Friday, December 31, 2010

Greetings from the Nossokoffs

Happy new year in advance from my American family to my global Faith Alive family. Mark, Jenny, James, Austin, Toby and I send our greetings, gratitude for God's blessings, and great hope for a glorious new year. May God richly bless all of you who support Faith Alive's many ministries (health, skills-acquisition, counseling, education and training, emergency fund, counseling, prayer, support group, soccer, etc.) with your thoughts, prayers, money, and/or time/skills.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

News About Nigeria

Want to get the latest news about Nigeria? Sure, you can go to your favorite western sources. But to hear what Nigerians themselves are saying, I also go to or They're clearinghouses for local news and editorials. Browse to your heart's content.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dancin' in Church

If anyone thinks that church is boring, then they haven't worshipped in Nigeria. Sure, some church services there spill into hours, but there's always singing and dancing. Full body participation. What an uplifting experience to come into God's presence with joy.

My prayer is that Christians in Jos return to their churches to celebrate God's victory. They were denied that this Christmas day (due to the Christmas eve bombings), but will soon gather together to lift hands and sway.

(2009 photos courtesy of Frank Lozano)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Good News

Who among us doesn't need good news? That's Faith Alive Hospital's spiritual theme for December, based on Luke 2:10. May you be encouraged (especially those of you in Jos who are experiencing some reprisal violence)as you read Pastor Ben's interpretation.

"The angel that announced the birth of Jesus, declaring, 'I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.' Why was the birth of Jesus a good news to the world? This is the question we shall try to consider.

“The news about the appearance of Jesus became ultimately good news worthy of acceptance and spreading because of the good it came with to mankind. The summary of the goody goodies that accompanied the appearance of Jesus is found in Isaiah 61.

“To the poor, the good news is, he was anointed to preach to them.
To the broken hearted, he was sent to bind their broken heart.
To the captives, he came to announce freedom for them.
To the prisoners, he came to set them free.
To unmerited and unqualified, he came to show them favor.
To those who mourn, he came to comfort them.
To those who lack and grieve, he came to provide for them.
To those in ashes, he works to give them beauty.
He replaces mourning with oil of gladness.
He places garment of praises on those who are depressed.
To the sick he is the healer.
To those in darkness he is the light.
The poor he made rich.
To the sinners he came to save.
He is advocate to the offenders.
To the hungry he is the bread of life.
To the thirsty he is living water.
The list may continue inexhaustible.
Who will say he does not need him, as he is everything to all and a solution to all mankind’s problems.
The good news that was announced by the angels has become the gospel we preach today. Therefore, Christmas will not be complete, if eat, drink and sending gifts but fail to spread the gospel.
Angels announced and spread it to the shepherds; the Magi announced and spread it in Jerusalem; now it is our turn to spread it in our environment.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Staying Indoors

I've talked with a few friends in Jos, Nigeria and am glad that they're safe. Instead of their normal Christmas-time festivities, they've all pretty much stayed indoors. No church services. No traveling to and from their home villages. No reason to gather where their enemies might want to cause harm.

I imagine that about the only people moving about are the police and medical workers. With so many injuries, doctors are working overtime. Surely Drs. Chris and Mercy have been part of the selfless, hardworking army of physicians.

Whoever bombed parts of the city might've taken away this Christmas's celebrations, but they can't take away the lasting joy of knowing Jesus Christ. God in all His glory has the final victory.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Please Pray for Jos

On this day of joy and celebration as we remember the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, we stop to pray for Jos, Nigeria. Just last night, Christmas eve, CNN reports that five separate blasts occurred in and around the city. Dr. Chris asks for our prayers.

I'll keep you posted with any news that's appropriate to share. Wherever you are, whenever you're reading this, would you please take some time to pray for lasting peace in Jos? Nagode (thank you).

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Blessings From...Blessing

I think everybody who visits the Faith Alive Hospital in Nigeria knows Blessing. She's the beautiful, friendly young woman whose sewing shop is between the hospital and guesthouse. Smiles, hugs, and encouraging words are her trademarks. With her, every guest is special.

She doesn't use a computer much, but readily talks on her handset (phone). Here's her off-the-cuff greeting:

"Happy Christmas to all of you! It's not about eating, but it's about sharing love. The boys are doing well. May the Lord bless everybody."

Amen. Blessings from Blessing for us all.

(Photo taken by Frank Lozano last year.)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Greetings from Johnson in Jos

Continuing our Christmas greetings is Johnson Rotimi, aka "soldier-counting-man." I call him that because I met him in the lab at Faith Alive Hospital in Nigeria. He was kind enough to give me a kindergarten-level explanation of how blood is tested to reveal people's CD4 counts (also called soldiers that work to fight infections). CD4 counts indicate whether or not people's HIV has entered into or out of the AIDS stage. (Yes, people can actually improve out of AIDS and back into HIV if they faithfully take their daily anti-retroviral medications and don't develop a resistance to it.)

Anyway, here is Johnson Rotimi's message:

"A man is at his finest towards the finish of the year;
He is almost what he should be when the Christmas season's here;
Then he's thinking more of others than he's thought the months before,
And the laughter of his children is a joy worth toiling for.
He is less a selfish creature than at any other time;
When the Christmas spirit rules him he comes close to the sublime...

Wishing everyone kindest regards and God's blessings in our families, vocations and all our lives' endeavour. Jesus is the reason for the season. MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM JOS."

(I took this snap when I was in Jos last year.)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pastor Ben's Wishes From Nigeria

When I want my faith to be rocked (in a good way), I turn to Pastor Ben at the Faith Alive Hospital in Nigeria. May his greeting this Christmas also move you.

“Christmas came with three gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. These I wish you all but with this caution.

As you enjoy the gold and frankincense, take note of bitterness (myrrh) that may come along the way.

As you echo out the songs of joy the angels sang, remember also the voice and tears of those in pain at this period because Rachael also mourned in Bethlehem for her children and refused to be comforted.

To those who are confused as to what direction to go, I wish you look up and be led by the star of Christmas to your destiny.

Breaking news! ...Don’t be afraid. Behold, I bring you good news. Today a savior is born in Bethlehem……May that savior be born in you today.

As they came to Bethlehem, they met Mary with the Child. As you celebrate Christmas, may people find you with that child.

Gold and frankincense were found in the manger because of Jesus. May your life be decorated with all the gifts of God at this season.

Mary and Joseph ran away with the baby. May you not leave Jesus behind because of problems, but carry him along.

Christmas attracted three diplomatic guests (magi) to Bethlehem. May your life attract important guests that will add joy and greatness to your life at this period.

Mary and Joseph escaped the sword that came to Bethlehem. May you escape all evil that may arise at this period.”

(Photo of Pastor Ben with his beautiful family, taken earlier this year.)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Greetings from Segun and the Children

Segun, leader of the Faith Alive Kiddies Club, sends his greetings and two photos from this year's Children's Christmas Party. He says, "Christmas time is a time to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,to comfort all who mourn, to give beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, the planting of the Lord that He may be glorified."

We join Segun and the children in thanks to God for another Christmas to celebrate.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Greetings from the Isicheis and Faith Alive Family

Last week I posted greetings from the extended Faith Alive family; thanks to everyone who submitted encouraging messages. It's with great joy that today we hear from Dr. Chris and his family.

"One handsome man had his life 'shattered' in obedience to God’s will--Joseph. One beautiful woman and indeed heroine of Christmas had her life 'shattered' in obedience to God’s will--Mary. They both took further risk in obedience to God’s will-—to run from a familiar place and from Herod by taking the child to Egypt. Their earthly son Emmanuel, God with us, followed the steps of his earthly father and mother and obeyed both his earthly parents and more importantly, His Heavenly father TO THE END. Jesus Christ, the son and our Saviour, also God the Father in human flesh. Christmas signifies a lot and a time to rejoice for the transformation that has come into our world and lives, but more importantly a time to allow Him to 'shatter' our lives and have His way--a time of absolute obedience.

We wish to use this Christmas and new season to wish all our parents, brothers, sisters, friends, children, cousins, and indeed ALL our prayer partners and numerous supporters a BLESSED HOLY SEASON MARKED BY ABSOLUTE SURRENDER TO HIS WILL IN OUR LIVES, CAREERS/PROFESSIONS AND INDEED ALL WE DO."


(Photo of Drs. Chris and Mercy Isichei and their children, wearing traditional Nigerian clothes, taken earlier this year.)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Marcey & the Children's Christmas Party

I'm going to break from tradition and post on a Saturday because this timing is perfect. Marcey Norman from Canada was in Nigeria last year at this time and sends her greetings. She references the children's Christmas party, which is actually today. I'll post snaps of the party once I get them.

"Hey everyone!I can't believe that it's been almost a year since I was with you all preparing to celebrate the season with the children's Christmas Party. Words can't describe how blessed I am to be able to say that I spent even a short amount of time with you. The work that you do and the selfless manor that you do it in astounds me! I often think about you and have spent many hours sharing stories about Faith Alive. I have had a lot of new and exciting experiences over the past year and God continues to teach me new lessons every day. I just wanted to take this opportunity to wish you a VERY MERRY Christmas and all the best in the New Year. My continual prayer for you is one of peace and joy. I trust that God will continue to reveal himself in new and exciting ways and you will continue the wonderful journey that you are on with him. Thank you for being you! Love Marcey"

(This photo of Marcey was taken at the party in 2009.)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Pastor Cindy's Greetings

Today's greeting comes from Pastor Cindy of Fort Collins, Colorado. She came with me to Nigeria in 2009.

"Christmas Greetings to all who are part of the Faith Alive family!

Recently I had the honor of speaking as part of a panel discussion at my college reunion. They asked what I had learned from my humanitarian travels and I was able to talk about how I have new heroes in my life—heroes who are living sacrificially and are living to serve others and to serve a cause larger than themselves. As I was talking, in my mind’s eye, I saw all of you! You are heroes to me in the way that you trust unquestionably in God and in how you live a life of joy and faith and service to God and God’s people! I am just one of many people who return from the Faith Alive clinic inspired by your joyful hearts and your sacrificial service. What a powerful example you are of living in light of the kingdom of God and in the footsteps of Jesus!

I wish you well this Christmas season and pray that 2011 is a rich year of serving in the name of Christ! Blessings, Cindy"

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pastor Rich Remembers

I think it was in 2007 that Pastor Rich and his daughter Cathy visited Faith Alive. Inspired by all that they saw and heard, Cathy returned to the United States with a new plan for her life--to become a doctor. Her dad (one of my pastors), often refers in his sermons to Faith Alive and Dr. Chris. Pastor Rich sends his greetings to Nigeria.

"Dear Friends at Faith Alive:

It is with great joy that I remember you all as you faithfully serve our Lord Jesus Christ in Nigeria. You all continue to inspire me and our congregation with your diligent and amazing love for all of God's children in your care. May you be strengthened and encouraged as you remember the incarnation of God through the baby born at Bethlehem, and his great love for us all. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a deeply blessed New Year.

Much love in Christ,
Pastor Rich McDermott
First Presbyterian Church
Fort Collins, Colorado, USA"

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"White Jesus" Greets You!

Chris Harper of Fort Collins, Colorado continues this Christmas greeting series. Also known affectionately as "white Jesus" to our Nigerian family, Chris went with me to Faith Alive in January, 2008. He produced a few excellent videos from that trip; I've posted some on my blog, just to the right of this text.

Here's his greeting. "Merry Christmas to all of my friends in the Faith Alive family! I hope that each and every one of you are doing well and feeling blessed during this Christmas season. Just as God gave us Christ to bring hope to our lives, I remind you that what you are doing for the people of Jos brings them hope and joy - and it also shines as an inspiration to those of us halfway around the world as well. So keep fighting the good fight and may God continue to bless you all! In Christ's love, Chris (& Anna) Harper."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Greetings from John and Sara Cawley

Today's Christmas greeting comes from the Cawleys, a Fort Collins, Colorado couple. They shared their medical and teaching skills with Faith Alive in 2009.

"Greetings! We hope that this message finds you and your family happy and healthy. We are pleased to pass along the big news that we are expecting our first child, a boy, at the end of January. We feel so blessed this holiday season and hope that God's love continues to surround you daily. Thank you for touching our lives. Merry Christmas!!! Love, Sara and John Cawley"

(Please email me at if you'd like me to post a greeting from you. The more the merrier!)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Merry Christmas from Mollie and family

Today begins what I hope will be a series of Christmas greetings between the global Faith Alive family. Mollie from Fort Collins, Colorado starts us off with this message:

"Christmas and Happy New Year Greetings to the best people in the world! Hi Faith Alive! What a joyous time as we await our Lord's birth! Even during the struggles we are going through today and tomorrow, to know He is coming is so comforting and a reminder of the blessings we do have. Our ability to serve Him in all the ways he gives us passion to do is a great way to show gratitude to our great Lord. How exciting that we can share His love with others. You all are doing it every day! Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for loving our Lord like you do!! I miss you all tons and think of you every day!

An update from us. Kelty, our little girl, is 3. She talks all day long. She has learned some songs, blessings, and even 5 bible verses. Bible Class sewing women, you would be so proud of me! I have learned some verses by memory! Kelty and I are learning them together. Her favorite is "God's Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."

Keen has just turned 1! He is crawling everywhere and getting into everything! He smiles all the time. Rob is still working hard in insurance and I still continue to love my work in the church as Caring Director.

We love you and hope your Christmas is a time to reflect on the blessings God has put in your life! We love you! -Rob, Mollie, Kelty, and Keen Bartholomew"

If you have a greeting to share (from Nigeria, America, Canada, the UK, or wherever you live), would you please send it to me asap at Feel free to send an updated photo or two, although don't worry if that's too much trouble. I probably have a photo of you in my files (scary, huh?).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Counting Sheep?

Forget counting sheep. It doesn't work for me on those rare times I can't fall asleep at night. I once heard Dr. Chris tell someone with insomnia to not worry; use that time to talk with God.

Those who know me well, know that one of my favorite things each evening is to get in my jammies, crawl under the covers, and get a good night's sleep. Try as I might, I just couldn't fall asleep last night (which quickly turned into the wee hours of the morning). I took Dr. Chris's advice and prayed, rolled over, prayed, tossed and turned, prayed, and then got up and paid my bills online.

Nothing worked until I got back into bed and...imagined that I was under a mosquito net in one of the beds at the Faith Alive guesthouse. Safe. Loved. Protected. I soon started dreaming to the sound of generators rumbling outside my window.

(This 2008 photo is from my first trip, when I shared a room with Deenie. We felt like princesses under those nets, with dreams that really do come true.)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Faith Alive in 2011?

As I turn up my heater, the warmth of next summer seems so far away. But that doesn't stop me from wondering about my summer 2011 trip (God-willing) to Jos, Nigeria. Will I go alone or take a group of people? If I take others, I pray that a few of them will be from my church. I'd really like to build on our church's support for the Faith Alive Hospital and Elim Elementary School.

There's so much I want to do there. Spending time with my dear friends and family is definitely at the top of my list. I also want to get more details for my book, greet inspiring Save-A-Life patients, and visit the precious children at Elim. It'd be great to spend the entire summer in Nigeria, but I wouldn't want to do that unless my husband came for part of the time.

If you're interested in going with me, it's not too early to start praying and saving money (or frequent flier miles) for airfare. Please let me know if you feel a pull on your heartstrings. We can start our "flexible planning," knowing that God holds our future. He'll call who He wants and lead us when he wants.

(I chose a photo of a carry-on bag rather than a set of luggage. You'll be able to carry on everything you really need--honestly.)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Build Up Nigeria

If you’re like me, you love the United States of America. Sure, we have our share of problems. I’m not afraid to admit them. But I believe that our strengths outnumber them. This is my home country, and I’m proud of it.

I also love Nigeria, my second home. Nigerians are rightfully proud of their country and their people. Their president Goodluck Jonathan encourages them (and others) to build up Nigeria’s image. Today he posted a video on facebook (click here to see it), and said, “We should all learn from this video the importance of always thinking, speaking and acting good about Nigeria…If we Build Up Nigeria, Nigeria will build us up. GEJ”

I’m all for sharing the good aspects of Nigeria and its wonderful people. But I won’t sugarcoat the problems. This blog will continue to discuss both strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures, joys and sorrows--in both Nigeria and America. In the end, though, please know that I choose hope and joy. I agree with the “Build Up Nigeria” project “to attempt to highlight the positive side of Nigeria and get Nigerians to think and act positively about Nigeria so that Nigeria will be a better place for all of us.”

The Faith Alive Hospital and Elim Elementary School in Jos, Nigeria are a huge part of Nigeria's strengths. If you have any doubts about that country's future, just read about or visit these inspiring places. Then you, too, can build up Nigeria.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Gifts for a Cause

Dozens of people at First Presbyterian Church in Fort Collins decided to buy at least some of their Christmas gifts this year from agencies that support worthwhile causes. Sara Hunt (Save-A-Life Financial Administrator) and I "womaned" a booth for Faith Alive overall, Save-A-Life Personal Sponsorship Program, and Elim Elementary School. We sold toys, stuffed animals, handmade cards and ornaments, and Nigerian crafts and fabrics. Thanks to all our loyal supporters who made purchases.

I had the most fun selling to a couple of children, specifically two sets of brothers. One set carefully chose a Nigerian necklace for their mother, and wanted it to be different from the one they bought from us last year for her. The other brothers, prompted by their parents, chose gifts for each other (way to go, Pam and Jon!). I have a feeling that they each prefer the gift they bought, but isn't that typical? We usually buy gifts that we'd like to receive.

Thanks go to Heidi Madden and Anna Harper (wife of Chris, affectionately called "White Jesus" when he visited Faith Alive in 2008) for organizing the event. Hopefully they'll offer it again next year and I can sell a lot of new things I'll buy when I'm in Nigeria again, God-willing. Cindy Anderle, our church's Elim School Coordinator, also deserves thanks for making some cute pencil sets to sell.

(Photo of me with Sara. Yes, me. Not Sarah Palin....)

Monday, December 6, 2010

World AIDS Day Editorial

Once upon a time there lived a small-statured African doctor with a big heart that ached for the dying people in his impoverished Nigerian neighborhood. Their arms and legs looked like diseased twigs with swollen red bumps. Their eye sockets protruded from their shrinking faces and their gasps for breath rendered the doctor helpless. But he was not hopeless.

Without desperately-needed lifesaving medications, he treated their HIV/AIDS symptoms with vitamins, counseling and prayers at his small clinic. He believed that healing was a holistic process. Body. Mind. Soul. So he started a support group, a skills-acquisition training center, a neonatal component, prevention and education training, and transitional housing units for those shunned by their families.

He chose to treat them as if they would live, not die. “How many people are in this room?” he asked them. “Three,” they might say. So he asked, “Which one of us is going to die first?” They tilted their heads and wondered if this was a trick question. If they said, “Me,” then the doctor would say, “How do you know? How many people woke up this morning and thought they were fine, but took their last breath today? Are there not perfectly healthy people who will die in accidents today?” The patients nodded reluctantly, and the doctor continued. “None of us knows the number of our days. We don’t know who will die next. It could be you. It could be me.” He leaned toward them. Peering over his oversized reading glasses,, he annunciated slowly, “So go live your life.”

Many of his patients held on until 2004 when the United States government PEPFAR program (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) began sending antiretroviral medications to his clinic. Before long, about 2,500 of his patients living positively with HIV/AIDS had a new lease on life. And a grassroots one-on-one personal sponsorship program provided medication to more than 150 of the 10,000 patients on the waiting list.

When the doctor now enters his new three-story blue and white Nigerian hospital, he’s reminded how far they’ve come. And how far there is to go so that most of them can live happily ever after.

So what does this story have to do with us in Fort Collins? Last Wednesday was World AIDS Day, and we’re reminded that HIV/AIDS still exists across the ocean and in our own neighborhoods. In addition to the estimated three million infected Nigerian people, there are more than three hundred people living in Larimer County diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. And those are only the ones who’ve been tested.

There’s a lot that we can do to help. First, love and accept people with HIV/AIDS regardless of how they contracted it. Second, volunteer at an AIDS clinic. Third, consider donating for one or more Nigerian’s lifesaving medications. It’s only 50 cents a day, $183 a year. Go to and click on Save-A-Life. And last but not least, don’t forget that this immune-robbing enemy still lurks among us. Be tested, be knowledgeable, and be an agent of positive change.

(This editorial that I wrote appeared in our local newspaper on Saturday. The photo is just eye candy for my single women friends.)

Friday, December 3, 2010

You are Welcome

As we say in Nigeria, “You are welcome” to all my readers:longtime faithful, occasional, or first-timers. I’m expecting some curious newbies who read my World AIDS Day editorial in tomorrow’s local newspaper. Thanks for showing an interest in the beautiful men, women, and children both locally and globally who live positively with HIV/AIDS. Feel free to browse around the blog, watch a few of the videos to the right, and meet some of the staff and patients at the amazing holistic Faith Alive Hospital in Jos, Nigeria.

As I say in my editorial, “There’s a lot that we can do to help. First, love and accept people with HIV/AIDS regardless of how they contracted it. Second, volunteer at an AIDS clinic. Third, consider donating for one or more Nigerian’s lifesaving medications. It’s only 50 cents a day, $183 a year. Click here to get to the Faith Alive Hospital website, and then click on "Save-A-Life." And last but not least, don’t forget that this immune-robbing enemy still lurks among us. Be tested, be knowledgeable, and be an agent of positive change.”

Thanks for stopping by. Feel free to click on one of the icons below to share this blog with others. You are all welcome back any time; I'll leave the welcome mat out for you.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sewing & Knitting Students Graduate

Charles Dickens' line, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," is a little extreme for last Saturday's graduation, but it captures the bittersweet sentiment. The ceremony marked both an ending and a beginning for the young women who've spent nearly two years (longer than normal due to some delays caused by the Jos crises at the beginning of the year) learning their craft and attending weekday discipleship classes. Knit one, purl two. Manually pump the sewing machine. Memorize bible verses. Sit in a small room with a dozen other students, some of whom are HIV positive, five days a week and you really get to know each other. To say that they'll miss each other is an understatement.

Yet there's great joy knowing that each of them is now equipped with their own sewing or knitting machine. They have the skills and the equipment to be entrepreneurs. Whether they sew or knit for just a few people, or work their way to own their own shops, is up to them and their personal situations. But each of them has a new world of possibilities.

Please join me in prayer that these new graduates take this free gift of education and apply it wholeheartedly to their futures.

(I took the first photo in August 2009 after I gave them photos from Susan Kieft. The other photos are from Saturday's graduation, with a knitting machine and scissors.)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

World AIDS Day 2010

I hear a lot of people saying, "It's that time of year again--already." They're talking about Christmas, but I also remember December 1--World AIDS Day. Time to wear a red ribbon in honor of the millions of people living positively with HIV/AIDS and in memory of the millions who've died. And the people at Faith Alive Hospital in Jos, Nigeria who I'm proud to call some of my closest friends.

I wrote an editorial about World AIDS Day for our local newspaper to publish today, but they didn't. Hopefully they'll include it in the weekend newspaper, which has more readers anyway. I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, click here to watch a short video by Avert, a UK-based organization promoting HIV/AIDS awareness and action.

(Photo courtesy of Avert.)