Olympics and the Temporary

Oh Olympic fever is taking hold! The excitement is building! Opening Ceremonies are on today and I’m thinking about how to best view them and what foods to have at the ready. As I’m typing this, I have a window open to USA Today’s online Olympics coverage where a clock is ticking down the time until the Opening Ceremonies. It’s not long now!

Next to the clock is an article about Michael Phelps in relation to his housing in the Olympic Village.  (http://www.usatoday.com/sports/olympics/london/swimming/story/2012-07-25/michael-phelps-ryan-lochte-share-suite-in-village/56485516/1) The Olympic Village is of course the temporary housing for all of the athletes and is meant to be cozy, a good place to relax, and designed to encourage friendly camaraderie with athletes from around the world. According to the article, Phelps has a single room in a four-bedroom suite he shares with six other swimmers including his rival Ryan Lochte. Apparently, the village has no air conditioning (and after having lived in London for a year I question why it would need air conditioning) but “athletes use rotating fans of the kind familiar in college dorms.” And then the article finishes off with: “Phelps said his room ‘is about the size of a closet. … You walk in, and I’m not joking you, my room is probably about that wide.’ And here he spreads his arms and then tucks his elbows in, to indicate his room is not as wide as his famous wingspan. ‘I have, like, a bed, a nightstand, a dresser,’ he said, ‘and that’s about all I got.’”

Doesn’t it just pull on your heart strings? After three very successful Olympics, shouldn’t Mr. Phelps be entitled to something more posh for his fourth and last?

“Temporary” is the key word here. The Olympic Village is home for roughly two weeks. Temporary.

Two of my Compassion Tea friends, Chris and Jack, are currently flying to South Africa where they will be visiting our partner in serving, Dawn Faith Leppan at the 1000 Hills Community Helpers clinic in the Valley of 1000 Hills. While they are visiting, they will be making a trip to Claremont Camp near Inchanga. According to Ms. Leppan, Claremont Camp was created “in 2007 [when] the local municipality identified a squatter camp near Claremont, on the outskirts of Durban, and it was planned that this population would receive government subsidized housing in Inchanga. In the interim they were moved to temporary housing structures adjacent to the land where the subsidized housing would be developed.” That was in 2007. Five years later, the population still lives in the temporary housing, which consists of  “6 rows of pre-fabricated temporary housing units with 60 rooms per row.” The estimated population is 2500 people of all ages. Ms. Leppan has described the camp as a place of high unemployment, high rates of alcohol and substance (mostly marijuana) use, and highly dangerous for several reasons.

1.     There are communal toilets but they are “blocked and littered with excrement.”

2.     The municipality supplies water but the connections are broken creating a “wet area which is a breeding ground for disease as well as wasting valuable water.”

3.     The camp has electricity… in the form of wires snaking across the ground, open connections and uninsulated wires exposed to physical contact. Ms. Leppan writes, “There have been several incidents of children and adults being shocked by electricity.”

4.     There is no safe place for the disposal of garbage so the camp is littered making it dangerous for children and animals and serving as another breeding ground for disease.

5.     HIV, sexually transmitted infections, and tuberculosis rage in this camp where people are over-crowded and there is little privacy.

For more information about the camp, read the blog from 1000 Hills regarding their initial visit to the camp: http://1000hch.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/the-story-of-inchanga-camp/

Ms. Leppan and her staff have set up a weekly mobile clinic at the camp in order to provide much needed medical care on-site including supplying contraception, training on how to live more healthy, and creating support groups for patients with chronic illnesses. They serve 40 to 50 patients a week at the clinic and are securing food for the roughly 200 families in need of food. Currently, they have enough to cover 60 families.

This is a slightly different temporary housing situation than Mr. Phelps’ closet-sized bedroom. And it is much less temporary. Thankfully, Ms. Leppan is making headway in improving conditions. Yet, this gives another insight into why waiting for government organizations to take action is not effective planning. CompassioNow and Compassion Tea both understand the necessity of grassroots efforts of support for organizations already operating in rural Africa. So, what can you do to help?

1.     Donate directly to CompassioNow on their website: www.compassionow.org.

2.     Purchase a tea membership through Compassion Tea (www.compassiontea.com/memberships). 100% of after-tax profits go directly to CompassioNow and on to people like Ms. Leppan.

The situation in Africa is proving to be anything but temporary. Together we can make it more temporary!

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Air Entitlement

Air travel is so delightful, isn’t it? Between the disgrace of pat downs, the grossness of walking through airport security shoeless, the jostling for position in the boarding line much like sheep through a chute, and the cramped quarters on-board, flying has become a necessary evil — convenient in the sense of time, but extremely uncomfortable. Last night as I boarded the plane in Ontario/LA, I threw up a prayer asking for safety and patience for us all and for wisdom for the pilot and crew. The instruction came to fire down electronic devices and I figured we were heading up. Turns out it wouldn’t be for another 2 hours. A screw on a wing panel was missing. Due to a lack of mechanics and screws, the process took 2 hours. People who might miss connections were rebooked on other flights. Those of us who were committed to a flight to Oakland were allowed to deplane and find sustenance. And yet, there were complaints. They ran the gamut of “how could this happen to me?” to “what are you going to give me for this inconvenience in my life?”

Me? I hunkered down with my Bible study. Through my church, I’m working through C. S. Lewis’ book The Screwtape Letters.  Screwtape, a demon worker of Satan’s, is writing letters to his nephew Wormwood and trying to advise him on ways to distract and coerce his “patient” away from a newfound Christianity and back to the ways of the world. In Letter 21, Screwtape advises Wormwood to focus on the patient’s sense of ownership. If the patient believes time belongs to him, then he will feel peevish at the imposition of others on his time. If the demon acts just right, he can convince the patient there is little distinction between “my boots” and “my wife” or even “my God.” Screwtape concludes the letter saying, “And all the time the joke is that the word ‘Mine’ in its fully possessive sense cannot be uttered by a human being about anything.” He explains, “They (humans) will find out in the end, never fear, to whom their time, their souls, and their bodies really belong – certainly not to them, whatever happens.” The study material itself reminded me that all we have is a gift from God… our time, our resources, our talents, our possessions, our very lives. The study material says, “The truth is God gave us life, then the liberty or freedom to pursue happiness…. God did not give us the right to make demands upon others to feed us or clothe us or to provide shelter for us or to give us a job or even to pay our medical expenses or provide an education.” Rather, “[Our] objects are all gifts from God. God would have us treat these gifts well” and “[t]he time we have is a free gift from God. How we spend that time in some measure will reflect how we will be judged [or rewarded].”

I could hardly contain myself. Rarely does Bible study and “real life” coincide so dramatically.  Here I was on a plane with a cross-section of humanity, many of whom felt that they had been abused in some way. Their sense was that they were entitled to some sort of gift or reward for putting up with the inconvenience. But what if we had flown with that lost screw, what if the wing panel had wiggled off? What about the safety issue here? It wasn’t like the airline had unscrewed the screw just to spite their clientele. Maybe it was entirely a God-thing… a protection for us all from injury and/or death. In fact, I believe completely that’s what it was. When I reunited with my family and the kids asked what had happened to delay Mommy’s return I explained just that… that God had protected the people on the plane and me from injury. Screwtape and his friends very well could have distracted the crew from noticing the lost screw (is anyone else enjoying the further coincidence of the lost screw and the author of the letters, Screwtape?).

Let’s take this a bit further. If God gave us time, money, energy, everything, then we have some very important choices to make in how we spend our time, money, energy, lives. I’ve heard it said that what we spend our money on reflects where our heart lies, what we value. How we spend our time, especially our “free time” also reflects what we value and where our heart lies. Do we make room for God’s work in “our” time? Do we use “our” money for God’s work?  Or do we simply use our time and money for our comfort?

Have I mentioned the beauty of Compassion Tea in light of my ramblings?  Indulge me for a minute! You see, when you purchase a membership to our tea club (www.compassiontea.com/memberships) you spend roughly $12 a month depending on the membership you choose. The after-tax profit from that money may purchase eye glasses or Band-Aids or Neosporin or blood pressure cuffs or Novocain or surgical gloves or medicines which will then be sent to a clinic in rural Africa where it may treat a small child, a mother, a grandmother, a father, a brother, a son, a daughter… someone who does not have regular access to health care, doctors, even basic first aid. It may be used to ship supplies to Africa. It may be donated to a clinic to build a well, buy a solar panel, fix an airplane engine, pay the salary of a medical worker, host a clinic for first aid education… somehow improve the conditions of life for people in rural parts of Africa. In fact, we have Compassion Tea directors leaving Thursday to take supplies to the clinics we support in South Africa! (Stay tuned for exciting stories from the bush!) Taking care of God’s people, teaching them ways to provide for themselves, spending money to help others… all while also enjoying marvelous teas. (Sneak preview… we’ve got new teas coming… more on that later!)

Buying a Compassion Tea membership does in fact provide for our own comfort, but it also saves a life. Talk about having your cake and eating it too!

Tea Versus Cofee, Part Two

Tea Versus Cofee, Part Two.

Distractions

I keep getting distracted. I should be writing a blog but then there are the dishes in the sink, the dog is eating a pencil, a shoe, a new Lego set, fill in the blank, the children are fighting again over trivialities which may really be a cry for Mom’s attention, and oh look at that pile of laundry over there. But wait, we’re late for a play date, a haircut, a camp, a show at the library, the dentist, fill in the blank. When I get home, there are the chickens to deal with and the dog will need some play time too. I’ll squeeze in that email response and maybe check Facebook and then cook lunch, dinner, fill in the blank. The distractions are fast and furious (yes, even politics as the election cycle heats up are getting to be distracting because one must be an informed voter).

And then I sit down and read my Bible study material … the assigned letters from C.S. Lewis’ book The Screwtape Letters wherein one agent of the Devil advises his nephew on the best ways to prevent his patient’s complete and total conversion to Christianity. Tactic #1? Keep him distracted and unable to act. If the nephew can keep the patient focused on the minutiae and never on the big picture, on the little idiosyncrasies of the person in the pew next to him instead of on the bigger view of the sinfulness of all men, on the future fears instead of the present joys, on the daily grind rather than the vastness of creation, then the patient will be mired in the Devil’s bog rather than walking freely in the light. Distraction. The Devil’s number one tool and I’ve got it bad.

Last week was Bible School week at our church and this year’s theme was “Daniel’s Courage.” Based on his faith in God, Daniel stood up to countless attacks on his character and his God as did his famous friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and not so surprisingly God came through saving the foursome from such things as fiery furnaces and hungry lions. What really struck me this go around for the book of Daniel was the discipline with which Daniel lived his life. His wasn’t some haphazard, willy-nilly religion that came into play when convenient. He was disciplined to eat God’s food, not the King’s delicacies. He was disciplined to continue prayer despite attempts to make such action illegal. He was disciplined to turn to prayer when times were going great and when times were dire. It seems to me, discipline must be the answer to distraction. Intentionality and focus chase away distraction.

As is often the case, this realization has been reinforced for me… this time through one of those email forwards we get from our friends. Titled “When you thought I wasn’t looking” this little email points out the importance of intentionality in our lives. I admit that when I first saw the subject, I thought, “Oh here we go. All the ways I’ve failed… that negative thought I uttered, the cynical moment I had, the discouraging muttering under my breath, the moments I lost my temper.” Instead, here is what it said:

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you hang my
first painting on the refrigerator, and I immediately
wanted to paint another one.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you feed the
birds in winter, and I learned that it was good to be kind
to animals.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you make my
favorite cake for me, and I learned that the little
things can be the special things in life.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I heard you say a
prayer, and I knew that there is a God I could always
talk to, and I learned to trust in Him.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you make a
meal and take it to a friend who was sick, and I
learned that we all have to help take care of each other.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you take care
of our house and everyone in it, and I learned we have
to take care of what we are given.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw how you
handled your responsibilities, even when you didn’t
feel good, and I learned that I would have to be
responsible when I grow up.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you hold
the door open for others and heard ‘thank you’ and
‘you’re welcome’, and I learned respect for others.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw tears come
from your eyes, and I learned that sometimes things
hurt, but it’s all right to cry.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw that you
cared, and I wanted to be everything that I could be.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I learned most of
life’s lessons that I need to know to be a good and
productive person when I grow up.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I looked at you and
wanted to say,’ Thanks for all the things I saw when
you thought I wasn’t looking.

Doesn’t it just make you want to cry? Seriously, though, there is intentionality in all of those actions and despite the littleness of some of them they do speak volumes to the state of the heart.

Now to tie this all into Compassion Tea and CompassioNow. I received an email this week, the minutes from a meeting of the board for Mission Medic Air in Zambia (www.mma-zambia.org). This organization flies doctors into the bush to host monthly clinics in places where there are no doctors. Mission Medic Air is supported by CompassioNow, who has provided funds, a new engine for the crucial airplane that gets the doctors into the remote areas of Zambia, and medical supplies, This past spring, Mission Medic Air hosted a Smile Train camp at a local hospital. During the six days of the camp, 45 patients were seen and treated. That number may seem low until you understand the scope of the camp. Smile Train (www.smiletrain.org) is a charitable organization dedicated to changing the world one smile at a time by providing free surgery to fix cleft palates and lips to families who can’t afford to have the procedure. According to their website, 170,000 children are born yearly world-wide with some sort of cleft. If it is left unrepaired, it can prevent a child from eating and speaking. In many parts of the world, the social stigma that follows a child with cleft is that he/she is cursed; some are even killed or abandoned immediately after birth. So, through the intentionality of Mission Medic Air and Smile Train, 45 children in Zambia were given new life as their clefts were repaired. Already, Mission Medic Air has about 20 other cases signed up in hopes there will be another such camp in the near future.

This made me think of the intentionality of my support of Compassion Tea. Sure, it would be easy to just grab a box of sub-quality tea at the grocery store while I’m there. Or I suppose I could choose to intentionally go to the mall and spend a wad of money at a very lucrative certain tea source there. But in signing up for a Compassion Tea membership I’ve added convenience (now my tea shows up in my mailbox), variety (I get to try teas I might not have thought to try), and that social justice element that only Compassion Tea offers… providing life-saving health care to people who need it desperately. When I don’t think anyone is looking, my children will see me baking with or drinking the tea. They enjoy it too. And they are growing up hearing the stories of children in other parts of the world that don’t have it so good.

I guess what I want to get across here is that in our world of distractions and grind, we can act intentionally in ways that have lasting effects on our own little corner of the world as well as on the wider world. It may take discipline, but the blessings that follow are immeasurable.

Just as a note… in the course of the time it has taken me to complete my ramblings, Winston the dog has shredded an inflatable ball and a gift bag and has emptied the contents of 2 trashcans consuming what he could ingest. Distractions.

Tea… Your Civic Duty

But events leading up to that momentous occasion involved tea!

Are you feeling patriotic? Tis the season! Let’s see. What does that look like? Hang a flag out front, purchase the smoke bombs and sparklers where legal, fire up the grill, find your red, white, and blue t-shirt and shorts, maybe sing a few bars of “The Star Spangled Banner” or “Yankee Doodle”, brew up the iced tea, and invite the friends over to enjoy the day off. This year, with athletes being chosen for the Olympics as we speak, we have even more to feel patriotic over. And the fanfares and symbols of our nation are played and displayed prominently – patriotism as marketing tool. What’s it all about? On Wednesday, we’ll celebrate the Fourth of July, which marks the day the Declaration of Independence was officially adopted by 12 of the original 13 colonies and church bells rang out over Philadelphia announcing this adoption (July 4, 1776). But events leading up to that momentous occasion involved tea!

For years, the British government had been taxing the American colonists, who consumed roughly 1.2 million pounds of tea per year, on their purchase of tea. In an effort to avoid these taxes, colonists including John Hancock and Samuel Adams began smuggling tea in from Dutch and other European markets. Frustrated by the loss of revenue, the British crown passed the Tea Act of 1773, which gave the British East India Company a full monopoly on tea sales in the American colonies. Seeing their economic interests jeopardized, Hancock and Adams began billing this tea act as an abolishment of human rights, the famous “taxation without representation” argument.

On the evening of Dec. 16, 1773, over 116 men (this is the number of documented participants but many more participated anonymously to avoid punishment) dressed in blankets with painted faces and hands and carrying tomahawks boarded three ships docked in Boston Harbor. Over the course of the next three hours, they dumped 240 chests of Bohea, 60 chests of Singlo, 15 chests of Congou, 15 chests of Hyson, and 10 chests of Souchong teas. These are all varieties of black and green tea from China. The teas belonged to the British East India Company and it is estimated that the damages from this tea party were approximately £9,659 in 1773 currency.

Reports from the time indicate that the 92,000 lbs. of tea dumped into Boston Harbor caused it to smell for weeks after the event. The British government closed the port of Boston until all 340 chests of tea had been paid for. This did little to settle relations between the colonists and the crown. (To read more about the role of tea in the American Revolution, visit www.bostonteapartyship.com.)

So, we better do our civic duty this Fourth of July! Toast our great nation with a great tea. And make it a Compassion Tea!