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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

London Fog

For a long time, I thought London Fog was simply the name of the brand of windbreakers my dad always wore. And then, when I was in college, I had the opportunity to travel to London with a group of college students from around the US. We had a week in the city before we were whisked up to York to begin our semester of studies. The most vivid memory I have of that week was the boat ride on the Thames. As we slipped past Parliament and under Tower Bridge, my attention fixed on a gentleman in a trench coat leaning up against the side of the cockpit smoking a cigarette. He wore a bowler hat from under which his graying sideburns peeked. Tall, sophisticated, debonair, he seemed to exemplify for me at the moment the English gentleman. Add to it the fog rolling around us, sweeping in wisps past the bow and the damp cutting into my fingers and you start to sense the mystery of that moment. On particularly dark rainy days and on those foggy mornings when it hangs thick over the house, veiling the neighbor’s front door and the views of the freeway, my mind takes me back and I’m standing on that boat again, a small-town girl for the first time in London, experiencing the richness of adventure and the mystery of other places and times and cultures.
Now, I can find this in a cuppa! Earlier today, I headed to my favorite coffee shop, Inklings, and asked Devan to make me a London Fog. More than just cream and milk, this is a delightful way to enjoy a cup of Earl Grey.
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Here’s what we recommend:
12 ounce cup:  10 ounces of steamed milk, three pumps vanilla and two Compassion Tea Earl Grey teabags, steeped for 4 minutes.

16 ounce cup. 14 ounces of steamed milk, 4 pumps of vanilla and two Compassion Tea Earl Grey teabags, steeped for 4 minutes

Vanilla in the cup first, then teabags in place, pour milk directly over teabags to saturate them.  Steep 4 minutes. Or, if you’re using loose tea leaves as Devan did, you can make it an art form. Behold.

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As they would say in London, “Cheers!”

The Economy of Eternity

We’re counting a lot these days. It’s November, so we’re counting blessings with joy and thanksgiving.

We’re always counting the lives saved and transformed in Africa, like the 21,388 men, women, and children in the Durban, South Africa area, who visited and received medical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual care at the 1000 Hills Community Helpers clinic between the months of July, August, and September, and the roughly 900 people who received care at the Tanzania Christian Clinic during that same time period. And we’re counting the 10 new children who have been sponsored at Village of Hope in Uganda in the past month.

We’re counting coffee shops joining our partnership and celebrating the third-of-the-way-there-mark we passed this week.

These are all brilliant things to be counting. No doubt.

But when God is your CEO, as He is ours, you find yourself in the midst of counting other things – like “divine appointments” and “God moments” and flat out miracles!

Our Director of Sales, Wendy Bjurstrom, travels around the country making presentations to coffee shops and bookstores inspiring them to add “tea with a cause” to their inventory, to “share tea, save lives.” Says Wendy, “I have learned to listen to them, learn about their ministry, and then leave the results up to God.”

Her travels have introduced us to many people and causes. And those travels have also been amazing testimonies to God’s faithfulness and care. Her most recent trip to Colorado is one such example.

Writes Wendy, “My day started with a meeting with Mary from the Rock Church in Castle Rock, CO. We had a great visit together since Mary grew up in Puerto Rico and Ed and I had also lived in Puerto Rico. At the end of our visit, we said our goodbyes. I was headed to my car when Mary handed me an envelope and told me not to open it until I got into my car. She said the Lord had impressed on her to give this to me. I didn’t know if it was money or perhaps a scripture to encourage me, but I felt personally encouraged. I put the envelope in my coat pocket and quickly headed to my next appointment, forgetting about the envelope until much later in the day.”

Mary explains, “I have been practicing obedience and that morning I was digging through my purse and remembered that I had that money in my purse as a payment that I had received for participating in a coffee focus group!  I felt blessed that I still had that money and tucked it back in my purse. As Wendy and I were talking in the coffee shop and she gave me the assortment of teas, God started prompting me to donate the money to Wendy and CompassioNow. I was trying to ignore Him, but the prompting got stronger at which time I asked Wendy, “Do you want money for these samples?” And she turned down my offer.  I heard myself telling God in my mind, “Are you happy? I asked and she turned me down.”  But the prompting feeling didn’t go away.  As I was walking away, God said, “Really? You love money more than me?” And that is when I knew I needed to be obedient and go back and hand Wendy that envelope.  Only God knew what was to follow. I’m just glad that God used me to be a part of that blessing. And so you know, it hasn’t been burdensome.”

Are you eager to hear what happened next? Are you curious about this money? Read on!

Wendy writes, “At 2 pm, I met James from Heavenly Grounds Coffee House in Littleton, CO. Heavenly Grounds is a nonprofit coffee shop that raises funds for Haiti and also does medical mission trips to Haiti about 4 times a year. Our meeting began on quite a sad note as James had lost his 38-year-old sister as well as his uncle on September 28. It was SO hard to know what to say or how to comfort!

James and his Aunt Robin had started Heavenly Grounds in honor of his father who died of a massive heart attack in 2010. His dad loved to help the people of Haiti, so James and his aunt opened Heavenly Grounds to continue that work. I realized that God had sent me that afternoon to try to comfort James, but I was at a complete loss as to what to say and was praying silently for wisdom and the right words.

James was leaving on a medical mission trip to Haiti on November 4th and was feeling discouraged because he had set out a suitcase for donations in his store for the trip asking for medicines, clothes etc. and all that had been donated so far was a few pairs of shoes. I told him that CompassioNow would be happy to help him by donating some medicines, so after our meeting, I drove over to a nearby Costco. There, I picked out items such as Tylenol, ibuprofen, antacids, etc. These are the usual items that we would take to a clinic in Africa. The total cost for CompassioNow was $102.28. I knew God would provide donations to cover this cost.

When I got back to my car after leaving Costco, I remembered that I had not looked in my coat pocket to see what Mary had put in that envelope. To my shock, there was a $100 bill! I drove back to James’ store to tell him the good news that God loved and cared about him so much. James was also amazed at the donation and couldn’t believe how Mary had started her day in obedience to God and He used it to bless James. Only God knew the $100 would be used to buy medical supplies for Haiti later that day! I prayed for James and his family. There was finally a smile on his face when I left.

This is what makes life ‘on the road’ for Compassion Tea exciting!”

Yeah. We’re in the business of counting – wholesale customers, profits and donations, inventory. We’re in the business of sharing tea in order to save lives. And we’re counting lives touched, people saved, God’s work. This is the economy of eternity.

Known

It has been a full moon week and it is the week of Halloween and it has been beyond words. I am sitting here with a dying chicken wrapped in a towel on my lap. In the next room, 4 4 day old chicks peep their breathy life. Olaf has been steadily failing over the past month, but today she is lifeless, cold, struggling to catch her breath, her comb shriveled and grey. I could just cry over her. Oh, to be a chicken tender.

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But it isn’t just the chickens this week. There are real struggles out there over relationships, health, decisions, finances, treatments. There are those in the waiting place. There are those staring death in the face. There are those who just heard that they have been spared. There are those sitting with opened scars, scars they hid under a pile of band-aids. But as a child experiences similar scars, the adult finds those scars exposed, raw again, still festering. And how do you lick your own wounds while your child is bleeding too?

I had a conversation with a gentleman yesterday. He told me about his wife, how she died of breast cancer when their son was 9. “We were both grieving,” he said. “I couldn’t lose him, too. I had to put my sorrow aside sometimes to help my son. He never gave me any trouble and he turned out fine. He’s 35 now and on his own. Those were tough times. But we got through them.”

“He never gave me any trouble.” And I think of my kids and their epic rant last night in the car. “It’s the kids who cause problems who get noticed. They get rewarded for good behavior while those of us who always behave are ignored. It’s not fair.” I was speechless, feeling band-aids I’ve applied carefully and tenderly over gnawing wounds get ripped off, skinning and tearing those raw places. Yes. It’s true. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

This morning’s prayer call with my team of sweet ministry friends… it was just 2 of us this morning… 2 and the Holy Spirit… and it turns out my daughter. I was praying over this, praying for the words, finding the words, our worth is what God says it is, not what the world says. I was praying hard, eyes closed, rocking in my earnestness. I didn’t hear her stomp into the bathroom. Usually, I hear. But I finished praying, spent my words, and then I hear her clear her throat in my doorway. She was there listening to me pour out in prayer my heart for her. I couldn’t have timed that better.

Right. There’s the beauty. There is beauty. There are blessings in the agony. And there is agony in the beautiful. The butterfly in the cocoon. The baby being born. The healing process. The waiting.

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My Olaf girl doesn’t open her eyes when I shift position. I can barely see her breast moving. But there is beauty in this moment. Putting things on the back burner for a bit to sit with her, to reflect and to pour out things. Dreams delayed, un-realized, denied. My head-of-the-hen-house girl cut down in her prime.

So, who knows? That is the question Mordecai asks Esther. “Who knows but that you were made queen for just such a time as this?” Sometimes the “just such a time as this” feels like a death sentence. It wasn’t what I had in mind. It wasn’t the dream I had or the outcome or the …. No, this time and this place feel like a death sentence… saying the hard things, doing the hard things, putting up with the hard things, facing the hard things, healing from the hard things.

But who knows. Who knows? Who knew?

We ask this question flippantly, like no one could have imagined, anticipated, foretold. And yet. There is one, the ONE.

Isaiah 46:10 He tells us to be still and KNOW that He is God. Who is He? He who KNOWS us!

Psalm 139: 1-18

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

He KNOWS us, every intimate part. He KNOWS.

Matthew 10: 29-30

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.[b] 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Ephesians 2:10

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

He knows the hairs on our head. He was there at the creation; He laid the foundation. He knows the end; He has written that too.

And if He knows that, if we are KNOWN in Him, that is the worth that counts, that is the final word on who we are, there is the comfort in the unknown. That is the beauty. To be loved and known. To be held.

Who knows when Olaf will draw her final breath. It is seems likely it will be soon. Oh the awful, glorious, horrific beauty of it all.

ICYMI

In 2005, after several trips to Africa for business, Ed and Wendy Bjurstrom founded CompassioNow, then called Care Now Foundation. Their goal was to provide medical care to the “world’s least served” now instead of waiting for bureaucracy and government to step in. AIDS, malaria, typhoid, parasites, tuberculosis, and infection could all be controlled or cured with the proper medication and care. But in the bush, in the hard to reach villages, in the impoverished rural places, medicines and care other than a witch doctor’s potion are hard to come by. So, CompassioNow began partnering with small, rural, Christian clinics already in place in these impoverished areas. Over the years, we have watched these clinics grow and flourish in their abilities to reach out and care for the local peoples.

1000 Hills in South Africa, for example, began as a simple feeding center. When CompassioNow helped them build a medical clinic, they were able to transform an entire valley. Today, 1000 Hills sends trained volunteers out from the clinic into the neighboring areas to provide in-home care, to check on those who are home-bound, and to troubleshoot minor medical cases before they become major life-threatening problems. Villagers who need more urgent or aggressive medical care are then brought to the clinic for help. Many turn to the clinic for AIDS testing, family planning, and diabetes help.

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During the April to June quarterly reporting period, 1000 Hills saw 19,446 patients in their clinic and were able to treat them for $1 or less each. Dawn Leppan, founder and CEO of 1000 Hills, shared this case with us: On May 24, a 29 year old female was attacked by four males who wanted her cell phone. When she refused to give it to them, they struck her on the head. “She sustained a very deep cut on the head,” Leppan reports. “Fortunately it did not involve the bone but the wound was already septic within 24 hours. Since we always get a number of injured patients who prefer to come to us rather than going to hospital, we are now doing the suturing of minor wounds and we have the Antitetenus Toxiod to prevent the notifiable diseases e.g. tetanus. We managed to care for this patient without sending her to hospital and she has healed successfully. The patient is very thankful.”

In 2011, Ed and Wendy, along with CompassioNow board members Jack and Chris Faherty and Lee and Anne Kennedy, founded Compassion Tea Company with the express purpose of selling a high-quality tea product in an effort to boost the fund-raising efforts of CompassioNow. Today, through the help of funds raised through the sale of tea and the support of the 20 cafes in 12 states who sell Compassion Tea products, CompassioNow supports the medical work of Tanzania Christian Clinic, 1000 Hills Community Helpers, Passion Center for Children in Malawi, Village of Hope in Uganda, and Mission Medic Air in Zambia.

The Passion Center for Children in Zomba, Malawi, is the newest clinic to receive our support. In June, Ed and Wendy visited the clinic and learned more about their operations.

Ed reports, “Originally, the main complex of buildings at the Passion Center were supposed to be for administrative offices and staff apartments. However, the need to house children who had no-where else to live became apparent and the buildings were converted into dorms/residences for the rescued children. Currently, there are 32 boys and 25 girls in these buildings…. It is interesting to note that when the Passion Center was built in 2005, it was remote with nothing much in the immediate area nearby. The construction of Passion Center brought in electricity and water. As a result, the property immediately around the Passion Center became much more desirable. There was a land grab and people bought up the surrounding parcels of land, including speculators. Nearby is a primary school, which has over 1100 students. Approximately 180 kids are Passion Center kids, rescued or supported by the Passion Center, about 50 are resident in the dorms and 130 live in the village. The Passion Center feeds these children 2 meals a day and ensures they are in school.”

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Back in February, heavy rains and subsequent flooding left thousands of families displaced. In an area that is largely agricultural and impoverished, the floods threatened the livelihoods of most of the local peoples.

CompassioNow has been actively involved in supporting the relief efforts managed by the Passion Center for Children and the local Community Health Network. In June, Ed and Wendy carried over 90 lbs of medical supplies including CompassioNow drawstring backpacks filled with stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, and other supplies the CHN volunteers will need during their daily visits to patients in nearby villages. CompassioNow also donated the funds for the CHN to purchase another bicycle ambulance to help carry patients from the villages to better medical care.

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CompassioNow also donated funds to rebuild pit latrines at Mungunzi Primary School where many Passion Center children attend. During the February flooding, the pit latrines at the school were destroyed. Due to the lack of private and sanitary bathrooms, many children, especially girls, were staying home and not attending school.

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Said Wendy about their trip, “The trip to Malawi was an amazing experience. We are always encouraged by all the wonderful work being done by the people on the ground. And we find such joy in meeting with and working with the women and children and families being helped. There is HOPE for Africa!”

There are many child-headed households on the Zomba Plateau. One handicapped young man heads his household, which includes his 7 siblings. The home of 14 and 16 year sisters, another child-headed household, was badly damaged during the February floods and CompassioNow is helping to fund repairs to the home.

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Ed reflects, “The sobering fact is that once the poor are able to be taken to a government hospital, the usual wait to see a doctor is 4 days!!! In the meantime, there are usually no pain medicines, malaria medicines, IV’s or anything to be given them by the nurses. The government hospital rarely even has Tylenol in stock. This is a fact that we have not been able to begin to comprehend. We are so blessed here in the USA.”

CompassioNow and Mission Medic Air, Zambia

Our support of Mission Medic Air, Zambia is unique. There isn’t just one clinic, but a steady offering of doctors, nurses, surgeons, dentists, and even orthopedic specialists who are flown or driven into the bush for open air, 2-3 day clinics and are often the only western-style medical care available to the villagers for miles around. Mission Medic Air also offers relief and supplies to poorly funded clinics in rural parts of Zambia and transport of patients who need immediate and complicated surgery or care.

Recently, Mission Medic Air came to us and presented a problem — the instruments on the airplane were old, corroded, and unsafe. CompassioNow was happy to raise the funds to replace the instrument panel. Several years ago, we also provided the funds for a new airplane engine.

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Recently, we learned that the new instrument panel had been installed, the plane had passed all necessary inspections, and the first clinic had been held. Wrote Iqbal Malik of MMA, “I… wish to thank you for making it possible for the upgrade of the avionics suite on our aircraft. It has definitely given it a new lease of life! It now also helps, in that we can begin to use the aircraft during the rainy season (first we need to get trained on how to use all the new equipment!). May all the donors remain blessed.”

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Mr. Malik went on to explain, “We will soon require a replacement vehicle for Zambulance, as it has just had an engine overhaul, but it does not sound that good. This vehicle generally goes into areas where there is no airstrip (or where the local populace have not cleared the airstrip) & we are now concerned about its reliability – generally it carries medical personnel who do not really have much of a clue on mechanics. Before the engine overhaul, we had to send a mechanic to go rescue Nellie & team in Luapula province!… Zambulance truly has helped us work during the rains & when the aircraft was not operational (it has probably done close to 200,000 km whilst with MMA). We used both Zambulance & a borrowed vehicle last week, to ferry all the supplies to Mambilima Mission, when a team of 16 American doctors/nurses/helpers spent 3 days there. I flew them in, Geoff, Mr Chonde & Nellie brought in all the supplies by road – over 300 people got treated.”

A little bit about Mambilima Mission. It 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.”

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Ed and Wendy Bjurstrom joined the Mission Medic Air team in 2009 for a trip to Mambilima.

Ed and Wendy Bjurstrom joined the Mission Medic Air team in 2009 for a trip to Mambilima.

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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. Plaster of Paris, they report, is needed immediately to help set castings. They are also seeking orthopedic instruments in order to carry out more of the necessary surgeries there at the hospital, rather than send the children to a government hospital.

In June of this year, another trip was made – this time to the Falawi Mission and the Mulungwe Rural Health Centre. Both clinics are remote and are providing the best medical care possible with very little funds and few staff. The doctors who made the trip split into two groups to maximize their time and efforts. The group who went to Falawi Mission treated 49 patients and provided dental care and eye exams. The group who went to Mulungwe treated 35 patients; they felt attendance was low because most of the villagers were at church that day.

The new post at Mulungwe Rural Health Clinic

The new post at Mulungwe Rural Health Clinic

Sister Biemba, left, presents items donated by Mission Medic Air to Sister Katembo, the head nurse at Mulungwe.

Sister Biemba, left, presents items donated by Mission Medic Air to Sister Katembo, the head nurse at Mulungwe.

Sister Biemba holds a mattress in the maternity ward of the clinic. Mulungwe could use some new mattresses and bedding.

Sister Biemba holds a mattress in the maternity ward of the clinic. Mulungwe could use some new mattresses and bedding.

Sister Biemba attends to a patient at Mulungwe Rural Health Centre.

Sister Biemba attends to a patient at Mulungwe Rural Health Centre.

Your support of Compassion Tea and CompassioNow will enable us to continue to help Mission Medic Air to provide medical care and supplies to remote parts of Zambia, including places like Mambilima, Falawi, and Mulungwe.

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