Friday, July 13, 2012

Article in Today's Coloradoan newspaper

Fort Collins church buys Nigerian brothel to build hospital, rebuild lives

Buying an African brothel was not part of a local church’s strategic plans. But the opportunity arose earlier this year, and now more than two dozen commercial sex workers have support to change their lives.

Rich McDermott, senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Fort Collins, visited the Faith Alive clinic in Jos, Nigeria, five years ago. Since then, more than 30 others from his church and Fort Collins also have traveled to Jos.

“Not in my wildest dreams did I think that one day our church would help buy a brothel there, but our Nigerian partner helps us think outside the box,” McDermott said.

Dr. Christian Isichei, Faith Alive AIDS Clinic founder and coordinator, wanted property to build a teaching hospital and dormitory. When he learned that the brothel was for sale, he asked his international partners for help.

Before Isichei can renovate the building, his staff is mentoring the 19 young women who live and work in the brothel as well as women who live in villages with their children and rent space at the brothel.

“It is a terrible fact here in Nigeria that women, even some university students, think that prostitution is their only option to make ends meet,” Isichei said.

“Buying the property proves to me how negligent I have been to some neighbors,” Isichei said. “No one cared for these women, including myself, but it took God to draw our attention to these people also created in his image like you and me.”

Isichei’s staff is taking six months to build trusting relationships with the women who have until this December to find other income.

Faith Alive is offering them various jobs at the hospital, as well as free access to the clinic’s sewing, knitting,  computer, catering and other income-generating classes.

“We encourage the women to access all of our free medical and social services that include testing and treatment for HIV,” Isichei said. ”We hope that some may even choose to enter the healthcare profession.”

So far two women have expressed interest in different careers. The lure of instant cash in large sums on a daily basis may be too strong in a country where most people survive on less than $2 a day.

Isichei said, “Some day, when the teaching hospital is complete, it will testify that anything, and anybody, is worth redeeming.”

As for the church, McDermott said, “Dr. Chris is one of the most courageous and inspiring people I’ve met. He does very much remind me of Mother Teresa whom I met about 25 years ago. His vision is much bigger than most people’s and it really challenges and attracts many people.”

Want to help?

Dr. Christian Isichei, founder and coordinator of the Faith Alive Hospital in Jos, Nigeria, will speak about buying the brothel, from 7 to 8 p.m. Sunday at First Presbyterian Church, 531 S. College Ave. Before his presentation, participants are welcome to enjoy a free dinner as well as music provided by Daniel Bushrah Sesay and his African band. For more information, visit or call (970) 229-0936.

Click here to see the article in The Coloradoan.

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