Tuesday, August 30, 2011

fasting and feasting

I've recently returned from a two-week mission trip with the Nativity:Nigeria Mission. My team was assigned to the Faith Alive Foundation, one of our strategic partners in Nigeria. Our team stayed in a guest house about a ten minute walk from the hospital, we met and bonded with the doctors and staff, served alongside lab techs and students, sat in counseling sessions, and even helped out with filing and administrative work. You can read all about our adventures on the Nativity:Nigeria blog.

One evening at Faith Alive, Pastor Ben came to have dinner with our team at the guest house. We stumbled onto the topic of spiritual battle. Pastor was telling to us how diligent he and Faith Alive are about praying for Dr. Chris, his leadership, and especially protection from the devil. Ben said that because the Gospel is relatively new throughout Africa -- he is the first generation of Christians in his family -- the Church is fighting a more intense and often more tangible battle with evil. This really opened our eyes to one of the most remarkable aspects of Faith Alive:  the faith of the community and how it's... well, alive!

Each month there is a spiritual theme and related scripture verse (August's was Looking unto Jesus, Hebrews 12:2). The morning devotions are based on the theme, the prayer team and praise teams use the scripture for inspiration, and the pastors teach and preach on them throughout the month. There's definitely power in having a whole body of believers studying God's Word, learning and growing together -- hey, it's kind of like a message series!

And although you could say that they take their faith seriously, there is such a spirit of joy at Faith Alive. The first Thursday of every month, the community holds a fast. The prayer team gathers at 8am to dedicate the fast and pray for the monthly topic. Everyone works all day, and they meet at the end of the day for worship. We participated as we were at Faith Alive for the first Thursday of August. The afternoon gathering started off pretty normally, even somewhat subdued. We continued to pray and reflect on the fast, but then, at the drop of the hat, the time came to to break fast... The praise team took the stage, dancing and singing followed, then soda and snacks for everyone! It was such a simple celebration yet it was celebrated with such enthusiasm.

That day's feast and Nehemiah 8:10 are good reminders that we always have reason to celebrate. We are facing opposition that we have to take seriously, we have important tasks that need to do be done, but it's all in the context of a battle that's already won for us, we will overcome and God's power will prevail, the joy of the Lord is our strength.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

nativity:nigeria

I just had the awesome privilege of spending some time with our Nativity:Nigeria partners a few weeks ago. I spent most of my time in Nigeria at the Faith Alive Foundation in Jos. Another team from Nativity spent two weeks with Sr. Oresoa at the Anawim Home Orphanage -- I was only able to visit with Sister for an afternoon, so be sure to check out the Nativity:Nigeria blog to hear stories and reflections from that team.

Dr. Chris Isichei is the founding coordinator of the free hospital, which also now runs satellite clinics in Fabor, Kafanchan, Bakin Kogi, and Andaha as well as a primary school in Hwol Yarje. To say that the are doing amazing work is an understatement...

I'll be sharing some more of my thoughts over the next few weeks, but wanted to get a post up this week... We all shared some thoughts with the doctors and staff at Faith Alive on our last day. I made comments on three things -- and these three things make me and Church of the Nativity so incredibly proud to partner with Faith Alive.

The vision of Church of the Nativity starts with the phrase "Making Church matter by growing disciples growing disciples..." We are disciples who are committed to growing in our relationship with Christ internally and intentionally. The entire staff at Faith Alive Foundation not only meets once per week to have a learning session, not just do they also train and educate medical students in Jos, but Dr. Chris himself holds personal Christian leadership and mentoring classes with up-and-coming leaders in the community. What an inspiration to see a glimpse of our vision being realized in one of our partners.

Secondly, and speaking of vision, it was so obvious to me and my team that the vision of Faith Alive is being carried not just by Dr. Chris but by the entire organization. We had passionate conversations with everyone from the managers of the store room to doctors in the emergency room about how essential the work is that they are doing, and how it's not just a great work to be done, but it's a God-inspired vision to take part in. They set goals that seem to be impossible so that when they are accomplished, God gets the glory.

And finally, a concept that is not easy to master, the Faith Alive Foundation has married good works with the Good News. They are successfully treating and caring for thousands of patients, have carried out 300 surgeries (with only 1 fatality) in a few short years, and will continue to grow as a healthy organization to provide excellent medical care to the surrounding communities... Not just that, but they are evangelizing to each and every patient, the staff, which they call a family, are going to the streets with the message of salvation (40 some people saved last month), and each day begins and ends with devotion and prayer.

I'll say again how proud we are to partner with such an amazing organization. And I should also thank all of our past missionaries who have traveled to Jos and formed relationships with people in the Faith Alive family -- it is the relationships that you have built that our partnership is standing on now. I'm grateful for all your contributions and very excited about all that God has in store for the future...