Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My Personal Nigeria Experience

As Easter approaches my thoughts turn to Nigeria and the Faith Alive Hospital in Jos. I have never forgotten Nigeria and its people. They are always in my thoughts and prayers. Faith, hope and love has been a theme of my heart since the trip.

A homily on this subject was given on Ash Wednesday that touched my heart and I would like to share:

“Often times, when we are paralyzed with fear, with doubt, with discouragement, with confusion, with seemingly no way out, it is then that friends, mentors and family, symbolically signed with the cross of ashes for us to see, lift us up by reminding us that faith, hope and love will get us through any suffering and death to resurrection”

My trip to Nigeria was life changing. I look back and remember the people so well. I have thought of them every day. I remember arriving at the airport in Nigeria. We (our team of 11) were all very tired but excited. Dr. Chris met us there. He is the person who started Faith Alive Hospital and is the head doctor there. I had first met Dr. Chris when he visited the Church of the Nativity last April. He is a small, wiry man with a huge smile and bright eyes. He seems to be in constant motion. Upon arrival, I dropped my black shoulder carry on bag to the floor when we were at a stopped position. It was so heavy! What a mistake it was to bring it! So when it was time to move on, I forgot to pick it back up. Dr. Chris looked back and noticed the bag. He said “Stop – wait a minute – who does that black bag belong to?” Jason, our Nativity/Jos team leader said “Oh , Teresa”. Dr. Chris’ response to Jason was “You are going to have to put her on a short leash!”. Dr. Chris turned out to be a prophet. I lost my bag 3 more times before I returned home to the USA.

Dr. Chris’ faith is huge. He inspired many people to get the hospital built. He made a pledge to God, that if God would help him through medical school, he would build a hospital for his country. This hospital would provide free care and help his country with many diseases but mostly the growing problem of HIV epidemic. He had a huge vision. It was a Godly vision. God came through for his faithful servant and the hospital was built. It still depends 100% on donations to provide free care. It also provides clothing, food, shelter for orphans and social services such as counseling and job training. It is amazing what people can do when they work together and all have a passion for the vision.

Being in Jos, Nigeria was like being in another world, not just another country. I have so many memories. Some are like huge still photographs in my mind. Walking down the street of the village, anyone would be moved by the extreme poverty. There are so many vendors lining the streets, trying to sell their wares. The housing is very substandard. But there are bright color images too. The beautiful African fabrics. The bright blue sky (when it was not raining!) and deep pink sunsets. If I close my eyes, I can see the ladies who carried big amounts of peanuts or colorful fruits on their head. They had such poise and dignity. The many mopeds driven caused the outsides of the dirt roads, when dry, to raise a brownish yellow dust in the air. The driving there is quite crazy and honking your horn is a very popular thing to do. It seems to be done constantly! The people have such large smiles and are so joyful. Their greeting is “You’re Welcome” – which means “I’m so happy you are here!”. It is said often.

And the best – the children. There were children everywhere. They wore USA donated clothes with labels from The Gap, Old Navy, etc. They waved and yelled to us. Many would run up to us for hugs and to be picked up. There are children at the social services job training area. The women learning to sew bring their children with them. All the mothers help out with each other’s children. The building formed kind of a courtyard where they play. A little boy named Suna and I became friends. He loved to play with my long “yellow” hair. On my first day, I sat with him on a bench. So on my return visits, he would run to me and say “Sit! Sit!” – pointing to the bench. He asked “Will you play with me?” Of course I said yes. My son was eleven at the time of my departure. This little boy brought back the memory of my son’s daily, almost hourly pleading, when he was young - “will you play with me Momma?” We played silly games and laughed. He touched a special place in my heart. I could not say goodbye to him. There is an African phrase for “see you later” and that is what I said to him.

I would like to post more stories as we go through Lent. I do this in honor and respect for the Nigerian people. I will always remember Dr. Chris’ words to me – “Pray for us, Teresa. Please pray for us.”

To the Nigerian people – I will continue to pray for you. God Bless you and may God have mercy on all of us.

Teresa Pompa

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