CHAPEL HILL -- Three days a week, Lishan Knowles is up by 4:30 a.m."I have a cup of tea and a bowl of cereal," she said. "Then, I read my devotion book, say my prayers and hit the road."On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, Knowles arrives at a local dialysis clinic shortly before 6 a.m. for a three-hour treatment.Less than a year ago, the one-time chef at Wellspring (now Whole Foods) was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease, a result of anti-rejection medicine she required after she received a liver transplant in 1988 to replace her own cancerous organ. She is awaiting a kidney transplant."My friends have offered to help (with the driving)," said Knowles. "I just want to do for myself as long as I can."Among those helpful friends is Jeri Greenwold, who met Knowles at Grace Church in Chapel Hill years ago. Greenwold is heading a fundraising effort with the National Foundation for Transplants."Lishan is such a lovely person, and everyone loves her," Greenwold said. "She's a shy person, quiet and very private. This is a big step for her -- to be put in the limelight like this." Greenwold is coordinating with Plumb Line Players, a faith-based improv group from Raleigh that will perform in Chapel Hill this weekend on behalf of Knowles. Fundraisers hope eventually to raise $50,000 for the estimated out-of-pocket transplant expenses not covered by her insurance."I am so lucky," Knowles said, smiling at her friend.A nearly 20-year liver transplant survivor, Knowles is part of a very small statistical group. The 54-year-old native of Ethiopia is confident in the UNC doctor who monitors her new drug regimen. Her faith also sustains her."I am not alone," she said. "Quite a lot of people pray for me."Knowles was born in a small Ethiopian village, the sixth of seven children. With the exception of an older brother, she had lost her entire family to disease by the time she was 8 years old."My father was the one person who had a Bible in my village," Knowles said. "When he died, he was holding his Bible. He took my hand and blessed me."Her father's blessing was a prayer that his daughter would enjoy a long life.After her father's death, Knowles was cared for by her older brother, a military pilot. He placed her in a boarding school with missionaries in Addis Ababa. Her brother was murdered while Knowles was a senior in high school, although the details are murky, even to his sister.When Knowles went to the authorities to get justice for her brother, she was told, "It is better not to pursue this suit for your own health."Knowles was completing her practicum for cooking school, with plans to attend nursing school on a scholarship in Australia, when she met her husband-to-be, economist Jim Knowles. He was working with the then-United Nations Office for East Africa. She never made it to Australia, but the couple did live in Kenya, Switzerland and Pakistan before settling in North Carolina 28 years ago. They had two daughters, Cathy, 32 and Sophie, 25, before separating in 1990.Knowles continues to enjoy cooking, even catering for small groups that have learned to depend on her savory lentil soup -- rich with the flavor of garlic and rosemary -- and other original recipes, including chicken pot pie.