“Useless. There is no way you can use these, Clara.” I hated to have to say this. Mama can usually fix these things. But when the dog shredded her brand new flip flops, ripping the strap completely apart, there was no way to fix this except through copious amounts of duct tape. Who wants to wear that? (Don’t answer that… I realize there are websites devoted to duct tape apparel. Yikes.)

The pronouncement against the flip flops was met with copious tears, a true flood and a resistance to reality. All over a pair of shoes.

What else can be “useless?” Our dog Winston has rendered many things useless… from Legos to dolls, from buckets to fly traps. It almost makes one want to call him “useless.” But something stops us from calling another living thing “useless.” It certainly isn’t politically correct and it certainly isn’t Biblical. If we believe in a creator, who created us in His image, then certainly no human is less than remarkable.

Apparently, this is a first world perception however. In places where living is tenuous and people need to work together to provide the minimal for subsistence, those who can’t carry their own weight are, by society’s standards, “useless.” Chris and Jack Faherty, Compassion Tea co-founders, were in South Africa earlier this month visiting two clinics CompassioNow supports (in part thanks to your support of Compassion Tea!) Dr. Karin Volker has been working at the Lily Medical Centre for about four months now. She offered to take Chris and Jack around and discussed with them several of the patients she has been helping. One particular woman, in her early twenties and handicapped, has been deemed by the community as “useless.” Unable to walk, she crawled where she needed to go. Her own family had refused to help her. Because of the lack of care she had received, the woman eventually arrived at the clinic sickened with severe infections. Dr. Volker has been treating her infections and has given her a walker… the first time anyone has offered to help this woman improve the quality of her life. But Dr. Volker is frustrated too. She told Chris and Jack that she had sent the woman to a nearby government clinic. Unable to run certain labwork at Lily, Dr. Volker hoped the government clinic could do it. The government clinic had the capacity, but refused to do the labwork because “it was unnecessary.” The woman was useless; why spend the money?

Chris and Jack were taken to the woman’s house. I’m going to let their words tell the story:
“Wednesday morning we awoke to a very bright, cold day, (around 35 F). The conference center is a long cement block building with bedrooms on each side of the dark hallway. We were grateful for our warm showers but we ate breakfast wrapped in the blankets off our beds. The building never warmed up even with the windows open during the sunny afternoon. I mention this to put our community visit in perspective.
The home [we visited] was one of the round houses with a thatched roof and I wondered on the way there how they handle the cold nights having fewer resources than we did. When we went in the home there were three women and a baby, two of the women lying in bedding on the floor with the baby lying beside one of them. Apparently both of them were ill that day and were being cared for by a family member. As we looked around a few things stood out: there was no lighting other than the window, there was some crude electrical wiring, there was no furniture other than three “beds” on the floor, a small table, a large refrigerator (?) and a small electric space heater. The woman we came to see was one that Dr. Volker had told us about … who was handicapped. She has not received much help in her life as she is considered “not useful” and she had come in quite sick with infections. She was lying in one of the beds that morning and the woman there said that she was having a bad day but that she had been improving since Dr. Volker had been treating her. She pointed out a walker in the corner with a seat attached that the clinic had given them and she said this woman had been able to use it to get around without crawling. I believe the woman is in her early twenties and this is the first time anyone has offered to help her improve her quality of life.”

For twenty years, this woman has heard words that labeled her as unworthy, unlovable, hopeless. A walker, some antibiotics, and a person willing to take the time to help must add some hope to a life otherwise considered worthless.

I recently had the privilege of attending parts of the Global Leadership Summit and hearing Condoleezza Rice and John Ortberg speak. Rice spoke about her meager upbringing in the segregated south where her parents weren’t able to take her to the movies or to a restaurant. Nevertheless, they passionately imparted to their daughter that even though she “couldn’t sit at the counter at Woolworth’s” she might “one day become President of the United States.” That same child, who in the eyes of some would have been considered unworthy, potentially useless, grew up to become Secretary of State. It was a rousing moment at the Summit and I just heard Rice use it again during the RNC. Opportunity and hope are so powerful.

John Ortberg’s speech focused on research he did for his latest book Who Is This Man? The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus. Listening to the speech and subsequently reading Ortberg’s book, I’ve been amazed at the impact of Jesus’ life. I’ve had the privilege of growing up hearing the stories of how Jesus healed through touch or mud packs or mere words people with leprosy, lameness, blindness, excessive bleeding, and disturbed minds. But in today’s world, where we have huge institutions that lobby and fund-raise for everything from autism awareness to prison care, Jesus’ care for humanity seems par for the course. Ortberg says no. He explains the social culture of the day whether it be Greek, Roman, or Jewish. And concerned about others they were not! Ortberg explains, “Anything malformed or defective was considered by Pharisees to be unable to reflect the perfect holiness of God. Therefore, nothing malformed was allowed within the precincts of the temple” and that translated to people’s homes as well (pg. 36 Kindle version). According to Ortberg, “Sociologist Rodney Stark argued that one of the primary reasons for the spread of Jesus’ movement was the way his followers responded to sick people” (37-38). “The idea that ‘the least of these’ were to be treasured – that somehow the Jesus that they followed was present in despised suffering – was essentially a Copernican revolution of humanity. It created a new vision of the human being. People actually took Jesus at his word” (39). And therefore, Ortberg suggests “… wherever you have an institution of self-giving for the lonely (and for practical welfare for the lonely), schools, hospitals, hospice, orphanages for those who will never be able to repay, this probably has its roots in the movement of Jesus” (44).

Ortberg goes on to attribute libraries, hospitals, charities, democracy, abolitionist movements, and the rise of women’s rights to Jesus and His followers. Could these events, movements, institutions have occurred without Jesus? Possibly humanity could have gotten there eventually, Ortberg surmises. But we’ll never know because the world did have Jesus and continues to have His followers.

I can’t speak for Dr. Volker’s inspiration, but I can speak to the founders of Compassion Tea. As followers of this man named Jesus, they have publicly declared no life useless. Daily they strive to improve the lives of those in Africa deemed so and they support the people on the forefront of the fight to bring hope and health to people who are otherwise considered worthless. That is what Compassion Tea is about; we share tea in order to save lives… because no life is useless.

New Organic Rooibos and Butternut Squash

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? Mine? It’s coming in nicely, thanks for asking! The tomatoes are ripening on the vine. Cucumbers, zucchini, and eggplant have already produced some yummy meals. The corn is over

Ready to go in the oven!

knee-high, and the pumpkin plants are blossoming beautifully. I’m hoping that the mysterious squash plants that sprouted after I used compost from the bin will turn out to be butternut squash. It remains a mystery however.

I’m hoping for butternut squash though. I love squash and I’ve got this great new recipe that couples rooibos tea and butternut squash to make a dramatic side for any meal. I’ll get to that in a minute.

First, I want to tell you about the tea you could use. Compassion Tea has just introduced 4 new rooibos teas. They’re organic and produced in South Africa using herbs and spices from that area.

The Lavender Sage Rooibos takes me back to that morning about 10 years ago when I was the first one up on the boat. We were moored off a small Greek isle in the Aegean Sea and as I climbed out of the cockpit and viewed the craggy hills around me I was overcome with a sense of peace. Those hills were covered in sage and lavender and as they baked in the intense morning sun, those two scents warmed the air. It was aromatherapy in its most natural form! Add the sounds of goats and cowbells and you have created my perfect place.

The Jasmine Vanilla Rooibos is sweet, breezy, and cooling… almost like a puff of air wafting through a stunning California garden full of jasmine. Very uplifting!

Then there is Lemon Mint. A few years ago I came across a hand lotion that combined lemon, cucumber, and mint. I couldn’t get enough of it and started buying body wash and shampoo with the same scent. About the same time, I went to a restaurant and was served water from a pitcher full of lemon, cucumber, and mint. So refreshing! It must have been the vogue combination at the time. But, it certainly is a lasting combination. I still flavor water in this way! Now, Compassion Tea is introducing its version of the combination. Ice it and imagine beautiful fountains of crystal clear water dancing in your mouth!

The fourth of the new teas is perfect for my butternut squash recipe! Called Spicy Rooibos,

After the squash has baked for about 25 minutes, snip fresh chives over the top and enjoy!

it combines chai spices, South African peri-peri chilies, and cocoa nibs with the caffeine-free rooibos leaves. Sha-zaam! The flavors burst over your tongue warm and rich. This tea has the potential to become your favorite, as it has become mine! Infuse it with butter and drizzle it over sweet potatoes or butternut squash and you’ve got flavor galore!

So, back to that recipe. Here’s what you’ll need.

3 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tbsp. + 1 ½ tsp. rooibos tea leaves
2 medium-large butternut squashes
Drizzle of olive oil for baking sheets
1 tsp. fine sea salt
2 tbsp. chopped fresh chives

Fresh chives from the garden add the finishing touch.

Preheat oven to 425 F. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and add 1 tbsp. tea. When the butter foams, remove from the heat, cover, and infuse for 10 minutes. Strain out the tea leaves from the butter through a fine sieve; discard the tea.

Cut off stems and seeded part of squash. Peel the necks and then slice into ½ in. slices. Place squash slices on lightly oiled baking sheets.

Grind remaining 1 ½ tsp. tea leaves in mortar and pestle and mix with salt.

Brush the squash with tea infused butter. I recommend Spicy Rooibos Compassion Tea!

Brush butter onto tops of squash, season with pepper and rooibos salt. Bake until soft, about 25 minutes. Sprinkle with chives and tuck in!

(adapted from Sunset Magazine, February 2012)

The Old College Try

The Old College Try.

The Old College Try

What do you remember from your college days? I was watching via Facebook as the new students at Wittenberg University, my alma mater, arrived this past week. New Student Days… unpacking, bonding games with your dorm mates, learning the campus, and figuring out the food options… ahhhh, the good old days! Actually, that first year, probably the first month or two, everything felt so foreign. But by the end of my four-year tenure there, I owned that place! It sure felt like home and with the added independence of having a car on campus I knew Springfield and Yellow Springs quite well. It almost seemed incomprehensible that I couldn’t just stay at Wittenberg forever, cruising over to Young’s Dairy for an ice cream, watching the independent films in Yellow Springs, pontificating about literature with my favorite professors, sledding in the Hollow, or watching movies under the stars there, and best of all, chilling with my besties. But, I had a wedding and a new job and a new house waiting so onward and upward!

My college years were the ones that introduced me to tea. I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what started it, but I remember having a brutal sinus infection my sophomore year and the only thing that kept me going was that giant tumbler of tea I carried to earthquakes and volcanoes honors science and to philosophy first thing in the morning. I must have had a hot pot to heat the water and Lipton was no doubt my tea of choice. After all, I was only a poor student! Yep, tea and my mom’s butter cookies… manna from heaven!

If this is making you feel nostalgic at all, you’ll be happy to know that Compassion Tea is introducing a new membership, our 9-month student membership! This membership covers the school year and is perfect for a parent, godparent, grandparent, or friend to gift to that special student heading back to the hallowed halls of learning. All you have to do is head over to our website (click here) and sign that special someone up for the 9-month membership and we’ll do the rest which includes sending two pouches of specially selected teas (about 50 to 60 infusions per month) directly to the student at his/her mailing address on campus. Just think of it as a warm fuzzy delivered to your student’s door monthly! And don’t forget the added bonus of also saving lives through this membership. Your purchase of a membership will help us send life saving medical supplies and medicines to “the world’s least served” in Africa.

Let’s give it the “old college try” and see how many student memberships we can get, how many students’ lives we can warm, and how many lives we can save!

Love, Compassion, and Ugly

Compassion is sometimes difficult to pin down. But when it tugs on your heart like this, it is unmistakablely gut-wrenching, heart-melting, life-changing, even for a “not a cat person”!
Love, Compassion, and Ugly.

Share Tea, Save Lives

Share Tea, Save Lives.

Share Tea, Save Lives

These summer mornings have become quite precious. Later bedtimes mean long sleep-in times for the kids, but not for the dog. And consequently, I’m up early with him. This makes for a great time to read emails, catch up on Facebook, and most importantly to spend some time in God’s word. I am now subscribed to a number of daily devotionals including Girlfriends in God (go to and sign up for this daily devotional and see an advertisement for Compassion Tea!) and GodTube. Today, there was a very moving video about Rachel Beckwith, a 9 year old who donated her birthday money to help people in Africa have clean water. She was tragically killed in a car accident before she made it to her 10th birthday, but in her name $1.2 million has been raised to drill new boreholes in Ethiopia. Watch:

What a kid, huh!

I also received an email this morning from Chris and Jack in South Africa. They have been there for a week visiting the two clinics that CompassioNow supports in that country… Lily Medical Centre and 1000 Hills Community Helpers. This email was about their experience at 1000 Hills with Dawn Faith Leppan, the founder. From their writings:

“Jack hadn’t been to Thousand Hills for six years – when it was still at an abandoned Catholic church. We found the new campus to be an oasis in the middle of exceptional poverty. It was very well kept, with gardeners and workers (volunteers from the community who work for the two meals a day offered) busy at all corners of the site. Dawn Leppan met us with warm open arms. She gave us an extensive tour through the various infant, toddler, and pre-school rooms. All of this was very clean & colorful. There were kids everywhere but no chaos. It was remarkable and encouraging. We also toured the kitchen where cheerful volunteers were preparing meals for the numerous folks waiting patiently. We also visited the well-baby clinic that was taking place that day (every Tuesday). We saw about ten pair of mothers (or grandmothers) and infants waiting to be seen and numerous others had already been seen.

They have a craft store with merchandise produced by locals as well as a trauma center that Dawn’s granddaughter staffs as she is a licensed social worker on the government’s payroll. Dawn recounted some tragic stories of some of the locals who had been abused sexually and otherwise and how they’ve tried to help them recover and move forward.

Dawn took us to a local community [this is the Claremont Camp I wrote about in the Olympics and the Temporary blog] where they’ve established a “safe house” and daytime crèche (daycare). The housing there was appalling with waste smell in the air and outdoor bathrooms overflowing. There were exposed live electrical wires running on the ground throughout and barefoot children nearby. We saw one encouraging house that had a small garden – modeled after the garden at the safe house. We ended this visit by touring the safe house that was part of this neighborhood. The house had the cleanliness of the Thousand Hills Clinic with about twenty kids sitting well behaved at clean, bright plastic tables. Just beyond them was a fenced in garden that would be impressive in any U.S. suburb. The contrast between the safe house / crèche and the surrounding shacks was extraordinary and a real testament to the impact that this group can have on a community.

We ended our visit with the distribution of the four duffle bags we brought there. Dawn was very moved by the supplies provided; commenting regularly about how certain items would be helpful. It was very moving.

We returned on Thursday morning as we were so impressed with this group’s impact…. [W]e gave Dawn the gift of Compassion Tea that we had brought for her and her staff…. We also got to witness some of the impact of the supplies delivered. Dawn gave a pair of reading glasses to a grandmother there. She was very happy but her glasses started steaming up. Dawn asked what was wrong and the grandmother replied that she could finally see well but she had no money to pay for them. Dawn said that they were free and the grandmother was overcome with joy.”

Whether it be fresh, clean water or a pair of eyeglasses, we can change lives. We at Compassion Tea believe that by sharing tea, we can save lives. Please join us!

Inspiring Pu’ erh

Inspiring Pu’ erh.

Inspiring Pu’ erh

Anne and Chris watch as Didi pours another infusion of her family’s pu ‘erh tea during the World Tea Expo held in Las Vegas in June.

The team gained insight into what Chris describes as “a meditative way of life that weaves the calming effects of tea into the building of relationship.”

“I was sitting in the hospitality room at the hotel, sipping wine, relaxing, and keeping to myself,” reminisced Lee Kennedy recently as he retold of an amazing experience he and the other founders of Compassion Tea Company had at the World Tea Expo held in June in Las Vegas. “And then Anne walked in and started doing what Anne does best,” he continued, sitting back in his patio chair. The people around the table chuckled because we all know what Anne does best; she’s a master at creating relationship where there is none.

Anne Kennedy, Lee’s wife, picked up the thread of the story. “There was an Asian man sitting near my husband and we started chatting.” And in the course of the conversation, they realized they were both there for tea. As Anne relayed some information she had just learned, the man became increasingly excited. As it turned out, the man was Professor Kanzo Sakata from the Laboratory of Molecular Bio-catalysts, Institute for Chemical Research, at Kyoto University in Japan. He specializes in the development of floral aroma during the production and processing of oolong and black teas. He works with the Japanese government to assist Japanese tea makers improve the quality of their teas, and Dr. Sakata was the one who had studied the impact of a certain leafhopper insect on the leaves used to make oolong teas; his published study was exactly what Anne was relaying. Immediately, a bond was formed.

With Dr. Sakata was a Chinese student named Didi Liu. A foremost expert on pu’ erh (pronounced poo air) teas, Didi was leading a class in these teas at the expo the next day, and she urged Anne and the other Compassion Tea directors to attend. The group of directors consisting of Lee and Anne, Chris and Jack Faherty, and Ed and Wendy Bjurstrom also met Didi’s parents who own a tea garden and a tea production business in the Yunnan region of China. The Liu’s purchased the land for their garden when they saw tourists trampling hundreds–of- years-old tea trees. Their tea garden contains tea trees that are roughly 800 years old and this age lends great flavor and value to the pu’ erh tea they produce.

The following day, the Compassion Tea directors headed to Didi’s seminar but found it sold-out and closed. Disappointed, the team strolled off to other parts of the expo. Later, they saw Didi again in the hotel hospitality room and shared their disappointment. Didi, also disappointed her new friends had been unable to attend the class, offered to serve the team tea.

What ensued turned out to be the highlight of the expo for the entire team. Joined by Dr. Sakata and Jane Pettigrew (an English tea guru who leads many seminars on tea), the team spent the next hour and a half in near silence punctuated by commentary about the pu’ erh tea and the ceremony itself. Didi’s mother prepared the water and cups in the background while Didi quietly and gracefully led the team through multiple cuppings and infusions of her family’s own pu’ erh tea. The cups she used had been designed by her mother especially for the ceremony of tasting pu ‘erh tea. The team described the ceremony as “purposeful,” “delicate,” and “gentle”… each participant receiving a thimble-full of tea to taste after each infusion. Chris remarked at her amazement that one serving of tea leaves could change and develop so markedly through multiple infusions, the leaves offering new colors and flavors with each steeping. Truly, they were in the presence of a great pu’ erh tea.

At the end of the ceremony, Didi presented each couple with their own cake of pu ‘erh tea from her parents’ garden and pressed in the ancient tradition by a stone weight. She instructed them to save the cakes for 5, 7, and 10 years, sampling one at each milestone. Pu ‘erh tea, because of the microbes introduced into the tea, ferments with age; like a fine wine, this is what gives the tea it’s uniquely dark, earthy color and flavor. The team views these teas as priceless.

During that hour and a half, the team gained insight into what Chris describes as “a meditative way of life that weaves the calming effects of tea into the building of relationship.” As Chris described the Chinese culture as humble and private, Lee remarked, “It was a true privilege. The ceremony gave me an added respect for tea and I feel a stronger connection to the roots of tea.”

The team felt that in sharing her tea and the ancient ceremony, Didi had shared herself, had built a relational bond, and had passed on an ancient art form. They spoke of the privilege, the contrast between our fast-paced American culture and the purpose of the timeless ceremony connected to the past and connecting them to their new friend. They spoke of the “fullness of being together,” of sharing, of passing the tea cup, of relationship building… all things we at Compassion Tea knew tea could mean for people and part of the reasoning behind our mantra, “Share Tea, Save Lives.” Tea brings people together, inspires meditation and communion and relationship, and provides a platform for revealing the true self.

As the sun sank behind the LA hills, and the chill of evening settled around us, Anne concluded, “I believe it was God’s little treat for us.”