Saturday, March 15, 2014

Dr. Gin Gin Diokno returns to Jos

Dr. Gin Gin Diokno, a great friend of HFWA and a pediatric sports medicine specialist, recently returned from a month volunteering her skills to the medical teams at the Faith Alive Foundation - Nigeria. Below is a reflection on her relationships with Dr. Chris Isichei, Founder of the Faith Alive Foundation - Nigeria, and Sister Oresoa, Founder of Anawim Home and the Missionary Sisters of the Poorest of the Poor, and her most recent experiences in Nigeria.

Dr. Chris, Sister Oresoa, and Gin Gin at Anawim Home in Gwagwalada, Abuja, Nigeria
Reflections by Gin Gin Diokno

It is a rare opportunity to be in the same place as Dr. Chris and Sister Oresoa so when I had the good fortune to do so back in December, it was definitely an Instagram moment to cherish.  They are two of the most amazing human beings I know.  It is very humbling to be in their presence especially as a witness to God’s work through them.

            It all started in 2009 when I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip through our Church of the Nativity.  For two weeks, we visited Faith Alive Hospital in Jos, Nigeria and got immersed on the day to day activities on this facility that provides wholistic health and social services to HIV/AIDS patients.  In 2011, I had the chance to return but this time to Abuja, and stayed with the orphanage community of the Anawim Sisters led by Sr Oresoa.  We literally slept, prayed, played and ate with them.  We got to be a part of the lives of the Sisters, the abandoned infants, young boys and girls, the mentally disabled, young mothers and the men and women they reach out in their community.  Our missions are about connecting with people and building relationships with these partners.  As cliche as it may sound, we missionaries have received more than what we have given to these trips. For me personally, the experiences have made me more grateful for the blessings I have received and continue to receive in my life.  With that gratitude comes a calling to serve even more, not just in mission trips, but in everyday life.

            Fast forward to fall of 2013 when I had a little bit of margin of time, another opportunity came across my path.  During Dr. Chris’ visit to the US, he invited me to return to Faith Alive and after much thought and prayer, I decided to volunteer to be part of the medical team.  It was a very fulfilling time as they even welcomed me more like a family member.  As always, the FA community is very loving and hospitable.  Between morning devotions, pediatric clinic, staff meetings, World AIDS Day celebration, visit to outreach sites, Christmas festivities, getting to know more staff members, sampling Nigerian cuisine, morning runs around the soccer stadium in spring-like weather, the month flew by pretty quickly. I felt when I left in 2009, I have become their friend; this time, I have become a family member.  I have warned them if that’s the case, then I can just drop in any time to visit.  I hope to be given more chances in the future. 

            People sometimes tell me how brave and courageous I am for doing these. Then I get to witness the work that Dr. Chris and Sr Oresoa have committed their whole lives to-- talk about faith and courage!  To be a small part of it is a tremendous blessing.  God does not call the equipped; He equips the called-- a quote from our pastor which I pray I take into heart if and when I get called again. I know that every single time I have answered, despite my doubts, He has never failed.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Dr. Chris and Erika Nossokoff Visit the US

What a busy September! Dr. Chris and Erika Nossokoff came to Maryland to attend fundraisers hosted by friends of Hope for West Africa for Faith Alive. The fundraisers brought old and new friends together with the hopes of raising money to fund doctors' salaries. We are close to our goal to provide salaries for five doctors for one year. These doctors provide free care to ten thousand patients at Faith Alive Hospital in Jos, Nigeria.
Erika gave inspirational talks about her new book, Faith Alive Stories of Hope and Healing from an African Doctor & His Hospital. Dr. Chris shared his story with passion and humility. 
            Dr. Chris with author Erika Nossokoff and Sara Kennedy, President of HFWA Foundation.
                                                    Dr. Chris attends HFWA board meeting.
                                                      Dr. Chris greets his old friend, Pacha.
                                Faithful donors celebrate with Dr. Chris at one of the fundraising events.

Thank you to all the donors who made this fundraising event a huge success. If you'd like to make a donation to HFWA, clink on the Donate Today link and HFWA will send you a complimentary copy of Erika's book.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Anawim Quintuplets

On November 28th, the sisters, volunteers and residents of Anawim Home joyfully welcomed four new additions.

Sister Oresoa and the Anawim family would like to introduce to you Catherine, Anna, Emmanuel, and Emmanuella.

The Anawim Home is known across Nigeria as a place where the orphaned, the abandoned, the ill and the otherwise destitute are given hope. The sisters provide home, temporary shelter, necessary education, medical care, nutrition and any other basic necessities to people who are most in need. Even for Anawim however, it is a rare day when they welcome four babies at once.

On the morning of November 28th, two little girls, Catherine and Anna, were born within hours of each other to two of the ladies living at Anawim Home. One of the new mothers is a mentally disabled woman who now lives with and is cared for by the sisters. The other new mother is one of the unwed young girls who Sister Oresoa and her nuns took in when she found herself pregnant with nowhere else to go.

Hours later that same November day the sisters found two separate babies left at the gates of their two compounds in Gwagwalada and Kaduna. Immediately taking in these abandoned infants, the sisters named them, a boy and a girl, Emmanuel and Emmanuella, Hebrew for “God is with us.”

The Anawim Sisters are working tirelessly in shifts around the clock to care for the beautiful children who they fondly call the “Anawim Quintuplets.”

HFWA is working with the sisters to determine how best to help meet the medical, nutritional, clothing and other necessities of these four babies.

Please consider making a donation that will go directly to help the sisters at Anawim Home support these children who, with great help from these untiring and determined workers, have lived against all odds.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Joy at St. Pius X

The Foundation recently funded projects with our newest partner in Nigeria, St. Pius X. This is a Catholic school for boys run by Fr. Abel.  The projects included the addition of the school library and the acquisition of a new generator and a copier. Once completed. the new library will provide a most welcome resource for the school. Fr. Abel said "Thank you, Hope For West Africa Foundation for the joy and hope that you have given us."    

1. Fr. Abel and the happy students of St. Pius
2. Fr. Abel
3. New library shelving.
4. New library desks
5. Students unpacking library furniture
6. New copier


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

More on Sr. Oresoa's Visit

While here Sister Oresoa met with the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano in Washington D.C. His Excellency has been to the Anawim Home in Abuja, Nigeria and values the work being done there for the poor, sick, and vulnerable women and children. Sister Oresoa was accompanied by Bill and Diane Blattner and Brian Crook. He enjoyed hearing news of Sister's current programs at the Anawim Home.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sr. Oresoa's Visit

After being blessed by a visit from Dr. Chris Isichei, founder of Faith Alive, we have been blessed again by a visit from another one of our partners. Sr. Oresoa, founder of the Anawim Home and the Missionary Sisters of the Poorest of the Poor, made a surprise visit to Baltimore. She was in the area to attend a meeting at the Vatican Embassy in Washington DC. She attended mass at the Church of the Nativity this past weekend. She also enjoyed a dinner with a group of Nativity Nigeria missionaries which was hosted by HFWA founder and board member Diane Blattner. At that gathering Sister shared photos, videos and stories of the Anawim Home. She spoke of her vision of the future for the Anawim Home. She said her heart would not rest until the work is done for the orphaned children, the mentally ill, the sick and suffering and young mothers in need. Those at the dinner said that they were humbled and inspired by her. Sister Oresao left Baltimore yesterday to return to Nigeria. We are so thankful to Sister Oresao and the Missionary Sisters for doing God's work and for being such an example of God's hands, feet and heart to us.


1. Sr. Oresoa and the Nativity Nigeria missionaries
2. Bob Barczak (Nativity Missions Ministry), Sr. Oresoa and Brian Crook (Nativity Missions Director)
3. Sr. Oresoa and Nativity Nigeria missionaries
4. Poster heralding the hard working Nigerian women

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mission Ministry Blessings

We live in a world of high tech. communication. The news is every second and it seems as if most of it is bad. God seems mostly to be portrayed as a punisher or as apathetic. People see poverty, sickness, suffering, terrorism, and violence like the senseless shooting that happened in Colorado this summer. People think that it is all hopeless. They are arguing over who is responsible and what group of people God is punishing. They are judging instead of loving one another like God asks us to do. This is just what Satan wants. If the message is of a God that is punishing them, what will make people want to come to a God like that? Our God LOVES us. We have to understand that we do not have all the answers and our God is in control. Our God IS a God of grace and mercy waiting for us to come to Him. He wants us to have faith in HIM. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast."

When we do have faith He wants us to do good works, but to do them out of love for Him. In faith with the Holy Spirit, we can share Christ's love and serve with love in our hearts. We are going over the Holy Spirit in our message series in the church that I attend right now. We are being helped to understand how we can not do all the good things God wants of us with our own strength. That is why Jesus. That is why the Holy Spirit. We need the power of the Holy Spirit. We can not serve others with love if we feel we are being punished or that God is condemning us. So many churches' messages seem to be about condemnation. Of course we are sinners. I think most of us know that. I think what most of us lack is that we don't really believe we are LOVED by God. We don't feel good enough. I have worked at this myself. It is hard when the negative voices of condemnation come at you. But we have to know it is not God's voice. No one wants to admit that they are not feeling good about themselves in our society when it is all about being perfect and successful. But the most common thing that I hear admitted in small groups and ministry I have been in at my church is that people spend a lot of time feeling guilty. They have also told me that they believe in Jesus but that they do not feel passionate about Him because they are confused. I am no expert but I do not understand why it can not be grasped that one has to know Him and that they are loved by Him before they can truly give love to others. How can you share Christ's love if you do not know Him and you have not received His love yourself yet? And how can you feel passion about someone you really don't know or you are confused about? Why aren't churches trying to help people know and FALL IN LOVE with Jesus Christ? God told us He is THE WAY to HIM. I am just wondering...

Four years ago I left my home and family to serve in Nigeria. I do feel I had the help of the Holy Spirit giving me the courage I needed. I was not afraid. I had never left my family before even for just a weekend. I just did not want to do it. I really did not like being away from my children. I certainly have nothing to boast about. I still feel like I did not do very much and that I received much more than I gave. I had thought about going to Africa on a mission trip for a long time. I would read about mission trips to Africa or see documentaries about them and say to myself, I am going to do that someday. I decided in the summer of 2008 that the time had come. My church had just started sending mission teams to Nigeria. They were making it easy. Anyone who had a heart for it could apply, no experience necessary. Anyone, I thought? I had just turned 50 years old. My family decided the trip would be my birthday gift. I filled out the application and went through the interview and waited what seemed like forever, but it was only about 2 weeks. I will never forget receiving the phone call from the Faith Alive team leader telling me I was going and that I would be on the FA team. I was so excited!

Both of the mission trips I went on were in August, so while I was gone, my husband took our children on vacation. This helped me to know they were having a good time while I was away. I was the first mom with young children who went on a mission trip from our church. My children were 10 and 11 the first time I went. I will never forget how happy they were to see me when they greeted me at the airport when I arrived home. They had made a big welcome home sign for me. They were proud of their mom as they stood there with all the other family members of the other missionaries. I came home bursting with stories and pictures to share with my family and church community.

I am so thankful to God for this privilege to serve in another part of the world where people do not have what we have in America. The experience WRECKED me - in a good way. It took me out of my comfort zone and showed me things that many people never see with their own eyes. I feel I saw God's love manifested there in a way I would never be able to see somewhere here. I often wrestle with what to do with this and have to fight the feeling of not doing enough. We all cannot be a Mother Teresa - but we can support those that are like her. That is what we do at HFWAF. We support and empower our partners who have leaders like Dr. Chris, Sr. Oresoa and Fr. Abel. The experience is still vivid. I am grateful to now serve on the board of the HFWAF and in some small way still serve my brothers and sisters in Nigeria. Even though it is hard to witness poverty and sickness, my teammates and I saw an abundance of God's goodness in the people, in their faith and in the land itself. In fact we were stunned by the people!

Short term mission trips are really about relationships. You are there to support and encourage and share Christ's love with the people and staff you go to serve. They wanted us to listen to their stories. They want to educate the missionaries about their organization and their plight. One man who is staff at Faith Alive and is seen as a leader told some of us on the 2008 team to please share their stories when we get back to America. He said how important it is to them that we come to visit them and how much they appreciate us leaving our families to do this. He let us know how much it raises the morale of not only the patients but the staff too. He said it lets them know how much people care and that it is different then sending only money. Of course they need money! But he let us know how important it was for them to form relationships with the churches and communities that were supporting them. He said we want to be friends with you! We will pray for you! Missionaries on both teams did make friends and shared emails before leaving. They were genuine and many of us have kept in touch. This is such a special blessing in our lives. And how great is it to have them praying for us!!

There is only so much that can be accomplished as far as physically serving on a short term mission trip. You do whatever you can depending on the site. At Faith Alive during this time, they needed help with data input for the computer that the whole team could participate in. Then it depended on what you thought your gift was. This could have to do with your occupation but it did not have to. Dr. Chris and the staff always helped with this. There was something for everybody. As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, I was given praying for patients and going to the Social Services Unit to help with pastoral care and also enjoyed talking to people and writing their stories in my journal. Dr. Chris nicknamed me their "Prayer Warrior." I will just give you a little synopsis about my 2009 teammates to give you an example of all the different things one can do when serving at an organization like Faith Alive. They did more than I can mention here. One hears hospital and they feel intimidated because they think they have to be a doctor or nurse. Or maybe you hear orphanage like the Anawim Home and you think you have to be a social worker. Gin Gin was the only doctor on our 2009 team. She is a pediatrician so she was assigned to that doctor's team. She was an enormous help to the team. But she also made a lasting impression for her constant positive attitude and big smile. Marina, also a mom, has teaching experience so she was given the assignment of helping to begin a new "Kid's Club" for children. She was also great with the women in the Social Services Unit bible study class. The bible study women nicknamed her Joy in Housa because she was so joyful. This was a class that could be attended by the missionaries every morning. Rob was the computer whiz and helped the staff out and our team with technical issues. He also logged in many hours in the lab filling bottles with pills. This is something there that was also available to anyone and we each participated some in this too. Greg was the youngest of us. Only in his early 20's at the time. Greg's occupation was in construction so he was deemed the handyman! He also was very good with people and got nicknamed "The Mayor." He loved listening to stories and could often be found writing them down in his journal. Ed (the eldest) sorry Ed! - was our team leader. His last name is King. So because of this and since he was the leader, Dr. Chris nicknamed him "The King." Ed did a little bit of everything. As our leader he had to keep us on track which was not easy! We did have a schedule at Faith Alive. We attended prayer meetings, HIV/AIDS support group meetings, and traveled to see their outreach clinics and home based care patients. We also each shared some public speaking that was appropriate to our roles. This was for leading prayers, talking about the importance of HIV/AIDS patients taking medication or just introducing and sharing about also our team. So as you can see there was enough to do and in many different capacities.

The mission trips from our church to Nigeria are for approximately 12 days. What we learned is you form a relationship with the partner you are serving and then you bring back their stories and information to your church or community. That is when a commitment can be made to raise funding for a project that the partner needs. While you are serving there it is really all about forming a relationship just like the Faith Alive staff person was explaining to us. You are not there for yourself. It is not a vacation. You are there to serve God and be loving Christ followers. We feel there have been many blessings bestowed upon us since our return from Nigeria. I would like some of my teammates to share their stories of how the mission trip impacted their lives in the future.

Maybe you will choose to serve an international mission ministry at your church or donate to help our partners at HFWAF (see side of blog for Donate Today!). I do believe there is nothing that compares to international ministry service. It is something I wish everybody could do at least once in their lives. I know there is much need in America too, as many people put it, in our own back yards. But, in third world countries the need is different. It is a life and death struggle everyday. Most people do not have basic needs that we take for granted like clean water, electricity, and enough food. It is also a problem to receive proper affordable or free health care and their public education is extremely inadequate. Many children do not even live close enough to a school to attend one. Dr. Chris told me that the public schools that are open do not have enough teachers or books and supplies. He said it is also a problem that the schools are constantly closing for days off due to these problems.

Or maybe you are serving in some other capacity that you are passionate about. But I think we can all do a small something for people who do not have as much as we are blessed to have in America. Whatever you can do to help our brothers and sisters in Nigeria will be appreciated. You will not regret it. You will receive and be blessed much more than you know.

Counting Mission Ministry Blessings - Part of #1000 Gifts:

(#34) Thank You God, for the blessing of serving in Missions Ministry.
(#35) Thank You God, for Dr. Chris's successful visit in Baltimore and his impactful stay in our home.
(#36) Thank You God, for Dr. Chris's safe arrival back home in Nigeria to his beloved family and to Faith Alive where he can continue to do good work.
(#37) Thank You God, for the special people that have been brought into my life from serving in Missions Ministry, the ministry's missionaries and home teams, the incredible staffs at Faith Alive and the Anawim Home, and inspirational leaders Sr. Oresoa, Dr. Chris and Fr. Abel.
(#38) Thank You God, for the HFWAF team. These are more women who inspire me by volunteering their time and gifts for a special cause. When I look around the dining or kitchen tables where we meet, I am still amazed at what this small non-profit of 5 board members and what I call team (7) is managing to do. It is definitely You, God - Your Power - not ours, that is allowing this to happen.


1. Faith Alive Hospital
2. The 2009 NN Faith Alive and Anawim Home teams with Sr. Oresoa and our driver
3. The children at Faith Alive Community School
4. Dr. Chris and my daughter Sophia at Shagali