Cravings

At my house, we have ice cream o’clock. It’s that point in the day when you kind of hit the penultimate low and turn to the closest pint for  solace. There is also cookie o’clock and the ever popular chocolate o’clock.  We also have rules about bread. My daughter and I have first dibs on the crusty tips of epi bread and French baguettes. This stems from a time when I literally had dreams all night of eating the highly-satisfying, crusty, pointy tip of a French baguette in the kitchen and woke to discover that hubby had eaten it the night before. Somehow my daughter piggybacked on the outrage and now dear hubby cowers in fear before the wrath of his womenfolk should he inadvertently eat the coveted bread bits. Food is kinda a big deal. 

Particularly the last several months. With less frequent grocery store trips because of trying to minimize travel and exposure, food has taken on a new level of importance. From days of baking to thwart feelings of boredom to trying new recipes because why not, and from digging out some old favorites to stretching the food in the house in new and creative ways to avoid a trip to the grocery store, food has garnered more attention in the house. For goodness sake, I have a nearly 13 year old gentle giant growing in my house, the entire family home for the entirety of the day, and rampant boredom from the lack of social interaction. It’s all a recipe for cravings, for eating like we’re all hobbits. 

A fitness friend recently posed the question, “What do you struggle with more? Cravings or the desire to exercise?” Exercise I’ve nailed for the most part. The surge of endorphins that comes from exercise is a critical component to my mental wellness. I enjoy feeling strong, working out hard, and crushing a good workout. I won’t say it’s what gets me up in the morning, but a strong workout in the morning certainly sets the stage for the rest of the day. Nope, my biggest issue is the cravings that strike — like ice cream o’clock. Hands up… who else literally hears the siren song of a chocolate brownie or an oatmeal cookie or a happy little ice cream mochi humming through the rooms drawing you ever closer to the kitchen? Seriously, you can tie me up like Oedipus, but the siren song is loud and enticing. In fact, I can hear the mochi calling right now.

By the way, I find it intriguing that we often refer to our use of media in terms of eating. When was the last time you devoured a good book or article? Or binged an entire Netflix series? What social media do you consume on a daily basis? If you are what you eat, then are you also what you read, view, listen to, consume? And here again the cravings are powerful. Of late, I find myself thinking, “Wow, I just want to laugh.” So, I head over to YouTube and start up Studio C or The Holderness Family. Pretty soon, an hour has passed and, like eating a pint of ice cream, I’m not sure I’m really all that much better off. I get caught up in some story lines and can’t wait to find out the next developments. When “Stranger Things” season 3 dropped, my kids and I spent the entire day watching the season. When “The Crown” dropped, I walked around with my phone, headphones on, watching and working every chance I got. Recently, I downloaded The Chosen app and binged the entire first season of Jesus’ life. Story lines are as addicting as chocolate, it turns out!

So, what is the point of this rather cavalier talk about cravings? 2 things. As a tea company, Compassion Tea is part of a segment of the food industry in the United States. We provide high-quality tea to coffee shops, tea shops, restaurants, churches, bookstores, and dessert places. (Do you have a Compassion Tea flavor you crave, by the way?)

As a fund-raising arm of CompassioNow, Compassion Tea is intricately involved in providing health-care to rural parts of Africa. Many of the clinics we work with are reporting that greater than COVID-19 issues in their communities are the subsequent issues of malnutrition and even starvation as people are unable to work for food. Village of Hope in Uganda has provided 618 food and sanitation kits to the children who are a part of the VOH program and their families, and they were able to provide food and sanitation kits to another 718 children who are on the waiting list for a spot at Village of Hope. Within the month, they need to repeat this distribution as the food and sanitation kits are meant to last a month.

On May 15, our friends at 1000 Hills Community Helpers posted the following: “According to a NEWS24 article published this morning, Dr Glenda Gray (a member of the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) and the Chairperson the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) – not speaking on behalf of the MAC) noted that ‘We are seeing children with malnutrition for the first time at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital. We have not seen malnutrition for decades and so we are seeing it for the first time in the Hospital’. We are observing the ‘Storm’ unfolding within the Communities we support. Over the last couple of Weeks, our Meals on Wheels Feeding Scheme has seen a vast increase in the number of People relying on Food Aid. The Services we provide, ensures that our Community do not have to live in hunger and fear of starvation.” Daily, the staff at 1000 Hills is feeding over 300 families in the area. 

In Rwanda, Rwanda Children is feeding their community and is fund-raising to provide economic security for 200 families by providing a goat to these families. On June 5th, Rwanda Children posted the following: “Earlier this week, we provided food to an additional 53 families in our community as food insecurity remains widespread…. Many of those receiving food had been supporting their families by offering taxi services as cyclists and motorcyclists. This sector of employment has been devastated by the threat of COVID-19, with almost everyone who had provided this type of taxi service losing their jobs and livelihoods. Jennet, a husband and father to three young children, wished to express thanks on behalf of all the food recipients. ‘I am standing before you to appreciate the goodwill of all of you at Rwanda Children for thinking about us. It’s been a while not having food to eat, and I thank all of you for this act of food provision and the efforts you put into getting us something to eat. May God bless you!’” By providing a family with a goat, Rwanda Children hopes to give families highly nutritious goat milk to stave off malnutrition. Also, the milk can be sold for income. 

Our partner, HOPE Coffee, is seeing similar issues in South and Central America. Even in our own country, there are community members who rely on schools for food, who aren’t able to work for the money to buy food. While I’m struggling to fight cravings, I am fully aware there are people in the world who are struggling to eat, to find food to eat. For them, food isn’t about satisfying a boredom; it’s life. This isn’t lost on me. 

I know we aren’t supposed to brag on our good works, but I’m going to share something here that will bring me around to point number 2. A few weeks ago, before masks were required but there were hefty restrictions on travel and work, I headed to the grocery store for a weekly load up. A woman huddled under an umbrella on the street near the store. She was surrounded by bags. I suspect she had recently lost her job. I approached her and asked if there was anything I could buy in the store for her. She asked for a bag of generic cereal. Well, that seemed easy enough. In the store, I found myself grabbing more than just the cereal for her. Bananas, bread, crackers, milk, I don’t know what else. A bag full of groceries. We laughed when I took the bag to her. We wanted to hug but COVID rules suggested otherwise. For the day, I was her bread.

Thought number 2. In John 6, Jesus tells a large crowd of people that he is the bread of life. He talks about how Moses, with the help of God, brought manna to the Israelites while they were wandering around the desert for 40 years. And he introduces to them the idea that there might be something even more miraculous, more life-saving than the manna was. Actually, not might. There was something even more miraculous and life-saving — himself. By eating the Bread of Life, one will never grow hungry again, he states. Ok, so, not unlike many of us, the people around Jesus had a difficult time believing this. Some knew Jesus as a child, watched him grow up, knew his parents weren’t anything special, and wondered how could anything spectacular come from Nazareth. Some wanted to know how they were supposed to literally follow Jesus’ words to eat of his flesh: “I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” — John 6: 48-51

I mean can one blame them? It sounds a little suspicious when Jesus goes on to say, “…unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.”  John 6: 53-56

And here’s where I circle back. If we can consume media, devour a good book, crave chocolate or Netflix, binge on ice cream or “Tiger King,” why can’t we likewise consume Jesus? What are our cravings for him? Jesus, of course, isn’t literally talking about cannibalism. He is speaking of the symbolical ingestion of him, his ways, his ideas, his peace, his love, and his sacrifice. Like true food which gives us sustenance, nutrients, energy, Jesus gives us energy, rest, peace, comfort, and salvation. He is the ultimate representation of his Father, God, in all his goodness and generosity and faithfulness. 

When we take in food, our bodies break that food down into molecules that are transported to the cells around our bodies. These molecules are the nutrients that boost our cellular health, that continue our growth, that replace the dead cells with life. Similarly, when we ingest Jesus, he works within us on the minutest levels to change the way we respond to him, to others, and to the world around us. When we take in Jesus, he is the spirit within us that gives us the patience to love widely and deeply; he is the energy to wait patiently, to act boldly; he is the life to our death. 

Why don’t I crave Jesus then more than I crave food? Lord, help me to crave you more. Help me to see that you are the more perfect answer to whatever emotion I labor with. Help me to share you as the bread of life, as I would offer a loaf of bread to a hungry mouth.

Pondering Death

My brother and I found a baby bird that had fallen out of its nest before it could fly. The nest was in the rafters of the church, on the Sunday School wing side. We were so distressed. How could this happen? We had to DO something. WE had to do something. So we scooped up the little peeping thing and ran across the gravel parking lot to Dad, who was out mowing the lawn in his old plaid shorts and white ribbed cotton tank undershirt. “Dad! We found this bird! Can you help us put it back in the nest?”

And that was my first lesson on death. Dad took the bird from us and it pooped on him. As you can imagine, he was not happy. But he was more than angry with us. Had we left the little thing, its mama would have found a way to care for it. She would have gotten it back to the nest. But no. We meddled in the natural order of things and had basically sentenced the little thing to death. To return it to the nest would mean rejection from the mother. Our scents were all over the scraggly feathers. I think we ended up putting the bird back in the grass where we found it. We watched for a bit to see if the mama came for it. And then we lost interest. Childhood does that. It gets bored and wants to go swing or ride bikes.img_20200331_115906

My dad had a very agrarian response to death. He’d watched animals be born and die. It’s the way of the world. And people die, too. His job was to be with them throughout their lives to lead them to eternal life, to be with them at the end and to walk them toward the pearly gates, to bless their lives and to commit them to the arms of the Heavenly Father when the struggle was over. I don’t know how many people he actually watched die, rather saw take their last breaths. But in a sense, we’re all dying and we’re all marching steadily toward our graves. Some of us will get there faster than others. And Dad marched alongside his flock, knowing that they were all going to fall prey to death one day or another. One way or another. He was so good about bringing comfort to the dying. He really shone in that area. He was kinda a UPS man for God. “I’ve got this package to deliver. It’s very fragile and its contents are precious. I must deliver it unscathed to the Father.” Of course, he knew that it would hurt for those left behind. But the joy for the dead was unmistakable. Like the time he stood at his mother’s funeral and exclaimed with unshaken belief, “Play beautiful music for the Lord, Mom.” And every time, my mom was right behind him with a bundt cake for the bereaved. Because cinnamon and sugar and nuts and powdered sugar icing make every day a little better. 

Oh there were bunnies who met the same fate at our well-meaning hands, too. Critters housed in boxes and jars because we felt we could care so well for them, better than their mommies. Death was so horrific for us, so final and unfathomable. And the thought that we could play God and save the world was appealing. 

But we can’t save the world. People and bunnies and birds die. In my life-experience, I’ve prayed for people to be released from their pain and suffering, for death to come swiftly. I’ve seen death in the faces of the living. I sat at the bedside of a beloved friend for a couple of days before he died, shared fond memories with him, and ultimately asked him to say hi to my dad in heaven for me, blessed him on his way. Death was weighing heavily on him. It was agitating and labored. It had taken flesh and shriveled it. It had taken the blood red of a mouth and made it black and dry, a cave through which short gusts of wind might pass. I’ve uttered an hallelujah when the news came that death had finally won the day, that the suffering was over, the fight over and the beloved was safely in the arms of Jesus.img_20200418_194524

So, death has lost its sting. As it should. As Jesus declared it would. There are those in my sphere who belong in the arms of Jesus before their suffering intensifies. And for myself, I welcome the day when I too find myself wrapped in the very real arms of the one I’ve imagined holding me through my darkest hours. I don’t need to rush the day, but when it comes I don’t think I’ll complain. 

I find myself in a very interesting situation right now. Daily, we are receiving emails and news reports with death tolls. A running tally of how many people have died from Covid-19 related illnesses. And the world has shut down presumably to curb the rate of spread, to alter the pace of the death tally. And I’m confused on so many fronts. 

  1. The death toll keeps climbing despite the precautions taken. There are reports of people contracting Covid-19 who haven’t left their homes, whose loved ones are extremely careful. Is getting sick inevitable? Can we play God and prevent illness, through wholesale subscription to what science says, as inexact and trial-by-error as it is? Oh, but there would have been more cases had we not shut down the world. Do we in fact know that? Would there have inevitably been more deaths? Or perhaps there would have simply been a number of mild cases. In fact, there may be widespread undocumented cases.
  2. And is shutting down the economy, closing businesses, truly the right way to handle plagues? Because there is fallout. And do we have any idea what that fallout will look like? So many people are out of work right now. They are eating up life-savings. They are forced onto unemployment rosters. 22 million people have filed for unemployment in the last month. That is a far greater number than the Covid-19 death toll. Is this a potential humanitarian crisis? Food banks, blood banks, community services, unemployment benefits, mental health services are all stretched. And this is in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. What about Africa where people live hand-to-mouth daily, where people lack refrigeration and electricity and the ability to store food? And even in America, there is poverty. How many more are going to fall below the poverty line because we’re scared to death? Scared of death.
  3.  Scared of death…. But we aren’t scared of the deaths of unborn babies? No, there are large portions of our society who are scared of losing the right to kill an unborn baby. We aren’t scared of what poverty brings with it – unrest, crime, mental health issues, the potential for abuse and starvation and dependence on government? We should be. Because dependence on government is dependence on the wrong thing.

I don’t have any answers to these questions. I’m not a politician or a scientist. But I do know a few things. God has allowed this plague. In His infinite wisdom and goodness, he has deemed this necessary for our good. It is hard to imagine what that good might be. A great awakening from a world-wide spiritual slumber? A call to repent for our self-righteous, self-idolizing, dependence on human institutions and constructs? A harvest of the saints? A reassessment of the true value of life, all lives? An exposure of corruption and badness in our hearts, our minds, our entertainment, our institutions? I’m not pointing fingers. I count myself among those who need to take stock. Where have I been spiritually asleep? Where have I been self-righteous, depending on my own strengths and beliefs and patting myself on the back for what I have done? Not realizing that it is God in me that brings about the good and just. Where have I harbored corruption and badness, clung to it in fact because I like it, because it feels too good to be angry or bitter or resentful?

I know that death does in fact come for us all. How we face it makes a huge difference. We can run but we can’t hide. We can fight but we can’t win in the long run. So, do we deny it and live like we’re never going to die, like there will never be a reckoning? Do we shake our fists at death, at God, at the cosmos and claim unbelief, putting our faith in very fallible, changing science? Do we hide in a hole and refuse to help others because they might bring us death? Do we stand on the truths of God, knowing that He is a good and faithful creator, that he is a loving and forgiving father, that he is active in the world today and that he doesn’t want to see any of his children (because that’s what we are, children) lost or astray, that he loves us enough to become the atonement for what we have done or not done when he himself is perfect and blameless and beyond fallacy? 

There is assurance in standing on the truths of God. Jesus told us he has gone to make a place for us. Jesus has said he is the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus has said that he conquered death. To date, he is the only one to do so. Knowing Jesus has given me greater comfort and peace about the whole death process. I know I will die. I know that he will walk every step of the journey with me, whether it is sudden and painless, or the long, drawn-out fight against disease, or the laborious trudge of age. He has never left me and he won’t start now.  And at the end, he will be there to wipe the hair from my forehead, the tears from my eyes, to embrace me in a love greater than I’ve ever known. I don’t have to do anything for this great gift except devote my life to his will. Not my will but yours be done….

 

Of Rashes and Burns and Little Ones

This past spring, CompassioNow collected supplies, 5 bags of medical supplies to be exact, to be carried over to Malawi. In their most recent report, Passion Center for Children and their Community Health Network shared how those supplies have made a positive impact on the lives of several children in the area.

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Vanessa and Chisomo are brother and sister. They were taken to the local hospital due to severely itchy rashes on their bodies. The rashes were becoming very painful from constant scratching. At the hospital, the children were given calamine lotion for their rashes. However, the calamine lotion only made the situation worse. Community Health Network volunteers from the Passion Center for Children in Malawi learned of the itchy and painful rashes and brought antifungal meds to their home. This medicine solved the problem and cleared up the rashes quickly.

6 year old Kelvin is the youngest of three children and has suffered seizures from infancy. About 2 years ago, Kelvin had a seizure and he fell on a cooking fire. No one was around to pull him out and he suffered extensive burns. He was taken to the local hospital but they did not have the necessary wound supplies to help. Kelvin’s wound became infected and he was in danger of losing his life. That’s when the Community Health Network at Passion Center for Children learned of Kelvin’s plight. They committed themselves to helping Kelvin and over the next year and a half, they tended Kelvin’s wounds and nursed him back to health.

2 month old Maliam had a normal, issue-free birth. But almost immediately her mother noticed that she couldn’t move her left arm, hand, or fingers. Maliam was taken to the local hospital where she was assessed and given help. However, Maliam made very little progress. Volunteers from the Community Health Network also began to work with Maliam and her mother. They began doing exercises such as stroke movements, positioning, and stimulation. Since Maliam’s mother has begun these exercises, Maliam has improved greatly. The Community Health Network volunteers are keeping a very close eye on the health of Maliam and are poised to act quickly if anything arises.

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Agnes, pictured below with Community Health Network Coordinator Edwin, is 2 1/2 years old. She was born with a very low birthweight and has struggled with disease and malnourishment since. Catherine, Agnes’ mother, took her to the local hospital and she was put on a feeding program. After 2 months of regular feeding, Agnes had made no improvement and the hospital dismissed her from the program. With a new baby added to the family, Catherine is very concerned about how to care for Agnes. Edwin and the Community Health Network have prayed with Catherine and Agnes and will stand by them as they strive to heal and grow. Please join us in praying for Agnes and her family, that nourishment and peace will rain down on them.

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Waddington — A Success Story

It’s nearing the end of summer and most people can point to someone in their sphere of influence who has suffered a broken bone this summer. As inconvenient as it is, the bone is x-rayed, set, and tended. In no time, the bone is healed and life continues. But, in rural Africa, bones aren’t always cared for.

In 2009, 8 year old Waddington broke his leg in an accident in rural Zambia. For three months, he lived with the broken bones and without any proper care or medical intervention. A severe infection set into the bone and Waddington was becoming a very ill young man. His village became concerned and transported him to Chalabessa Medical Clinic, a rural clinic supported by Mission Medic Air and CompassioNow. Sister Marta and the Mission Medic Air team knew that if they didn’t act quickly, Waddington would be permanently and severely crippled, if he survived at all. They transported him to Lusaka where he was treated for his infection and where his leg was surgically reset. Ed and Wendy, co-founders of CompassioNow, met Waddington back at Chalabessa a few months later while he was still on crutches. At that time, Waddington vowed that he would study hard to be prepared for whatever God had in store for him after saving his life.

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Two years later, Ed and Wendy flew to Zambia again and met Waddington. But this trip, Waddington had no crutches; instead, he helped unload the medical supplies from the plane and stood guard over the plane while Ed and Wendy traveled on to Chalabessa. In Ed’s words, Waddington was “a happy, active and healthy 10 year old with a bright future.”

Fast forward to 2017. Ed and Wendy were in Zambia and reconnected with Waddington yet again. At that time, 17 year old Waddington was attending the Grace Academy, founded by the Canadian charity Seeds of Hope Children’s Ministry. Wendy wrote, “His favorite subject in school is chemistry. He wants to take as many science classes as he can to get ready for medical school. He was baptized last month!! He sings in the praise choir at Grace as well as plays the piano. Last week he started a Bible kids club at Grace to teach age 9 and up kids about the Bible. His favorite Bible verse is I Thes 3: 9-10.”

Waddington’s mother died when he was very young and he has two younger brothers. 16 year old Shepherd was born with club feet as well as a spinal development problem (kyphosis). He used to drag himself across the dirt to get around. Mission Medic Air took him for the surgery to repair his club feet, to get him the corrective spinal surgery that he needed. Both Shepherd and Innocent, the third brother, attend Grace Academy as well.

This past spring, Waddington graduated from Grace Academy and in July he began his undergraduate studies in Zambia. From orphaned youth, to severely injured and ill, to happy and healthy, to graduate… Waddington’s life is truly explempary of the grace and goodness of God. Saved and sanctified, Waddington will do amazing things for God.

Turn, Turn, Turn

Ecclesiastes 3 tells us there is a season and a time for everything. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,… a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.” Now, before you break out your Bic lighters and fire up the LP of The Byrds singing Turn, Turn, Turn, let’s pause to consider the time for each tea!

Morning is a brilliant time to start off strong, with a bold black tea! The caffeine in tea is less than in coffee, and yet the bold flavors of an English Breakfast, Earl Grey, or Black Chai awaken the senses. And did you know that holding a hot cuppa in your palms, as you would with a handleless mug or a to-go cup, heats up your heart-line, that vein that runs through the center of your palm straight to your heart? So, drinking a hot cuppa first thing in the morning is a heartwarming way to start the day!

 

Midday, post lunch, the doldrums of the day require something a little more grounding, a little more refreshing. Wake up your mouth and stimulate your senses with an earthy green Sencha like our Japanese Sencha, our Jasmine green, or our Pacific Holiday Sencha green tea, which is paired with chunks of dried mango, kiwi, and passionfruit. The sweet fruity flavors of Pacific Holiday and the gentle sweetness of jasmine prove to be the ideal mid-afternoon treat. Because green teas are processed less than black teas, they still contain many minerals and antioxidants — making them a natural way to boost your afternoon. And it is widely believed that green teas have less caffeine than black teas.

Pai Mu Tan, a white tea, makes a lovely substitute for the morning’s cuppa black tea. More gentle in flavor than a black tea, it still packs the punch when it comes to caffeine. And with it’s jammy sweetness, it pairs well with your flaky croissant. TI Kuan Yin Iron Goddess Oolong can also fire up the senses come morning or afternoon. Oolong, with its slight fermentation, has a headier flavor and can be an acquired taste. Nevertheless, it warms the belly and the mouth and rejuvenates the spirit. Add raspberry flavors to an Oolong and you get the fresh fruitiness that wakes up any humdrum afternoon.

By the end of the day, most of us have shut down caffeine consumption. Weariness may leave us with digestive issues, headaches, and general anxiety and exhaustion. It’s time to call in the herbals! Peppermint tea, which is strictly peppermint plant leaves, is a natural remedy for indigestion, for respiratory issues, and for foggy brain. Bourbon Street Vanilla, a rooibos infused with almond flavoring, curbs the desire for late night snacking, heavy desserts, and other bad bedtime habits. But for those who just can’t unwind after a hectic day, Serene Herbal, with its sunny camomile flowers, lavender flowers, lemon myrtle and spearmint leaves, calms the nerves, slows the racing heart, and quiets the anxious mind. But be careful serving this one to go! We don’t want anyone falling asleep behind the wheel!

Destructive Flooding Impacts Malawi

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

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

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

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

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

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How Many Lives This Year?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A letter to my daughter while she is away…

Dearest,

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Always and forever your mom….

Fires

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daybreak

It was pink when I started out. The sky.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

But what if there’s more?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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