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.

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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.

It’s the Most Wonderful (Futile) Time of the Year

“I have a proposition,” I declared last night as I wiped down the counters after the dinner dishes were done. “How about the kids go take their baths now, put on their pjs… (yes the groaning was starting and the Oh MOMS and the scowls and eye rolling)… and grab blankets and get in the car to drive around and look at Christmas lights!” And suddenly I went from Grinch to SuperMom in 3.4 seconds flat. Hooray for MOM!

As we directed the car from bright spot to bright spot there were ooohs and ahhhs and happy conversations. We viewed the house on the hill with the massive trees and presents and more green lights than an airport. Then, it was on to Candy Cane Lane where the entire street is decorated for Christmas. The first house sported a nativity scene and from there we saw Cars, Looney Tunes, polar bears skiing down from the roof, and a miniature ferris wheel filled with stuffed animals. Over to Bob’s now! Bob was out surveying his fantasy kingdom… the fake snow blowing, Santa in the window directing the music, and the dancing bear dressed as Santa in the garage. Well, how can you trump that? Daddy had another house in mind… one where you tune the radio to their special station and the lights… no joke… go on and off in time to the music. Mickey and Minnie are the hosts, singing along and directing the spectacle. Seriously, it was theme park worthy. And it begged the question… who in the world has the time?

I’m not sure if it was the impromptu trip to Ohio or the long-awaited family vacation in Europe, or maybe it is the week shorter build-up or a just general falling behind in everything, but I’ve felt a bit of a Christmas humbug this year. There has been an emptiness, a lack of joy to the decorating and baking and addressing and purchasing and wrapping, like it’s all rote and futile. In a fit of despair, I posted on Facebook on Thursday, “Deep thought for the day: two weeks from today the gifts will all be opened and the trappings will need to come down.”

Just like that, it’s all over.

Except that it’s not supposed to be all over. It is supposed to be just beginning. The days will start getting longer again, a daily reminder that the light, the warmth, the rebirth, the spring is coming. The birth of a baby centuries ago, sought after by shepherds, kings, an entire race long awaiting their Messiah, led to a revolution of thinking about God and God’s own revolution in the world, upending sin and evil, squashing the bitter end and offering instead the bright glory. His story is just beginning over and over and over in our hearts.

Perhaps right now I most relate to the innkeeper Mary and Joseph met in Bethlehem… any one of them really… hustled, frantic, tired… bone weary with no end in sight to the torrent of people, the possibility of profit, the bodies crammed in rooms, demanding food. The innkeeper who can’t see the miracle in the doorway for the crowds of demands. All I’ve got room for, time for, is the stable out back. Take it if you want it Lord Jesus, at least it’s something, not much to offer, but well, that’s all I’ve got. Scraps for the miracle.
Of course, the miracle is that He takes those scraps, is comfortable in those scraps, and like my little boy who can look at a scrap piece of paper and see a million possibilities in its shape, He takes those scraps and origami-style folds them into beauty.

I’d rather be the kings, rushing, curious, ever searching, intent and not distracted, sand-whipped and sun-parched but determined. Because that star means something great and that is a great I need, we need… crave. It lasts longer than the star itself, the greatness. It is brighter than the star that leads and heralds and proclaims. It is joy, rejoicing, daily goodness and radical life. The greatness. Where is it?

I followed the lights last night, through the city, searching for the greatest display. Those weren’t the lasting lights. They’ll come down shortly, get wound around, tangled, crammed in a box, stored in the darkness for another year.

But the greatness, the miracle is the permanent light, the God in baby-shape, in man-shape who offers the gifts of peace and love and joy and forgiveness of sins. Right now, he’s in the stable of my heart, relegated to the straw and the cold, dark recesses.

He waits.

I don’t need to search, sand-whipped and sun-parched.

He is waiting… waiting for me to throw open the doors of my heart, put aside the demands, close my eyes to the glitz, the computer-generated, the futile, for me to turn from all that and say, “I choose you instead.” There is nothing futile about that beginning again.

Simultaneously

As if my stuffy nose wasn’t bad enough already, here I am sobbing in joy and sorrow simultaneously over the photos and videos coming out of South Africa across the miles and the miracle of the internet to my inbox. Good heavens.

Ever since I started reading William Faulkner in high school, I’ve been intrigued by the notion of parallel time. In the immortal words from the Lone Ranger, repeated beyond measure by my high school American History teacher, “Meanwhile, back at the ranch….” There’s this going on here and in the next house down the block, there’s that. Simultaneously. And around the world there’s this and across town there’s that. Simultaneously. I’m thinking this thought and you’re thinking that thought and somewhere it might intersect. This morning, I’m guzzling Compassion Tea Genmaicha Yamasakj (popcorn tea if you aren’t familiar) like an addict and simultaneously, Wendy’s in South Africa downloading photos from her day.

So far, she’s sent a video of the caregivers at 1000 Hills Community Helpers singing at their Monday morning meeting (check out our Facebook page to see the video) and photos of them receiving their medical kits.

Community Caregivers with their new medical kits

Community Caregivers with their new medical kits

Each kit has a stethoscope and other medical care supplies so that they can go into the community around 1000 Hills and check on people who are home-bound or who are in the more remote villages.

Wendy and Dawn Leppan get ready to distribute the kits.

Wendy and Dawn Leppan get ready to distribute the kits.

They’ve been taught basic medical care; they can assess a situation and determine if they can treat it with a band-aid or if it needs the medical attention of the clinic.

Stina teaches the Community Caregivers how to use their new stethoscopes

Stina teaches the Community Caregivers how to use their new stethoscopes

These men and women are so beautiful and I’m so thrilled that everything made it safely across the pond, through security and customs, and into the loving hands of these people on the front lines of serving the least served. I want to hug them all for their commitment to serving each other. Joy!

Next came a photo of Elphus, a man in the community with end stage AIDS.

Elphus in his tiny room

Elphus in his tiny room

He has a caregiver who keeps everything clean for him. Her photo came next.

Elphus' caretaker

Elphus’ caretaker

Beautiful. Poignant. God’s creation, His creative design. Another photo just popped up, this time of Elphus’ room.

Where Elphus lives

Where Elphus lives

There is story here, simultaneous events, threads unraveling and threads being woven together. I don’t know the story but the photos speak volumes. What do they say to you?

Yesterday in church we sang the hymn Ancient Words. Listen here.
Ancient words… ever true, changing me, changing you. We have come with open hearts. Oh let the ancient words impart. Holy words of our faith, handed down to this age, came to us through sacrifice. Oh heed the faithful words of Christ. Holy words long preserved, for our walk in this world. They resound with God’s own heart. Oh let the ancient words impart.

Do you see the connection? Ancient words spoken, divinely inspired, written in haste by vision and Spirit, devoured by the famished, held in the death grip of the beleaguered, fortress for the weak, battle-cry for the oppressed, peace and solace for the ending, words of hope. Think of the millions of voices raised in reading these words then and then and then, there and there and there. Simultaneously spoken here, shouted there, whispered in the basement or under the cover of night. These words of the ancients are so real and important today. For Elphus and his lady caregiver and they are the words in the song of the Community Helpers. Did you hear the hallelujah? It echoes my own quiet, stuffy nosed hallelujah here, half a world away, washed down with a cup of Compassion Tea.

Tis the Season… to Donate?

A friend of mine from high school recently lamented on Facebook that everywhere she turns she is hounded by someone expecting her to make a donation. Would you like to add $1 to your purchase to help XYZ charity? Put money in my kettle! Hi, I’m calling from XYZ to ask for your support this holiday season. I’m a hired telemarketer but can you please help XYZ with a financial contribution of just $25. The cacophony of pleas for help is overwhelming. I was amazed recently when the audience at The Lion King in San Francisco was asked to sit after the curtain call and an actor (ironically, you might say, the one playing Pumba, the smelly warthog) asked the audience to support a charity through monetary donations as they left the theater.

Yet, as someone who works with a non-profit, I felt torn by my friend’s post. I’ve been mulling it over for weeks actually, praying for clarity. But this is a muddy pool, people, and anyone willing to consider it ends up smelling like something. On the one hand, I completely understand my friend’s complaint. The telemarketer phone calls are so inconvenient and pushy. Are you like me? Do you only answer your cell phone these days because it isn’t “safe” to answer the landline? Odds are it is someone selling something or asking for a donation. At least the political phone calls have ceased for now! Sometimes the group or individual asking for the donation does not take no gracefully. Leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. Oh, and, one simply can’t give to every organization out there. The need is great and there are so many organizations out there asking for and seeking help. Intended or not, guilt often comes creeping along after one of these encounters. Enough already!

Ahhhh, but the need is great. Full stop. And if we’re living, breathing, compassionate beings, we do feel called to help somewhere, somehow. In an effort to set a good example for the kids and to show the kids another side of life so very different from their enchanted existence, together we’ve supported several families through the Giving Tree, donated coats to One Warm Coat, donated food to food pantries, filled shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child, and purchased holiday gifts through Compassion Tea.

Each time we do one of these things, one of the kids asks why. Why are we doing this? And the answer is always because we have plenty and because the Bible calls us to love our neighbor. We love through helping; we help through loving.

And then they go back to dictating their list to Santa. For Joseph, this is all-consuming. It’s part of childhood, right?

I’ve had another dilemma this Christmas season. The kids, early on, made a plan. For their Christmas presents to each other this year, I would drive them to the pet store and they would buy (meaning put it on Mama’s credit card) rabbits and the accompanying gear for each other. The rabbits would live on the floor of the playroom, near the already abandoned hamsters, and yours truly would have another dependent or two. You can imagine that I was not keen on this idea. With the chickens, the dog, the fish, and the hamsters, I feel quite sure we don’t need rabbits. However, I didn’t want to set the kids loose in a toy store either. Then I read this blog.
The Grateful Christmas Project: 7 Ways to have more Grateful Kids this Christmas
And I praised God for His amazing inspiration. On the way to horseback riding yesterday, the topic came up again. Can’t we PLEASE get rabbits? Why won’t you let us get rabbits? (Because, surely, I’m the meanest mom on the planet?) I offered a quick prayer silently that my words would come out correctly and they would fall on receptive ears. “We don’t need rabbits. We have enough pets to love and take care of. We don’t really need any more toys either. In fact, you kids have toys you never play with. I have a suggestion and you have a choice. Instead of exchanging toys or rabbits this year, let’s do one of these two things. 1. I would drive you to a pet store and we would load up on pet food… dog food, cat food, kitty litter, the works, and then we would take it to the local animal shelter and donate it OR you could buy each other an animal through the Heifer Project.” After a little more discussion and web-based research, the verdict was that Clara was buying Joseph a goat and Joseph was buying Clara a trio of rabbits. And the beauty is that these animals are not coming to my house to live but are being given to families in poorer parts of the world where the animals can provide sustenance (goat’s milk, cheese, yogurt) and fertilizer. The joy on the faces of the kids as they picked out their animal was miraculous. Truly. Better than opening a toy? Maybe not. But much better than I expected. It opened the door to a long conversation about our responsibility and joy as Christians, as blessed Americans, to reach out to God’s people (because we are ALL God’s people even if we don’t recognize Him as sovereign Lord). I am so excited for my kids. As they get older and as toys become more electronic and expensive and worldly, this is a gift I would like to make a tradition. When I’m old and grayer than I am now, I hope my kids buy me goats and rabbits. Or pouches of Compassion Tea!

Compassion Tea is running a campaign right now called our 30 Days of Giving campaign. You see, on top of selling high-quality tea, we are giving our profits to CompassioNow and that non-profit is using the money to help people in Africa. Each day for 30 days we are highlighting a way in which the money from the sale of tea is providing life-saving medical care to someone or someones in Africa. It looks something like this:
Day 1: Your gift of tea will help stock the shelves of Tanzania Christian Clinic with crucial meds for treating malaria, giardia, and infection.Day12Meds.162535
Day 2: Your gift of tea will provide funding to Chalabesa Mission Hospital for a new well so that workers at the clinic will have fresh, clean water with which to treat and refresh patients. (“Cold Shower Water”)

Day 3: Your gift of tea will provide grandmothers with eyeglasses to see and take care of their orphaned grandchildren.

Day 4: Your gift of a Holiday Tea Caddy will cover the cost of a clinical visit, evaluation and any medicines needed for a mother and a child at any of our clinics.Day7nurseJoyceatKareroclinin.160848

Day 5: Your purchase of Ajiri Kenyan Black Tea will provide a child in western Kenya with much needed school supplies.

Day 6: Your gift of tea will help fuel the plane for Mission Medic Air to serve those in remote areas in Zambia.Day6MMAplanewithgreeters.104954

Day 7: Your purchase of a Holiday Four Tea Gift Box will help fund our clinic in Karero, Kenya. Located in a remote area near the southern border with Tanzania, the clinic is staffed by three healthcare professionals, a Nurse, a Lab Technician, and a Receptionist. Your gift will help fund the entire operation of this clinic for a day.

Day 8: Your purchase of Berry Berry tea will add merriness to your holiday and will help the children of Lily of the Valley orphanage and clinic in South Africa, a part of the world where AIDS is rampant.

Day 9: Our Tanzania clinic is located in the northern part of the country near Mt. Kilimanjaro and primarily serves the nomadic Maasi people of that region. Due to poor nutritional practices and large families, this clinic frequently treats malnourished children. Your purchase of a Holiday Gift Pouch will provide nutritional support for one child.

Day 10: Your purchase of tea will provide malaria meds to children like this one. (“Every 6 Seconds”)Day9634Yohanna.111858

30 days just barely scratches the surface of what a small purchase can translate into for a person in rural Africa. (Join our email list or become a Facebook fan or Twitter follower to hear the rest of the 30 days.) We are blessed in this country. And we can use our purchasing power to make a difference. I come from the belief (Puritanical perhaps) that abundance is God’s blessing. And what a joy to share that with others!

So what. Remember that muddy pool I was talking about? The pushy people asking for donations? Yes, they can be obnoxious. I suppose we all can be obnoxious about something we feel passionately about. Whether it’s our grandkids or our hobby or our political party, we can drive people crazy talking about it. For people in the not-for-profit/charity world, their charity is what they feel passionately about and they are willing to run the risk of being obnoxious to get the word out. Grant us a measure of grace, be amused by us, or better yet, find out more about what we are so almighty strung up about. It might turn out to be a great cause you are actually happy to support.

I think my new standard reply to the clerks at the grocery asking for a donation or the telemarketers on the phone will be something like, “Hey, thanks for the offer. Currently, I am supporting other charities that do similar work. But I will look into this one and see if I can help another way or another time.” We all walk away a little less smelly.

Privilege

A couple of weeks ago, Clara came to me, friend in tow, all in a dither. “Mom!” she insisted, “Tell Kendelle that we don’t live in a mansion.” Kendelle saw my shocked face and elaborated. “Mrs. Taggart, I was telling Clara that my old house was a mansion and that her house is one, too.”

“But Mom!” Clara pleaded again, “We don’t live in a mansion.” Deep breath, Mama.

“Well, Clara, it is true that we don’t live in the largest of houses in this area. Compared to some of the houses in this area, ours doesn’t ‘feel’ like a mansion. However, compared to the rest of the world, where people live in small apartments, huts, shacks, bungalows… if they even have a house, we live in a mansion.” That seemed to tame the beast, and I hope it raised her awareness, if only for a moment, of the privilege in which her world orbits.

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: www.youtube.com/watch?v=qX-hw_l1FwA 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.