Nigerian Hospital Dream Comes True for ImaBridge Africa
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
February 3, 2022
MCHENRY—ImaBridge Africa began when Father Godwin Asuquo, a priest of the Diocese of Rockford originally from Nigeria, was an associate at the Newman Catholic Center/Christ the Teacher Parish in DeKalb.
In 2008, at the request of a college student, Father Asuquo cooked an authentic Nigerian dish for parishioners. The dinner generated funds, and five people were inspired to travel with the priest to Nigeria to distribute about $6,000 in donations for scholarships for 32 university students.
They founded ImaBridge Africa when they returned. Ima (pronounced “EEMA”) means “love” in Father Asuquo’s native dialect.
Since then, ImaBridge Africa (IBA) has focused its efforts on providing drinking water (10 bore holes to date), health care (malaria and diabetes are big threats), education (over 400 scholarships to date) and microfinance, all benefiting people mostly in Akwa Ibom State — a Christian area in southern Nigeria that includes Father Asuquo’s hometown of Uyo. Special projects include feeding a village of 450 households during COVID-19 and providing a palm press and cassava mill, allowing villagers to process and provide food for their families.
But health care has been IBA’s primary area of focus, including annual medical mission clinics, an ambulance and ultrasound donation to a hospital, and other donations of medical equipment and a variety of assistive devices for handicapped individuals.
A month ago, ImaBridge Africa completed its biggest project to date: a state-of-the-art hospital.  The 50-bed, full-service hospital is called ImaBridge Medical Center/John Ripkey Memorial. It provides in-patient and outpatient care, surgical services and emergency care.
And it only took just over two years to build. Construction began in 2019 and the commissioning was held Dec. 30, 2021. With assistance from a sister organization, the past year included staffing the hospital, from doctors to maintenance workers, so the hospital is now up and running.
Back in the U.S., IBA runs through the efforts of volunteers. Board and team members meet monthly on the third Sundays of the month at St. Patrick Church in McHenry, where Father Asuquo is now pastor.
Cecilia Adams is one of the McHenry parishioners who attended the commissioning and its accompanying IBA medical mission. It was her seventh trip to Nigeria with the ministry.
Born and raised at St. Patrick Parish and singing in the choir since she was 10 years old, Adams is the music director at the parish. When Father Asuquo arrived and introduced IBA to parishioners 12 years ago, she says it “opened my eyes to (what is) far bigger than the walls of the church … just love with no boundaries.”
Adams soon became a team member, and more recently a board member. She is now the newest president of the board. Although she is not a medical professional, she says, “There’s always somewhere where we can help.”
Those medical mission trips provide free medical care. Ongoing services at the new hospital will require payment, but Adams notes that costs are minimal. The hospital will become self-sustaining, she says, and it has already saved lives. 
She describes an emergency about a week ago with someone injured in an accident. Surgeons were at the new hospital, “and they saved the person,” she says. 
Especially dear to her heart: two babies were born during the most recent medical mission. The percentage of infant and newborn deaths is high there, she says. Most women have their children wherever they are, without medical care.
“It has been an overwhelming change in the way people live over there,” Adams explains. “They believe in God; their faith is so strong. But now, a Catholic priest is leading them to a healthier life! 
“Many believe that God will heal them if they pray hard enough. Through Father Godwin, they are beginning to understand that if they take better care of themselves, God can work through them. They are coming for treatments, and they are delivering babies safely, one baby at a time.”
Adams has seen the gratitude of the Nigerian people, and she herself expresses the gratitude of the ministry to its donors and volunteers.
“God has blessed all of our efforts in building these bridges of love,” she says. “The people of the Rockford Diocese are overwhelmingly generous …(and it’s wonderful) to see how people care about people across the globe.”
Following that first “bridge” from the U.S. to Nigeria, Adams says, volunteers have surfaced from the Nigerian people. 
“They are giving back. That is where the full circle of love connects; it’s a circle of eternity. So many prayers were sent with us. We brought (them) the love from everybody here. 
“That’s what opens up the world.”
ImaBridge Africa can be reached by mail, phone or online message. IBA’s phone number is 815-669-0384 and its address is:
ImaBridge Africa, Inc.
P.O. Box 752
Sycamore, IL 60178
For more, visit ImaBridge Africa’s website at or connect at 
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