10-Year Bridge Between Continents Celebrated
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
November 8, 2018
MCHENRY—A gala for ImaBridge Africa (IBA) held Nov. 3 in the Church of Holy Apostles Sherry Hall was in celebration of 10 years of assistance to persons living in poverty in Nigeria.
About 125 people gathered for dinner, silent and live auctions, presentations and prayers. 
This year’s gala was geared to raise funds for an ambitious ImaBridge project: construction of a medical clinic in Owut Uta, a village centered in the part of Nigeria where ImaBridge has provided four-fold services: clean water, health missions, microfinance and education.
Ima (pronounced “eema”) means “love” in the Nigerian language. 
The “bridge of love” between people in northern Illinois and Nigeria began when Father Godwin Asuquo was serving as an associate at Christ the Teacher Parish in DeKalb 10 years ago. 
The priest cooked a native Nigerian meal for a curious Northern Illinois University student who talked about the meal with others on campus. 
That publicity resulted in an annual community meal where, Father Asuquo says in a program letter, “at one point over 300 people enjoyed diverse cuisines from Nigeria and learned about her rich and unique culture.”
Unexpected freewill donations prompted a trip to Nigeria in May 2008 with five volunteers. Those first donations were enough to sponsor 32 students in universities for a year. That led to the establishment of IBA as a not-for-profit 501(c) (3) charity.
Sixteen trips have been made. More than 200 college students have been assisted by IBA, and over 60,000 people have received medical care. 
Small loans have been provided to Nigerians who have begun businesses, and 10 wells have been dug to provide clean drinking water to several communities. 
Recently, a board member drove a donated ambulance to Baltimore to ship it to Nigeria. A bus also has been sent.
Carleen Murphy, liturgy director at Father Asuquo’s current parish, St. Patrick in McHenry, has traveled to Nigeria with IBA four times. 
Her job on those trips is counting out pills for the many people served by the mission clinics.
“I work in the church every day,” Murphy says, “but I feel those three weeks in Nigeria (are when) I’m doing Christ’s work.” 
She describes how many young children there have never seen people with white skin. 
“They come up and touch your face and hands to see if you feel the same,” she says. She recalls also the teenage youths who refuse to call her just by her first name, opting instead for “auntie”; the three to four hour Masses; and her appreciation for electricity when she returns. 
Christine Carrington, board president and eight-time traveler with IBA, called the 2018 gala a “very important night. This allows us to touch the lives of thousands in Nigeria.”
At these annual events, she says, “We find a lot of ‘pillars’ for our bridge,” which is how the organization describes its major supporters, who were listed in the program. 
They range from the Akwa Ibom State Government to Bishop David Malloy and the Diocese of Rockford, and include the McHenry and Uyo Rotary organizations, and people from a handful of Rockford diocesan parishes.
“You have become my family members, my friends,” said Father Asuquo in his remarks. “My heart goes to all of you for your support. The number one thing I know God made us to do is love. 
“Thank you for your power of love,” he said. “You are the bridge of love for Africa.”