Milestones

When there is a new baby in the house, you mark milestones. Whether is it the first time he rolls over or mutters a discernible word, mommies and daddies mark it down. And in today’s world, we post it online, on some form of social media, for the whole world to enjoy with us.

 

We have a new baby. She’s 15 weeks old and already potty trained. Ornery and feisty in the morning, she is the perfect lap dog in the evening when we’re all on the sofa ready to read and relax. Yes, she’s a fur baby, another goldendoodle, and she is the perfect compliment to our 4 ½ year doodle Winston. Maggie is her name and we are smitten. We are marking her milestones, her shot schedule, waiting impatiently for the day we can safely take her for a walk around the neighborhood, tracking her weight gain, and teaching her manners. It’s fun marking those milestones!

 

As I mentioned, Maggie has a big brother, Winston. While Maggie is very much her own dog, she looks up to her older and wiser doodle. While they play together something fierce and while I love watching them romp, I most enjoy watching Winston guide Maggie, showing her the ropes, minding his manners so that she learns hers. I caught this photo of them together the other day. You get the idea.12510461_10208182632501642_3559157654668221333_n

 

I wanted to share this photo with you for two other reasons.

 

  1. When Compassion Tea started on February 26, 2011, (Do you note the date? Do you see the milestone?) we began much like this photo, looking up to our God for guidance and direction. We founded our company on these 5 Bible verses:
    1. Proverbs 19:21 “You can make plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.”
    2. Psalm 37:5 “Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you.”
    3. Psalm 16: 1-3 “Keep me safe, O God, for I have come to you for refuge. I said to the Lord, ‘You are my Master! Every good thing I have comes from you.’ The godly people in the land are my true heroes! I take pleasure in them!”
    4. Psalm 90:17 “And may the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful!”
    5. Isaiah 46:9-11 “Remember the things I have done in the past. For I alone am God! I am God, and there is none like me. Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish. I will call a swift bird of prey from the east – a leader from a distant land to come and do my bidding. I have said what I would do and I will do it.”

Over the past 5 years, we’ve held approximately 250 prayer calls to pray over our tea, over our business, over our customers, over the people we are serving in Africa, over the people in Africa who are providing medical and spiritual care at our partner clinics, over each other. We have consistently held up the company before the Lord and asked him to heal, redeem, direct, guide, provide wisdom, to multiply efforts and monies and supplies, to give us strength to keep walking forward, faith to take the next step, and hope for an even bolder, broader, and beautiful future wherein we are able to serve more and more people. 250 calls. Yes, we’re like puppies looking up to the big dog to see what’s next!

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2012-10-13_14-10-53_91tea rounds ready to goTea pouches for Christmas Tea bazaarAnd he has rewarded that faithfulness on our part, offering the next steps when the time was right, bringing new customers and directions, and multiplying the funding we are able to provide to CompassioNow. And the number of prayers He has answered in those 5 years is astonishing. With God as our CEO, we have built a thriving business, we have changed lives here in the US and in Africa, and we have brought Him continual glory. That’s not to mention the new connections and the healing and the stronger relationships and the safe travel and the beneficial exchange rates and shipping costs. The list of success and answered prayer goes on and on!

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Reason 2:

On February 4, 2006, CompassioNow was awarded its non-profit tax status, making it a legal and legit organization. Ed and Wendy Bjurstrom recently tabulated what they have been able to provide monetarily to the clinics in Africa over the last 10 years. They discovered that it was over $1 million! Another milestone… $1 million and a 10 year anniversary! Woo hoo! But that hardly shows the full impact of those 10 years. It doesn’t tell the stories of the lives changed, the clinics that have been built, the new buildings and medical wings, the staff and supplies, the men, women, and children who have turned to one of our partner clinics as a last resort, after the witch doctor didn’t work, after the government hospital sent them away without proper treatment, after they’ve come to the end of their ropes, desperate for relief and healing.

It doesn’t tell the stories of the people tested early for AIDS and who began early medical intervention, the lives saved from parasites, which could have been lost had it not been for a basic antibiotic; the children who have been given life through urgent medical care and/or pre and perinatal care of their mothers; the home-bound who have community health care providers making regular visits; and the children who have been granted eyesight from a donated pair of eyeglasses.

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This doesn’t tell the story of medical training and supplies, of medicine shelves stocked, and birthing beds delivered, of bicycle ambulances, and fixed airplanes to transport medical staff and those who need more urgent medical care.

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We can put a number on the money raised for Africa but we can’t put a number to the people who have been touched by CompassioNow and its mission to bring “life-saving medical care to the world’s least served.”

 

Oh the milestones! Biblically, when people wanted to celebrate and remember what the Lord had done for them, they built an altar or raised a rock on end. They made a physical mark on the landscape to say, “Here, God answered us.” That is no longer tradition. But here, we raise our Ebenezer, we make our mark on cyberspace, we count the successes and mark the milestones. And we look forward to the future, knowing that with God as our CEO there is more goodness to come. “Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him and he will help you.”

 

 

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Margin

Margin is a hot word in my house these days.

There’s the margin of business, of getting the most buck for your bang. It’s the fine line between squeezing the most money out of clients and the most work out of your employees – without tipping either side of the equation. And big margins are good, sought after, applauded. Margin.

Then there’s the margin of life, the blank space, the whitespace that circles the words of our chaotic lives. Margin is space to breathe, to create, to still and listen, to put down the phone, the TV remote, the computer, the calendar, the to-do list 3 feet long and just… be. Margin is time for the kids to play and be kids. Margin is time for mommy to soak in a tub or for daddy to unwind from the day and connect with someone in his family… or vice versa.

This kind of margin keeps perspective, holds the balance, allows for God to be heard, for healing and health and reconciliation and emotional stability.unnamed-23

unnamed-40But is this margin applauded? Don’t we prefer to applaud the family that can pile the schedule with sports and arts and homework and busyness? Don’t we marvel at the mom juggling all 10 balls marginally well and wonder skeptically at the efficiency of the mom who only juggles 3 very well? Or the husband who works all day, serves on boards, and coaches little league… don’t we marvel at his dedication? But we don’t ask where his margin is, do we?

Is there an assumption that the more margin we have financially, the more margin we’ll have time wise? That the striving and squeezing and pinching stops when the bottom line looks good? Or does the striving and squeezing and pinching just pick up in other areas, cluttering our lives with the trappings of affluence?

And I’m wondering this morning, as I’m flailing in the struggle of creating margin in a world that demands we keep running without margin, what margin looks like in Africa.

Like in Zomba, Malawi, where Passion Center for Children is located. Where is the margin in life when floods have destroyed your house and your crops? Is there rest, blank space, stillness when there aren’t mosquito nets and pots and pans and food and when children are sleeping in the open because there are no beds, no walls, no roof? When there is no monetary margin, no buck for the bang, when life is hand to mouth, where is the margin?10378274_812999028771587_6202102954853020024_n

10923281_812999078771582_747795061580541710_n10917445_812999052104918_3699448331697225328_nOr in Uganda where Village of Hope is located, where 9 new sponsors for children this week is celebrated! And the bottom line says that there are 200 more that need sponsors. And the bottom line reads like this: “Dear friends… this is Cindy. We really need your help. As you know the last couple of years have been hard on me physically. So I have not been able to go out and ‘friend’ raise. Because of that… we are running $20K short each month. We have added a Skill Training Center and another 50 kids to our Villages. Those things add up. So we, our 340 children, need your help. Every dollar helps!”

How do you build margin into your finances, into your life, when there are 340 kiddos who depend on you for life – food, education, healthcare, nurturing, shelter – because the alternative to this is child-run families, sleeping in the open, abuse, days without food, a tentative survival, and no upward mobility. Where is the margin?10299080_10152398008179763_3795027765915466660_n 11015953_10153109834269763_317411810080949687_n 10352939_10152674151649763_6536344923481152464_n

Or in the Valley of 1000 Hills, South Africa, where 1000 Hills Community Helpers is located, where some 5000 people this month will attend a medical clinic of some sort and will be treated effectively and well for the unimaginable cost of $1 per person. Where that same number of people or more will gather for meals, where children will meet daily for schooling and care, where mommies and daddies will learn skills and grannies will meet and sit under the canopy or gather around a table and sew. Where the safe house had to close because there wasn’t funding to keep it open. And where the bottom line says we’re running this amazing operation on nickels and dimes, we are doing great good, but we’ve got no margin and we’re not meeting our financial needs to keep all these balls in the air.1011836_10151711910730854_1547028917_n 10628167_10152865178225854_4632364125688208242_n 1800479_10152895399445854_1985007257085480745_n 10628268_10152895404295854_8499036510535850559_n

Where is the margin when it all sounds so dire?

The margin is in the whitespace. The margin is in being still and listening for God to speak, being still and knowing that He is God, being still and knowing that He is at work, that He has built up these relief centers, that He has begun a good work, and He will fulfill His promises to His people, and He will finish those good works.

And margin is in the whitespace created when we take a moment to savor a cup of tea. Whether we’re members of Compassion Tea and we amble into a pantry well-stocked with a multitude of tea flavors or whether we buy our favorite flavor every other month online or whether we shuffle into our favorite coffee shop, favorite because it carries tea with a cause, how ever we come to our cup of tea and with whomever we share it, when we create this pause in our day, we are creating margin in Africa.IMG_7536

And that’s the bottom line!

Perspective

IMG_5256Meet Dragon. You may look at this and think, “Why did she name that walrus Dragon?” That is an appropriate question. First of all, the walrus in question is my son’s… not mine. Secondly, this creature in question… is a dragon… and a walrus. It’s complicated.

Let me explain. We walked into our favorite toy store and Joseph began his usual systematic hunt through the store for the best “I want.” He approached me after awhile and showed me this puppet.IMG_5255

“What is this?” he asked.
“A walrus,” I replied.

He wasn’t happy with my answer. He asked the clerk. “Umm, excuse me. What is this?”
“A walrus,” she replied.

And then he explained the look on his face. “No, this is a dragon. See.”IMG_5258

I still didn’t see really, but I pretended. “Oh, yes… flippers, wings, yes! Very good.” And the walrus came home with us.

It wasn’t until later that day that I really sat down and looked at the walrus, trying to see him with my son’s eyes. Upside down walrus. No, dragon.

And then my eyes glazed over and my heart flip-flopped and I saw what he saw. Tusks became horns. Beard became fluffy-top-of-the-head hair. Tail… still tail… but more dragon-like upside down.IMG_5259

Walrus… dragon… it’s a matter of perspective.

Now, what is this?

Be sure to crush your loose tea leaves before measuring!

You probably answered, “Tea!” And like my walrus answer, it is a correct answer. But let’s reconsider. Let’s turn it upside down and look at it from a different angle.

Because maybe it is this.

Stina and Nurse Susan hug. That's Dr. Mac in the background.

 

Wendy and Scovia

Fred leaves with Beatrice for the 40 mile ride to the closest x-ray machine.

Fred leaves with Beatrice for the 40 mile ride to the closest x-ray machine.

Fred, in blue, being prayed over by his friends.

Fred, in blue, being prayed over by his friends.

 

 

 

 

 

And this.0-43

Sister Dlimani, Community Caregivers, Dawn's daughter Karin, and Stina take time for tea.

Some of the happy faces coming to day care.

I'm a 1000 HIlls Kid -- it is so good to belong!

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Stina teaches the Community Caregivers how to use their new stethoscopes

Elphus in his tiny room

Where Elphus lives

Wendy and Dawn Leppan get ready to distribute the kits.

Community Caregivers with their new medical kits

 

It could be this also.Day12Meds.162535 Day7nurseJoyceatKareroclinin.160848

I have to ask, then, if tea can be all of these things, why aren’t we looking at tea in this way? Why are you still buying your tea at the grocery store? Why aren’t you buying tea that can be this? Compassion Tea… Share Tea… Save Lives… Tea NOW!

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Masterpiece

I have so much else to do, but there’s a refrain playing in my heart and if I truly believe God is a God of abundance and generosity, He will take the time and bend it and shape it and time warps are possible. And so I believe He, who spoke this refrain, will sanctify the time I spend mulling His words in it.

Masterpiece. I showed the ladies a copy of the Sistine Chapel. “They should have clothes on.” I showed the Mona Lisa, the façade of Notre Dame, Paris. I handed out copies of War and Peace, Hamlet, Moby Dick. I passed around Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet and Handel’s Royal Fireworks music. What do they all have in common? Masterpieces. Someone’s hard work, opus magnum, life’s blood spilling in artistic fervor, passion in word or paint, creative genius, something that had never been before.

And then the mirror comes out.

What do you see? “A wreck.” “Oh dear.” That one actually turns the mirror and won’t look. “My rosacea.”

One gets it. “God’s masterpiece.”

God says, “We are God’s masterpiece, created anew in Christ Jesus to do the good things He planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10

God’s masterpiece.

Compassion Tea's Anne and Chris learning about the first pluck in Sri Lanka.

Compassion Tea’s Anne and Chris learning about the first pluck in Sri Lanka.

Visiting the doctor in all her finery at Tanzania Christian Clinic

Visiting the doctor in all her finery at Tanzania Christian Clinic

Clinical officer David at Tanzania Christian Clinic

Clinical officer David at Tanzania Christian Clinic

One of the "mommies" caring for the orphans at Village of Hope Uganda

One of the “mommies” caring for the orphans at Village of Hope Uganda

Celebrating at the watering hole… masterpieces at Village of Hope Uganda

Celebrating at the watering hole… masterpieces at Village of Hope Uganda

Dawn at 1000 Hills Community Helpers holding two new masterpieces

Dawn at 1000 Hills Community Helpers holding two new masterpieces

A masterpiece with ice cream at 1000 Hills Community Helpers

A masterpiece with ice cream at 1000 Hills Community Helpers

Wendy Bjurstrom of CompassioNow with Scovia

Wendy Bjurstrom of CompassioNow with Scovia

Blowing bubbles at 1000 Hills Community Helpers

Blowing bubbles at 1000 Hills Community Helpers

I’m preaching this to everyone who will listen. To my daughter who thinks holding her nose when a certain boy walks by is okay. To my friend who has a “thang.” To my husband who needs to be reminded as he walks through the lonely halls of business. To myself because the accuser and the world conspire to whisper the opposite. Why do I even give them audience?

I’ve been putting off reading this blog. But this morning, reciting “We are God’s masterpiece created anew in Christ Jesus to do the good things He planned for us long ago,” for the 10th time today, I click on the link. And I find that God is preaching this message through others too.

God’s masterpiece. Creative genius. Passion in flesh and blood. Unique and never been before. His blood spilling in artistic fervor. That’s you.

But Now

We’re taking a stroll down memory lane. Looking back at where we’ve been. How we’ve built a radical new company out of the desire to make money, not for ourselves but for the people in Africa who don’t have quality health care. Who does that? And why?
Why? Because we are privileged!
Remember this?

Talk about privilege. A friend of mine just posted a “notable and quotable” on her Facebook page. It reads:
“If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of the world. If you have money in the bank, your wallet, and some spare change, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy. If you woke up this morning with more health than illness you are more blessed than the million people who will not survive this week. If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the agony of imprisonment or torture, or the horrible pangs of starvation, you are luckier than 500 million people alive and suffering. If you can read this message, you are more fortunate than 3 billion people in the world who cannot read it at all.” I have seen statistics like this before. It always shocks me. Understatement.
Our good friend Dawn Faith Leppan at 1000 Hills Clinic in South Africa recently posted on Facebook the following:
“If you think you are feeling the cold dear friends, snuggled in your warm home, think of those who have a stone floor to sleep on with a thread bare blanket. Lousy, I would say. What do you say?”
This week, our church held their annual missions conference. Missionary, after speaker, after business leader brought to our attention the plight of people in far away places, places where women are sold into heinous slavery and prostitution, where people are desperate for dignified employment, clean water, medicines, where a home is a mud covered hut on stilts or a mat on the street, where children play in sewage, where the same water hole serves as laundromat, bathtub, and drinking fountain. I was particularly moved by this video.  Sany makes a comment in the middle of the video, “but the important thing is when I was young, I was sold.” Can you see the pain in her face? Can you hear the pain in her voice? Another video shown over the weekend showed another woman in Cambodia. Her comment was that she lives her life feeling like someone is constantly watching her. Paranoia like that isn’t without warrant; it is a form of survival. And it has haunted me all day today.
Yes, we are privileged here in the US. I’m watching my kids swimming in the pool as I write this. 50,000 gallons of clean water, just for the kids to splash around in. They are cannon-balling into the water, their cries of joy echoing. The dog is barking on the edge, weighing his desire to get his floating chew toys versus having to swim to get them. Privilege.
One of the weekend’s speakers, Nathan George, founder of a company called Trade As One, talked about this privilege. He suggested that God doesn’t just care about the tithes we give in the church offering plate once a week or once a month. God cares about the other 90 or so % of our wealth. What do we do with that privilege? How do we spend our wealth? George suggested that if we use our purchasing power with taking care of others in mind, we can do amazing things. His company sells fair trade products… high quality products produced in places where a dignified job can mean the difference between poverty, slavery, and disease and a life of hope. Similarly, we at Compassion Tea believe that by selling high quality tea we can provide amazing hope and health to people in parts of Africa where hope and health are rarely felt. We believe our purchasing practices can provide compassion NOW. And quite frankly, I think it a privilege to do so.

Yes, we are privileged, each of us enjoying earthly blessings – family, financial stability, relative health, needs and wants met practically on demand. But wait! There’s more. There’s this.

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of[g] your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— Colossians 1: 21-22

But now.

When you are radically grateful, you live out of a place of radical abundance — there’s always more space for more to share the grace.
And don’t confuse the idea of personal pride with radical gratitude. You aren’t actually thankful for something if you think you actually earned it. That’s pride, not gratitude.
You are only actually grateful for something if you see it as actually a gift -– as an unearned gift that was bestowed unexpectedly upon you. — Ann Voskamp

But now.

Because Jesus Christ, God’s own Son came to earth and offered himself up as the ultimate blood sacrifice for the redemption of sins and for the extraction of guilt, because He did this not because of what we do or did but because of who He is, was, and will be forever, because of this, we are grateful.

There is deep mystery here. The why and really of it gets muddled and messy, because we are trying to humanize God, make Him think and act like we would.

Take it at face value. The but now means He has and that is all that matters.
All that matters is that we’ve been given this free gift with His purchase. Without merit, without right or entitlement, without even a proper sense of the scope, we receive this gift.

When you are radically grateful for what you have, you will go to radical lengths to share it. When you are radically grateful for being blessed — you are radically generous to the oppressed. — Ann Voskamp

So, why do we do what we do? Why do we explore the best teas to bring to you? Why do we care so much about people we may in fact never meet? Why do we travel to regions of the world deemed unsafe carrying duffel bag after duffel bag full of medical supplies? Why do we take this all so seriously? Why?
Because He first loved us, gave us a gift… the best gift. That’s radical and requires radical gratitude, which begets radical generosity.

And it’s there for you too.

Heart Pumping

“The heart is a muscle. It requires exercise. It needs to thump hard regularly to build itself up again.”

This from a cardiologist. Does your heart need a good exercise? Does it need to go thumping hard? Here are few things coming in from the clinics we support that might help exercise that heart of yours.

From Tanzania Christian Clinic
“Besides being refreshed by the lovely weather, we have felt even more renewal through the coming of Jo Jo Elliot, Harding grad (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) and Vanderbilt RN straight from the CV Surgery ICU. Reviving us with her gentle ways, up-to-date knowledge and skills, and spiritual perspective, Jo Jo is fun to be around. She will be working at TCC for several months; how thankful we are that the Lord sent her to us!

In addition, along with Mary we are finding joy in “the Mighty One who has done great things for us” (Luke 1: 49). Just this morning Danny received the long-awaited and prayed-for news that the local government officials will provide our NGO, Tanzania Christian Services, a prime piece of property on which to build a Christian Secondary School in Monduli! Enjoying great road frontage, this piece of land also has electricity and water hook-ups nearby. Though we do not yet have the agreement in writing, the Monduli District Commissioner has given verbal approval and construction will begin as soon as documents are in hand. Our unending thanks go out to each of you who have earnestly prayed for God to bring this decision to fruition. What a mighty God we serve!”

From Village of Hope Uganda

“I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you.”  –John 14:18

It’s hard to look into the eyes of a child, who has no shoes, torn clothes and a bloated belly, without it grabbing your heart. In 2006, during a brief time spent in Northern Uganda, that grab turned into action.

We took action when we built our first village and moved 200 orphan children living in horrific conditions to a brand new home. Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” The Village of Hope Uganda is a living testimony to the richness of Paul’s words in Philippians 4:19 which says, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” because the Lord has abundantly provided. Now we are taking action again by opening Bobi Village, our second community of homes for orphan children. On February 2, 2014, 96 more children will be taken to a community where they will be loved on by the village moms, given medical care, educated at the village school, and fed nourishment to both the body and soul.

I cannot say thank you enough for the many people who have supported Bobi Village. Because of your efforts, Bobi has received the funds needed for full sustainability. One person didn’t make this happen. Sure, God spoke to my heart back in 2006 to “do something” but without the support, help, prayers, donations from people all across this country, that child would still be living with no shoes, torn clothes, a bloated belly, and NO HOPE for his future.

Thank YOU for moving from compassion to ACTION!

Join us in celebrating the Grand Opening of the Bobi Village on February 2, 2014! You may not be able to fly all the way to Uganda, but you can celebrate right where you are!

Love and Blessings,

Cindy Cunningham”

Lily of the Valley is getting ready to celebrate 20 years of helping orphaned children in South Africa!

From 1000 Hills Community Helpers

Little ones eating ice cream for the first time, quilts hung by the lunch area, grannies sewing, and a coat of paint and some fun stickers turn a portable storage unit into a classroom!

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A Morning Minute

There was this.

A little boy in his jammies, not quite ready to sit up, jiving to his own jingle on the bar stools after breakfast. The sound of the fans kept me from hearing the words, but his little voice carried pitch above the jet engine going off in my kitchen. Such a moment of calm and joy.IMG_20140112_081805_976

Then there was this, a Facebook post:

In 3 weeks 288 orphans will load up into vans and make their way to their homes! For many of them, this will be the first time they have slept in a real bed, in a real home. The first time they will sleep in safety, not wondering if someone will attack them in the night. First time they will have 3 meals a day!

If you wonder, “are my donations making a difference?” The answer is, YES THEY ARE!!!!

Thank you!!!

From Village of Hope Uganda, celebrating the return of the students to the original campus and a group of 96 who will travel to the second campus, brand new. A school, a medical clinic, training, love, shelter, food, the beginning of life anew. How do we reconcile these words… “the first time they have slept in a real bed, in a real home.” Ever. Not just in a month or in a year… ever. Joy to be a part of that! Hallelujah and Praise God for bringing them to a home, protecting them from “someone attacking in the night.” Joy!

Then there was this, another Facebook post:

we are all devastated . One of our community children on the way home from our centre was knocked down and killed.

RIP little one

This one from 1000 Hills Community Helpers, South Africa. And pop… joy explodes, gushes from the balloon. One of the least of these. Fragile life made more fragile by want, poverty, disease, death. Fragile life found friendship, hope, food, medicine, community. And yet death comes anyway. We say too early but who is to say God’s commands are wrong. We are devastated by tragedy, by the tragic loss of young life, by the wrongness of it.

And then Jesus says, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” (Luke 18: 17)

The little one, the least of these, dancing on the streets of gold brings joy beyond measure. Sadness for the family, the community, but joy for the child embracing Jesus.

All in a morning minute.

Define Healing

For years, I’ve carried a chip on my shoulder. Because I prayed for what I wanted to happen and it wasn’t granted.

I wanted healing and miracles and for what the doctors said to not be so. But it wasn’t granted… not in the way I envisioned it.

If it had been granted, I’d be the mother of 6. And from this side of things, I think the path that I traveled was probably the best path. Irregardless, I’ve been healed and am being healed daily.

Because daily I find comfort in something… maybe it’s a song on the radio, or watching the wind in the trees, or a whisper in my head that prompts me to act or think or move or be still. Since I started claiming God’s blessings as God’s blessings and not writing them off as happy coincidences, anomalies, and inexplicable events, I see those blessings on so many sides.

And that I count as healing. Because healing isn’t just a clean bill of health from the doctor.

“I’m sick of being sick,” my dad told me that a few days ago. He’s had a rough go, recently. In and out of the hospital, infections, pain, even near-death experiences. It’s been a rough go.

From this distance, I wonder what and why and how and even though God assures me continually that He’s got this covered, worked out, and there is glory in the finish, I doubt. This morning, during prayer time, I became shamefully aware that the word “healing” doesn’t even enter my prayers anymore. I pray for wisdom, patience, peace, strong and right decision-making… but the possibility of healing seems overwhelming. I have my doubts that this side of the heaven there will be healing.

And so it makes perfect sense that this morning, after working in my son’s classroom, as I climbed in my car and thought about my next hour and a half, as I tried to frame my thoughts for the blog I wanted to write this morning, as I turned to a song that was going to pump me up and get me psyched for writing the blog, God had a different idea. He firmly told me to turn to song 9 on the CD, not song 8. And the lyrics brought me to tears. “I hear Your voice it whispers my name/ And all at once You quiet my pain. If Your voice lit the sun and night was overcome, You can speak and light up my world, with just one word.” –Newsboys “One Word”

“If Your voice lit the sun and night was overcome, You can speak and light up my world….”

There are volumes in there… God the eternal, the healer, the creator, the redeemer, sun-lighter, darkness chaser, death overcomer, personal gift of love. But healer…. If God can light the sun, then He can heal.

In her Bible study on the book of Daniel, Beth Moore spent a video session talking about the biblical story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and their fiery session in King Neb’s furnace. The words that stuck the most put their experience in personal terms. Sometimes, Beth explained, God steers us away from the furnace completely. That’s a situation we don’t need. Sometimes, He walks into the furnace with us and walks us out of it, refined and improved, not even smelling like fire or smoke or singe. And sometimes He walks us home through the fire, the ultimate healing. Because in Heaven there are no tears, there is no pain, only the unfailing, unwavering light that is God.

We don’t get to choose which option God chooses. He simply assures us that He will walk with us no matter what.

There’s a buzz at Compassion Tea lately. It stems from our recent visits to the African clinics we support. You see, at Tanzania Christian Clinic, posted at the gate to the clinic is a sign that says, “for healing the whole man (John 7:23).” DSC_0158At Village of Hope, there is a sign that reads, “You will be secure because there is hope in the Lord.” 0-79And at 1000 Hills, the dedication stone reads, “To God be the glory for all His inspiration and guidance.”

Dawn Leppan, founder of 1000 Hills Community Helpers... giving proper credit where credit is due

Dawn Leppan, founder of 1000 Hills Community Helpers… giving proper credit where credit is due

 

We support the delivery of quality medical care in places where there is little. Through our selling of tea, we are able to donate medicines, medical supplies, funding for indigenous staffing and for special projects. We recognize that there is a great need for medical care in rural parts of Africa. And we’re dedicated to that.

But healing doesn’t always end there. In fact, often healing begins somewhere else… in the spiritual realm. Healing isn’t just finding the right antibiotic, it’s finding the Great Healer, He who walks us away from, through, or home through the fires of life.

After 2 miscarriages, and at the beginning of my third pregnancy, the one that would produce my daughter, I found this verse from Psalm 103:
“2 Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

This became my declaration of hope and I continue to wear it today on a bracelet as a reminder that my sins are forgiven, my doubts, too; that my diseases are healed or healing; that my life is redeemed from the pit; and that I am crowned with love and compassion and renewal.

And this is a hope that needs shared. This is the hope that the staffs at Tanzania Christian Clinic, Village of Hope, and 1000 Hills, to name a few, are sharing.

God lit the sun. He created each of us. Sometimes, He calls us to be His hands and feet… to deliver healing, and above all else, compassion. Now.

Singing Over You

“I could hear you over everyone else.” This sentence followed by an eye roll so big he could have seen his brain stopped my joy.

I was 8ish, in children’s church choir, and I loved to sing. That service, we sang from the balcony. Our director had emphasized the need to sing out. I took her at her word.

And down below, Robbie composed his zinger.

The one that corked my voice.

And several years later, in college, Beth asked me why I only sang one note while singing hymns in church. There was something in her tone that meant even that note was way off.

And the cork, well, it wedged in there tighter.

But sometimes corks decay. Sometimes they crumble.

My daughter told me the other day that I have a lovely singing voice. I was in the driver’s seat; she was behind me in the back seat. She may have seen my face in the rearview mirror. I hope not. It was hard to accept the praise.

Those other two voices rang in my mind as truer than my daughter’s.

Why do we find it so easy to hear the negative? Why do we cling to things that rob us of our joy?

Why do we turn away from appreciation and love? Why is so much easier to believe the put down than the praise?

Nevertheless, I sing. Bill taught me to “make a joyful noise unto the Lord” – no matter what those around you say. God loves your voice when you use it to praise Him.

There are times when one has to sing… when even if one didn’t, even the rocks would sing out… it is that imperative. So, I sing. Against the negative voices, beating them back with disdain for their hollowness, for their attempts at inflicting pain. I sing praises, encouragement, psalms, happy little ditties, prayers of longing, need, reminders of God’s presence.

We need to sing.

Like yesterday when my friend posted the backstory to the hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” and I spent the morning teaching the lyrics to my daughter. “Oh what peace we often forfeit. Oh, what needless pain we bear… all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”

Like my dad who sang everywhere he went. You could locate him in the church by simply following the sound of his hymn singing. Oh sometimes he would break into “mares eat oats and little lambs eat ivy,” but most of the time he was singing the sacred… a thread of notes reflecting the rope that held him to his anchor.

Like the lady at kindergarten pick-up who plays opera on her phone as she walks the line… and sings along. We moms stand mute in the face of that kind of … oh I don’t know what to call it… composure, confidence, unconcern for our opinion, joy.

Like my daughter… now… who “just loves to sing.” And her voice filling the car or the kitchen or the shower is a true delight, something to tuck away in the corners of my heart, to anticipate and encourage, because singing itself brings joy and release and it reveals the heart.

Like the kiddos at 1000 Hills Community Helpers singing their morning prayers or the grannies there singing and dancing their joy in community, the relief they find at the center, their praises for a God who loves them or the workers celebrating over packages of Compassion Tea, spontaneously creating a jingle.

Oh sing out people! The imperative is clear.

1 Chronicles 16:23 Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day.

Psalm 7:17 I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High
Psalm 13:6 I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.
Psalm 33:1 Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him.
Psalm 68:4 Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before him—his name is the Lord
Psalm 68:32 Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth, sing praise to the Lord,
 Psalm 95:1 Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation
Psalm 96:1 Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth
Psalm 96:2 Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day
Psalm 104:33 I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

Psalm 135:3 Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; sing praise to his name, for that is pleasant.

Isaiah 12:5 Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world
Jeremiah 20:13 Sing to the Lord! Give praise to the Lord! He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked.

And then there’s this… number 8 !

So, sing it! Sing your opera, sing your hymns, sing your life. And you know what, God’s singing over your life.

Technology… Who Needs It?

I have a tween in the house and the other day she greeted me at the school gate with these words, ”Mom, I am like the only person in the fifth grade who doesn’t have an iPod or a phone of my own. I so need one.” Something about the tone simultaneously made my toes curl and my heels dig deep as if they were growing roots right there on the school sidewalk. Need? You NEED an iPod or a phone? Whatever for? NEED, like water, air, safety, love? NEED? We have radio, CDs, computers, and an iPad. She has a Kindle all her own. I am rarely more than 10 minutes away from her vicinity and when I am she is with trustworthy adults who are armed with cell phones. I made her write a paper explaining her needs. She needs technology so she can do research. Well, we have technology already available. No. There really is no reason at this point in time that my tweener needs more technology, except maybe to feel cool for the 2.5 seconds a material possession will bring happiness. I am that mom.

In the middle of this ongoing discussion, I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Why Your iPhone Upgrade Is Good for the Poor.” The article, written by Daniel Fletcher, professor of bioengineering and biophysics at the Blum Center for Developing Economies at the University of California, Berkeley, explains how Fletcher and his students are repurposing smartphones. Such repurposed phones are now able to capture images of human cells to look for malaria parasites and tuberculosis causing bacteria. These repurposed phones are able to screen for parasitic worm infections, to scan the eye for retinal diseases, to scan for oral cancer. Fletcher tells how other researchers have been able to create a cellphone stethoscope and a portable ultrasound system. Says Fletcher, “But with smartphones capable of providing basic primary-care services and diagnostic work, and with expanding wireless services that allow doctors to interpret results and recommend treatments remotely, many of the services we enjoy at the doctor’s office will be available in the field – anywhere in the world.”

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Geoff and Nelle of Mission Medic Air hold the portable dental chair.

Isn’t that beautiful! It reminds me of the portable dental chair Wendy and Stina Bjurstrom just delivered to Mission Medic Air in Zambia. The chair is lightweight enough that it can easily fit in their airplane and can be worn as a backpack. It comes with a drill that is solar powered and it will make dental clinics in the bush both easier and more productive. The article also reminds me of the medical kits just delivered to the Community Caregivers at 1000 Hill Clinic in South Africa. Each medical kit has a brand new stethoscope donated by MDF instruments and basic health care items donated by Giving Children Hope and CompassioNow.

Community Caregivers with their new medical kits

Community Caregivers with their new medical kits

These kits will go with the caregivers into the villages surrounding the clinic serving some 20,000 people. The caregivers are the front line for the clinic, assessing patients at home, assessing needs, providing basic health care and education. Imagine if they were armed with smartphones capable of scanning for parasites or infections!

When Anne and Lee Kennedy returned from Tanzania in July, they noted that since their last visit to Africa, what had changed the most, what they found to be the most shocking change, was the prevalence of cell phones. People in Arusha had more than one phone, were calling each other frequently. In fact, cell phone coverage was better than the roads. One day when they were trying to find a particular clinic, Anne and Lee called Wendy back in the United States to get directions. The locals didn’t know where the clinic was, but through the use of technology, Anne and Lee were able to find the remote spot. Lee commented then on the changes this increase in technology will bring to the remoter parts of the world, parts of the world where healthcare is so scarce. Hospitals and clinics and transportation providers will be able to communicate more effectively. Doctors in the cities may be able to diagnose complaints over the phone for patients far out in the bush. Or better yet, doctors will be able to provide ever more sophisticated tests and treatments while in the bush.

And yet, we must remember that technology has its limitations. A beautiful x-ray machine sits at the clinic at Lily of the Valley Medical Centre in South Africa, useless because someone stole the computers back in May. Similarly, Danny and Nancy Smelser at Tanzania Christian Clinic have been praying for months for a trained technician to come operate their newly donated x-ray machine. People are still needed… to carry and use and protect the technology, to provide the healthcare.

This past week, Wendy sent daily photos, videos, and updates from her smartphone… updates that told the stories of the 1000 Hills Clinic in South Africa. How marvelous it was to open my inbox and see these pictures, to hear the joy and gratitude, to read the heartbreaking stories, and to know that it was all happening in real time, on the other side of the world, but it felt so close, so accessible. Yes, technology is making the world smaller, bringing communities together, advancing new methods of providing healthcare to parts of the world where healthcare is scarce, teaching us about our neighbors on the other side of the world. As we search for ever better reception, pixels, platforms, functionality, as our affluence demands higher quality, we are helping the poor.

Perhaps if my tweener had written that last line as the reason for her need of further technology, I might have caved. A little. Perhaps.