Friday, July 30, 2010

Prayer Points

There are two main ways that you can help save little Chris's life: PRAY and DONATE (money through Hope for West Africa or airline miles on Emirates Airlines). Daddy Daniel has some specific prayer points:

1. Pray for the success of the surgery.
2. Pray for the safe trip back and fro.
3. Pray for the success of all the processes involved. (*Erika's note: this includes raising enough funds!)
4. Pray for God to bless all the families of those that pray for us and/or donate their money toward the heart surgery.
5. Pray over the doctors that will do the surgery, that God will give them more wisdom to avoid any mistakes.
6. Pray for my family in the U.S. (Erika and family), that God will guide them in all their endeavors.
7. Pray for my Nigerian family, that God will keep them well and happy.
8. Pray for Faith Alive and Heart Aid International for their support to see this surgery take place. (*Erika’s note: Heart Aid is the Nigerian non-profit that linked us to the doctor in India).
9. Pray that God will progress my family in all areas of our endeavors and make us serve GOD with all our hearts no matter the circumstances around us.

We know that our fundraising goal of $10,000 is big, but our God is even bigger. Let's see what He will do.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Operation Little Chris

“Operation Little Chris” is swinging into full gear today! We just received official approval from both Faith Alive and Hope for West Africa to raise funds to send 3-year-old little Chris to Bangalore, India for his desperately needed heart surgeries. The mission: to save his life.

What is the cost of a life? That’s hard to say. My husband Mark and I believe that God has a plan for little Chris and the Mwajims, and ask that you prayerfully consider being part of it. Our hope is to raise $10,000 for the first two surgeries (exploratory and reparative), and then trust God for the next steps (probably another surgery a few years from now). Call it a risk or a leap of faith, but we’re taking it. Will you please consider joining us with prayer and/or monetary contributions as you are able? All donations are tax-deductible through Hope for West Africa (click here for donation instructions). No amount is too small or too large (any excess donations will go toward other children Dr. Chris recommends for emergency care). We hope to get little Chris’s surgery as soon as possible—time is of the essence.

Also, please let me know if you can donate frequent flier miles for Emirates Airlines.

On behalf of the Mwajims, we extend our most sincere thanks.

(Enter "Little Chris" in "Search this blog" to read more about him and our efforts on his behalf.)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Moi Moi

This week I'm writing a chapter about someone who, as a young girl, had to get up at 3 am every day to start preparing moi moi for her aunt to sell. Thanks to google, I learned that this distinctively Nigerian food is made from soaked, peeled and blended black eyed beans mixed with seasonings and cooked onions (cooked tomatoes optional). Peeled beans? No wonder she and her siblings had to get up so early to have the moi moi ready at 7 am.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Women Power

Okay, I had to check this out after seeing so many facebook comments by my Nigerian friends. Apparently the Falconets beat my team. The Falcon-whos? After a google search, I see why Nigeria’s celebrating. The Falconets (Nigerian’s U-20 women’s soccer team) beat the United States (defending champions) at the FIFA U-20 Women’s competition in Germany during a dramatic penalty shootout. Nigeria advances to Thursday’s semi-final against Colombia. It seems that the talented young women are accomplishing what the Nigerian men didn’t in the FIFA World Cup.

Monday, July 26, 2010

School's Out for Summer

While our stores are filled with back-to-school clothes, backpacks, notebooks and crayons, children in Jos are just starting their summer break. On Friday, they said saanjima (see you later) to their teachers, classmates, school uniforms and final exams.

Little Chris aced his tests (yes, tests in nursery school!). He can count to 50, recite all his ABCs and identify shapes and colors. While older children might be excited to have a few months without classes, I know one precious three-year-old who will eagerly wait for school to begin again.

(Photo, courtesy of Mollie Bartholomew, is of Elim Elementary School. Little Chris attends a school closer to his home.)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Yankari Game Park

Last week I blogged about Greg Campbell, author of Blood Diamonds and contributing author of Lonely Planet’s West Africa, Vol. 3 travel guidebook (among other books). I’m taking a four-part class from him on Narrative Nonfiction, and this week I asked him about his experiences in Jos, Nigeria.

As part of his guidebook research, he stayed at Hill Station and enjoyed their great food. While the accommodations were luxurious by Nigerian standards, I’m sure their hospitality didn’t match what I receive from the Faith Alive family each time I’m in Jos.

He also traveled outside Jos to the Yankari Game Park that my daughter visited with the Isicheis a few years ago. “Were there a lot of monkeys?” I asked him, remembering Jenny’s descriptions. Greg’s eyes widened as he recalled one specific morning there. He’d just used his treasured French press to make a decent cup of coffee, and went outside to breathe in the scenery. He heard a thrashing sound through the bush and looked up to see dozens of baboons on a warpath that led straight to him. He said he was barely able to leap safely back into his room before the crazed primates attacked his coffee. I can only imagine what advice he put in his guidebook.

(The pictured sign is from Yankari.)

Thursday, July 22, 2010


“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48 (NIV)

Pastor Ben tells me that Faith Alive’s spiritual theme for July is "perfection.” He encourages us to continue to build and improve on what we have attained “until the perfect likeness of God, which is Jesus the Son, becomes obvious in us and our services to humanity.”

He says, “Perfection is all about completion, so we must aim at completing well whatever we have started so long God is in it. We must work to improve our today, to give us a better tomorrow, for our tomorrow should be closer to God than today. The closer we are to him (the author and perfecter of our faith), the more perfect we shall become.”

How apt that Pastor Ben is preaching about perfection in July, this seventh month. “Seven is a perfect, complete number,” he says. “God rested on the seventh day, Naaman’s leprosy was cleansed after his seventh dip in river Jordan, there are seven spirits of God, seven trumpets, seven bowls, seven churches of Asia, seven Angels, and seven days in a week. Elijah prayed seven times to bring down the rain after the three and half years of drought in Israel…Welcome to July, welcome to the journey of perfection, welcome to God's image and likeness.”

“Let's work to complete well what we have stated in him,” Pastor Ben says. “Let no one hear you idly saying, ‘no one is perfect.’”

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Prado Returns

December 22, 2009 was the day before Dr. Chris’s 51st birthday and three days before a young Nigerian “underwear bomber” attempted to blow up an airplane over the United States. While my biggest concern that Tuesday was where to put the sugarplums on a gingerbread house, Dr. Chris was on the other side of the world, praying to live through the night.

His recap of that evening, minus the horrific abduction details, is this:

“While in search of a loan to pay my staff their December salary (due to failure of CRS/AIDSRelief to send funds when due) I was trailed by three armed robbers who dehumanized me and left with the Prado Jeep. A month later, I got some messages from Cameroon that two of the robbers had been caught; the vehicle was also recovered from them.

“I finally picked up the car and it’s now in Jos in good shape. Apart from the spare tire that the robbers sold out on their way, the car is intact. However, despite the new battery that we put in when collecting the vehicle, it took hours to start. Goddy and I discovered that the car must have stopped them on the way, but they managed to fix the car as the electrical system and fuel pump were tampered with.

“Three of the robbers woke up after an overnight stay in a hotel in Mora, Cameroon—border between Borno State(Nigeria) and Cameroon. They all three were working on the car, including attempting to change the plate number when a Cameroonian policeman was passing by. He suspected something was wrong for three persons to be changing a plate number. He confronted the men and one immediately fled. The other two were arrested.

“During one of my visits to Cameroon with Goddy, I was able to identify the leader of the gang and the second person. I hugged and prayed with them. I plan to visit them before the expiration of their four-year jail term.”

(Photo of Goddy, Dr. Chris's driver, washing the Prado in fall 2009. I waited to blog about the Prado incident until it was successfully recovered and I got Dr. Chris's permission.)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Christian Pastor’s Family Among Those Killed

Just when it seemed safe to sleep soundly in Jos, Nigeria, another group of militants attacked the nearby Mazah village. Rev. Huhu Dawat, a Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) Pastor, recounted Saturday morning.

"It was at about 1:30 am when I heard a knock on my door. I went and opened the door but did not see anybody, so I went back into the house. A few minutes later we started hearing sporadic gun shots. It was then I escaped into the farmland near my house, but my family was not fortunate enough to escape too. My wife, daughter, son and grandson have all been killed."

To read the full article in the Nigerian newspaper “This Day,” click here. Please keep Rev. Dawat in your prayers as well as others who relive their pain and fear each time violence erupts. May there be a lasting peace in Jos.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Save-A-Life Sponsors

Yesterday I had the privilege of meeting two cheerful Save-A-Life sponsors visiting from Albuquerque, New Mexico. SAL is a grassroots program that matches sponsors with HIV+ patients at Faith Alive; Trish Miller and her daughter Diane each finance two patients’ antiretroviral medications.

We enjoyed a delicious lunch and engaging conversation at a local Mexican restaurant. Diane laid a small, ornate King Tut tomb on the table and removed a handful of her daily medications. In addition to diabetes and a few other medical problems, Diane is HIV+ and has to religiously take her pills every day.

She actually learned about SAL at her local AIDS clinic. Apparently another Faith Alive supporter had wisely placed brochures there. Thankful for her own medical care, Diane felt a strong pull to help others who couldn’t possibly afford their lifesaving prescriptions.

After lunch, I told the generous mother-daughter duo, “Thank you so much. Without their medication, your SAL patients wouldn’t be alive.” Diane said, “Me neither, without mine.”

(Photo of Trish and Diane wearing jewelry that Diane designed. She gave me permission to blog about her HIV+ status.)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Hope For West Africa

Faith Alive and Dr. Chris really do change lives, and not just in Nigeria. I'm getting to know Diane Blattner who visited Faith Alive and returned to Maryland to start a non-profit. It's called Hope for West Africa, and its mission is to "cultivate partnerships to advance and support programs for those infected or affected by HIV/AIDS in West Africa." Click here to read more.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Narrative Nonfiction

I’m taking a four-part Narrative Nonfiction writing course from Greg Campbell, author of Blood Diamonds. No, he didn’t write the brilliant yet horrific Blood Diamond movie that’s set in Africa, but the movie’s scriptwriter used Greg’s book as a primary reference.

Narrative nonfiction is a relatively new term for using literary techniques (story telling, dialogue, scenes, and description) to capture a real subject. That’s what I’m learning to do with the book I’m writing about Faith Alive. I say “learning” because my college journalism courses focused on the good old fashioned who, what, when, where, and why of writing. Greg is teaching us to concentrate on the why and add the how.

His website says that he has reported from Nigeria. I plan to ask him next week about his experiences there and then let you know.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

More Soldiers to Fight HIV/AIDS

It's true. I run a personal sponsorship program for AIDS patients but don't really understand the science involved with fighting the virus.

So, here’s the kindergarten version for today’s post:

AIDS is bad. Our bodies need soldiers to fight it from entering our system, and from spreading inside us if it’s already there. Smart people in white lab coats have discovered some new soldiers to fight for us. Faith Alive has a system for counting soldiers.

The middle-school version is:

Antibodies are the first-line soldiers of the immune system. Produced by specialized cells in the body that recognize incoming viruses and bacteria, antibodies act as molecular barricades, latching onto and blocking pathogens from infecting healthy cells. This antibody response is the core of all vaccine-based disease prevention.

More advanced readers can click here to read the complete article in TIME magazine.

Whatever your level of comprehension, just know that this is good news in the search for a future cure for AIDS.

(Photo of an electron micrograph scan of HIV-1 budding from a cultured lymphocyte. Yeah, like I know what that means. But aren't the colors pretty?)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Little Chris Update

Many of you have asked about little Chris and our quest to get surgery for his fragile three-year-old heart. We’re so grateful to a number of doctors and supporters in the United States who have tried to secure free medical care here. Unfortunately, no hospital wants to take on the high cost of little Chris’s complicated heart condition.

The best option at this point is to send him to India for an evaluation and surgery, where medical costs are a small fraction of those in the United States. With the help of little Chris’s Nigerian doctors, I’ve talked with a surgeon in India who can do an evaluative procedure and surgery. This option is especially good because these Nigerian doctors have worked with Indian doctors before and they can collaborate directly.

The next steps are to finalize the channels for donations, send out fundraising letters, and then see what God will do. Please pray for this process and for little Chris’s heart to keep pumping while we go through these steps. We’re grateful to God that He’s brought together a compassionate group of people to stand for this precious little boy.

Monday, July 12, 2010

President on Facebook

Who has a new facebook account, 75,000 “fans,” and a developing country to lead? Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. He made a promise on May 15, 2010 to students and facility at the University of Port Harcourt to create a facebook fan page to communicate with his people. His first post on June 28 states, “...there is an unchallengeable power of good in the Nigerian nation and her youth and through this medium I want Nigerians to give me the privilege of relating with them without the trappings of the office.”

Apparently the President is listening to his fans and has already reversed a presidential decision. “I read your comments and took them into account in the government’s decision to rescind the suspension of Nigeria from International Football,” he said in his July 5 post. He had originally banned the Super Eagles after their loss in the first round of World Cup play.

My favorite post of his so far is this one on July 7. “We must be hopeful about the future. Our history has shown that Nigerians have a strong can-do-attitude and are capable of winning even in the face of very difficult circumstances.” Apparently over 109,000 of his fans also “liked” this.

You don’t have to be on facebook to follow his posts. Just click

(This is his facebook photo.)

Friday, July 9, 2010


This morning I was facebook chatting with little Chris's dad Daniel when I went offline. Hmmm. I restarted my laptop and tried to get online. Nothing. Nada. It wasn't until I went upstairs to check my wireless router that it dawned on me. No power. So I called the local electric company. A friendly woman said she was aware of the outage and had already sent repairmen on their way to fix the problem. Within thirty minutes, I was back in business.

It's probably only the second or third time in the past ten years that our house has been without power. When I talked later with Daniel about this, he couldn't believe it. Nigerians' electricity goes off at least that many times a DAY (if it's even on at all). The only way to truly imagine how they live, short of going there, is to try going without electricity for a week. Even then it will only be a taste.

I pray that Nigerians take heart. While their government might not give them electrical power, they still have God's power. And if I could only have one of the two, I think I'd chose God's.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sewing & Knitting Celebration

I wish I were at Faith Alive today to see and hear the sewing and knitting school girls at today's staff prayer meeting. Lydia, one of the sewing school leaders, said that the girls will sing, perform a little drama about sewing and knitting, and recite memory verses. They will graduate very soon, which will make room for about twenty new students to start. Congratulations to the graduates who will each get their own sewing or knitting machine (yes, there are knitting machines!) so that they can start their own businesses.

(Snap is of the sewing girls last fall holding photos from Susan Kieft.)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wonderful Weekends

Elim Elementary School Headmistress Kate Clement has always dreamed of opening an orphanage. In the meantime, she's started a weekend shelter for some of the school's OVCs (orphans and vulnerable children). Each Friday she selects eight children (four boys and four girls) and two teachers to go to an apartment in a relatively safe area of Jos. They spend quality family time together until Monday morning when she transports them back to Elim.

The weekend includes devotions, songs, games, dramas, exercises, meals, and siestas. It's so much fun that the children don't even mind helping with small domestic chores! They actually enjoy their time away so much that the non-OVC Elim students want to be part of the next selected group. But for now at least, the wonderful weekends are reserved for the OVCs.

Please let me know if you'd like to donate to Kate's costs for the weekend meals and transportation. She also very much appreciates prayers!

(Kate sent this photo. The woman in the middle who looks like a model is Kate's beautiful daughter. She's also a teacher at Elim.)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

More About the Twins

Dr. Chris sent these snaps to me of the twins born recently at Faith Alive. They're both boys, even though one is wearing pink. Maybe the mama was expecting one boy and one girl. Either way, it looks like the babies are warm and cozy. Praise God for these new lives!

Monday, July 5, 2010


This weekend, Americans celebrated 234 years of independence with fireworks, barbeques, hotdogs and apple pie. Whatever your politic leanings, there’s a sense of shared patriotism each 4th of July when we collectively look at our star-spangled banner and sing our national anthem.

On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, Nigerians are planning an October 1 celebration to mark 50 years of independence from British rule. This “Year of Jubilee” is a time to look back on how far they’ve come toward true democracy, as well as look forward to future advances. Like Americans, they're both discouraged and hopeful. Yet you can feel their fierce patriotism when they wave their green and white flags and sing.

Nigeria’s National Anthem, "Arise, O Compatriots" (1978-present)

Arise, O compatriots,
Nigeria's call obey
To serve our Fatherland
With love and strength and faith.
The labour of our heroes past
Shall never be in vain,
To serve with heart and might
One nation bound in freedom, peace and unity.
O God of creation,
Direct our noble cause;
Guide our Leaders right:
Help our Youth the truth to know,
In love and honesty to grow,
And living just and true,
Great lofty heights attain,
To build a nation where peace and justice shall reign.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Thursday, July 1, 2010


It's always fun to report good news, and this is no exception. Nurse Caro was "happy and honoured" to help deliver twin baby boys at the Faith Alive birthing center. Secretly, she wishes they were hers, but I think she'll let the real mama keep them.

(Photos are of Faith Alive's birthing table and modern shower.)