Destructive Flooding Impacts Malawi

In California, where we are based, rain is a really big deal. Our summer security is dependent on the winter rains and we celebrate when the rains are robust. But of course, the rains can become too much, causing mudslides, flooding, and heavy, damaging snowfalls in the mountains. Imagine how much more destructive a heavy rain could be if your home was built of mud….

During the early part of March, torrential rains pummeled regions of Malawi, including the Zomba district where our friends at Passion Center for Children live and work. 99 homes were either partially or completely destroyed by the recent storms. 12 of those homes belonged to Child Headed Households. Child Headed Households are what they sound like, family units led by children with no adult supervision.

The Passion Center for Children works closely with 5 area churches. Of those 5, 2 were wiped out, including the recently planted Namikango church, which was built from grass and thatch. While this structure was adequate for launching the new church, it did not withstand the storms. Please join with us in praying that this doesn’t become a metaphor for the church body as well.

Bricks are essential to building a stable shelter that withstands the winter storms. But in the meantime, before the expensive bricks can get built, many houses need thatch roofing to at least provide shelter from the rains. Passion Center staff members are hoping to provide much needed thatching.

The Passion Center staff is working tirelessly to meet the needs of the people. Hundreds of people are coming to them for food and the staff members are going to visit homes in the area this week to see where the greatest needs are for shelter as the rainy season continues. At the same time, the Passion Center staff is using this period of increased ministry to preach the love of God. As people are receiving the literal bread of sustenance, they are also hearing about a loving God who knows them personally and intimately and loves them desperately.

To Donate Directly to Passion Center for Children/Greatest Need

To Help Us Help Them

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How Many Lives This Year?

Drum roll please! We’re ready to announce the numbers of patients in 2018 who received medical care in the clinics we support. We are staggering under the excitement, the joy, and the sheer magnitude of God’s goodness in taking our meager offerings and multiplying them. We truly feel like the little boy with the five loaves and 2 fish! Are you ready for this!!!!

At 1000 Hills Community Helpers in South Africa, Dawn and her medical staff saw 88,870 patients either in their on-site clinic or through their community health network whose volunteers travel into the local villages to provide first aid, medicine checks, and basic healthcare. Above, Dr. Karen Harte visits with a young patient at the clinic.

Tanzania Christian Clinic is a beautiful, well-established medical clinic that has grown to also support a school and many churches. In 2018, this long-standing support for the nearby Masai peoples treated 4,066 patients. Each year, we provide funding for staff and medical supplies for their shelves!

At the Passion Center for Children in Malawi, the Community Health Network volunteers saw over 2400 patients! Here they are in their lovely new scrubs, which we provided to give them a “uniform”! We have also provided several hundred pounds of medical supplies, bicycles for traveling to visit patients, and Bibles to share God’s word with their patients.

Village of Hope, Uganda, has 2 separate villages and therefore 2 separate clinics. Together, each clinic treated 6,678 children who live in the villages as well as adults and children who live in the surrounding areas. This year, we helped provide the funds for the clinics to be expanded physically and we provided ample medical supplies to stock these thriving clinics.

Mission Medic Air, Zambia operates differently than our other clinics. MMA arranges for doctors, nurses, and specialists to travel to remote villages and clinics to provide medical care on a regular basis. In short, the doctors travel to the patients rather the patients traveling to the clinic. In 2018, MMA brought medical care to roughly 1225 people in the hardest to reach places of Zambia. Our funding helped MMA purchase and maintain their Zambulance for transportation and we have provided medical supplies as well.

The Hunter Hanner Community of Hope Clinic on the campus of Rwanda Children treated 5,134 adults and children in 2018. Compassion Tea and CompassioNow also provide funding for the feeding programs run by Rwanda Children to help families in jeopardy of severe malnutrition. Stay tuned to learn more about these programs!
That comes to a grand total of 108,373 lives improved through medical care and through the amazing gift of healing in Christ! Praise God for His provision!

A letter to my daughter while she is away…

Dearest,

First and foremost, you are God’s beloved. He formed you; He knows and numbers the hairs on your head. Each of your tears is precious to Him. He adores you in the way that an artist adores his best creation. He saw your beginning and He knows your end and He has ordained each step along the way. And most importantly, He is Jehovah Jirah (the LORD, the provider) and Jehovah Tsaba (the LORD, the warrior), and Jehovah Shalom (the LORD, peace). If you can come to know God in this way, as the perfect Father and Friend, as your protector and provider, as your comfort and peace, you will live a life of beauty and joy. I’m still learning!

 

Second, you are my beloved. Part me and part Daddy, you are nevertheless uniquely you and uniquely beautiful. I love discovering with you your talents and passions, your peeves and joys, the areas in which you excel easily and the areas where you have to struggle. I treasure our past together; even if I sometimes comment about “difficulties” in our past, I wouldn’t trade a single day. During our trip to Alaska, you often rested your head on my shoulder and fell asleep or at least dozed a bit. You’re a bit bigger than you were, but it still reminded me of our first years together when we dozed together a lot, when I was able to rest watching you sleep, when I might fall asleep telling you a story or when I watched you fall asleep while I read or sang or walked or rocked. Precious times! My precious daughter. If you believe that you are my beloved also, you will know that you can always come to me and that I will love you no matter what.

 

But I might disappoint, too. I am human. I will do my best to meet your needs, to be faithful and loving, to speak truth and not frustration, to react with love not anxiety. But I will fail. My failure won’t diminish my love for you, even though it may feel like it. My failure will speak more to my own shortcomings and not to any lack of love for you. I pray you grant me grace in those moments.

 

I pray you grant all people grace in their individual moments. All humans fail. Friends, as you know, can betray and hurt and make you question your worth. A) You are beloved by God. B) You are my beloved daughter. These two truths are more important than anything else you will hear from those around you. These two truths do not fail.

 

This morning, I went for a walk with the dogs and saw 4 deer — 2 doe and 2 bucks. Because God has sent deer to me as a reminder of His love and faithfulness, I view all deer as love letters from God. He loves lavishly! I pray that you are experiencing His lavish love at camp this week, that you feel His love letters to you daily, that you see His love letters often.

 

His biggest “love letter,” of course, came in the form of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, making us right with God, taking our sins on himself, loving us enough to save us from ourselves. There is no greater love letter, no larger love.

 

Here’s the rub. God is bigger than we are. He loves all people. While you are His beloved, so are the difficult people, the frustrating people, the people who don’t even recognize or know Him. He yearns for each one of His creations. He delights in His children who follow Him and seek His face, people like you. (Remember those sled-dog pups and how we went completely gaga over their sweet cuteness? You are God’s puppy, and He is just tickled with you!) He mourns those who turn their back on Him. But He walks alongside both alike. There is NOTHING that you can do to make Him love you less, to make Him take back Jesus from your life. Does that make sense?

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This lavish love, this crazy good love, this faithful presence and love is yours and is your truth. And if this is your truth, can there be anything that overshadows this? We believe a lot of lies. We grow things out of proportion. We stew about outcomes and the future, about decisions we should or shouldn’t make, about gathering goods and storing up things. We listen to the words of the world that speak of discontent and worry and anxiety. Those words seem like truth; somehow they seem easier to believe. It comes from our need to control. If I work harder, I can change these words, we think. If I lose this amount of weight or wear this outfit, I can change these words, we think. If I have a well-paying job and secure a large house, I can change these words, we think. What a sham.

 

To quote my favorite preschool director, “The great big GOD of the universe loves little itty bitty me.” And if the great big GOD of the universe loves little itty bitty me, than the words and actions of the other itty bitty folks out there really have no control, no power, no weight over me. Only God.

 

And because the great big GOD of the universe loves little itty bitty me and you and you and you (as said preschool director likes to point out), than we are also called to love. Love looks like forgiveness, grace, and speaking out of love (not pettiness, not greed, not jealousy, not anger, not manipulation, not fear, not exhaustion, not hunger). We can train ourselves to respond to each other in loving ways. It takes a lot of practice and patience and self-forgiveness when we get it wrong, which we will.  

 

We’re back to the beginning. God loves us even when we fail, maybe especially because we fail. But He doesn’t fail. Ever. He does not abandon. He does not turn away. He waits for us, cheers for us, delights in us, disciplines us sometimes in a loving way, and matches us step for step. He even goes on ahead, preparing our way.

 

It took me 40 some years to figure this out. I pray you are a quicker study! Because the sooner and more fully you learn these truths, both in your head and in your heart, the sooner you can begin living freely and the sooner the daily trials of this life will become background static and not the overpowering noise of life for you.

 

Always and forever your mom….

Fires

There is a phenomenon that follows most major wildfires. After the initial burn, after the surface burn takes place, there is still ground fuel. Under the ash of the destroyed, embers continue to smolder, and if they get to the roots underground, the roots can catch fire. As the roots of the tree slowly burn, the tree on the surface remains healthy, vibrant and beautiful. But eventually, the flames reach the fleshy, inner part of the tree and the tree will literally burn from the inside out.

Today, at church, our pastor talked about how pride and self-centeredness act like these secondary fires. They are below the surface, they leave the outward visibly untouched… for a span of time. But they are deadly and will burn a person up from the inside out. The more we curve inward on ourselves, the more we lose sight of those around us and our God-given need for relationship with Him and others as well as our God-given mandate to care for those around us. But there are those who show us how to live, not like a tree burning from the inside out, but from the outside, lighting up with passion and fire for Christ and His people.

As I listened to the sermon, these words clawed their way up to the forefront of my brain:
“Seeing first hand, looking into the eyes of people and realizing how much I have, how much even the poor of this country have, by comparison, changed me. Bill Hybels (Founder and Senior Pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago) once stated that when he went to Africa and saw it, something changed and relocated in his gut and it never returned to where it had been. I understand that. Scriptures often talk about how Jesus looked at individuals, the leper, the prostitute, the down and out, and saw them, not their titles, illnesses, occupations. There is something about really looking into the eyes and seeing that changes you. I went through life looking at pictures and news and not really seeing. Once I saw, I had to do something.”

Lee and wife Anne celebrating the 10th anniversary of CompassioNow in October, 2016.

These are the words of Lee Kennedy, one of the founders of Compassion Tea Company and our beloved President and CEO. And do something, he did!

Lee took his hard-earned business skills, the wisdom and experience of decades of leading and working in the technology field, and married them to his passion and desire “to do something” for Christ.

Lee and Mitch, his friend and pastor, hauling the CompassioNow luggage that carries much needed medical supplies for Tanzania Christian Clinic.

Lee enjoying the local custom of killing the fatted goat for the visiting guests in Tanzania.

Since our founding in 2011, Lee has shepherded our organization through the rigors of set-up, transition, trial and error, and frustration. He led us in a weekly prayer call with joy and praise ever on his lips. And our one single purpose as an organization? To give God the glory for all. He celebrated every new customer and every new clinic and traveled back to Africa several times to see the work of God being done there. Lee challenged us to ask the question of all new business ventures, “Does it give all glory to God?” “Pray and wait on the Lord,” he encouraged us. And God has blessed our tea company.

Lee and Zach from Kuppa Joy in Fresno and Clovis, CA, show what a great relationship Lee helped us create with our customers.

Back in late July, Lee announced that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. While we began earnestly praying for a miracle of healing, Lee began reciting Acts 20: 24, “But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.”

Lee and Anne (on the right) visited Dr. Danny Smelser and his wife Nancy at the Tanzania Christian Clinic.

Lee finished his work for the Lord on October 29 and went home to the loving arms of Jesus. While we are saddened not to have his amazing wisdom, strong leadership, and loving laugh calling us to prayer and directing our business decisions, we know that he is giving God the glory right at His feet. And we know that Lee helped create a legacy that will live on in the customers who are touched and nourished by Compassion Tea, in the patients who receive medical relief and life-saving medical care through our clinics, and in the people he touched who came to know God’s love in a new and special way because of the way Lee lived.

In memory of Lee, and as a tribute to his life, CompassioNow doubled its quarterly payments for the fourth quarter to its clinics in Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, and Rwanda. We hope you will join with us in praying that these payments will multiply the work of God in the dark places of the world.

Lee was a tree on fire, burning outwardly for the Lord, not consumed inwardly by pride and self-centeredness. May we all live accordingly, for the glory of the Lord!

If you would like to make a donation to CompassioNow in memory of Lee, click here.

Daybreak

It was pink when I started out. The sky.

 

Thick clouds hung over the central valley, over the Altamont Pass, so the blaze of the sun was muted pink.  Hushed, nature waited.

 

There is a pause, you know. A moment of suspense, waiting for the sun to break through. The moment may last momentarily or seemingly forever. The moment is stability – assurance that the new day is coming because we’ve seen the light, but pause and collective intake of breath before the sun grows intense, the light blinding.

 

Stability is good. We like stability. It is comfortable. It feels homey. All the ducks are in a row, the finances are static, intake and output are balanced, the seas are calm and the boat isn’t rocking. Yes, this is a good place to be.

 

But what if there’s more?

 

That sky this morning turned metaphor before my eyes. Should the sun never pass beyond the height of the clouds, should it never break over the horizon, should it remain in the stable comfort of the clouds, then what? And I prayed, “Lord, take me out of the stable. Take me into the growth.” And I prayed for the ministries in which I’m involved, “Lord, take us out of the stable. Take us into the growth.” Because growth is kingdom glory. Growth is where people are shaken and come to their knees and submit to Jesus. I know this myself. When God takes us out of our comfort and hands us something new, He equips, He guides, He says, “Depend on me.” And knowing nothing better, we do what is ultimately best. We hand it over to Him. “Build your kingdom here, Lord, despite me and my feeble efforts.”

 

In the last five years, I’ve helped build a tea company; in the last three years, I have overseen a ministry to women; in the last five years, I’ve written about ministries in Africa; and in the last couple of years, I have watched an idea take shape for a coffee shop. And the thought that strikes me over and over again is that these “buildings” – whether a ministry or a company or a business or a not-for-profit— whatever we are building, if we build without God’s guidance, all our strivings are in vain. It is so beautifully expressed in this song: All Glory Be to Christ.

 

What we put our hands to, what we create, is nothing without God. We don’t know what legacy will survive from our work. But if it is kingdom work, it is not in vain and it will not go unreturned.

 

We have so many partners – missionaries, doctors and nurses, coffee shop owners, baristas and managers, church leaders – and we are seeking to do God’s will, to build God’s kingdom on earth. All glory be to Christ.

 

It was pink when I started out on my walk this morning. The sky. But by the time I returned home, the sky was technicolor blue and the sun was high above the clouds. The day was growing. The kingdom is growing.

On Monday mornings, we pray for you, our partners. Tomorrow, we pray for your growth. We pray that God moves you beyond stable to kingdom legacies beyond your wildest imaginations.

Avni and Her Gold Award

“I wish I had 10 of her I could hire right now!” said Ed Bjurstrom, co-founder of CompassioNow and Compassion Tea Company. He was speaking of a remarkable partner in providing life-saving medical care for people in rural Africa – Avni Patel.

 

Avni is an exceptional teenager in her sixth year of Girl Scouting. After completing her Bronze and Silver Awards in Scouting, she decided to attempt her Gold Award. The award process is complicated and requires commitment and perseverance as well as creativity and a passion for helping others. So, when Avni, whose mother drinks Compassion Tea, approached us and asked if we could help her earn her Gold Award, we were thrilled!

 

Avni raised money to purchase surgical instruments to send to Mambalima Hospital in Zambia. Mambalima is both a small hospital and a school for children with disabilities in the rural town of Manba, Zambia. In significant portions of Africa, having a child with a disability is considered a curse on the family. Because subsistence is so difficult in the rural parts of the country, those who can’t add to the farming or other procurement of food are a burden to a family. They are often sent off to school or abandoned. Mambilima strives to provide schooling, love, and medical care for these “cast aways.” During a recent trip to the school through Mission Medic Air for an orthopedic clinic, Dr. Shadrick Lungu and Dr. Martha Lungu treated 31 patients. Drs. Lungu shared that 9 children from the school will need “various forms of surgery” and 4 children will need artificial limbs to be replaced as they have outgrown theirs. The orthopedic instruments Avni acquired will allow the doctors to carry out more of the necessary surgeries there at Mambalima, rather than send the children to a government hospital.

 

Initially, Avni anticipated being able to find local hospitals that would write-off or donate surgical instruments. “Since a lot of my relatives are doctors that have ties to Zambia, I figured getting donations would be the easiest part of this project, but it actually proved to be the hardest…,” explained Avni in a recent interview. “[Getting] used instruments donated… was my focus for at least a couple of months. With no success, I had to shift to fundraising money to buy the instruments.” Avni learned to negotiate and to be persistent as she sought to find a supplier for the instruments. “I received quotes from companies for as much as $8,000, but luckily TJ Surgical Instruments was able to give me a large discount for the same instruments,” said Avni.

 

Using her own earnings from a paid summer internship and from her work with Youth Commission and with matching funds from CompassioNow, Avni was able to purchase the required instruments and will be sending them to Zambia soon.

 

Helping others, especially in Zambia, has been a lifelong pursuit for Avni. “My grandfather grew up in Zambia, and many of my other family members also lived and have ties there. When I was little, I used to do chores around the house to help fund kids in Africa so they could attend school with my grandfather, so this was always a place I had a passion to help…. Wendy [Bjurstrom] had sent me pictures of the kids with handicaps in Zambia. It’s heartbreaking to look at those pictures and think there is no way for them to be helped. I didn’t really realize how fortunate I am to have access to great health care, and hospitals and doctors that are educated and able to perform just about any surgery.”

 

Said Wendy Bjurstrom, “Avni’s compassion for the handicapped children of Zambia is very tangible. She has been an absolute pleasure to work with on this project!”

 

“My hope is that at least a handful of these kids are able to get the surgeries they desperately need so they can live their lives as normally and healthily as possible,” concluded Avni.

 

Avni, our hope is that you continue to find ways to positively impact those around you and we hope to partner with you again soon! May God watch over and bless you!

 

 

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Milestones

When there is a new baby in the house, you mark milestones. Whether is it the first time he rolls over or mutters a discernible word, mommies and daddies mark it down. And in today’s world, we post it online, on some form of social media, for the whole world to enjoy with us.

 

We have a new baby. She’s 15 weeks old and already potty trained. Ornery and feisty in the morning, she is the perfect lap dog in the evening when we’re all on the sofa ready to read and relax. Yes, she’s a fur baby, another goldendoodle, and she is the perfect compliment to our 4 ½ year doodle Winston. Maggie is her name and we are smitten. We are marking her milestones, her shot schedule, waiting impatiently for the day we can safely take her for a walk around the neighborhood, tracking her weight gain, and teaching her manners. It’s fun marking those milestones!

 

As I mentioned, Maggie has a big brother, Winston. While Maggie is very much her own dog, she looks up to her older and wiser doodle. While they play together something fierce and while I love watching them romp, I most enjoy watching Winston guide Maggie, showing her the ropes, minding his manners so that she learns hers. I caught this photo of them together the other day. You get the idea.12510461_10208182632501642_3559157654668221333_n

 

I wanted to share this photo with you for two other reasons.

 

  1. When Compassion Tea started on February 26, 2011, (Do you note the date? Do you see the milestone?) we began much like this photo, looking up to our God for guidance and direction. We founded our company on these 5 Bible verses:
    1. Proverbs 19:21 “You can make plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.”
    2. Psalm 37:5 “Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you.”
    3. Psalm 16: 1-3 “Keep me safe, O God, for I have come to you for refuge. I said to the Lord, ‘You are my Master! Every good thing I have comes from you.’ The godly people in the land are my true heroes! I take pleasure in them!”
    4. Psalm 90:17 “And may the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful!”
    5. Isaiah 46:9-11 “Remember the things I have done in the past. For I alone am God! I am God, and there is none like me. Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish. I will call a swift bird of prey from the east – a leader from a distant land to come and do my bidding. I have said what I would do and I will do it.”

Over the past 5 years, we’ve held approximately 250 prayer calls to pray over our tea, over our business, over our customers, over the people we are serving in Africa, over the people in Africa who are providing medical and spiritual care at our partner clinics, over each other. We have consistently held up the company before the Lord and asked him to heal, redeem, direct, guide, provide wisdom, to multiply efforts and monies and supplies, to give us strength to keep walking forward, faith to take the next step, and hope for an even bolder, broader, and beautiful future wherein we are able to serve more and more people. 250 calls. Yes, we’re like puppies looking up to the big dog to see what’s next!

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2012-10-13_14-10-53_91tea rounds ready to goTea pouches for Christmas Tea bazaarAnd he has rewarded that faithfulness on our part, offering the next steps when the time was right, bringing new customers and directions, and multiplying the funding we are able to provide to CompassioNow. And the number of prayers He has answered in those 5 years is astonishing. With God as our CEO, we have built a thriving business, we have changed lives here in the US and in Africa, and we have brought Him continual glory. That’s not to mention the new connections and the healing and the stronger relationships and the safe travel and the beneficial exchange rates and shipping costs. The list of success and answered prayer goes on and on!

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Reason 2:

On February 4, 2006, CompassioNow was awarded its non-profit tax status, making it a legal and legit organization. Ed and Wendy Bjurstrom recently tabulated what they have been able to provide monetarily to the clinics in Africa over the last 10 years. They discovered that it was over $1 million! Another milestone… $1 million and a 10 year anniversary! Woo hoo! But that hardly shows the full impact of those 10 years. It doesn’t tell the stories of the lives changed, the clinics that have been built, the new buildings and medical wings, the staff and supplies, the men, women, and children who have turned to one of our partner clinics as a last resort, after the witch doctor didn’t work, after the government hospital sent them away without proper treatment, after they’ve come to the end of their ropes, desperate for relief and healing.

It doesn’t tell the stories of the people tested early for AIDS and who began early medical intervention, the lives saved from parasites, which could have been lost had it not been for a basic antibiotic; the children who have been given life through urgent medical care and/or pre and perinatal care of their mothers; the home-bound who have community health care providers making regular visits; and the children who have been granted eyesight from a donated pair of eyeglasses.

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This doesn’t tell the story of medical training and supplies, of medicine shelves stocked, and birthing beds delivered, of bicycle ambulances, and fixed airplanes to transport medical staff and those who need more urgent medical care.

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We can put a number on the money raised for Africa but we can’t put a number to the people who have been touched by CompassioNow and its mission to bring “life-saving medical care to the world’s least served.”

 

Oh the milestones! Biblically, when people wanted to celebrate and remember what the Lord had done for them, they built an altar or raised a rock on end. They made a physical mark on the landscape to say, “Here, God answered us.” That is no longer tradition. But here, we raise our Ebenezer, we make our mark on cyberspace, we count the successes and mark the milestones. And we look forward to the future, knowing that with God as our CEO there is more goodness to come. “Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him and he will help you.”

 

 

Sri Lanka Tea

Source: Sri Lanka Tea

Sri Lanka Tea

IMG_1972“Good tea is not made in the factory.  Good tea is made in the fields.  If you do not get good leaf you cannot get good tea.” — Lalith, a good friend in the tea business while visiting his homeland of Sri Lanka with Ed and Wendy Bjurstrom of Compassion Tea Company

We love tea. It’s true. Learning about this fabulous drink makes us a little bit giddy. And there are few things in life that bring us more happiness than a tea tasting! (Of course, this is second to serving God and His people in need!) Several members of our team have now been to Sri Lanka to learn about the tea process from plant to your cup. We’d love to share some of our knowledge with you.IMG_1667

The complicated process of making tea is thousands of years old. And among the superior quality teas such as the ones we carry, a vast majority of the process remains done by human hands. Let’s look at the process as it is done in Sri Lanka.

Currently, in the world tea market, there are 70 different tea growing areas around the world.China produces 39% of the world’s tea. India produces 23.5% and Kenya produces 8%. Sri Lanka follows with 6% of the tea market production. Teas from Sri Lanka are called Ceylon teas. About 400 tea plantations operate in Sri Lanka and roughly 20% of the land in Sri Lanka is under tea cultivation. There are about  650 tea factories. About 340 million kilograms of tea are produced in Sri Lanka each year.

Despite the statistics that say tea is one of the fastest growing beverages in the United States, the US imports a modest 2% of Ceylon tea. Turkey and Russia import the majority of the Ceylon tea.

All tea comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant. How the leaves of the plant are processed creates the different types of tea such as black, white, green, and oolong. Herbal teas are a misnomer in that they do not come from the Camellia Sinesis plant but are based on flowers, fruits, the shavings of the rooibos plant, and other leaves.

The Camellia Sinesis plant grows naturally into a tree, but in order to cultivate it effectively, plants are maintained as shrubs. This also makes the harvesting more comfortable for the tea pluckers. Climate, soil, and elevation play an important role in the quality and quantity of the tea produced. The plant grows best in tropical climates that see a lot of rain and at higher elevations.

When the tea is harvested, workers enter the fields to hand-pluck the top youngest leaves and buds. A typical “pluck” is to pull two leaves and a furled bud from the top of the plant. It takes about 4.5 lb. of fresh tea leaves to produce 1 lb. of the tea you brew for your cuppa.

Typically, men oversee the work of the tea pluckers as they are called. The tea pluckers, who are women, begin their days in the fields around 8:30. They have a morning break and a two-hour lunch break. They then pick in the afternoon until about 4:30. The women carry a special basket on their backs. This lightweight basket makes it easier for them to use both hands for plucking. They then toss the leaves in the basket. Measuring sticks keep the plucking to a consistent level. Once an area of the field is plucked, it won’t be picked again until at least 8 days have passed.c84d8bcf-f64a-43e3-8e7d-9cec8b5a23d28617342c-c9b1-4a90-bfe3-af425635f51a

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On the Pedro estate where Ed and Wendy visited this past January, the pluckers make 680 rupees ($4.50) per day minimum and get free housing and medical care, child care and maternity as well as 21 days holiday pay. They are compensated for extra leaves picked and are given free food for their children and free burial. A health care clinic on the plantation provides the majority of their medical needs. The workers are well cared for and make a good living by Sri Lankan standards. Sadly many of the workers who stay on the plantations  for free do not even work on the tea plantations, but prefer to work elsewhere (like farming) where they make more money. But they cannot be kicked off the plantation. Out of the 7,500 people who live on the Pedro tea estate, only 1,500 work in tea plucking or processing, yet all 7,500 get free housing and benefits! This poses a real challenge for the plantation owners and may lead to problems in the future as world demand for Ceylon tea lessens and as costs rise.unnamedunnamed-3unnamed-2

Once the tea is plucked it is carried to be weighed. Because extra bits of leaves and twigs accidentally get in the baskets, the tea pluckers sort through their baskets before they take them for weighing. The tea pluckers are given bonuses for extra tea plucked. Once the tea is sorted and weighed, it is ready to head to the processing plant. Three times a day, trucks carry the tea from the fields to the processing factories. Because Ceylon is a black tea, it will undergo a fair amount of wilting and oxidizing in order to give the tea the rich black taste we know and love.

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Our Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Decaf English Breakfast,  Black Lemon, Cinnamon Orange Spice, and Black Chai teas all contain at least 90% Ceylon tea from Sri Lanka.

Green and white teas are minimally processed from here. Black teas, like the Ceylon in Sri Lanka, undergo 10 steps to provide the proper oxidation of the leaf to achieve the black color and flavor that makes Sri Lankan Ceylon so delicious. Here is a pictorial guide from the Lover’s Leap Tea Factory at the Pedro Estate of Sri Lanka where Ed and Wendy visited last January.

IMG_1683IMG_1716Step 1: Withering Process- Air comes up from the bottom of the withering bins, and the leaves will wither for 12 hours. These leaves begin the withering as soon as they come in from the fields. After withering, the leaves go through a tunnel to the rolling room.

IMG_1708IMG_1714Step 2: Rolling – The leaves are placed in the roller for 20 minutes. Oxidation is taking place. Rolling bruises the leaf and makes the juices come to the surface. Left: The leaves on the left are rolled, and the leaves on the right are withered only.

IMG_1739IMG_1759Step 3 – Rotor Vane – After the tea goes through this “mincemeat grinder” it will be much finer, like wet grass. Tea can go through up to 4 turns on the rotor vane. Above: The leaves on the top are ready to go to dryer, but the leaves on the bottom must go through the rotor vane again.

IMG_1736Step 4: Shaker – The tea leaves that are ready to go to the dryer will fall through while the larger leaves go through another rotor vane.

IMG_1817Step 5: Drying step – The tea will go through a drying oven at 125 F for 21 minutes. A wood fired boiler is used to heat the ovens.

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Step 6: Electrostatic separators are used to pull out fibers and stems from the tea. After separating, it drops into the yellow buckets. At this point the tea is finally stable. You can see that it is really starting to look like black tea by now.

IMG_1832IMG_1834Step 7: Grading – Tea is graded by size using the Chota sifter. There are 4 sizes: 10, 12, 14, 16. Number 16 (BPOF) will be the smallest and the strongest tea.

Step 8: The Color Separator is another way to remove more stems and fibers. It also separates the tea into different grades.

IMG_1870Step 9: Bulking – The tea goes through the hole for the bulking step. This is where they blend several harvests together.

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Step 10: Bagging. The teas are put into bags which each hold 33 kilos. Then, the tea is sent off to the auction house or other tea blenders to make specialty teas. 

This tea factory in Colombo, Sri Lanka, gets tea from the tea estates and makes their own blends for shipping to countries like Japan. Below is a series of photos showing a huge blending machine from top to bottom.

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Many tea factories also make their own tea bags. These teabags are going to New Zealand. Much of the work here is done by hand.

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Here is a worker gluing the tea bag boxes shut.

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This tea factory in Colombo ships 40 foot containers of tea to Japan, England, and the Middle East. The Middle Eastern countries buy much of the Ceylon tea; however, due to conflicts and wars in this region, tea exports were down for Sri Lanka this past year. 056c1a09-f10a-4dcd-bdbf-6c92ea289849

It’s all ready to go somewhere around the world!

Did you know how much time and labor and care went into your cuppa? Enjoy!IMG_1986

Of Passions… for Football and Tea

I don’t have a man in the game, so the Super Bowl doesn’t have a lot of meaning or excitement for me. Sure, I’m enjoying eating brie and apples and Chex Mix and chips and guacamole and all but I suppose I don’t need a football game to do that. The game is on the TV, my son is in the tree house pretending it is Hogwarts and he’s a wizard, and we’ve all spent 30 minutes watching the skies as the F15s fly overhead; after all, the Super Bowl is only 20 miles from here. 20 miles from here, there is a huge stadium full of people partying and whooping it up, gnoshing and celebrating and who knows what else. Millions of people. And we’re nestled in our home, TV on, quiet and taking a Sabbath in a way. So, I feel it appropriate to share a little story with you.

It’s a story of a man who played football, whose passion was football, whose every aspiration revolved around football. But God had a slightly different plan for him. This is the story of Zack Follett, one of our newest customers and owner of the Fresno-area coffee shop chain Kuppa Joy.

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As Follett shared with Marek Warszawski of the Fresno Bee newspaper, “’If it didn’t involve football or girls,’ he says, ‘I wasn’t interested.’”

Warszawski continues: By all accounts, Follett was successful at both. At Clovis [High School], the Tri-River Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2004 was known as “Zack Attack.” At Cal [Berkeley], where he played from 2005-08, he glossed himself “The Pain Train.”

Both fit his aggressive, reckless, shot-from-a-cannon style.

“I had an anger and a rage to me,” Follett says. “The football field was a place where I could let all that go, and it was cheered and admired.”

Football was his consuming passion. He watched games on TV, memorized stats, collected cards. Besides partying and girls, there was little interest in anything else. Especially religion.

Dewayne Coleman remembers.

Coleman and Follett met as sophomores [at Clovis High]. By senior year, they became friends. They hung out, played video games and created art in Follett’s garage. Which helped bridge the primary difference between them: Dewayne was deeply religious, and Zack had no time for that stuff.

Many times during their high school years, Coleman would encourage Follett to attend Fellowship of Christian Athletes meetings.

Follett would sometimes go, mostly out of respect to his friend. He rarely stayed long. The football star showed up, gobbled a few slices of free pizza and bolted.

“If I tried to talk to him about God, he would look me in the eye and say, ‘D, football is my life. That’s all I care about,” recalls Coleman, now a youth and young adult minister at The Word Community Church in Fresno.

“I could never have that conversation with him.”

While at Cal Berkeley, Zach bought a $10 print of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting “The Last Supper” from Ross Dress for Less. He didn’t know why he bought it except he thought it might bring him good luck. Suddenly, however, after an evening with his cousin Adam, that painting took on meaning. According to Warszawki: The evening of March 8, 2008, began just like any other night. It happened to be during spring football before Follett’s senior season at Cal.

Zack and his cousin, Adam, along with two young ladies, piled into Follett’s black Hummer H2 and headed across the Bay Bridge for an evening of wining and dining in San Francisco.

Things did not go as planned because the two men ended up alone in Follett’s Berkeley apartment. They sulked for a while before Zack invited his cousin into his computer room to watch a funny video and lighten the mood.

That’s when Adam, a Christian, spotted “The Last Supper” hanging on the wall. He was surprised to see it — and a little angry — knowing Zack wasn’t the slightest bit religious.

“He said, ‘Do you want to know about this picture?’ ” Follett recalls. “I rolled my eyes and thought, ‘Oh, no. More Jesus talk.’ ”

Adam started talking. And talking. He spoke for 2½ hours about God, creation, and Satan. He spoke about Jesus, the apostles, and the Eucharist.

Only this time, Follett listened.

“A light bulb went on in my head,” he says. “All those people I’d made fun off for loving Jesus, finally I understood.

“The Holy Spirit was talking through my cousin that night.”

Coleman remembers being awakened by his ringing phone. It was almost 3 a.m. He was living in Sacramento and attending theological college. He and Follett had stayed in touch through social media but didn’t see each other.

Coleman recognized Follett’s voice; just not the words coming from his mouth.

“To be honest,” Coleman says, “I thought he was drunk.”

The next morning, Coleman saw a missed call from Follett. He called back, and Zack repeated the same things he’d said in the middle of the night.

“I never had a hint it was coming,” Coleman says. “I’d never heard the words ‘Jesus Christ’ come out of his mouth unless it was swearing or used as a derogatory word. That night changed everything.”

 Follett’s awakening came swift and sudden. It seemed like each time he had a question, the Bible provided an answer.

Heading into his senior year at Cal, Follett was more enthused about football than ever. He felt like God had given him a new energy, adding to the considerable zeal he always brought to the field.

Follett was a second-team All-Pac-10 selection as a junior with 12½ tackles for loss and 6½ sacks. And when the Bears switched to a 3-4 defense, it was like the new scheme was designed for him.

As a senior, Follett led the nation with 23 tackles for loss to go with 10½ sacks and five forced fumbles. Heading into the draft combine, his bio on NFL.com contained phrases like “plays with reckless abandon on every snap,” “forcefully takes on blocks with impressive pop” and “looks to intimidate his opponent.”

But at the end, there’s this: “Tackled with his head down too often in 2007, leading to some missed tackles and, more important, putting his spinal cord at risk.”

Follett missed nearly three games of his junior season with a neck stinger. Concerns over the injury probably were the reason he slid into the seventh round, where the 6-foot-1, 236-pounder was drafted 235th overall by the Detroit Lions.

It didn’t take long for Follett to establish himself as a special-teams ace, especially on kickoff returns. One hit on Rams return man Danny Amendola was particularly fierce. He appeared in 10 games as a rookie, recording 10 tackles.

Follett quickly became a fan favorite in Detroit, both for his style of play and colorful personality. When his father, Bob, died suddenly and unexpectedly, his faith only deepened. In year 2, Follett cracked the starting lineup for two games until his season abruptly ended after a helmet-to-helmet collision with the Giants’ Jason Pierre-Paul on Oct. 17, 2010.

Laying motionless on the turf, Follett appeared to grimace as he was strapped to a backboard and taken off the field on a motorized cart. Giants fans gave him a standing ovation.

No one knew it at the time, but those were the last football cheers for Follett that he would hear. Unable to recover from his injuries, he retired the following August during the start of training camp.

Two days before the announcement, Follett sent his then-girlfriend the following text message:

“Playing football no longer makes me happy. Preaching Christ is what brings me joy. Praying God reveals his plan for my life.”

That revelation didn’t come in Detroit. Nor did it come in Clovis. It came in England, of all places, where Follett traveled in January 2012 to speak at churches and schools and also serve as a studio host for Sky TV’s coverage of the NFL playoffs.

Follett remembers sitting at a coffee shop in Marlow, a town of 14,000 in southern England, sipping cappuccino, when the epiphany hit him like a bolt of lightning.

He had his Bible with him, of course, and was reading the following passage from Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.”

“As I took a sip of that cappuccino, I thought, ‘This is a cup of joy,’ ” he says. “The Holy Spirit connected with me at that moment.”

The voice inside Follett’s head told him the next step: Move back home, back to Clovis, and open a coffee shop.

 

With the same passion he had for football, Follett tackled coffee, despite the concerns of his family and the economic situation of the Fresno-area. In December 2012, Follett opened his first Kuppa Joy in Old Town Clovis. Warszawski continues: It took a while to find the perfect location on Clovis Avenue, an old building with a brick interior that used to house a flower shop. To remodel and open the doors[,] he used his own savings without borrowing a dime…. All the decorative touches, from the naturally finished wooden tables and benches to the ornate throne representing King Jesus to the behind-the-counter wallpaper made from coffee bags, are Follett’s.

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The setting is warm and inviting. It’s [a] place to sip fine coffee drinks and socialize — or tap tap tap on the computer keyboard.

“Coffee is the medium people use for connecting and conversation,” [Follett] says. “I love everything it represents.”

The only evidence that an ex-football player owns the place [is the] five helmets sitting on a high shelf. They are… Follett’s actual helmets from Cedarwood Elementary, Clark Intermediate, Clovis High, Cal[Berkeley,] and the Lions.

“My whole life I’ve been Zack Follett the football player,” he says. “I’m definitely proud of my past, but there needs to be much more.”

Longtime friends like Coleman are astounded at the transformation.

“Honestly, it’s like two different Zacks,” Coleman says. “It’s like a whole different operating system in his mind.” 

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Last December, Lee and Anne Kennedy of Compassion Tea visited Follett at his Clovis store and introduced him to Compassion Tea. Follett’s enthusiasm for sharing tea and saving lives reflects his passion for serving Jesus and His people. And thus begins a beautiful relationship, if you don’t mind me waxing poetic. This past week, Follett opened his second location of Kuppa Joy, this one in downtown Fresno.

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God certainly grabbed ahold of Follett’s heart. His motto is to “Love God, Love People, Love Coffee.” We’re thankful for this change of heart and we’re hopeful that Follett will “Love Tea” as much as we do!

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Click here to hear Zack tell the story himself. To read more about Zack Follett, go to: http://www.fresnobee.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/marek-warszawski/article19527702.html