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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Sri Lanka Tea

IMG_1972“Good tea is not made in the factory.  Good tea is made in the fields.  If you do not get good leaf you cannot get good tea.” — Lalith, a good friend in the tea business while visiting his homeland of Sri Lanka with Ed and Wendy Bjurstrom of Compassion Tea Company

We love tea. It’s true. Learning about this fabulous drink makes us a little bit giddy. And there are few things in life that bring us more happiness than a tea tasting! (Of course, this is second to serving God and His people in need!) Several members of our team have now been to Sri Lanka to learn about the tea process from plant to your cup. We’d love to share some of our knowledge with you.IMG_1667

The complicated process of making tea is thousands of years old. And among the superior quality teas such as the ones we carry, a vast majority of the process remains done by human hands. Let’s look at the process as it is done in Sri Lanka.

Currently, in the world tea market, there are 70 different tea growing areas around the world.China produces 39% of the world’s tea. India produces 23.5% and Kenya produces 8%. Sri Lanka follows with 6% of the tea market production. Teas from Sri Lanka are called Ceylon teas. About 400 tea plantations operate in Sri Lanka and roughly 20% of the land in Sri Lanka is under tea cultivation. There are about  650 tea factories. About 340 million kilograms of tea are produced in Sri Lanka each year.

Despite the statistics that say tea is one of the fastest growing beverages in the United States, the US imports a modest 2% of Ceylon tea. Turkey and Russia import the majority of the Ceylon tea.

All tea comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant. How the leaves of the plant are processed creates the different types of tea such as black, white, green, and oolong. Herbal teas are a misnomer in that they do not come from the Camellia Sinesis plant but are based on flowers, fruits, the shavings of the rooibos plant, and other leaves.

The Camellia Sinesis plant grows naturally into a tree, but in order to cultivate it effectively, plants are maintained as shrubs. This also makes the harvesting more comfortable for the tea pluckers. Climate, soil, and elevation play an important role in the quality and quantity of the tea produced. The plant grows best in tropical climates that see a lot of rain and at higher elevations.

When the tea is harvested, workers enter the fields to hand-pluck the top youngest leaves and buds. A typical “pluck” is to pull two leaves and a furled bud from the top of the plant. It takes about 4.5 lb. of fresh tea leaves to produce 1 lb. of the tea you brew for your cuppa.

Typically, men oversee the work of the tea pluckers as they are called. The tea pluckers, who are women, begin their days in the fields around 8:30. They have a morning break and a two-hour lunch break. They then pick in the afternoon until about 4:30. The women carry a special basket on their backs. This lightweight basket makes it easier for them to use both hands for plucking. They then toss the leaves in the basket. Measuring sticks keep the plucking to a consistent level. Once an area of the field is plucked, it won’t be picked again until at least 8 days have passed.c84d8bcf-f64a-43e3-8e7d-9cec8b5a23d28617342c-c9b1-4a90-bfe3-af425635f51a

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On the Pedro estate where Ed and Wendy visited this past January, the pluckers make 680 rupees ($4.50) per day minimum and get free housing and medical care, child care and maternity as well as 21 days holiday pay. They are compensated for extra leaves picked and are given free food for their children and free burial. A health care clinic on the plantation provides the majority of their medical needs. The workers are well cared for and make a good living by Sri Lankan standards. Sadly many of the workers who stay on the plantations  for free do not even work on the tea plantations, but prefer to work elsewhere (like farming) where they make more money. But they cannot be kicked off the plantation. Out of the 7,500 people who live on the Pedro tea estate, only 1,500 work in tea plucking or processing, yet all 7,500 get free housing and benefits! This poses a real challenge for the plantation owners and may lead to problems in the future as world demand for Ceylon tea lessens and as costs rise.unnamedunnamed-3unnamed-2

Once the tea is plucked it is carried to be weighed. Because extra bits of leaves and twigs accidentally get in the baskets, the tea pluckers sort through their baskets before they take them for weighing. The tea pluckers are given bonuses for extra tea plucked. Once the tea is sorted and weighed, it is ready to head to the processing plant. Three times a day, trucks carry the tea from the fields to the processing factories. Because Ceylon is a black tea, it will undergo a fair amount of wilting and oxidizing in order to give the tea the rich black taste we know and love.

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Our Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Decaf English Breakfast,  Black Lemon, Cinnamon Orange Spice, and Black Chai teas all contain at least 90% Ceylon tea from Sri Lanka.

Green and white teas are minimally processed from here. Black teas, like the Ceylon in Sri Lanka, undergo 10 steps to provide the proper oxidation of the leaf to achieve the black color and flavor that makes Sri Lankan Ceylon so delicious. Here is a pictorial guide from the Lover’s Leap Tea Factory at the Pedro Estate of Sri Lanka where Ed and Wendy visited last January.

IMG_1683IMG_1716Step 1: Withering Process- Air comes up from the bottom of the withering bins, and the leaves will wither for 12 hours. These leaves begin the withering as soon as they come in from the fields. After withering, the leaves go through a tunnel to the rolling room.

IMG_1708IMG_1714Step 2: Rolling – The leaves are placed in the roller for 20 minutes. Oxidation is taking place. Rolling bruises the leaf and makes the juices come to the surface. Left: The leaves on the left are rolled, and the leaves on the right are withered only.

IMG_1739IMG_1759Step 3 – Rotor Vane – After the tea goes through this “mincemeat grinder” it will be much finer, like wet grass. Tea can go through up to 4 turns on the rotor vane. Above: The leaves on the top are ready to go to dryer, but the leaves on the bottom must go through the rotor vane again.

IMG_1736Step 4: Shaker – The tea leaves that are ready to go to the dryer will fall through while the larger leaves go through another rotor vane.

IMG_1817Step 5: Drying step – The tea will go through a drying oven at 125 F for 21 minutes. A wood fired boiler is used to heat the ovens.

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Step 6: Electrostatic separators are used to pull out fibers and stems from the tea. After separating, it drops into the yellow buckets. At this point the tea is finally stable. You can see that it is really starting to look like black tea by now.

IMG_1832IMG_1834Step 7: Grading – Tea is graded by size using the Chota sifter. There are 4 sizes: 10, 12, 14, 16. Number 16 (BPOF) will be the smallest and the strongest tea.

Step 8: The Color Separator is another way to remove more stems and fibers. It also separates the tea into different grades.

IMG_1870Step 9: Bulking – The tea goes through the hole for the bulking step. This is where they blend several harvests together.

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Step 10: Bagging. The teas are put into bags which each hold 33 kilos. Then, the tea is sent off to the auction house or other tea blenders to make specialty teas. 

This tea factory in Colombo, Sri Lanka, gets tea from the tea estates and makes their own blends for shipping to countries like Japan. Below is a series of photos showing a huge blending machine from top to bottom.

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Many tea factories also make their own tea bags. These teabags are going to New Zealand. Much of the work here is done by hand.

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Here is a worker gluing the tea bag boxes shut.

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This tea factory in Colombo ships 40 foot containers of tea to Japan, England, and the Middle East. The Middle Eastern countries buy much of the Ceylon tea; however, due to conflicts and wars in this region, tea exports were down for Sri Lanka this past year. 056c1a09-f10a-4dcd-bdbf-6c92ea289849

It’s all ready to go somewhere around the world!

Did you know how much time and labor and care went into your cuppa? Enjoy!IMG_1986

Spring Babies

My house is full of babies. The dear sweet, grow up super fast animal babies. I’m working at the kitchen table, watching the wind whip across the pool outside, writing notes and answering emails, and listening to the cheeping of the two chicks we brought home two weeks ago. Their down is almost completely replaced by baby feathers, but when they get excited and flap or run or hop, little puffs of down blow off… like the dandelion seeds we make our wishes on.unnamed-23unnamed-22

And aside from the wind outside, all is quiet in here. And I stand up. I’m thirsty and hunger is setting in. It is lunchtime. I glance over to the butterfly gardens where 9 chrysallises hang. They’ve been there for nearly a week now and just this morning I begin despairing. Will they break open and release the new, metamorphosised life inside? Did the metamorphosis take place or did something go wrong in that mysterious process… for all 9? But no! Behind my back, silently, these two were born.

unnamed-21Reborn, really. No longer worms, not even worms with wings, but bona fide butterflies… given a new life, a new purpose, a new form of transportation and of feeding. Completely changed.

And I’m reminded of this amazing story coming from Malawi:
“We had reason to celebrate Martin & Mathias’ first birthday recently. When their mother died shortly after giving birth, most people in their village thought one or both of the twins would follow soon after. That’s the way these situations usually play out in the rural villages of Malawi. With no one to nurse them and scant resources to provide formula during these first days and weeks, it’s usually not long before dehydration, hunger or some opportunistic disease claims one or both of their lives; but that’s not their story!2a76ee_0678066f305b4733b66f4292be6eb11b.jpg_srb_p_284_226_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srb

Their story includes grandparents and aunts turning to volunteers from the Passion Center Community Health Network (CHN) for help. Similar to the Passion Center, the CHN’s activities are focused around the following mission; “Joining God in Rescuing, Redeeming & Restoring the vulnerable in their communities.” As we shared this need with the larger Passion Center family, enough money was raised to provide formula, blankets, clothes and medical care for Martin & Mathias.

Today they are healthy, strong and growing. Though their mother was HIV+, they don’t show any signs of being infected nor will we test them until they are 3yrs or older. But whatever their AIDS status – positive or negative – we’re convinced God has an even more promising future than what they’ve experienced so far! We don’t know exactly what their story will be, but we thank God He’s already writing a different one than what relatives and some villagers were bracing for!2a76ee_99a108ac8a9c4b4db73fd1693e1ce035.jpg_srb_p_284_229_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srb

Hope is more than a concept we share, it’s the result of real, sometimes overwhelming, circumstances changing because God is involved. Those circumstances might be physical, emotional, psychological, educational, and spiritual or a combination of some or all of these. Over the past 10 years we’ve seen God’s Hope altering the lives of hundreds of children and dozens of village; Martin & Mathias are two recent examples of this Hope taking root in fertile ground.” To learn more about the Passion Center for Children in Malawi, go here.
How much of life do we spend as worms? Crawling and foraging? And how much of life do we spend in the glorious hope, soaring and sipping?

Martin and Mathias have been given wings. And we at Compassion Tea and CompassioNow are thrilled beyond words to be working with the Community Health Network at the Passion Center for Children in Malawi. These are the kinds of stories that inspire and motivate us! Won’t you join us?!

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!

Throwback Thursday — Healers

“Healers in parts of Africa—both herbal and faith-based— are often more highly regarded than those who come to promote more unfamiliar forms of medical care.” —Wall Street Journal.

Unfamiliar forms of medical care? What are those? In the case of dealing with ebola, or really any kind of disease, those include proper sanitation, attention to cleanliness, and the use of medicine. The Wall Street Journal ran this article on Tuesday and it reminded us of an article we wrote two years ago about witch doctors and the lack of western medical care in rural parts of Africa. This is one of the daily battles our clinics face. But they are winning this battle through successful ministering and healing and education. So, for your Throwback Thursday enjoyment, we present — It’s Magic!

Compost Tea

Compost tea, according to Ancient Peaks Winery in Paso Robles, CA, “is a liquid extract containing soluble plant nutrients, beneficial plant compounds, and beneficial micro-organisms.”

In short, it is the liquid by-product of the compost pile. Ancient Peaks uses their compost tea to suppress disease, reduce “fungicide and fertilizer requirements,” to cut costs, and to “improve soil structure and overall plant health and vigor” of their vineyards.

I use compost tea, made with fruit and vegetable discards, coffee grounds, tea leaves, ash from the fireplace, and chicken droppings, to boost the nutrients in my garden. And for the indoor plants, I use half-consumed cups of tea for watering. Tea leaves are rich in nutrients and are very beneficial for the soil and plants.

I bring this all up because some of our Compassion Tea staff spent some time at the Ancient Peaks Winery this past weekend and saw their compost tea at work. And it reminded us of some earlier thoughts we had on Sustainability… thoughts that are still pertinent and relevant today.

(And remember, this earlier blog was written before our name change. CareNow Foundation became CompassioNow. To become a Compassion Tea member or to peruse our tea selections, visit http://www.compassiontea.com.)

Adding Malawi

Due to the generous gifts of our donors, we are thrilled to announce that CompassioNow is adding the Passion Center for Children in Zomba, Malawi, to the list of clinics we support. For nearly 10 years, the Passion Center has been actively “rescuing, redeeming, and restoring” children, widows, and communities. According to Eric Sythoff, President of the Passion Center, “The Passion Center provides food, shelter, medical care, clothes, & access to education to over 250 orphans. We are focused on the Whole Child, in the Whole Community for their Whole Lives.”Group-of-young-Kids-626x469
Our connection with the Passion Center began last year when we partnered with Rock of the Foothills Lutheran Church in LaVerne, CA, to ship donated medical supplies to the Passion Center.

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This coming year, we will be supporting the Community Health Network Project. Currently, the CHN supports the 137 surrounding villages through trained Community Based Groups of villagers eager to provide healthcare and education. Sythoff explains that since its beginnings 5 years ago, “the simple training in basic First Aid, hygiene and sanitation has now blossomed into a well trained & respected Network of Care for thousands. Additionally, most HIV and TB sufferers are too weak to travel to get their medicines. Our network is entrusted to bring these patients their medicines, provide updates on their condition and transport them- as well as other emergencies- via bicycle ambulances.”

The Community Health Network began when “Austin Chisuse, one of our Passion Kids came to us and asked us to train him and a few villagers who wanted to serve their fellow villagers in the area of Health Care. Mr. Chisuse is himself HIV+ as are many of the 40 CBO volunteers. In Malawi about 73% of the population lives in rural areas, it is in these rural areas that health care and health supplies are deplorably lacking. Since that initial request, Austin’s Community Based Group (CBO) has grown by 3 more and these CBOs provide sometimes the only Health care available to thousands of villagers.” The Passion Center provides training, supplies, and oversight for the Community Health Network.

Another way we are hoping to come alongside the Passion Center is through the purchase of newer bicycle ambulances to serve the surrounding villages. Sythoff explains, “Over the past three years we have provided the community groups with up to four Bicycle Ambulances of the older design. When we provide a Bicycle Ambulance we give them training on how to use and maintain them. We stress the important role the Bicycle Ambulances play in caring for the weak and sick, but we make it clear the use and maintenance of the Bicycle Ambulances is now their responsibility. The first one was given to Austin Chisuse’s CBO, and they used it all the time, transporting patients daily and sometimes twice a day. This group maintained their Bicycle Ambulance until the pedal crank actually broke.”

Buffalo Bicycle Ambulance

Since that ambulance broke, the Passion Center has been raising funds to purchase a newer design of the bicycle ambulance. Two have been purchased to date. Sythoff explains, “We keep one of the Bicycle Ambulances at the Passion Center in the event a child or person from the surrounding community needs to get to the Hospital or Clinic and there is no vehicle or driver around. Another Bicycle Ambulance is in use with Austin Chisuse’s CBO. This one is used extensively. Both of these Bicycle Ambulances are of the newer design, which is made stronger and more suitable for the village roads and conditions.” By providing more bicycle ambulances to the other CBO groups in other villages, we can improve the quality and speed of health care to the villagers there as well.

We are thrilled to be offering support for this network and to be bringing healthcare to more of the “world’s least served.” To learn more, visit http://www.passioncenterforchildren.org. To donate directly to CompassioNow’s work, visit http://www.compassionow.org.

Addressing the Fair Trade Question

Inevitably, the question arises. “Which of your teas are Fair Trade?” It’s a valid question because we want to support fair trade practices, protect workers, and pursue sustainable and ethical methods of production. But it is a question that actually is a bit dodgy for the tea industry.

Fair Trade blankets many industries and its guidelines for membership are not industry specific. And because so much tea is sold to places like Russia and Turkey, where an emphasis on equality and fairness in the workplace is much less than it is in the US, it is not economically prudent for most tea companies to pursue Fair Trade status.

However, in 1997, a number of large tea companies decided “to work together to monitor and assure their own supply chains.” They formed the Tea Sourcing Partnership, which would evolve into the Ethical Tea Partnership in 2004. Its vision is to promote a “thriving tea industry that is socially just and environmentally sustainable both now and in the future.”

Specific to the tea industry, the Ethical Tea Partnership monitors tea estates “to help protect the environment as well as [provide] social and labor provisions.” Among the programs the Ethical Tea Partnership overseas are training and support programs “that make workplaces better, fairer and safer” and that “reduce poverty and improve progress… in tea communities.”

According to the Ethical Tea Partnership, ”The organization is run and regulated by member companies and bolstered by regular external audits by Price Waterhouse Cooper. The goal of the organization is to provide consumers with a complete understanding of where tea is grown and manufactured. Everything from fair compensation to health coverage, housing and childcare comes under close scrutiny. The ETP is similar to the Fair Trade organization, but has a much broader scope for tea consumers since its focus is on tea only. Because tea is not a publicly traded commodity like coffee, Fair Trade is unable to penetrate many of the nuances and regional peculiarities of the tea trade.” (Visit http://www.ethicalteapartnership.org for more information.)

The majority of our tea is sourced from members of the Ethical Tea Partnership.

Back in January, several of our board members traveled to Sri Lanka and met with one of our biggest sources of tea. They were impressed with the provisions made for tea plantation workers, provisions such as quality housing, educational opportunities, and healthcare. And they commented on the tender care taken of the tea plants and their environment. Many of the tea bushes are hundreds of years old. Their health and well-being are critical to the quality of the tea they are producing. Therefore, they are treated with care and reverence.

We also carry two teas from Africa, Ajiri tea from Kenya and Igara tea from Uganda. Both of these teas are produced on co-ops where the profits from the sale of the tea are used directly to fund educational opportunities and healthcare for the workers.

Ajiri tea from Kenya

Ajiri tea from Kenya

Igara tea from Uganda

Igara tea from Uganda

If you still desire Fair Trade tea, we recommend you try our Jade Cloud green tea or our West Cape Chai, both of which are certified as Fair Trade.

Our Jade Cloud is Fair Trade, but most of our teas are ETP.

Our Jade Cloud is Fair Trade, but most of our teas are ETP.

West Cape Chai is also Fair Trade certified.

West Cape Chai is also Fair Trade certified.

It Breaks My Heart

I’m on the brink of tears this morning. Which on one hand is not that surprising. But it is only 7:30 AM.

I just got off the Compassion Tea prayer call and as always it was powerful. When God shows up and listens in on our petitions, the silent partner on the call, His presence speaks loud. And this morning as we lifted up our Compassion Tea members and the people serving in Africa and the dark places of the world and the lost and the fallen and the scared and the hurting, He seemed to say in the silence, “I know. Just watch and see.”

We also lifted up the children of the world. Like my Ugandan daughter, who has gone home to her village for the winter holiday. She is on winter holiday and we’re wrapping up summer holiday! But going on holiday for the children from Village of Hope is very different from going on holiday for my kiddos. Going on holiday for Prosy means leaving the stability of Village of Hope and returning to a place of instability. There may or may not be food. There may or may not be shelter. There may or may not be safety and love. At Village of Hope, there is all of this. In the home village, among family and friends, there may not.

It breaks my heart.

And it breaks my heart that summer is coming to a close for us, too. Despite the continual nagging and bickering (yes, I now lovingly refer to my kids as The Bickeringtons), we’ve had a good time together. It has been peaceful and rejuvenating for me at least to step off the hamster wheel and to stop going 75 miles per hour. To just hang out with the kids, to watch them play or to join them, to take time to introduce them to something or teach them something, to mother them and not to turn it over to the world to do… that has been special. Vacationing together hasn’t been that rough to take either!IMG_6656 IMG_5931

IMG_6115 IMG_6120I don’t want school to start. I may be the only mom in the tri-valley area to say that, but I actually doubt it. So, I’ll say it again. I don’t want school to start.

I don’t want to ship my kids off to the world for the world to raise. And I really don’t want to jump back on the hamster wheel of soccer practices and early mornings and lots of homework and balancing work and rest and play and schedules. The schedules. It makes me sick just thinking about it.

But more than that, I feel an impending robbery. The schedules, the hamster wheel, the longer hours in school for each of my kids this year… it is all a robbery of my time with my kids, of my time to mother. I’ll try not to be bitter and I’ll try to make the most of my time and I’ll pray that God strengthen us in our limited time and that He’ll put in their paths people who will help shape them into pots pleasing to God.546943_10151851929456697_287942213_n

Yes, I will have more time to “think my own thoughts,” to actually “hear my thoughts again” as Jen Hatmaker writes. That will be delightful. But it may also be deafening in the silence.
And while I’m crying for the end of summer, I know there are children right here in our backyard who, like Prosy in Uganda, see going back to school as a blessing, as a time of stability and structure and safety. Going back to school will mean a break from the dysfunction, safety and sustenance where there hasn’t been much, and respite from home life.

It breaks my heart.

And it also makes me yearn even more for my children, for the blessings they are. Because not all children are viewed as blessings.

Will you join with me today and pray for the children? For the innocent in war, in disease, in the race for life, in the dark pits the world creates to hide its shame, for the exploited and the little ones shouldering burdens much too big for their shoulders… for their safety and for their shelter and for their relief and for their renewal.

It’s time to dry the tears and turn the eyes to watching God work. May you see Him working today in your life.

Beautiful Things

“I don’t see anyone in here wearing a mini electric chair or needle full of a lethal injection hanging from their neck. That would be the moral equivalent for those of you wearing crosses today,” he said.

Yes, the point was valid. As an instrument of torture, the cross was horrendous, humiliating, inhumane.

Rome had perfected public punishment in this particular instrument.

I fingered the cross hanging from my neck, it’s edges so familiar to my fingers as I traced the heart laid over the top. My cross, marked with Isaiah 40: 31, marking my life as Christ’s, the sign of the mark made on my life when Jesus chose me and I chose back, marking a public declaration of where my true love lies. My cross so beautiful, so much a part of me, so much more than jewelry. I’m not the tattooing type. So I wear the jewelry.

And the message on the back: “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Perfect promise perfectly captured.

No, for me the cross is beautiful and as he talked more about the ugliness of the cross, my heart cried no. Jesus died and made the cross beautiful, elegant, a visible emblem of hard work with enormous pay out, of elemental love and sacrifice, of eternal salvation. I can look on the cross now and see nothing but beauty; I can look beyond the instrument of torture to see the instrument of grace. It isn’t even a stretch.

In fact, the beauty of the gift of salvation so far outweighs the ugly, that I often forget the hideous, humiliating, inhumanity of the thing around my neck.

Not long ago, I paused over my cluttered desk and I looked up into the corner at my wall of love. Drawings my kids have offered as tokens of love array the space. It’s good to look these over sometimes. When offered, I adored them, oohhed and ahhhed over them, complimented the work that went into them and the talent showing through each picture. I hung them on the wall to show my appreciation, but I closed a door inwardly, not accepting the words offered as possibly true for me. As if my kids were actually addressing the mother of their dreams, not the flesh and blood person in front of them. Then, I went to the sink and brushed my teeth, hardly glancing in the mirror, and wondered why I have a difficult time accepting these words from my children.IMG_5673 IMG_5672 IMG_5674 IMG_5671

And as I fingered my cross this morning, these musings came back.

The work on the cross was bloody, ugly, horrendous agony. But the result was beautiful. Salvation, death conquered, law reduced, God lifting the veil that separated Him from us and inviting us directly to come to Him.

Repeatedly scripture tells us that through Christ’s death on the cross we are made new. The prophet Isaiah (43:19) announces God’s will,

 

“For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”

 

2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

 

Romans 6: 3-7 says, “Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? 4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.
5 Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 6 We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7 For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.”

 

And in Revelation 21, God proclaims, “Look, I am making everything new!”

 

Me and you, made new.

When we come to Christ, it is as if we are taking off the old, ugly, worn-out clothes of our life and putting on a coat of beauty and grace and forgiveness and freedom. Like when I shed the clothes I’ve been painting in, shower and dress for an evening out… that kind of new. Sort of. That changes the external. But Christ’s changes are from the inside out… eventually. Living free… free from the fear of death, free from the ancient’s law of ceremonial clean and unclean, free from eternal judgment.

Gungor sings it this way:

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

And as we sang these words this morning, I thought of the cross, of Christ’s death making it beautiful. Of how His act took the awful and made it artistic, of how His love took the twisted and the maimed and straightened it and healed it, of how gnarled and blood-soaked became lily-fresh.

But me. God tapped me on the shoulder and said, “You too.” Like the cross, Christ takes my life and the ugly and the horrid and the horrendous and the inhumane, all the broken, gnarled, twisted, blood-soaked splinters of my cross-life and turns them toward redemption. He tapped me on the shoulder this morning and said, “I’m doing this to you, too. Taking your dust and growing a garden.”

And I realized that I have to accept that I can be beautiful. That I am already beautiful through Christ. That the words my children picture for me are true. This. Is. Truth. Truth I need to pickle in, not just accept but relish and believe. If Christ can change the most horrific method of torture into a thing of beauty… now worn by millions of people, then what can He do with me?

My dear Prosy, my Ugandan “daughter,” how He has taken the broken bits of that life of horror and redeemed them, saved her, made beauty where there was dust and ash. All the lives now at Village of Hope Uganda… for them all He has made beautiful things.

In the heights of hubris, I’ve closed the doors to this, just as I’ve closed the door to the words of my children, preferring, clinging to, embracing the lies I’ve heard from other parts of the world. As if those lies of “you’re nothing” and “you’re so broken you can’t be fixed” are the final assessment and the final horror of life. If I accept the lies as the final answer, then I am also turning my back on hope, on the greatest gift ever offered.

It’s time to fling wide those doors. Just as Christ flung wide His arms on the cross and took the pain for my gain, it is time to fling wide my arms and embrace His words for me. It’s time for beautiful things.