Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Easter Menu

My parents and a family friend will join Mark, Austin, and me for Easter dinner this Sunday so I guess it’s time to plan the menu. Let’s see, should I buy a Honeybaked Ham and serve it with deviled eggs, a green salad, and a bowl of fresh fruit?

Our Nigerian seamstress friend hopes to make Jollof Rice (see recipe below) and salad. I’ve learned not to assume that our definitions match, so I asked what will be in her salad. “Cream, green beans, carrots, and Irish potatoes.” Glad I asked. Our flavors might be different, but we share a faith that celebrates our risen Lord.

Jollof Rice for four:

• 1 large onion, chopped
• 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
• 2 teaspoons tomato paste
• 1½ cups cooked rice
• 1 green chili, seeded and chopped (green pepper can be substituted)
• 1 cup meat or vegetable stock

1. Cook the rice according to package directions.
2. Heat the oil in a frying pan and sauté the onion until soft, but not browned.
3. Add the tomato paste and chili and cook on medium heat while stirring, about 2 minutes.
4. Add the rice and continue stirring.
5. Add the stock and bring the mixture to a boil.
6. Reduce heat to medium and cook until almost all of the stock has evaporated. Serve.

(Photo and recipe from Internet)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Country Of Interest

Did you know that an estimated one million Nigerians and Nigerian-Americans live, study, and work in the United States? And over 25,000 Americans live and work in Nigeria? I learned this while reading an article by Tokunbo Adedoja about Nigeria’s status on the United States’ terrorism watch list.

Nigerian Acting President Goodluck (through his US Ambassador Adefuye -- try saying THAT ten times!) is urging President Obama to remove Nigeria as a “country of interest.” Citing the Christmas day underwear bomber, Adefuye said, “"This event, serious as it is, is a one-off incident and ought not to have warranted the classification of Nigeria as a country of interest in the fight against terrorism."

Obama’s response was that Nigeria has an important role to play as a regional and global leader. He urged that together, we “"must continue our efforts to fight terrorism and violent extremism so as to make West Africa a safer place."

After reading yesterday about the so-called Christian militia in Michigan, I’m reminded that we also need to fight crazy Americans to make our world a safer place.

(Photo from Google Images)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Things Fall Apart

Chinua Achebe, best-selling Nigerian novelist of Things Fall Apart, answered questions recently about the latest violence near Jos. Asked if things are now falling apart in Nigeria because of Muslim extremism, he says yes, “but (it) is other things as well. “ He blames authorizes for not addressing the issue, and accuses the Acting President Jonathan Goodluck of not bringing what his name implies. “A strong man in any position in Nigeria should be horrified by what happened in Jos. Shamed is what we should feel. We don’t seem to have any government.”

Asked why he and other Nigerians live out of Africa, from his wheelchair he says, “If you were in Nigeria and had cause to go to a hospital or to see a doctor, you would then immediately understand why so many people are abroad.” Maybe it’s time for him to meet Drs. Chris or Mercy at Faith Alive.

My favorite Q&A from this nearly 80 year-old author made me smile.

“Are you still writing every day? What are you working on?”

“I’m working on this interview.”

Click here to read the interview in yesterday’s New York Times.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Book Title Ideas, Anyone?

Yesterday I met with an agent who wants me to submit my proposal to her. Instead of jumping up and down, I need to sit with her constructive criticism. My writing needs to be less journalistic and my title should be more catchy. Apparently Prescribing Hope: Inspiring True Stories From An African AIDS Hospital is too clinical. So I'm turning to you for ideas in the vein of Half the Sky, Three Cups of Tea, or Eat, Pray, Love. Anyone? In the meantime, I'm going to rework my manuscript to sound more like my blogging voice.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Writing Conference

What do "From Proposal to Publication," "Writing the Robust Scene," and "Tragedy to Triumph" have in common? They're all workshops I'll attend this weekend at the Northern Colorado Writers' Conference. I'll enjoy time with people from my writers' group, eat, meet new-to-me writers, eat, hone my writing skills, eat, and even pitch my book to an agent. Did I mention there will be food?

Seriously, I'm really excited about this opportunity. Writing (and endlessly re-writing)at home is pretty solitary. I actually write best at my kitchen table even though I WISH that sweet spot was at Starbucks! It'll be great to network with others who just might be as addicted to their books as I am, talk about Faith Alive, and be reminded that I'm really writing a MANUSCRIPT (it's not a book until it's published).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Little Chris -- Jumping a Hurdle

I just got off the phone with Daniel and shared that the process of getting lifesaving heart surgery for his three-year-old son Christian (named after Dr. Chris)is like hurdles. We are about to jump over a big one, but there will be others.

The Director of Gift of Life International said today that the Children's Hospital of New Orleans will most likely agree to do the surgery IF they first do a diagnostic cath procedure and find that little Chris is physically able to handle surgery. If not, there is the chance that Daniel would have to return to Nigeria without his son's surgery. Are we willing to take the risk? ABSOLUTELY! It's actually a miracle that little Chris has this opportunity.

We're putting formalities in place (including the hospital's official decision and invitation) to obtain visas for Daniel and little Chris to come sometime in the next few months.

Please pray for the next hurdle, official approval, letters, and visas. In the meantime, we are celebrating and thanking God for these opportunities.

(Photo from Google Images. God-willing, one day this will be little Chris!)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Praying For YES

Many of you have asked about little Chris, so here's the scoop. There's a surgeon through Gift of Life International who's considering this week whether or not to provide this lifesaving surgery. Daniel says that when it's dusty in Jos (which is often until the rainy season gets in full gear), his son, little Chris, has to play inside so he can breathe well.

Click here to see a prior post about this.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Trip to Faith Alive

There's no need to pack your pajamas or malaria pills for this virtual trip to the Faith Alive Hospital in Jos, Nigeria. All you have to do is go to Google Earth, fly to Jos, Nigeria, and find the business Township Stadium. Immediately to the left you'll see a blue roof, at Latitude: 9°55'40.43"N, Longitude: 8°52'57.47"E.

Underneath that roof are hundreds of beautiful, amazing people who greet you with a hearty "You are welcome!" Click here to go inside the hospital and feel their joy and hope amidst suffering. Now stop a minute to say a prayer for them. May God continue to bless and empower them to do His will, and may He also keep them in your heart.

(Video by Chris Harper, Photo by Mollie Bartholomew)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Census: Over the Years & Miles

Over 2000 years ago, Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. Everyone had to report to their birthplace to be counted. Perhaps this happened: “Mary, we must travel to my hometown, Bethlehem,” said the carpenter Joseph. He borrowed someone’s camel, directed it to sit, and carefully helped his pregnant wife struggle on between the two humps. After many days of arduous travel, they arrived and reported their number. “Two. No, make that three.”

In 2010, the United States government spent around $10 billion to count its people. The data will help the government determine how many political Representatives each state will have and how to allocate over $400 billion federal tax dollars for emergency services, hospitals, job training centers, schools, senior centers, bridges, tunnels and other public works projects. “Better infrastructure, more services, a brighter tomorrow for everyone,” the official Census website says. In Colorado, Erika opened her mail. Yes, she'd like a brighter future! She answered the questions in seven minutes; it would’ve been just six, but she had to remember exactly how old she was. She returned the survey to the envelope, licked it closed, and put it back in the mail, postage free (if you don’t count the taxes she pays).

On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean in 2006, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo called for a census in this most populous African country. Results of the 1962 census, the first since independence from British colonization, had been withdrawn. The reliability of the 1963 census was questioned, the 1973 census was discredited and never saw the light of day, and no census was conducted in 1981. When accused by people in 2006 of another inaccurate result, the President reportedly said, “If you like it, use it. You don’t like, leave it.” The problem was more complicated than how to reach people. After all, their postal system doesn’t have the motto: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." The challenge included lack of trust and honesty by the millions of impoverished people who didn’t believe their government would deliver a brighter tomorrow for their tribe, their village, their religion. I wonder if law abiding citizens Drs. Chris and Mercy had to think about how many people resided at their small apartment that day. “Let’s see, we have our five, plus Christy the cook who’s sharing her room with two students, and our mother and her two cousins who are helping her after her hip surgery. Oh yes, let’s not forget that patient and his son we treated for gunshot wounds who slept here last night.”

Other updates: The curfew in Jos is now 9 pm to 6 am. The surgeon who is considering doing little Chris's surgery is out of the office until Tuesday. Hopefully we'll have a "yes" next week. Please keep praying!

(Photos from Google images)

Ben Ochenjele, Administrator & Pastor

“I am the Head of Administration of Faith Alive and the Chairman of the Executive Council. I play the role Biana played while here. I receive and disperse information; I make sure day-to-day work runs smoothly and attend to all complaints. Those I could not handle I get to Chris and receive instruction from him as to how the affairs of FA should be. This leadership position has broadened my management perspective which I knew God was long preparing me for. I can see clearly what Chris and Biana have been seeing.

“What excites me in this role is the ability to keep things moving in the right direction in the midst of crisis, and the ability to lead such a large number of people from different professions with different mentalities, faiths and backgrounds.

“My church is Christian Evangelical Fellowship of Nigeria. I pioneer an interdenominational Ministry, GOSPEL PARTNERS AFRICA, that responds and voices out the need of churches in crisis.”

Pastor Ben and his wife Doris are expecting their second child this month. Please join them in thanksgiving and prayer for a safe delivery.

(Photo courtesy of Pastor Scott Herr)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Blood For Cattle?

The events yesterday in an area about 30 miles from Jos were eerily similar to what happened recently, but on a smaller scale. Muslim Fulani herdsmen, including a few people dressed in military camouflage, surprised the village at 1 a.m. with guns and cartridges, bows and arrows, machetes, knives and cutlasses. Homes were burned and at least 13 people died. Seven people have been arrested already. The violence is said to be at least in part due to disputes over cattle.

A survivor, Kachollom Pam Dauda, told Nigerian media that she was lucky to have escaped. “I climbed the roof of the house and held to the wood,” she reportedly said. “It was painful more so that I am pregnant. I saw the killers kill my two sisters-in-law, Chundung and Kangyang.”

A member representing Riyom (the local government), Hon. Emmanuel D. Jugul, said the constant attacks on his constituency had created serious fears as farmers in the area are not even celebrating the coming of the cropping season.

Click here if you want to read details about this latest violence.

(Photo by Mark Nossokoff, taken in Nigeria)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Meet Debbie Gyang

Since I can’t go to Nigeria any time soon, God brought a bit of Nigeria to me! Today I met Debbie Gyang, a wonderful woman from Jos who has lived in Fort Collins for a few years. She is a Christian who was born in Barkin Ladi, studied at Plateau State Polytechnic in Jos, was the VP of Christian Fellowship, worked there with Campus Crusade and Youth With A Mission, and came to Fort Collins so her husband could study pre-med at Colorado State University. Together, they have a two year old daughter.

Her family is Berom Hausa. She’s very clear to differentiate herself from Muslims, since Hausas are predominantly Muslims. Do any of my Nigeria friends recognize her or know of her family?

On another note, the doctors are still considering little Chris’s case for surgery. This is VERY good news, since last week the thought was that his medical condition might be too complicated. Please keep praying!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


My world has two times, American and African, and it's more than just the seven or eight hours (depending on Daylight Savings Time) between Colorado and Nigeria. American means "right on the dot" or "time means money." African, on the other hand, means "whenever" because agendas might (and probably will!) change due to a number of unplanned events. A dear friend might engage you in a conversation. The rains might decide to pour right when you need to catch a motorbike taxi. Your neighbor might need your help carrying water, starting a generator, or borrowing your cell phone.

I think the major difference is that Americans tend to think about what's next, while Africans tend to think about what's now. One mindset isn't better than the other, but today I want to practice living in the moment.

The graphic above is set at 6 o'clock. The 6 pm to 6 am Jos curfew remains in effect.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Let the Rains Fall

Nigeria has two seasons: dry and wet. The rains have begun (at least intermittently) in the city of Jos that sits at an elevation slightly above 4,000 feet in Plateau State; it generally lasts until mid-September. Before long, the crisp, brown landscape will turn into lush green vegetation, mosquitoes will flourish (along with malaria, I assume), and Nigerians will sleep deeply to the sound of rain hitting their roofs and cars. Ah, there’s nothing like a good downpour to cure insomnia.

(Photos from two of my trips.)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Happy Nigerian Mother's Day

According to (who knew there was such a site?) and my Faith Alive friend Johnson Rotimi, today is Mother’s Day in Nigeria. He said the celebratons include, but aren’t limited to fathers and children buying gifts for their mothers and/or taking them to an eatery for a treat, women being in charge during church services,and some clubs and organizations giving awards to deserving moms. The technologically savvy ones send their mothers texts and emails as well.

Apparently Ireland and the UK also celebrate mothers today, unlike North America where we honor our moms on the 2nd Sunday in May. So, in honor of Nigerian mother’s day, today’s post is dedicated to my mom.

Click here to listen to an African musical tribute to mothers: Sweet Mother.

(Photo of my wonderful mom. The handsome man with her is her husband of 50 years and my dad.)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Fear Is Not From God

When I want to truly hear and understand the word of God, I go to my Nigerian friend, Pastor Esther. I asked her how she is ministering to people in light of all this violence, and she cited some Bible verses.

The first is 2 Timothy 1:7. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but a spirit of power, love and self-discipline.” (NLT)

Secondly, she cited Psalm 91:

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’
Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day,
Nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday…..
‘Because he loves me,’ says the Lord, ’I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.’”(NIV)

(Photo courtesy of Frank Lozano)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Seeking Peace

I'm devouring the Internet to find helpful information to poast about the violence in Jos. Photos of innocent children slashed and mutilated? Hardly beneficial, unless you want to be sick to your stomach, really. Instead, I found a thought-provoking video by fourthlinefilms that highlights a Christian Pastor and a Muslim Businessman, both victims of the 2008 crisis who desire peace for their beloved Nigeria. It's seven minutes, and slow to load, but WELL worth the time. Click here to see it. Feel free to grab a cup of coffee while it loads, but remember to come back and watch it!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Detainees Talk

“JOS, Nigeria — Dispassionately, the baby-faced young man recounted his killings: two women and one man, first beaten senseless with a stick, then stabbed to death with a short knife.

"The man, Dahiru Adamu, 25, was crouching on the floor in the sprawling police headquarters here, summoned to give an accounting of the terrible night of March 7, when, he said, he and dozens of other herdsmen descended on a slumbering village just south of here and slaughtered hundreds with machetes, knives and cutlasses in a brutal act of sectarian retribution.”

Click here to read complete article. (Photos from the Associated Press, of detainees and confiscated weapons)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What If?

Daniel reports today that while Jos is calm, it is also tense. Everyone is watching and waiting, again sleeping with one eye open. Will people retaliate for the genocide of innocent women and children last weekend in a nearby village? The uncertainty and worry is too much for some, who are leaving Jos. They need their government to find and prosecute the murderers. Otherwise they fear that people will take matters into their own hands. The "what ifs" are preying on everyone's minds.

Faith Alive is open, although there are fewer patients coming this week. Praise God for the faithful staff who continues to treat both Christians and Muslims, many of whom need their livesaving antiretroviral medications.

While Daniel talked, I heard little Chris coughing. We continue to wait and pray, hoping for some much anticipated good news.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

JOS - Jesus Our Savior

Those of you who have traveled to Faith Alive have met our beautiful Blessing. I spoke with her just now and she thanks everyone for your prayers. She asks for your prayers -- that Plateau State will experience peace, and that all (especially leadership) understand God’s wisdom.

She mentioned that many people are displaced, living with relations and friends because they don’t feel safe where they are. Blessing and her boys live in a one-room place, and are hosting a friend and three of her relations. I imagine this scene is replicated all across the region.

To cheer her and the girls in her shop, I asked them to sing a song. They burst into one of my favorites -- "Bend Low, Bend Low, Bend Low, and See What the Lord Can Do." What a lift to hear their beautiful voices, and Blessing's laughter amidst the pain.

I’m reminded that Dr. Chris refers to JOS as “Jesus Our Savior.” May He reign in their city, and in their hearts. I definitely see (and hear) Him in Blessing and the girls.

New Nigerian Security Advisor & Clinton Urges Justice

Nigeria’s Acting President Goodluck Jonathan fired the National Security Advisor and replaced him with Aliyu Gusau, a one-time National Security Adviser to former President, Olusegun Obasanjo. Click here for full story.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged Nigeria to arrest and try those responsible for killing hundreds of people near the city of Jos. ‘The Nigerian government should ensure that the perpetrators of acts of violence are brought to justice under the rule of law, and that human rights are respected as order is restored,’ she said.” (BBC online) Click here for full story.

Click here for a comprehensive article from the Wall Street Journal.
(Photo of Goodluck Jonathan - on the right - by Vangaurd)

Monday, March 8, 2010

New York Times Update

Read the New York Times article, March 9, 2010 for the latest reports. Please keep Nigeria in your prayers.

(Photo from New York Times website of a mass grave)

Faith Alive Okay

Just a quick update that the violence was not near the clinic, and that at this point all Faith Alive people are fine. However, the military's presence in Jos isn't providing the same sense of security they felt after the January crisis. Praying Philippians 4 for them. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, with prayer and petition, present your requests to God. And the peace of Christ, that transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."

Violence Begets Violence

The latest slaughter of mostly village Christians (many women and children) near Jos is assumed to be retribution for village killings (Muslim women and children) in January. We are praying for God to transform raging hearts into havens of peace. Yes, a miracle, but God has been known to perform a few of those.

Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s Acting President, “calls on all Nigerians to remain peaceful and law abiding, since violence only begets further violence. He also sympathises (sic) with those who have lost relatives and friends in these attacks, asking the Almighty to grant them the fortitude to bear the loss."

It’s not a coincidence that Faith Alive’s Spiritual Theme for March is “the cross and the crown.” While it reminds us that we too will have suffering and pain, it also reassures us that resurrection gets the last word.

(Click here for latest article in the New York Times)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

More Information About Latest Crisis

JOS, Nigeria (AP) -- Rioters armed with machetes slaughtered more than 200 people overnight Sunday as religious violence flared anew between Christians and Muslims in central Nigeria, witnesses said. Hundreds of people fled their homes, fearing reprisal attacks.

The bodies of the dead -- including many women and children -- lined dusty streets in three mostly Christian villages south of the regional capital of Jos, local journalists and a civil rights group said. They said at least 200 bodies had been counted by Sunday afternoon.

Torched homes smoldered after the 3 a.m. attacks that a region-wide curfew enforced by the country's police and military should have stopped.

The killings represent the latest religious violence in an area once known as Nigeria's top tourist destination, adding to the tally of thousands already killed in the last decade in the name of religious and political ambitions.

Jos lies in Nigeria's ''middle belt,'' where dozens of ethnic groups mingle in a band of fertile and hotly contested land separating the Muslim north from the predominantly Christian south.

In Dogo Nahawa, a village three miles (five kilometers) south of Jos, residents said the dead included a 4-day-old infant. Those who survived claimed their attackers shouted at them in Hausa and Fulani -- two local languages used by Muslims.

(Photo from Vanguard)

New Violence Near Jos

Kai, it seems that the violence continues. I'll post updates after I hear from some of my Nigerian friends. Until then, you can click here to read a BBC article or an Associated Press article.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Docs to Review Little Chris's Case

The Director of Gift of Life International told me that little Chris’s case is being reviewed this week by doctors. They will decide whether or not to say yes to provide lifesaving heart surgery for our dear three year old. Please pray for this miracle to happen!!!!

Check a previous post for some background about little Chris, who was named after Dr. Chris at Faith Alive.

Click on Gift of Life International and watch the video "CBS 10,000 Child Report."

Friday, March 5, 2010

Half the Sky

Half the Sky is a book that’s starting a movement to promote women’s rights around the world. It's based on a Chinese saying that women hold up half the sky.

Yesterday I attended a Fathom Event broadcast by the authors that included a short movie. It’s about a 21-year-old African woman who at age 13 or 14 was abducted, raped, and forced to marry her abductor. Who else would want to marry a girl without her virginity? With the help of her counter-culture father, she refused the marriage and today travels to villages to educate people about a better way.

The men she spoke with said they felt it was their right to take girls, and felt they had won a medal. What is wrong with that, they asked? The women spoke of being trapped in loveless marriages, forced to do most of the work. After being educated, one man publicly apologized to his wife, and even bowed to the ground and kissed her feet – what a moment!

Stories are powerful. I thank God that I have the opportunity to not only know people like this young woman, but to write about them. May others not only know their pain, but be inspired by their trimph and joy as God holds up ALL of the sky.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Three Funerals and a Wedding

After burying little Chris’s baby sister and two of his aunts, the Mwajims are celebrating the traditional wedding of their very dear friend, Dr. Ben, to his beautiful bride Chika. In Nigerian custom, there will also be a large church wedding that will include many more people. Dr. Ben and Chika are considered married now because her family has given her to Dr. Ben.

Daniel had the distinct honor of being “first witness” and collecting the dowry (given to the bride’s family from the groom). It included palm wine, naira (money), kola nut, yam, crates of beer, and even a goat that was killed, cut into pieces, and given to a select few to take home and eat with their families.

Blessings to Dr. Ben and Chika!

(Photos courtesy of Daniel. I can't enlarge them, but the second one is of killing the goat.)

Monday, March 1, 2010


For those of you just tuning in, I'm writing a book about hope and healing at Faith Alive. I will be pitching the book idea (lengthy proposal and three chapters) to agents at two writing conferences this spring. That means I'm knee-deep in rewriting and editing, with the help of my writers' groups and some wise friends and family.

Dr. Philip R. Fischer, Professor of Pediatrics at the Mayo Clinic and personal friend of Dr. Chris, sent me the following endorsement.

“Erika Nossokoff captures the drama of sacrificial humanitarian work, reveals the hearts of humble servants, and inspires readers. Prescribing Hope is a page-turner that keeps readers engrossed in the story of Faith Alive. Read it with caution, though - the story of Faith Alive is likely to inspire you to get involved, to join the Faith Alive story yourself. Reading this book carries a cost - you might well find yourself praying and sending money from home or, more excitingly, joining the work in Nigeria.”

Thanks to Dr. Fischer for his ongoing support of Faith Alive!