, Godwilling.

In Jesus name, Amen. Father God, we thank you for this lifesaving opportunity and ask that you grant Daniel and little Chris traveling mercies, health and strength for what lies ahead, and a successful surgery. Thank you that we are 100% funded for anticipated expenses and that Dr. Bode Thomas is escorting them; Your provisions are so generous. Encourage Rahila and surround her with the support of friends and family. We ask this all in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Set the Captives Free

Yesterday I went to jail. It was part of my training as a Victims Advocate for the local police department, so I was just an observer. To say that I was ready to walk out the last locked metal door into the fresh air of freedom is an understatement. The images from the three-hour tour, especially from the "red area," are trapped in my memory. Prisoners wearing red are the ones I was told "can't play well with others, even themselves." Locked in their solitary cells with just a small window facing an empty common room, these men were staring, glaring, or shouting. One was wrapping toilet paper around his hands before punching the window. If they weren't a little crazy before their incarceration, they probably were now.

I can't imagine someone just opening all their doors at once and releasing them into the world with the general population. But that's what happened recently at a Nigerian jail. A group of extremists broke into a jail and set 721 captives free. A number of them were fellow extremists imprisoned for their involvement last year with the dangerous Boko Haram sect.

I don't think this is what the Bible means when it talks about setting the captives free. May God foil whatever plans this sect is scheming.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Election Date Set

In the United States, Presidential elections are held every four years on the Tuesday between November 2-8, without exception. Not so in Nigeria. Friends keep asking me when the Nigerian Presidential election will be next year; they know that Dr. Chris wants me and other visitors to wait until after that to travel there. "I'm not sure," I've told them. "January or May, I think, but I really don't know."

Well, now I know. Last week, Nigerian President Jonathan Goodluck announced that elections will be held on January 22, 2011. He hasn't yet announced his candidacy, although many people think he will. To minimize the chances of a military coup, he just replaced the leaders of his armed forces, police, and internal security.

Peaceful transition of power is never a given in this country that just started democractically electing presidents in 1999. Let's pray for a peaceful and fair process and that each Nigerian's vote be counted.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Understanding the Times

Faith Alive’s spiritual theme for the month is "Understanding the Times." There’s nothing like hearing the theme preached by Pastor Ben in person; his passion and animation could bring a stone to life! Because we’re separated by an ocean, my blog's condensed version will have to suffice. Let’s hope the message isn't lost in translation.

The theme is based on 1 Chronicles 12:32 (NIV): “…men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do—200 chiefs, with all their relatives under their command….”

Pastor Ben says that understanding the times is the foundation for knowing the right thing to do. So strive to do the right thing at the right time; that is righteousness. We are to study the times, using the bible as our compass. Don’t be taken unaware like the homeowner in Matthew 24 who was robbed unaware, or like the foolish virgins in Matthew 25 who were away getting lamp oil when Jesus returned.

Instead, heed Paul’s advice in Ephesians 5:15-17 (NIV): “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”

Pastor Ben asks us to consider four questions. What time is this? What are the signs of the times? What should be our attitude toward this time? How will we prepare to escape the corruption of this time?

I don’t know about you, but I want to be prepared. Thanks, Pastor Ben, for sharing your wisdom.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Birthday King

What’s the best birthday gift for a precious four-year-old in Nigeria who loves his mommy and daddy, Barney, school, and puppies? Lifesaving heart surgery, of course! But try explaining that to little Chris who lives only for the moment and just wants cake and a Coke today.

Because his family doesn’t have the money for those luxuries, I suggested that they use what every four-year-old has in abundance—imagination. Perhaps mommy Rahila can find something to put on little Chris’s head to wear as a crown and let him be king for today. “Wow, look at you,” she can say. “You are a powerful boy who rules all of Nigeria. Your birthday is so special that it is a national holiday. Today Mommy and Daddy will stay home and play with you all day, and we will have cake and Cokes.” Then she can hand him an imaginary plate and glass bottle and they can pretend to eat and drink. The food might not be real, but the celebration will be. And there’s no need to tell him that the national holiday is really for Eid ul-Fitr, the end of Ramadan.

As for the rest of us, the best gifts we can give little Chris are prayers for safe travel, successful heart surgery this month, and many more birthdays.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Abba Baba at Da'Adi

Sounds like a tongue-twister, right? It is. Try saying "Abba Baba at Da'Adi" five times in a row really fast. So what does it mean? Abba and Baba both mean the same thing--Daddy or Papa--and Da'Adi is Faith Alive's cafe/canteen (depending on if you're from America or Nigeria).

For years, the cook at Faith Alive's guesthouse (known to us only as Baba) has whipped up toast, pancakes, mystery-meat dishes, yams, and other foods that westerners enjoy. But until Dr. Chris says that it's okay for guests to start visiting again, Baba will work at Da'Adi making traditional Nigerian food.

I imagine that every visitor would love to put Baba in their suitcase (he might actually fit!) and take him home with them. He's worked so hard for us that we'd like the chance to cook for him in our homes. Since that's not possible, we'll have to pack our luggage and share a meal with him the next time we go to Faith Alive.

(Photo of Baba taken by Cathy McDermott in 2007)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Triple Bottom Line

Naomi's adjusting really well to life in the United States and learning a lot at Colorado State University where she's enrolled in the GSSE program (Global Social and Sustainable Enterprises). It used to be that companies focused on the bottom line--profit. This newer way of thinking is concerned with a triple bottom line--people, planet, and profit.

CSU's website states, "The GSSE Program seeks to provide sustainable enterprise solutions to some of the most stubborn issues of our time including poverty, disease, malnutrition and environmental degradation. We do that by graduating students with the appropriate training, experience and character necessary to create and operate for-profit and nonprofit startups, nongovernmental organizations, and to work in multinational companies that champion social and environmental objectives while delivering solid returns on investment."

Impressive. Those are great things to know and take back to Faith Alive. But in between official schoolwork, Naomi's also learning about her own triple bottom line--transportation, food, and comfort. She already knows that there's a bus stop near her house, there are free refills of large buttery popcorn at the movie theater, and she's going to need a very thick coat to wear when the weather turns colder (she's already freezing in September).

(Photo of Naomi on her first day of class. Posted with her permission.)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day

I always wondered why we play or rest on Labor Day; shouldn't we be working? It's not that I want to, mind you,but it seems like a more appropriate name for today's holiday might be Time Off Day. Regardless, I'm glad to spend the day with my husband in sunny Colorado before we go back to our regular routines tomorrow.

Here in the United States, this holiday is like our last hurrah of summer before we start raking leaves, wearing sweaters, and eating peach pie.

In Nigeria, they celebrate Workers Day at the beginning of May. I think it's a time to anticipate the rainy season that brings new life, green fields, and yams. Lots and lots of yams.

Whenever your Labor or Workers Day is, it's always good to take a break from your routine to thank God for work (paid or volunteer) and pray that people who need jobs find them.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Open 4 Happiness

Feeling down? Have a Coke and a smile. Oops, that’s an old slogan. It’s been replaced (many times over) by “Open Happiness.” Actually it’s tagged “Open 4 Happiness” and “A New State of Happiness” in celebration of Nigeria’s 50th year of independence from British colonization. The soft drink campaign, according to this article, will build on the Naija spirit “that keeps the Nigerian going even in the face of challenges. This optimistic spirit of Nigerians is what makes him/her one of the happiest individuals and that is the spirit that Coca-Cola wants to celebrate with Nigerians.”

I’ve searched high and low (but obviously not everywhere) to find a print or video version for this specific campaign. Does anyone have a link? If not, I’m substituting my own Coke visual that features Jummai, Faith Alive's Coca Cola queen and smile-giver, in the mineral container in front of the hospital. She’s always open for happiness.

(Ever the wise woman, Jummai also sells bottled water for the health-conscious.)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Memory Lane

One thing I like about this blog is that it gives me a snapshot of time and place. On days like today when I wish I were in Nigeria again, I can simply click on former posts and relive past visits. To join me on this trip down memory land, click here to see what Mark and I were doing in Jos at this time last year. It reminds me that I'm fine, thank you.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Heartaid Angel

Have you ever known an angel? Not with wings and a halo, but someone who seems sent by God to deliver an important message or help in a significant way?

Meet Dr. Fidelia Bode-Thomas. She works at Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) in Nigeria and also runs Heartaid Trust, a non-profit that helps children who need lifesaving heart surgeries. I believe she was sent by God to help little Chris. Not only did she connect us with the Indian hospital and doctor, she's working diligently to help Daniel with all the travel arrangements. And just yesterday I learned that she'll escort Daniel and little Chris to Bangalore on her way to Mumbai! That's a major help for a father and son whose first airplane ride will be to another continent.

May God grant Dr. Bode-Thomas's wishlist:

a. To work with other organizations to facilitate the development of a heart hospital based in Nigeria but serving West and Central Africa.

b. To work with other organizations to bring teams of experts to Nigeria to teach heart surgery and care of post-op heart patients with the goal of making heart surgery available to the poor at a cost they can afford.

c. To eventually have trained West African heart surgeons who can perform the surgeries and trained West African staff who can care for post-op hearts independently.