Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Doctors Strike

Dr. Chris says that Faith Alive has been "extremely busy" since the National Association of Residence Doctors (NARD) declared a strike. Patients at nearby government hospitals, including JUTH (Jos University Teaching Hospital), are scrambling to receive medical care. Many can't afford to pay what private hospitals charge, so are going to Faith Alive where they aren't asked to pay for prescriptions, tests, or services.

Please pray for the FA staff and facilities to graciously and effectively care for additional patients, and for the government and NARD to come quickly to a satisfying agreement.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Praise Team

Some people pay a lot of money to hear their favorite musical group. Not me. Mine is priceless. It's the Faith Alive Praise Team and their voices blend in the most heartfelt songs about Jesus. All I have to do is close my eyes, imagine I'm there, and let their music fill my heart.

(Dr. Chris sent me this snap.)

Monday, June 28, 2010


My wonderful husband and I celebrated twenty years of marriage in 2009. For that big occasion, I told Mark that he didn't need to get me anything. I only wanted one thing--for him to come with me to Nigeria.

This year we're celebrating our twenty-first anniversary a little closer to home, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Actually it's an add-on trip, on our way home from a memorial service in Idaho. Instead of being surrounded by ABCs and beautiful Nigerian children, we're standing on snow-capped mountains. Both are great. But to be completely honest, I prefer Africa.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Funerals and Ancestors

My precious 94-year-old grandma passed away recently, and I’m in Idaho today for her memorial service. Actually I’m here to officiate the service, meaning that I’m the one who sits up front like a pastor, reads the scriptures, and gives a short message. While we grieve over my grandma's death, we also celebrate her long and meaningful life. It’s comforting to know that she’s now in our Savior’s loving arms.

I like to compare our traditions with Nigerian ones. I’m told that funeral specifics vary between communities, tribes, cultures, and religions. A lot depends on if the deceased person is an adult, young man, baby, or religious person, and the cause of death. For example, last fall I was in an African village when gunshots erupted. After I dropped to the ground, Dr. Chris reassured me that the shots went into the air as a tribute to the village chief because of his honored position.

Many Nigerians believe there is another world where ancestors dwell and exert influence on the daily activities of the living. I wonder if elders started this belief so that their younger relatives would be nice to them! If my grandma has any influence over my life now, that would be a good thing because she would make sure that I had lots of good food, laughter, and love. Yep, she was that kind of grandma.

(Photo of me with my two grandmas in 2006. The one on the left is 95-years-old and still alive, and the one who passed away is on the right.)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Father's Day

For Father’s Day last Sunday, I gave my dad a card, a book about words (he’s a writer), and a coffee mug from the place where he celebrated 50 years of marriage to my mom. Following tradition, I also gave something to my husband Mark for being a great dad to our two kids. Well, actually the grill cover was from our dog Toby, but you can guess who bought it.

I asked Daniel, little Chris’s dad, what he did for Father’s Day. We had a good laugh when he said, “My wife couldn’t remember to tell me how good I am.” Isn’t that the truth, that it’s really up to the wife to honor her husband on behalf of their small children?

Nigerian Father’s Day brings to mind Baba, our cook at the Faith Alive guesthouse. The first time I visited, I thought Baba was his actual name. One day I got locked in my flat above the kitchen, so I went on the small balcony and hollered down to the kitchen. “BABA! BABA!” Imagine my surprise when a number of men on the street looked up to see a white woman hollering “FATHER! FATHER!”

Enjoy these African proverbs:

“If you know his father and grandfather, don’t worry about his son.” - African Proverb

“The son shoots a leopard; the father is proud.” - Congolese Proverb

“When you follow in the path of your father, you learn to walk like him.” - Ghanaian Proverb

“A mother is gold, a father is a mirror.” - Nigerian proverb

(Photo is of Baba, courtesy of Cathy McDermott. I still don’t know his real name!)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Really? I blogged yesterday about generators in Nigeria, the very same day that President Goodluck Jonathan appointed a Special Adviser on Power. Mr. Barth Nnaji is charged with developing and driving an action plan for a steady power supply in the country. Vanguaard News reports that “the newly appointed special adviser would also work with seven special assistants who would oversee the monitoring of performance and progress on specific power sector issues in the areas of generation, transmission, distribution, fuel-to-power, the National Integrated Power Project, BPE, regulatory issues; other transition enablers, and labour issues.”

All I know is that Faith Alive needs the electricity to flow on a regular basis. It's not really helpful when NEPA only turns on the power from midnight to 2 am.

It’s too bad that Mr. Nnaji wasn’t charged with giving special power to the Super Eagles yesterday in their last game of the FIFA World Cup 2010.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Vuvuzelas and Generators

In a little over an hour, the Super Eagles will play South Korea in their last game of first round play at the World Cup in South Africa. After two losses, it’s amazing that Nigeria still has a shot at advancing. But Nigerians are used to last chances and, dare I say, miracles.

They’re also used to a lot of background noise. While officials claim the vuvuzelas drown out their sideline instructions, the players have trouble hearing the referee’s whistles, and the spectators are annoyed by the buzz, Nigerians aren’t so bothered.

Why not? Because they’re used to noise. A cacophony of generators is constantly groaning in the background of their lives. Sylva Nze ifedigbo says of vuvuzelas at the World Cup, “So it’s no surprise that Nigerians aren’t complaining. Indeed they should be enjoying it. In fact, it should sound like sweet music to their ears. If all they have to worry about in the one month they are in South Africa is the noise from a pipe then they will sure prefer to relive it again and again. With steady power, good roads, trains that move, and a history so rich, who should be complaining of vuvuzelas?” Click here to read his complete article.

In the meantime, I’m putting on my green and white to watch the Super Eagles and listen to the buzz.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Successful Weekend

Thanks to everyone who donated their treasures for our garage sale, and to Mary Jo who bravely showed up at the end of the sale to take a few carloads of leftovers to a thrift store. However, the biggest thanks goes to my wonderful husband who got up early with me to cart everything to the driveway and help until the very end.

My goal was to raise $500, and God was good. We made $505 to send to Dr. Chris to spend on whatever he deems to be the greatest need. Finances at Faith Alive are especially tight right now during the transition to a new PEPFAR provider, so any and all donations for general use are greatly appreciated. If you want to make a tax-deductible donation, please write "Faith Alive General" on your check's memo line and send it to:

First Presbyterian Church
Erika Nossokoff
531 S. College Ave.
Fort Collins, CO 80524

About a dozen of the Colorado Faith Alive Family came over for a potluck bbq. We shared updates about FA and talked about Dr. Chris's next visit here. The photo above shows mostly the group that went with Russ to Jos last summer. Everyone sends their greetings to the Nigerian FA family.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Garage Sale Tomorrow

I'll bet you thought I'd blog about yesterday's World Cup game, but it's too sad. Our Super Eagles lost 2-1 with one man out because of a red card. There's still a glimmer of hope if Nigeria can beat S. Korea on Tuesday. Enough about that.

The real focus today is preparing for tomorrow's garage sale. Books, electronics, chairs, framed artwork, clothes, and loads of wicker stuff are filling our garage until tomorrow when they will hopefully be carted off by a slew of buyers. Thanks to those of you who are bringing things. All proceeds will benefit Faith Alive, so I'll drive a hard bargain.

It'll be great having a potluck barbecue tonight at our house with about a dozen or so local people who've been to Faith Alive. I'll try to take and post some snaps so our Nigerian Faith Alive family can see the Colorado Faith Alive family. The current Nigerian crises and political situation may keep us apart physically, but prayers, phone calls, and the Internet keep us connected.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Birthday Party

Last weekend, our family had the honor of hosting a small 40th birthday party for our Nigerian friend Debbie Gyang who lives in Fort Collins. She's only had one other birthday party in her life. Ours included dinner, chocolate cake, and a couple of little gifts and cards that her two-year-old daughter Teyei "helped" open. "It's my birthday," Teyei kept saying. I don't think she ever realized, or even cared, that we were celebrating her mom. Maybe that's part of the Nigerian family culture, versus our independent one, to identify so closely with your family members?

I wish I could host a birthday party for each of my Nigerian friends. Instead, I'll have to close my eyes and imagine singing, dancing, and celebrating their birthdays.

Here's to another year of life for us all, and for a victory (hopefully) for the Nigerian Super Eagles in their World Cup game today!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Little Chris Update

I can't believe two weeks have gone by since I blogged about little Chris. It's definitely not because I haven't been thinking about him. Here's what's happening behind the scenes:

1. Cori Stern of The Next Right Thing referred me to Tami at Children's Medical Mission West who is actively asking her doc and hospital connections to consider taking on little Chris's case. Her agency is the complete deal: doc, hospital, host family, etc.. The only downside I see with this option is that the parents aren't allowed to travel to the U.S.. Daniel is prepared to accept this if it gives his only son a fighting chance at life.

2. A Nigerian doc who oversees little Chris's doc is checking the cost to send little Chris to India for medical care through an agency called Heart Aid. A parent could go, and healthcare is apparently much less expensive there. If this option works, I'd start shamelessly asking people for donations. Consider yourselves forewarned.

3. A friend of a childhood friend of mine is a compassionate, generous, retired physician assistant back east with pediatric cardiologist friends. This PA has taken a great interest in little Chris's case and is actively pursuing options. I'm encouraged by his words, "God is good, and he's in a good mood."

4. Through a friend of a friend's contact with a pediatric cardiologist in Chicago, his surgical team plans to review little Chris's case (once the echo cardiogram I sent him arrives).

Yes, God is good, and He's sending us an army to fight for little Chris's life. Who knows. One of these might be the full deal, or they might end up fitting together like puzzle pieces.

Dr. Chris says that "the best investment you can make is in human lives." On behalf of little Chris's family, I extend a BIG, BIG thank you for your prayers and support. May God continue to provide hope, and may we trust in His provision and love for us, whatever the outcome.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Children's Day: Part 4

As promised, here's Part 4 of Children's Day. These snaps show Nurse Caroline, affectionately called Caro, interacting with the children. While she is not a biological mother herself (at least not yet), she is like one to dozens and dozens of children who call her Auntie. Even big kids like me are drawn to her compassion and joy. Click here to read more about her.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Watching Enyeama and Onyewu

Try saying those names really fast ten times in a row, and it'll sound like yeyeyeye. Anyway, these Nigerian players are the ones I'm watching in the World Cup because they're from Nigeria. Sure, there's an entire team playing for the Nigerian Super Eagles, but only one is a standout--super goalie Vincent Enyeama. His superior play on Saturday against Argentina held them to just 1-0. The damage would've been far worse without him.

Oguchialu Onyewu is a Nigerian who plays for the United States. While his teammates call him Gooch, his full first name means "God fights for me." He got his father's athleticism; his dad used to play soccer in Nigeria.

My son Austin will be wearing his green Super Eagles jersey on Thursday for Nigeria's match against Greece before he dons his red, white and blue on Friday for the U.S. versus Slovenia game.

(Photos: Enyeama is wearing the yellow goalie jersey, and Onyewu is in white.)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Soccer Saturday

"Hi Erika pls dont 4get to cheer our super eagles up ohhhhhhh." Thanks for the facebook reminder, Nna, but it really wasn't necessary because I've been looking forward to this for MONTHS. (Click here to read my November 14, 2009 post.)

It's supposed to be cold and rainy in Fort Collins tomorrow, but our family won't notice. We'll be watching the Nigerian Super Eagles play against Argentina in the World Cup. And, oh yeah, we'll also watch the United States challenge England.

If you want to know more about the Super Eagles, click here. The official FIFA World Cup South Africa website states that "the continent’s most populous nation looks likely to be a dangerous dark horse with little to lose up against the world’s best." Whatever kind of horse it is, I hope it's a winning one. Nigerians could use some victories.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Children's Day: Part 3

Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me; O LORD, be my help. You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever. Psalm 30:10-12 (NIV)

Hopefully these pictures speak for themselves. The middle one shows Dr. Chris in the thick of things, and the bottom picture is Jacinta, the Faith Alive Foundation Chairperson.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Churches Destroyed in Jos

Dr. Chris requests continued prayers for peace and safety in Jos. He says, "Thanks for your continued prayers. Today, Wednesday 9th, things deteriorated and a few churches were destroyed. At least I visited Good News church near Bukuru park that has all the outside made of glass--all glasses were destroyed with stones. Commercial activities came to a stand still for several hours. God bless."

May God provide an extra measure of protection for the Faith Alive Family, and empower them to be agents of His peace, forgiveness, and hope.

I Will Not Forget You

Last Sunday, the members of Immanuel Reformed Church in Fort Collins pledged to "Embrace AIDS" and not forget the Save-A-Life patients at Faith Alive. Each person wore a red ribbon that had one patient's name written on it, and were encouraged to write that name on their palms. Led by Pastor John Terpstra, they recited Isaiah 49:15 & 16a: " "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget,I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands."

If there were no Jos crises or presidential challenges this year, Pastor John, Dr. Larry, and a group from their church would be at Faith Alive this week. Dr. Larry has been there two other times and he didn't need to use words to express how much he wants to go again. His teary eyes spoke volumes.

The pics are: 1. Dr. Larry's wife Susan with me (Susan went to Jos last year and fell in love with all the sewing school girls); 2. Pastor John at the information table; and 3. me with Sara Cawley, Pastor John, Dr. Larry, and Dr. John Cawley. Sara and John went to Faith Alive with Dr. Larry last year. Russ isn't pictured because he was engrossed in a conversation about Faith Alive (surprise, surprise).

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Children's Day: Part 2

As promised, here's the second part of a series about Faith Alive's recent Children's Day. Do you recognize any of the kids? I scanned the pictures, looking for little Chris, but Daniel said that little Chris was only able to be there for a short while.

The balloon-blowing contest was apparently for kids of all ages. The adult winner was Joshua Marcus (far right), aka Computer Man, whose balloon was the first to burst. He beat Musa (far left, faithful maintenance worker and past winner of the Servant of the Month award), Bernard (in charge of the rec center), Pastor Sunday (currently working in Monitoring & Evaluation), and John Daniel (finance expert).

Monday, June 7, 2010

Motorcycle Mayhem

Dr. Chris asks for our prayers for the latest violent episode in Jos.

Nigeria: Motorcyclists and police clash, killing 6
6/7/2010, 2:55 p.m. EDT
The Associated Press

(AP) — JOS, Nigeria - Witnesses say motorcycle taxi drivers angry about a ban on their business in a city plagued by religious violence clashed with police, leaving at least six people dead.

Police had begun arresting motorcyclists in the central Nigeria city of Jos on Monday over the ban, which witnesses say sparked the violence. Police used tear gas and shot at the motorcyclists to disperse them.

Witnesses say two of the dead were police officers, though a spokesman declined to immediately confirm the deaths.

Taxi men had filed a lawsuit to oppose the ban.

The ban by the Christian majority government comes after a period of religious violence in the region and the deaths of more than 500 people since the beginning of the year. Most of the drivers are Muslim.

I took this photo in February 2008 of some random motorbike (okada) drivers who asked for me to snap their photo.

Three More for the Army

Growing up with a pacifist Mennonite heritage, I never much liked military terms. But for some reason, I think the army analogy is fitting. God is bringing together a variety of people to fight for something bigger than themselves--a little boy's life.

Just since Friday, I've talked with a compassionate minister who lived on my block when I was five years old and knows a kind philanthropist looking for something like this to support. Also, a fellow Victim Advocate in town knows a prominent pediatric cardiologist in New York she's contacting, and a young woman leader of a foundation that's successfully secured surgery for other young Nigerian heart patients has joined our efforts. Praise God, they are ready to take up arms on little Chris's behalf. Well, okay, not arms per se, but fingers to call and email their contacts, and hearts to care. Long shots? Maybe. But maybe not.

I'm ashamed to say that on Friday I did lose hope that our great God would provide. But as Daniel, little Chris's dad, reminds me, "Delay does not mean denial." Also, Dr. Chris says that God will provide IN HIS TIME.

Would you please let me know if you have any ties with pediatric cardiologists, their hospitals, or people who might be moved to share their monetary wealth for a great cause?

Let's see what God will do and who He will bring to join us in this fight for little Chris's life.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Gathering an Army for Little Chris

Please help!!!!! We just learned today that little Chris, our precious three-year-old Nigerian boy, will not get lifesaving heart surgery in Uganda as we had hoped. If you have ANY leads or connections with any pediatric cardiologists, please let me know. The odds of being helped by Gift of Life International are very slim and we need new doors to open. GOLI's director, Rob, has worked very hard to help us but just today heard from a surgeon that little Chris may need more than one surgery. The docs and hospitals that GOLI work with shy away from complicated medical cases that they offer for free.

Surely there is a doc and a hospital that want to literally save a little boy's life. We need to pray with extra fervor and build an army of people actively advocating for little Chris. Will you please join us?

Children's Day: Part 1

Joshua sent me a dozen or so snaps (Nigerian lingo for photos) of Children's Day. I can only imagine how excited the neighbor kids were to see the decorations go up as they waited for the gate to open and the fun to begin!

Enjoy Part 1 today of the first kids arriving. Check next week's posts for Parts 2, 3, and 4 as more children flock to the park to join the celebration as it gets into full gear. While you're waiting, click here to see snaps of Faith Alive's Christmas party for children.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Kay Warren

Bummer. Kay Warren won’t be endorsing my book. It was a long shot, I know, to even ask the wife of “America’s Pastor” (Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life), but it was worth a try. Here’s the kind response her Executive Assistant sent me:

“With the multiple areas of life where Mrs. Warren walks as a wife, mother, grandmother, pastor's wife, author, speaker, and international advocate for vulnerable children, women and men, and for those who live with HIV and AIDS, it isn’t possible for her to accept all the invitations and requests that are asked of her, and we must decline your very kind request. We do very much appreciate your understanding, and wish you much success as you continue on the journey to publish your book.”

I really appreciate Kay’s…um, Mrs. Warren’s…continued advocacy for people with HIV and AIDS. I highly recommend her book, Dangerous Surrender. It’s going to be re-released under the name Saying Yes to God. I’d lend you my copy of DS, but all the underlining and side notes I made would be distracting. Yes, it’s that good.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Table of the Lord

From Pastor Ben, about Faith Alive’s spiritual theme:

“The theme for the month of June is 'THE TABLE OF THE LORD.' We want to join with King David and exclaim and affirm the awesome provision of God who has seen us through the hard times and is still seeing us through. Indeed he has prepared a table before us in the presence of our enemy and so we will continue to eat and enjoy from that table. On that table we found peace, joy, healing, salvation, wealth, love, etc . These will all sustain us through any face of life. We echo out this to all our friends that God has prepared a table and has given out invitation to all to come and partake from it. TO YOU THE RECEIVER AND READER OF THIS, YOU HAVE A BIG PORTION ON THAT TABLE, SO ENJOY IT THROUGHOUT THIS MONTH AND FOREVER.”

Psalm 23 (NIV), A psalm of David.

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death, [a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

More Than a Game

Coach Lars Lagerback and his 23-man soccer team, the Nigerian Super Eagles, arrived today in South Africa for the World Cup. Big news in America? Not so much. Big news in Nigeria? Absolutely! I don’t know of a single person at Faith Alive who won’t at least try to find a television to watch their team play against Argentina on June 12 or against Greece on June 17. Yes, “their” team. It’s the biggest unifier of different tribes and religions. You can bet that NEPA will turn on the electricity for those games or risk a major backlash.

Sports writer Patrick Malee’s article in the Oregon Daily Emerald sums it up well. “You may not love soccer, or even like it enough to watch more than five minutes of a match. But its impact on the world is undeniable and highly unique. Don’t believe me? Turn on the World Cup next week. Watch closely as 70,000 people wave their flags as one. Listen to each country’s chants as they are passionately repeated. Do all that, and try to tell me soccer doesn’t mean something. Maybe writing about sports isn’t so shallow after all.”

If you're still not convinced about the power of sports on societies, just watch the movie Invictus.