Four Pill Miracle

I didn’t think people could turn this particular shade of grey. It was ghostly, the color of deadly illness, or at least the closest I had ever come to what I imagined it looked like. And it was the color of my husband as we drove home from a San Jose Sharks hockey game one Saturday night in late January. For the last three weeks, Matt had been suffering from great intestinal discomfort which a round of antibiotics, a steady diet of bland foods like bananas, rice, and applesauce, and a complete avoidance of caffeine and alcohol had done nothing to temper. I believe it was that night or the next day Matt told me that he could no longer stomach the idea of eating. Period. It was too painful. On Monday, I started calling his doctor demanding some results on tests that had been taken. I was very anxious and was incensed that due to patient privacy rights I wasn’t allowed to know the results. Of course, Matt was continuing to go to work despite his discomfort and was working his usual long hours but now on very few calories and in excruciating pain. If this wasn’t a time for prayer, I don’t know what would be!

A few days later, Matt was called with the results. He had giardia, which we later concluded he must have gotten from drinking contaminated water while mountain biking. The recovery was a true miracle. The doctor called in a prescription for four pills which I promptly picked up from the pharmacy. Matt took them that night when he got home from work per the doctor’s instructions. By the next morning, he was able to eat a normal breakfast and drink a cup of coffee. Hallelujah!

For four weeks, I had watched my husband steadily decline, waste away, grow discouraged, irritable, and despondent. All it took was four miracle pills and his health was completely restored.

Shortly thereafter, our church invited a missionary organization to come and speak. The team highlighted the plight of those in Africa who have no clean water and end up drinking water that has raw sewage in it. They listed giardia as one of the top killers because this parasite is contracted from unclean water and because the four miracle pills to cure it are very hard to find in rural Africa. How shockingly real this situation in Africa became for us. Matt and I left church talking about the awful reality of people dying from the same symptoms as Matt had all because the medicine we find so easy to get is simply not available.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you are probably aware that something is about to start, something that has to do with tea and possibly with an organization known as CareNow Foundation. The CareNow Foundation was founded in 2005 in response to a growing awareness among a group of people that health care of any kind is nearly, if not completely, non-existent in rural Africa. The foundation funds the shipping of donated medicines to clinics in parts of Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, and South Africa. One of the founders, Wendy Bjurstrom, recently explained to me that the clinics CareNow supports are actively working to provide de-worming medicines such as those necessary for getting rid of giardia.

CareNow also believes in and supports the training of local medical professionals who are willing to stay in Africa to serve their fellow countrymen. Part of the foundation’s goal is to empower rural villages and communities with medical knowledge so that they can become self-sufficient. Please visit for more information about this wonderful organization.

Because no one should die from giardia.

My cup of tea

“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” That’s an oldie but goodie, huh! Well, when I was in college I spent a semester abroad in York, England. I had two different views of what the “Romans” did. First, there were my fellow college students. They were doing what most American college students were doing. My other view was of the delightful and die-hard Brits who ran the inexpensive and ever- so- quaint hostels that catered to penny pinching (or rather pound pinching) travelers such as myself and a few of my fellow students abroad. To a “t”, every one of them had white doilies with a clutter of knick-knacks featuring small shrines to the royals, tea pots, tea spoons, tea cozies, collectables from recent trips, and family photographs. Rarely was a square inch left uncovered, uncluttered. But it was a warm clutter and in viewing it repeatedly, it began to infiltrate my sense of décor. I began to collect tea pots in the hopes that someday I would own a cottage snuggled in some green hills within sight of a castle perhaps… or maybe I could just bring England with me wherever I went.
At these hostels, the weary travelers were treated to a sumptuous breakfast of sausages, eggs- over- easy, and toast dripping in butter. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! We were on our own for lunch and dinner most of the time, but we could always count on a hot cup of tea when we first arrived. Much like the washing of feet in Jesus’ time, the making of a cup of tea is a ritual, a process full of meaning and love, a complete welcome to the visitor. As the visitor, I was often damp, chilled, weary, and sore when I arrived at a hostel. To come inside, shed the outer damp layers, sit down by a fire, and take a cup of hot tea in hand was heavenly. As the rich flavors subdued with a bit of milk washed through my mouth and the warm liquid heated my insides, the aches and cares of the day faded away. My memories of England are bathed in tea, you might say.

Medicine, Please

It’s 98 degrees outside and I want a cup of hot tea. No, really. I’ve got a summer cold. Joseph and Clara have colds, too. In fact, I think Joseph, in his sweet way of sharing things, shared this. Brilliant. My throat was searing this morning when I woke up. Now, my nose is a stuffy mess, my eyes hurt, and my head is pounding. If I weren’t so hot, I think I’d be freezing. Just now, I sneezed seven times in a row. My chest feels like there’s an elephant sitting on it, my voice sounds raspy, and I could really use a nap. Oh how I hate a summer cold. I am a self-proclaimed poster child for misery.

Let’s see. I could walk about 5 feet over to the medicine cabinet and find relief. Almost like a candy shop, I can pick my “pleasure.” Will it be Mucinex, Zicam, Alka-Seltzer, Robitussen? Should I choose a pill, liquid relief, or nasal spray? And when the kids come asking for relief? Vapo-Rub, Benadryl, a mixture of honey and lemon should do the trick.

I feel miserable. But, boy, am I blessed. Have you heard of CareNow? This organization provides funds and support to groups who are trying to get medical supplies into the remote parts of Africa. But between corrupt  governments, dodgy transportation, and the cost of medicines themselves, this is a particularly daunting task. Here I sit, within easy reach of my own relief. Many of those medicines will expire before I get sick enough to use them. But there are people half way round the world who walk miles and wait hours to see a doctor and yet may not get any medicine for an illness much more serious than a summer cold. Wow.

Still, I can’t wait until the heat of the day gives way to the setting sun and its cooling effects. I will make a cup of tea… of Compassion Tea.

Surprising Joy

Summer has had a hard time coming this year. Late rains and cool temps have played havoc with the usual spring festivities. And yet, today, the first official day off since school let out last Friday, turned out perfect. Blue skies with huge puffy clouds skirting across blended with the verdant greens of the trees dappling the roads with leaf shadow. The temps were comfortable and for once I dressed without the obligatory fleece I’ve been sporting for way too long this year. Early summer in northern California can be nearly Edenic.
I sat musing on this perfection this evening as I shelled peas off the back steps. The kids were in the pool even though the water was a tepid 74 degrees. Not quite bone-chilling, but cold enough to make you think twice about getting in any further. Kids are resilient, persistent, and determined, however, and even in the colder temps they will go in the pool. It’s not for the faint of heart. But my kids were splashing around, Clara trying to coax Joseph to race across the shallow end, but shooting her cause a deadly blow every time she cried out in mock angst, “Oh it’s cold!” Joseph, wise for his nearly 4 years, had determined not to commit to a full immersion but to stick to the platform where the water only came to his knees. He was happy with a squirt toy and throwing diving toys to the bottom for Clara to fetch. It was the first time all day I could remember them playing together for longer than five minutes without either of them spitting, hitting, biting, or calling a name. And I allowed myself to settle into a peaceful joy. Summer is here… garden fresh vegetables for dinner, kids playing in the pool, warm summer evening breezes, bliss.
God allows us these glimpses into the perfection He has planned for us to make us more eager for His coming Kingdom. But we don’t live in perfection. Sin and evil have turned our garden perfection to an impoverished planet. And the stark contrast between the joy I saw in my kids this evening and the joy of a group of five children in South Africa near the 1,000 Hills Clinic is startling at best. 1,000 Hills Clinic was founded by Dawn Faith Leppan and is supported by the CareNow Foundation. Dawn recounts an experience she had about a year ago:
“I was called out at 8:30 one evening to visit a family of five children. These children had lost their mum and the family they had been staying with had asked them to leave as they themselves were struggling. They had managed to find an abandoned shack to live in, and with your (CareNow) wonderful assistance I managed to get clothing, blankets, and food together and arrived at the shack to be met by the eldest child who had managed to find a small piece of candle for me to assess how they were living. It broke my heart to see not one blanket and an old twisted and blackened frying pan with some dry phutu in it that someone had given them to eat. One of the children was covered in shingles. They were thrilled and quite confused when we gave them the food and blankets (Prayers are answered!). The next day they were brought to the centre. All the children had a lovely hot shower, given a nice plate of porridge and Sister Dlamini in our clinic attended to the child with shingles. Their plight was reported to the social worker and things are beginning to look brighter for this little family.”
“They were thrilled” to receive food and blankets. This is a totally different joy, isn’t it? Joy in having the basics. Food for the belly, a blanket for warmth and comfort, hope that someone is watching out for God’s little ones. Joy.
And perfection. The perfection of God’s people called and acting on that calling, following the perfect example of Jesus to minister to the impoverished. Before I launch into some cliché riddled diatribe on the “less fortunate,” I have to pause. We’re all impoverished in some way, aren’t we? For some of us, the indications of suffering and brokenness are less than subtle. Lacking food, shelter, warmth, running water, clean water, a mother, light, health… these are very visible signs of impoverishment. In my own plenty, devoid of these signs, in fact blessed in a multitude of visible ways, there is a broken spirit that not even a cup of tea could fix. Because we all know a cup of tea can fix just about anything from hunger to a broken heart. Like pulling on a fleece on a chilly morning, a cup of tea is a blanket, cozy and comfortable, a sip of hope. Right? I think you’d be surprised how true this is going to be!