Sunday, January 31, 2010
I spoke with Daniel this morning on the phone and heard a lot of voices in the background. At the busy market? No. At home? Yes. The tv? No. Just many friends and family there to cheer Rahila. What a joyful sound to hear little Chris playing with other children! As the only child in their apartment compound, he’s delighted to play with others his own size.
He still occasionally asks “where is my baby?” but it is becoming a little easier to answer him. “The baby is with Jesus.” It reminds me of a charming song by John VanDusen called “What Do Babies Do in Heaven?”
What do babies do in Heaven? Do the angels play coochi-coo?
Do the cherubim and seraphim line up to watch them too?
Well I’m sure whatever they do, Jesus is doing it too;
Yes, I’m sure whatever they do, our God is faithful and true.
Do babies grow up in Heaven?
Do they learn to stand on their own?
Do they run in fields, climb Mulberry trees?
Do they sing with the birds, or hum with the bees?
In the garden, I see Jesus counting while they hide.
There are thousands of Grandpas with knees on which a baby can ride.
What do babies do in Heaven?
Can they have a puppy or kitten?
I know somewhere it is written that babies play all day.
Well I’m sure whatever they do, Jesus is doing it too;
Yes, I’m sure whatever they do, our God is faithful and true, so true.
Yes, I’m sure whatever they do, our God is faithful and true.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
My husband Mark and I took a much needed getaway to Denver, where we strolled downtown and visited the Denver Art Museum. We saw a beautiful patchwork painting called “Soliloquy: Life’s Fragile Fictions” (1997), by Nigerian artist Moyo Ogundipe. I was drawn to it because of its colors and intricate patterns. The artist’s explanation makes me think this is part of “animist” religious beliefs in Nigeria. “My art has been significantly influenced by the Egungun Festival in the Yoruba villages of my childhood in many ways. The Egungun Festival and its intricately carved masks of cubism is the invocation of supreme powers of the ancestors, the summoning of the known and unknown and unknowable powers of the universe for a communion of art and ritual. During this important festival, every day from morning till evening for about two weeks, these ancestral spirits emerge from the sacred groves at the outskirts of the town. Accompanied by a large retinue of drummers, and singers, the procession dances to the King’s courtyard in a total theatre of drama, acrobatics, poetry, mime and pantomime and black magic.” To view more of his beautiful artwork, visit https://maigida.com/index.php.
Meanwhile, Holly is blogging about her trip to Nigeria, at http://hollyhagena.blogspot.com/. She’s a Physical Therapist who went with me on our first trip there in January 2008 when we fell in love with the people and their faith. She’s a good friend of Daniel’s so it’s perfect that she’s there now to comfort his family.
(Reprints taken from the maigida website; only the second one was at the museum.)
Friday, January 29, 2010
This is the hardest question for Daniel to answer little Chris, because she did not survive. I’m weeping as I write this. Daniel’s wife Rahila delivered a baby girl about 5 am today at Faith Alive, with Dr. Ben, Nurse Lauretta and others. But there was a problem with the umbilical cord and the baby was not alive at birth.
The joy is that Rahila’s health is good, but she is still at the clinic recovering. How do you recover from this? As is the custom, Daniel and some others went to General Christian Cemetary this morning to bury the baby.
I’m so thankful that Holly is there now to comfort them. She was with Daniel before I called, and was on her way to visit Rahila.
Daniel says not to cry, but to appreciate God, because He works all things for good. “We can’t say ‘why, why, why’ to God.” Please keep their family in your prayers. They have had so much loss over the last month – two of Rahila’s older sisters have died, and then the crisis. Please God, let’s get little Chris the surgery he needs so they can experience joy.
"Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning." Psalm 30:5
(Photo from the Internet)
Praise God for safe travel. It may be a while before Holly gets Internet access, so I hope this blog post is reassuring for her friends and family who are checking here.
Because little Chris's sister hasn't arrived yet, that means Holly might be able to take that baby's first photos (and share them with us)!
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
I talked on the phone twice today with Daniel. This morning (my time), he was on his way to find a doctor to check on the labor. This afternoon(again my time), he said that the labor is stalling and it's okay to hang on a few more days until the baby insists on seeing this world.
I met Holly at the Denver airport today, to wish her well on her journey to Jos, and give her some boxes of medicines to deliver. Her visit to Faith Alive will be an inspiration to those in Nigeria who will appreciate seeing a friendly face. Please pray for her safe travel.
Holly is in the front row of the photo (taken on our visit to Nigeria in January 2008). She's in the green dress.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
This is the very best news I've heard out of Nigeria for a few weeks -- I can hardly contain my excitement!!! Daniel, little Chris's father, called just now to say that his wife has begun her labor. Please pray for a safe delivery that results in a healthy mom and baby. Right now it's during the curfew (8:30 pm there), but they are being checked on by dear friends Nurse Lauretta and Doctor Ben. We really want the baby to be born in a hospital in case a C-Section is needed (it was for little Chris's delivery), so hopefully the baby will hold on until 6 am.
Our dear friend Holly, from the U.S., is traveling to Nigeria at the end of this week so I hope very soon to have and share photos of this new family of four.
(Photos are of the Faith Alive birthing unit, complete with modern multi-head shower. The baby may or may not be born there.)
Monday, January 25, 2010
It's a good sign that some of my facebook friends (at least the young men) are updating their status with soccer scores rather than talking about the crisis.
There's a good video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYJ9fsC54Rk that shows how life is returning to "normal." It includes people walking past military checkpoints with their hands in the air to signal that they aren’t a threat. They seem to appreciate the military's peacekeeping presence, but worry about more violence after the military leaves.
The curfew is now from 6 pm until 6 am.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
I'm not surprised that the people of Jos haven't gotten a good night's sleep for the past week. If you want to read a BBC article about a massacre in a nearby village, click on http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8476534.stm.
Fortunately the military seems to be doing a good job keeping the peace now.
The photo is of a mass burial site.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
I spoke with Kate Clement today, the headmistress and founder of Elim Elementary School. She said that their family is doing fine, and may reopen the school later next week if the curfew changes to include more “free” hours.
She hasn’t heard from all the students, but does know that two of the children living near the school have burned-down homes. Neither of them are on scholarship. She won't know about the other kids until school resumes.
Kate and her husband (a lawyer who advocates for youth) are bored just sitting at home, so they go to hospitals during the daytime to visit children. They asses the children’s basic needs, and help provide for them (money, food, etc.). One of the children is just 1 year and 3 months old, with a bursted eye from a gunshot.
When I grow up I want to be like Kate. :-)
Friday, January 22, 2010
Every day I call a few Nigerian friends to see if they are okay, give them encouragement, and pray for them. Today I asked one of them if she had enough food, knowing that they keep very little in their house. She replied "Who has enough? We were not prepared for this. The banks are closed so we cannot get our money to buy more food. We need to find a borehole to get more water."
Another friend, however, was on her way to the bank with her ATM card. I don’t know if she was successful getting the money she wants.
Many people are migrating out of Jos, back to their villages. Not all can, though, if they don’t have money for transport (taxis or buses) or fuel for their cars. How long they’ll be gone remains to be seen.
HIV/AIDS patients whose twice-daily medication supply is out are mostly out of luck if they cannot reach the clinic, which is obviously not fully operational.
A Faith Alive staff person whose home burnt is looking for her missing son, who may be hiding somewhere, may have escaped out of town, or worse.
A friend whose baby was due January 11 prays that the delivery not be too soon.
Drs. Chris and Mercy are taking care of as many people (Christians and Muslims) as they can; Mercy’s surgical skills have been useful as she has treated a few people with gunshot wounds.
My friends say they no longer hear gunshots. The Nigerian military is patrolling in Jos, at the command of the Vice President (since the President is still absent). Some news agencies report that the violence has spread to outlying areas.
Please pray not only for peace and protection, but food, water, and encouragement. May they pass through this to tell stories of how God has been at work amidst this crisis.
(Photos from BBC website)
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Most of the Christians at Faith Alive, and especially its leader Dr. Chris, are saddened by the recent violence from both Muslims and Christians. He reminds me of Martin Luther King Jr. who said that “to divide the world into us and them is to risk joining the ranks of the opponents.” If this is a mathematical equation, I believe Dr. Chris wants to multiply alliances and oppose the corruption, extreme poverty, and suffering that is generations deep in his beloved country.
His response to despair and fear is hope and healing. While others choose to senselessly kill and injure, he continues to serve people of all religious faiths (or no faith at all). His weapons of choice are not guns and machetes, but medicine and prayer. Please pray that Dr. Chris and all those at Faith Alive be strengthened, encouraged, and empowered to continue their investment in human lives.
For an informative video about the current situation, go to http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/20100120_video_dispatch_delicate_balance_nigeria.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Praise God, the smoke and gunshots are ceasing in Jos. There is still a 24 hour curfew in place, and the friends I called there today are home safely with their families. The most uplifting call was to a friend whose little girl just giggled and giggled on the phone – ah, the innocence and joy of children!
I hear that the Faith Alive family is all fine and praising God. However, their version of “fine” is different than ours. It means there was no loss of life among them, although some do know of others who didn’t make it. Two of the staff members (a TSS in Team E and a floor sweeper) lost their homes to fire.
Here are some tidbits from www.nydailynews.com:
“Soldiers with machine guns patrolled the streets of Jos and charred bodies lay in the streets Wednesday following days of religious violence between Christians and Muslims in central Nigeria that killed more than 200 people.”
“A nearby mosque still smoldered, its minarets blackened by fires. Authorities have imposed a 24-hour curfew in Jos, but people were seen walking around the center of the city. When an army convoy passed, they stopped and raised their hands above their heads to show they were not a threat.”
“Religious violence in Nigeria normally has its roots in local issues, rather than influence from international extremist groups.”
PLEASE continue to keep them in your prayers as peace returns. In past crises, there is violence for a few days and then peace for months.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Please join me in prayer RIGHT NOW for the people in Jos who are in a 24 hour curfew after violence erupted again today. People out during the curfew will be shot on sight, so they are basically trapped wherever they happened to be earlier today when this was instituted. Many of them do not have enough food to last beyond a day or two, if that, and see smoke from the burning buildings. I asked one of my friends if she still hears gunshots (4 pm their time), and she said "we are used to it" because it's continual. Fears are high, especially for those who've been traumatized by past violence. Please pass this prayer request along to any prayer chains and people that you think might add to our chorus of prayers. Peace and protection please!
Monday, January 18, 2010
This is for those of you interested in a more detailed news report. It has information from both Christians and Muslims, giving you a sense of the ongoing tensions there.
Torching of Nigerian church sets off deadly riot
AHMED SAKA, From Associated Press, January 18, 2010 4:32 PM EST
JOS, Nigeria (AP) — Angry Muslim youths set a church filled with worshippers ablaze in northern Nigeria, starting a riot that killed at least 27 people and wounded more than 300 others in the latest religious violence in the region, officials said Monday.
About 5,000 people lost their homes as rioters also burned mosques and homes in Jos, a city that saw more than 300 residents killed during a similar uprising in 2008, said local Red Cross official Auwal Muhammad Madobi. He said he had no information about deaths. Police officials declined to offer a count of the dead.
Sani Mudi, a spokesman for the local imam, said 22 people died Sunday after rioters set fire to a Catholic church, starting a daylong wave of violence between Christians and Muslims. Five others died Monday from their wounds, and police and soldiers set up numerous road blocks throughout Jos.
An Associated Press reporter saw the bodies of 10 dead youths, marked with bullet holes and machete wounds, at a local hospital on Monday. On Sunday, witnesses told reporters they saw 10 bodies at a mosque in the city. It was unclear if the bodies in the hospital were the same ones seen in the mosque.
The rioting began Sunday, when the youths attacked a church, said Gregory Yenlong, a state government spokesman. Yenlong said he didn't know why the young men set the blaze.
"That's what's being investigated," he said.
Police arrested 35 people who they suspect took part in the rioting, Yenlong said. He said at least five of the men arrested were wearing fake Nigerian military uniforms. He also said a dusk-to-dawn curfew would remain in place on Jos for the coming days.
Musa Pam, secretary of a local Christian elders forum, issued a statement Monday claiming the Muslim youths picked Sunday to launch their attack because they knew Christians would be worshipping at church. He asked the police to bring the killers to justice, because Christians were being attacked without cause.
Kabiru Mohammed, a Muslim resident who lost his home in the 2008 violence, told reporters Monday that after he recently started to rebuild his house, local Christian youths surrounded it and demanded that he stop construction.
"They said the area now belongs to them," Mohammed said.
The youths attacked, killing two laborers working on the home, Mohammed said.
Ahmed Garba, a Muslim lawyer, said he escaped being lynched by a group of Christian youths armed with bows and arrows, knives, stones and locally made firearms. He watched as they attacked and stabbed three people.
Traffic in the northern Nigerian city remained light on Monday, as the few cars traveling met multiple roadblocks and close searches by police and soldiers. Local police spokesman Mohammed Lerama said the site of the rioting remained sealed off, but that calm had returned to Jos.
"There's an absolute peace," Lerama said.
Jos sits in the heart of northern Nigeria, home to the nation's Muslim population. Religious violence, largely based on local disputes rather than global conflicts, has struck Jos in the past. Rioting in September 2001 killed more than 1,000 people and Muslim-Christian battles killed up to 700 people in 2004.
Associated Press Writer Jon Gambrell contributed from Lagos, Nigeria.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
"Violence again erupts in Jos, Plateau State capital in the North Central region of Nigeria on January 17, leading to looting and burning of houses, maiming and killing many and dislocation of hundreds of people from their homes.
"No fewer than 20 persons were killed in the crisis and five others also seriously wounded, and this pitted the Muslims against their Christian neighbors.
"Narrating the incident that occurred in the early hours of Sunday, Plateau State Commissioner of Police Greg Anyanting said there was a breach of peace by some Muslim youths who attacked people at their worship centers in saint Michael Catholic Church and Baptist church both in Nasarawa area of Jos." (Channel TV News online, January 17, 2010)
I plan to follow this closely and report what I learn. Please pray for the city of Jos.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Picture a prisoner in chains singing passionate praises to God, and maybe you’ll understand why Pastor Esther feels called to prison ministry. On December 27 she led Faith Alive’s Praise Team to sing, preach, and fellowship with about 100 men at a prison. As a result, six of them gave their lives to Christ. Pastor Esther and the team of 12 then visited with the three women prisoners before going home, filled with a deep joy and satisfaction.
The prison currently has about 400 inmates, and lets both Catholic and Protestant groups visit. If Dr. Chris thinks it’s safe, I’d like to go with the Praise Team the next time I’m there.
By the way, please pray for Pastor Esther as she’s recovering from malaria. She has a mosquito net over her bed, so must’ve gotten bitten somewhere else. The rest and medications are working and she plans to be back at work today.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Picture a page in the book ‘Where’s Waldo?’ But instead of looking for a scrawny guy with a red and white striped stocking cap hiding among a crowd, search for a 59 year old Muslim Nigerian president. If you can’t find him, it’s because he left the country November 23 for heart surgery in Saudi Arabia, didn’t sign over his powers, and doesn’t know when he’ll return or be able to resume his duties.
In the absence of facts, people can only speculate. Rumors run rampant. My friend Nna says the situation is “annoying” but BBC headlines indicate something much deeper in this country that just switched from military rule to democracy in 1999. Because Nigeria is divided between Muslims and Christians, each wants their full time in office.
Today the BBC posted an audio recording of Yar’Adua, thanking people for their prayers, saying he hopes “that very soon there will be tremendous progress” to allow him to go back to Nigeria, and wishing the Super Eagles soccer team well in the Africa Cup of Nations. I think this is the first time since November that his country has heard from him. Do you suppose they’re reassured?
Please pray for peace and leadership in Nigeria.
Monday, January 11, 2010
If you want to watch a personal story about the impact of AIDS on one family, I highly recommend 'We Are Together.' I checked it out from the library, watched it this weekend, and can't stop thinking about it. It could've been about any of my Nigerian friends with AIDS, if they didn't have Faith Alive. Maybe that's why I wept.
You can find out more at http://wearetogether.org/children/. The premise is an inspirational South African orphanage and their gift of singing.
Friday, January 8, 2010
“By the powers vested in me by the state of New York, I now pronounce you husband and wife.” Yes, these words were proclaimed by Dr. Chris on January 2 to Sally Barlow’s daughter Sarah and Nick Huston. The wedding was held in a restaurant in Brooklyn between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, and the officiant received his ‘official powers’ online. However, those of us who know him well testify that his REAL powers are from the Holy Spirit! (For those of you who don’t know Sally, she’s Faith Alive’s U.S. Coordinator, founder of Save-A-Life, and longtime friend of Drs. Chris and Mercy.)
Sarah's brother Jon is also in the photo.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Every month the clinic has a spiritual theme for devotions and prayers, and this January it’s ‘Choose Life.’ Deuteronomy 30:15-20 is a powerful reminder that even in the bleakest situations, we have control over our response. Moses’ message to the Israelites waiting in the dessert applies also to our lives.
“See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” (NIV)
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
One of my personal heroes (or heroines!) is Kate Clement, headmistress of Elim Elementary School and a 'mother' to the Faith Alive Support Group. She grew up struggling as a widow's child, and today cares for and educates OVCs (orphans and vulnerable children).
She's pictured here in December with her husband and some teachers who took Elim's OVCs on a picnic at Shere Hills, "a very good picnic area where most people relax during festive holidays." The children received gifts and enjoyed this most special day.
Currently 39 OVCs at Elim receive school scholarships thanks to many of you! If you would like to sponsor a child's education, it's only $155 per year.
Sunday, January 3, 2010
This email from Dr. Chris is for everyone who supports his family -- biological and Faith Alive.
"Chris, Mercy, Emily, Prince, Joseph and all members of the Faith Alive family send you all a happy/victorious 2010. He promises to WATCH over us FROM THE BEGINNING to THE END of the year.(Deut 11:12) He further confirms this: "I am with you and will WATCH over you wherever you go and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." (Deut 28:15) We sincerely thank you all for being there for us as a family and ministry. ANOTHER DECADE OF HIS FAITHFULNESS."