Tuesday, November 30, 2010

More of November's Spiritual Theme: An Overcomer

“For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” (1 John 5:4)

Pastor Ben at Faith Alive says that “the world is an enemy that we should work through faith to overcome.” He says, “The world uses three strategies and forces to hold people captive as cited in 1 John 2:16. They are:

1. Lust of the eyes (what the eye sees)
2. Lust of the flesh (what the flesh feels and desires)
3. Pride of life (life attainment/achievement)”

Therefore, Pastor Ben asks three related questions about this month's spiritual theme:1. “Has the faith you possess in Christ overcome the lust of your eyes or you are still struggling with whatever your eyes see?
2. Have you killed the lust, the cravings of your sinful nature (flesh), or they are still controlling you?
3. Has your faith subdued the pride that comes from your life achievement--educational attainment, job position, economic status, family background, racial sentimentalism, etc.?

Faith in Christ was meant destroy and neutralize all of these, leaving no room for the world to manipulate you because all of these came from the world (1Jn 2:16). If you are still struggling with any of the above questions, then it is a signal that faith is lacking or weak. And this calls for a greater labour and cry out for God to increase your faith. It is my prayer this month that we shall, through the strength provided by faith in Christ, conquer all the manipulations and gimmicks from the world and begin to live a victorious life in Christ.”

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mollie's Birthday

Nigerian Faith Alive family, do you remember Mollie? I'll bet you do. Who can forget the small-statured young mom with a big smile who visited you almost two years ago? Pastor Cindy, Naomi and I celebrated Mollie's birthday yesterday at a quaint restaurant called "The Chocolate Cafe." Can you guess what we ate?

We lovingly laughed at Naomi because she didn't take her coat off, even though we were inside a heated building. It was a snowy evening and we were just grateful that she ventured out with us. Mollie told her about silk long underwear--a long-sleeved top and tight pants to wear underneath clothing. I think it's time to get Naomi a pair.

Back to Mollie. She greets all of you, and keeps you in her thoughts and prayers. Let's start praying that she can come with me to Nigeria before her next birthday.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thankful for the Faith Alive Family

This week of daily thanksgivings wouldn't be complete without showing my gratitude for the global Faith Alive family. Dr. Chris tells each visitor that they are now part of this family--and he means it. If we return to Jos a second time, we receive a wooden plaque of Nigeria that says, "Welcome home." I'm thankful for our Nigerian brothers and sisters in Christ and count them among my closest kin.

I'm also grateful for the Colorado Faith Alive family, all thirty-something of us who've traveled to Jos. Last summer I hosted them for a pre-garage sale dinner, and send them periodic email updates. Just this week I asked them to put Faith Alive on their Christmas gift list. Some are already asking where to send their checks. (First Presbyterian Church, Erika Nossokoff, 531 S. College Ave., Fort Collins, CO 80524. Make the check out to "First Presbyterian Church" and write "Faith Alive" in the memo line) It's great to share updates, photos and memories with them.

Whether you're a Faith Alive family member from near or far, you're always welcome in my home. Just let me know when you're coming, and I'll set a place for you at my table, turn down the sheets, and leave the light on.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful for Philippians 4

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:4-7 NIV)

These are my favorite verses because I apply them often to my life. I was really scared to go to Nigeria for the first time in January 2008. I'd never been overseas and had read the travel warnings for this most populous African country. But the moment I stepped off the airplane in Abuja and saw Dr. Chris, I felt the peace of God.

This year I've relied on these verses for little Chris, the four-year-old Nigerian boy who desperately needed lifesaving heart surgery. There were many things to worry about. Who would agree to do the surgery for free or little money? How would we raise the money for international travel? Would his precious little heart survive the surgery? There was a LOT of prayer and petition, and today we give thanks that little Chris has a renewed heart and the chance at a long and meaningful life.

Yes, there are many reasons to rejoice on this American Thanksgiving. I will say it again: Rejoice!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thankful for Dr. Mercy

Whenever I mention Dr. Christian and his wife Dr. Mercy, I have to say, "Yes, honestly. Those are their real names." Chris and Mercy Isichei are truly a match made in heaven. Not only did they both choose to be doctors, but they have a history of selfless compassion that continues to this day. I'm not surprised to find people eating and sleeping at their home (friends and relatives passing through, as well as people they've just met who need a solid meal and resting place). After all, both Chris and Mercy were known in their university days for sharing their rooms. Mercy told me that she used provide hospitality to many students at once, lining them up like puzzle pieces to sleep--head to toe, toe to head, etc.

I'm thankful to know Dr. Mercy, a surgeon who volunteers her expertise at Faith Alive. She even let me don scrubs there last year and watch her perform a hernia surgery. The operating table at the time was too high for her, so she stood on a step stool with her scalpel. The man's arms needed to be outstretched (like a lowercase "t"), so she used 2x4s to support his arms. Quite impressive, actually. And successful.

When I interviewed her for the book I'm writing, we were near the operating theatre. Partway through, she said something like, "Excuse me. I need to remove a child's finger, but I'll be right back." About twenty minutes later she returned and continued the interview. All in a day's work.

It reminded me of the days when Dr. Mercy counseled commercial sex workers about HIV/AIDS. She'd go to their workplaces and talk with them. When clients arrived, they'd excuse themselves for a short period of time before coming back to talk with her some more.

I could write an entire book just about Dr. Mercy, but I'll need to finish the one about Faith Alive. In the meantime, stay tuned to read the chapter about her.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thankful for Dr. Chris

Today I give thanks to God for Dr. Christian Isichei, founder and leader of the Faith Alive Hospital in Jos, Nigeria. Other than my grandpa (who was a compassionate Mennonite minister), Dr. Chris is the best example I know of someone who exemplifies Jesus. Sure, nobody's perfect, but he's close. When other people ask WWJD (what would Jesus do?), I also ask WWDCD (what would Dr. Chris do?). He is my living, breathing, working example of how to live. His influence inspires me to be a better Christian. May God continue to bless him with a long, spiritually prosperous life.

Tomorrow I plan to post my gratitude to his dear and faithful wife, Dr. Mercy. Stay tuned.

(To see and hear Dr. Chris, click on one of the videos with his photo to the right of this post.)

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Week of Thanksgivings

Even though American Thanksgiving isn't until Thursday, I plan to celebrate it every day this week. I'll save the turkey and pumpkin pie for the actual day, but won't wait to give God praise for His abundant generosity.

Today I'm thankful for the Faith Alive Hospital in Jos, Nigeria. Honestly, in all my years of attending and working at church, I have never seen God so obviously active as He is at this wholistic medical center that provides free care to over 10,000 of Jos's neediest people. The stories of Him at work in and through Faith Alive are so numerous and powerful that I had to write them in a book.

I'm still writing away, but had to take two breaks this fall. One was during Dr. Chris's visit to the United States, and the other is now while I'm doing some much-needed projects around the house. Once the holidays are over, I plan to start some new chapters and get back into my writing routine.

Instead of being discouraged that other things are temporarily taking my time and effort, I'm thankful that I have a home. Actually, I have two--one in Fort Collins and one in Jos, Nigeria.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Helmet Superstitions

“For many Nigerians, the only thing scarier than a motorcycle taxi is a motorcycle helmet—and its potential juju, or supernatural powers,” writes Will Connors in today’s Wall Street Journal. “One inventor’s answer: a cloth liner.”

I knew that Nigeria passed a helmet law for okada (motorcycle taxi) drivers and their passengers, but I rarely saw people in Jos actually wear them. Turns out that some Nigerians believe that other people might’ve put a spell on that helmet that’ll steal their good fortune or make them disappear (to be used in a sacred ritual). Wow. And I only thought the helmets might be too expensive or not stylish enough.

This goes to show that we can’t assume to know the reasons that people in other cultures do or don’t do what we might think is logical. It’s best to ask questions until we get at the root of people’s beliefs and work from there. The cloth liner inventor is wise to work with local assumptions. Not only will more people now wear helmets, but they’ll have cleaner heads and fewer trips to emergency rooms.

Click here to read the complete article.There's also a 58-second video ad for the product.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Floors and Generators

As I said yesterday, we're getting hardwood floors installed in our house. That means that we had to move nearly everything on the main floor out to the garage so the workers could rip out carpet, lay the wood, sand, stain, and apply sealer. Today is the sanding stage and the floors are carpeted in a fine layer of wood dust.

So what does that have to do with Nigeria? Well, my floors at this stage remind me in some respects of the mud huts at the Hwol Yarje village. Except that I'm not bending over to sweep with a 3-foot-long handled whisk broom each morning. And the large generator parked on the street outside my house makes me think about Faith Alive's dying generator that needs to be replaced. Without a new one, desperately ill patients can't receive necessary tests (lab work and x-rays), surgeons have to operate with battery-operated headlamps, and thousands of patients don't have access to the pharmacy's computer-run database when the existing, outworn generator frequently fails.

Whether you're updating your house this holiday season or not, will you please join me in remembering Faith Alive's need for a new generator? We plan to write a check to our floor guys AND a check to Faith Alive. If you want to donate to Faith Alive's new generator fund, please send your check to Hope for West Africa (new address: 8736 Marburg Manor Drive, Lutherville, MD, 21093) and write "FA Generator" in the memo line. All donations are tax-deductible. Your donation could literally mean the difference between life and death for our Nigerian brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Prayer for Faith Alive

This week we're getting hardwood floors installed on our main floor and everything, including the refrigerator, is stored in the garage. Everything, that is, except my Bible and devotion book. As I sat on a stool (okay, I kept two stools inside as well as my laptop and mug) drinking ginger tea and reading Colossians 1, I decided that these verses are my prayer today for Faith Alive.

"We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints--the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth...For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:3-14 NIV)


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Little Chris Update

Many of you have asked about little Chris, the four-year-old Nigerian boy who had heart surgery in India recently. He's doing GREAT! His teacher said that he doesn't need to return to school until after the Christmas break, so his mommy reads to him and helps him remember what he's learned so far. Her work place has been gracious enough to give her time off so that she can be with him every day. Today and tomorrow his daddy Daniel is home; there's a two-day public holiday in Nigeria for Muhammad's birthday.

When NEPA isn't on (electricity, and hence cartoons), little Chris loves to play with his soccer ball. It doesn't matter if he's indoors or outside--he kicks the ball. I imagine he's inspired by all the Super Eagles and Arsenal games that he watches with his daddy. One day we might be cheering for little Chris in the World Cup!

Monday, November 15, 2010

November's Theme: An Overcomer

Pastor Ben at Faith Alive Hospital tells us about this month's spiritual theme: An Overcomer.

"Sometimes what we carry looks so insignificant in the eyes of men, even to our own eyes. But when such insignificant is presented to God in prayer and sacrifice it turns out to be the mighty thing that will benefit many. So I say today, present your insignificant to God and watch for the fruits of it tomorrow. IT WILL SURELY GO A LONG WAY. God asks for our ordinary to give us extraordinary; he asks for our weakness to give us strength; physical to give us spiritual; mortality to give us immortality; ashes to give us beauty; foolishness to give us wisdom; little to give us abundance. Give to him what you have and in return receive his desire for your life."

The key verse is 1 John 5:4, highlighted here in verses 1-5. "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God."

May you listen for God's word to you in this scripture and be encouraged by these words of victory.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Enjoy this snap of Dr. Chris, founder of the Faith Alive Hospital, and his family. They're dressed in traditional attire for a cultural event.

May God continue to provide an extra measure of protection and blessing for this family that selflessly shares their time, talent, and meager treasures with others.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day

Today I join my fellow Americans in honoring our military veterans. Their selfless service for our country deserves our thanks and admiration. I'm privileged to know some young men who've served or are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as older veterans who served in the past.

I also salute my Nigerian Faith Alive family who serve on the front lines in the battle against HIV/AIDS. They tend the wounded on a daily basis and restore hope, health, and dignity.

God, grant them all a special measure of your protection and grace.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Today's post is in memory of a Treatment Support Specialist (TSS) at Faith Alive who passed away last week from kidney complications. I could never pronounce her name because it sounded Chinese. Every time I saw her beautiful smile, I would greet her. "Good morning, Chinese." "How is work, Chinese?" "Saanjima (see you later), Chinese."

Each medical team at Faith Alive has a doctor, a nurse, and a TSS. While a TSS doesn't have a medical degree, they do have intimate knowledge of HIV/AIDS from the school of experience.

We'll miss you at Faith Alive, Chinese. May you rest in peace and enjoy eternity with Jesus.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Another Time Change

It’s that time of year when the hours between Nigeria and Colorado increase by one. When it’s 4 pm in Jos, it’s 8 am in Fort Collins. If I don't call Nigeria in my morning, I risk waking people up. I wish I could just GO to Faith Alive so we’d be on the same time frame. Honestly, I really miss my Nigerian family.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Jenny and James

I just had the best weekend with my daughter Jenny and her husband James in San Francisco. They've both been to Faith Alive in Nigeria and send their greetings to everyone there. Jenny was actually the first one of us to go to Jos. She came back and said to her scaredy-cat mom, "You should go. I think you'd really like it." Little did she know just how much I'd fall in love with Faith Alive.

Speaking of love, James actually proposed to her the evening she came back from her first trip to Nigeria. That day I surprised them by meeting Jenny at the Denver airport. While James and I waited for her to land and go through customs, he said something like, "Is it still okay with you if I marry your daughter?" I'd been dropping hints for a few years because I really wanted him to be my son-in-law. After hugging Jenny, I skedaddled so that James could take her to the limo, roses, and ring that awaited.

They'll celebrate their second wedding anniversary on New Year's Eve. She's a Physician Assistant, he's a Landscape Architect, and they're enjoying married life in the city of love. I couldn't be more proud of them.

(They're holding wooden welcome plaques from Faith Alive, shaped like Africa and Nigeria.)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Flu or Malaria?

Would you rather have the flu or malaria? I'd prefer neither, which is why I got my flu shot yesterday and take anti-malarial pills when I go to Nigeria. But if hard-pressed, I'd choose the flu.

I'm asking because a Nigerian friend in Fort Collins, who's had malaria many times, is scared of getting the flu. Maybe we're most scared of what we haven't experienced.

One thing we can agree on, though, is that we don't want cholera. The Haitian outbreak has been in ours news lately, but did you know that there's also an outbreak in Nigeria? Dr. Chris says he doesn't know of any cases at Faith Alive, so they're probably in other parts of the country.

Wherever you are, make sure to practice good hygiene. I plan to wash my hands more often and try not to inadvertently touch my face. Let's stay healthy.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


My heart hurts for a dear friend whose husband left her a few weeks ago for another woman. Up and left, totally unexpected to her. When I told Daniel (little Chris's dad) about it, he said, "Ahhhhhhh, no no." He asked, "Can a man just do that like that?" Yes. I know because I experienced something similar about 25 years ago.

In Nigeria, divorce isn't common and it's definitely not an easy process. It's a far cry from Colorado's "no fault divorce." What a misnomer.

Like people around the globe, Nigerians also experience infidelity (and polygamy in some areas). But they frown on divorce. To paraphrase Daniel, a husband and wife are more than just man and woman, but companions who are there for each other, to support each other when other circumstances are hard. He's not so sure that Africans need to emulate everything about America.

"Please, tell her that we are praying for her and that we love her," Daniel said. Amen.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Vote to End Violence

Today's post is short and sweet because I'm attending an all-day training to help me as a Victims' Advocate respond to cases of domestic violence. It's a bit of a rush-rush morning while I walk on the treadmill, take a shower, drink cinnamon tea and read the election results in the daily newspaper. If only there were a unanimous vote to end all violence, domestic or otherwise, here and around the world.

(Sorry. In my morning rush I didn't have time to find a graphic that says, "Stop Violence Against Men, Women, and Children.")

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Jon's Visit

Does this guy look familiar? He will to our Nigerian Faith Alive family. In 2008, Jon Draskovic and his wife Kristen spent three months at Faith Alive where they met some great people, filed a lot of medical records, and changed the course of their careers. They saw the staff's deep Christian faith permeate every aspect of their lives and basically said, "We want to be like them and do what they're doing." Kristen is now in nursing school and Jon's in his second year at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

As part of Jon's candidacy to become ordained by the Presbyterian Church, he came to Fort Collins this weekend for a meeting. It included a psychological exam, which I'm confident will not only reveal his sanity, but his warm, goodhearted compassion and desire to share the good news of Jesus Christ.

Thanks, Jon and Kristen, for saying "yes" to God.

(In case anyone's wondering, that's me in the picture with Jon. My hair's in a ponytail. Kristen is much younger and prettier!)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Phone Prayers

What's the best way to show compassion to a grieving friend in Nigeria? Short of traveling there (which Dr. Chris still advises against for a variety of reasons), I had to make do with a phone connection to Pastor Esther who recently lost her 76-year-old father.

My first instinct was to sit with her in silence, but that's awkward on the phone. So I asked her what kind of food we could imagine that I was bringing her. Soup? Egusi, with pounded yam. And Schwepps, her favorite soda. Lots of Schwepps.

More silence. I didn't want to be like Job's friends who started to talk and reason, only to compound his grief. So I offered to pray. It was a bridge over the ocean, across the continents, and through the time difference. It was also an honor to provide spiritual compassion to one of my Christian role models.