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 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.


0-5“We took about 150 little packets of Compassion Tea to hand out to the people we met in Africa,” Anne explained when she returned from her trip to Tanzania and Kenya. “And we printed special labels to put on the packets. We took a photo of the four of us and put that on the back of the tea packets. The people loved the photo. They were excited to receive the tea, but it was the photo that they really loved. That was what they talked about and cherished.”

A photo of four Americans on the back of a packet of tea. How simple. But of the gifts the group distributed, among the bookmarks, bracelets, and tea, it was the photo that made the lasting impression. More than something to remember the visit by, the photo is a reminder that four people in America, on the other side of the world, think about them, care about them, have a connection with them.

I recently read a blog about writing letters to your sponsored child. I’ll include the link here. And it all reminds me of the joy of receiving mail, reminders, mementos, a Facebook comment from a friend last seen eons ago. We love to feel like people care. It’s a warm fuzzy feeling, a zap of electricity, a jump-start to the heart during the darker days. Cuz it kinda sucks to feel forgotten. In the dark places of our hearts, of our lives, of our world, the shadows hide the people who care. Like racing into a tunnel, the peripheral shrinks and our focus becomes narrower and narrower, seeking the light at the end, but not seeing the hands along the way.

I admit that I’ve had times when I was fairly certain God had stopped caring. The feeling that He had turned His back on me was crushing. Things happened that I couldn’t explain, that didn’t seem to correspond with the image of the meek-eyed, smiling Jesus of the Bible paintings I grew up with. Darkness grew and grew and I felt abandoned. Like the Psalmist, I cried out over and over again, “Where are you? Why have you turned your face from me? This sucks and I hate it.” I was deaf to His answers.

But answer me He did. He’s been reminding me in countless ways who I am. He’s given me snapshots of where He was in the tunnel of my darkness — a ray of light streaming in a window, a whisper of fresh air when the car felt like it was compacting around me, the mere brush of an invisible hand on my shoulder. He’s said to me, “You are my princess.” He didn’t turn away after all. It was I who hid His picture under my pillow and forgot to take it out and look at it. Because in the dark places, yes, God allows the dark places, He is crafting and shaping and sculpting us to be even more His image. I have no idea what I’m going to look like after this is all said and done, but I’m learning to trust that it is going to be beautiful.

The team that recently traveled to Tanzania and Kenya to deliver medical supplies visibly saw God at work. Jamie and Anne both wrote in their blog, “We came to be the hands and feet of Jesus, but His hands and feet were already here.” Thinking they would bring God to the people they met, they discovered that God is actively there. Wrote Anne, “Sometimes you have to leave your comfort zone to see God. This time it was to travel 10,000 miles to east Africa. Here, His presence is evident. He opened our eyes and our hearts through His work here. We experienced His people, their different life styles; His different ways of worshipping, different scenery, His different animal kingdom, and different foods to sustain us. We felt His protection, His love, His provision, at every turn. His comfort, His healing, and we saw His miraculous power at work here 10,000 miles away.”

So many photographs to sort through! Medical supplies being delivered, people visiting the clinics and receiving physical healing and advice and care and love, animals, markets, villages, traditions, customs… lives that are dark and light, dappled in the shadow of a depressed economic situation and the brilliant joy of God at work.

And the team left a lasting photograph for the people they met. “You are precious to me.” We all need to hear it.0-6

Operation Snake Rescue



A rustle in the dry leaves at the upper end of my garden is not unusual. But this rustling went on for a while and so it caught my attention. What I saw was the tail end of a snake. “KIDS! You gotta see this!” I hollered. Very cautiously, I approached close enough to ascertain whether or not this creature was poisonous or not. Looking for the telltale rattle, I inched closer, snapped a photo on my Android, and backed away. It looked docile enough and it must have been afraid of us because it didn’t move for a very long time. I confirmed through the city naturalist that I had a gopher snake on my hands. It was most welcome. The rodents were a worse menace than the snake! Eat all you want, Mr. Gopher Snake!

The next day, I decided to see if Hissy, as the kids had named it, was still in the bushes between our house and the neighbor’s. I could see Hissy coiled up but something wasn’t right. Gasp. There was black netting around his “neck” and face. Concerned that there was now a large dead gopher snake in the bushes decaying I called the neighbors to suggest working together to extract Hissy. They never returned my call. Which brings us to the third day. I came home from a very hot session of horseback riding and figured I better check on the chickens who were panting worse than the dog. And I wandered up toward the top of the garden to see Hissy’s body. Oddly enough, it was now hanging partly under my fence again. That snake was NOT dead… or it was having an extremely long period of dying. In fact, when I brushed its tail with a twig, it shuddered and contracted. Hissy needed help and fast. I grabbed the pruning sheers from the shed and stuck them through the fence hacking away at the netting as best I could. Eventually, I cut away enough of the netting that I could gently pull Hissy’s body through the fence with a long, thick stick. Now that his head was clearly in sight, I saw that he was choked in two places. I put a bucket over him to keep Winston from messing with him and ran into the house for a pair of scissors. This was going to be finer, closer work than pruning sheers would handle. With the scissors in one hand and the large stick in the other, I carefully began cutting the tightest spots. When that last choking chord was sliced, Hissy’s body curled up, contracted, slithered, sighed. Now, there was just a chunk of netting around his face. Again, stick in hand, and with steady scissors, I began cutting away around eyes that were now focusing and alert. As the netting fell away, Hissy grew more and more animated. I never did get the netting completely off his mouth before he high-tailed it deep into the bushes. Perhaps that last bit will keep him from eating; I don’t know. But I did my best.

I’ve given you the photographic version of the story. Add in the emotional. A snake in the garden was in fact nightmarish for me. I can deal with the idea of snakes when a trained professional is explaining and showing them … like recently at my son’s 6th birthday party when Owen brought his boa constrictor, corn snake, California King Snake, and gopher snake to share. But this was remarkably close to home and reinforced that notion that creeps me out… there are things lurking that I can’t see and I don’t know if they are malignant or benign. Shudder. What was even worse was the next day when the snake was still there… seemingly dead. By day two, Hissy had a name and a gender to help him fit into my paradigms. He wasn’t just “a snake.” God has made amazing creatures and populated His world with them. The markings, the beauty, the potential for danger were all, in their own creepy way, attractive. And I was forming an odd little bond with Hissy. I have never been one to see pain in someone’s eyes and not feel a measure of it myself. And I saw, as faintly as it was through the ivy leaves, a measure of pain and voidedness in Hissy’s. By the third day when it was evident that Hissy was clinging to life by threads as fine as those binding him in place, I couldn’t take it. Creepy or not, Hissy deserved a chance. As I worked over his body in the hot sun, I found at one point an incredible desire to touch him. Remembering all the city naturalist’s lessons about how to pet a snake, I reached out and stroked his midsection. Soft, supple, amazing. I am proud of doing what I did for Hissy, concerned about his future, and saddened that I may never see him again. For three days, he was a constant in my life. Loathed and feared at first, he grew to be endearing and action-prompting… not because he changed, but because I changed.

I will be the first to admit that not every human I interact with do I find endearing and action-prompting. Toward many I have a gut-level reaction that is less than generous. It is an intimate and convicting reminder of my own humanity. As much as I seek to model my life after Christ’s, I’m not there yet.

Our team that recently returned from Tanzania and Kenya were met with situations that on occasion left them thoroughly grossed out. At one point, they were taken to a Maasai village… one of the most impoverished places they had seen yet. Here, the houses were built of cow dung and the animals were paddocked “in town” during the night. Consequently, during a demonstration of how to start a cow dung fire, the four team members were covered in flies. Flies thicker than you can possibly imagine. Anne was given a fly swatter made from elephant hairs; according to her it merely shifted the flies from one part of her body to another. That would have totally been outside my comfort zone! It was disgusting.

Later, when the team visited the Tanzania Christian Clinic, they met Sabina, one of the nurses who works there. Her purpose is to attend to the mommies and babies who come to the clinic. While the team was there, a young lady of 21 years came to see Sabina. She brought her child for a check-up. During their conversation, the young lady explained that this was her fourth child; she had given birth to her first-born at the tender age of 10. My daughter just turned 10. If you don’t think this information was a kick in the gut, think again.

My point here is simple. Gross, frightening, loathsome, horrific – choose your adjective – the world is full of it all. Some of it is the way we have grown to perceive things, like flies and snakes, and some of it is because of the way evil has sway. But spending time with it, getting to know it, caring for it, strips away the filth and the fear and reveals both a beauty and a greater need. Underneath every ugly is beauty. Inside every fearsome is a soft spot. Behind every horrific is the redeemable. Whether it is a snake trapped in netting, the people of the Maasai village trapped in abject poverty, or a young lady trapped in a society that embraces polygamy and child brides, we are called to serve and care for everyone.

I’m not sure how Danny and Nancy Smelser of Tanzania Christian Clinic or Dawn Leppan of 1000 Hills or Cindy Cunningham of Village of Hope do it all the time… face the ugly, the hurt, the broken day after day after day searching for the beauty, cutting away the traps and fetters of disease, seeking to heal the whole body spiritually and physically. But they do. I am thrilled that through my support of CompassioNow and Compassion Tea, I am able to provide the tools they need to do so. And I am confident that God gives them the strength they need to carry on.

Just as He used me over the last three days to free a snake. And isn’t it interesting that freeing that snake has given me so much too. Hissy is free… but so am I… free from a fear. That’s one down… oh so many to go!

See How it Grows

“The highest form of worship is the worship of unselfish Christian service. The greatest form of praise is the sound of consecrated feet seeking out the lost and helpless.” —Billy Graham

My memories of sitting in concrete-blocked rooms watching grainy slide shows of obscure places around the globe are many. Missionaries often came to our church seeking to tell the story of their work in India, Tanzania, Kenya, etc. Often, they came to thank the congregation for its bountiful support of their work and to share the needs of their community. And as a pastor’s kid, I was privy to these stories, enduring hours of them on cold metal folding chairs that gave my bottom pins and needles even as I wanted nothing more than to fall asleep. I guess the descriptions of other worlds were so distant from my own, or perhaps it was that hubris of childhood that refuses to see much beyond the tip of your own nose, I just couldn’t relate, get caught up, feel taken in, or otherwise… well, care. The clothes were pretty… all those bright colors… but the buildings looked so shabby and dirty. Ugh. And yet, I remember being in awe of the missionaries themselves. They often spoke with a lilt so unlike the clip of an American tongue, a gentleness that bespoke a patience and endurance of such monumental proportions one knew it was God-spirited and more than likely unattainable for the rest of us. And the missionaries would come to dinner at our house and talk more, at which point I excused myself to play Legos or Barbies. Enough was enough.

I was reminded of this when Uncle Lee and Aunt Anne arrived at our house last Wednesday… weary, worn, weak from lack of sleep… and yet so full of thoughts and pictures and stories just bubbling from their lips even as their eyes slowly inched toward half-mast. After 40+ hours of wakeful travel, their bodies were confused, cramped, and craving true rest. But their spirits were full, bursting even. One doesn’t spend 18 days in Africa, delivering over 250 lbs. of medicines and medical supplies, visiting villages, schools, and churches, meeting people, making connections, and exploring God’s great creation and not feel a euphoria, a changing, a shifting of internal paradigms. And this time, I was a sponge soaking up every tidbit, reading between the lines, painting pictures in my head like a profile artist listening to a description of a perpetrator and turning it into a comprehensive image. Stay tuned. The stories will come!


African art and Tanzanian coins… a la Joseph

Then, my son announced that he had set up a store where we could buy “free products.” Wouldn’t we please come? We took a break from the story telling to wander to his store in the back room where he had a number of drawings… some were “American paintings” and some were “African paintings.” We perused the art and made our selections. Uncle Lee offered to pay for his in Tanzanian currency… a couple of pence, a mere fraction of our dollar. And then he sought to share with Clara and Joseph the art of bartering, the traditional method of buying and selling in Tanzania. I was amused by this real life lesson for the kids. Money from another country? Bartering? Foreign ideas for us but the only reality on the other side of the world. A real-life civilizations class. So much more tangible than the slide shows of my youth. Dear Joseph, however, wasn’t having it. “I’m not that kind of storekeeper,” he asserted and left the room. Bartering and Tanzanian coins were not as interesting as a round of Angry Birds, after all.

I don’t recall how old I was when we attended the Global Missions Conference at Wittenberg University in Ohio but it was probably during my later elementary years. For a week, my parents attended seminars and meetings and worship services celebrating the spread of Christianity around the globe to the far reaches and the four corners. We tasted food from other cultures, saw the dress, learned the games, spoke bits and pieces of the languages of peoples around the globe. This was my first lasting glimpse into the fact that the world is more diverse than I can even imagine. And my first substantial realization of my parents’ hearts for the rest of the world. My dad has never traveled to Africa or Asia and yet during his pastoral career he took great pride in leading congregations that gave heavily to missions work in far off places. A couple of months ago, I was fortunate enough to have a conversation with him about missions. I shared with him how someone had recently asked me how I felt about the increased emphasis on missions at church. The question stunned me. Mission work is the natural outpouring of joy and the natural response to God’s bounty. Or as a young lady explained in church yesterday, “Mission work isn’t just for the experts. If I know one amazing thing about Jesus, I want to share that. If I know 100 amazing things about Jesus, I want to share that!” So, why would a church’s emphasis on missions be disturbing to me? It kind of all clicked in an instant. The countless hours of watching slide shows, time with visiting missionaries, even my recent study of the book of James… it was all part of God’s amazing foundation laying, prepping me for today, when I find myself writing for a missions group and anticipating the time when I too will go on a mission trip.

At Compassion Tea, we talk about planting seeds. We talk about our tea, we talk about the greater purpose of our tea… to provide medical care to people in Africa who would otherwise not have any. We plant seeds of information, of personal stories. Whether those “seeds” fall on deaf ears, on the rocky soil of good intentions that lacks the substance beneath to follow through, or on the fertile soil of support, we don’t know, can’t see until later. It’s the same with raising children. My parents exposed me, planting the seeds of a love of missions, and even though it took a while, it grew into something. My kids are getting exposed through my writing and through the travels of Uncle Lee and Aunt Anne, through family members who support mission work around the world, through our own purchasing choices. We’ll see how it grows!

For the Birds

ImageLast night, Joseph and I decided to mother/son bond with an after-dinner dip in the pool. Before we got in however, we discovered a very dead, very small, barely feathered baby bird floating in the pool. Of course, all kinds of thoughts went through my head about the meaning of life and the fragility of it and the delicate balance between nature and humanity and… then I jumped in the pool and forgot about it.


This morning, I was working on T-ball stuff on my computer and was occasionally glancing up to watch the squirrels scamper about outside the window. Something larger caught my eye and when I focused I realized it was a turkey hen. She was immediately followed by a sister, and when a very large tom strutted past, I got very excited. In total, there were 3 toms and 2 hens and they were very intent on investigating our new landscaping. Winston, the dog, got a whiff through the open windows and his barking chased the 2 hens over the fence into the neighbor’s yard. I believe 2 of the toms followed at some point. But one tom made it all the way to the top of the garden… within sight of the garden boxes. With a mighty leap, he cleared the pool fence, flopped up over the garden boxes, nearly soared for a millisecond over the chicken coop and then crashed somewhere behind the shed in another neighbor’s yard. It was astonishing. This was a prize tom with a very long beard and a beautiful red head. His feathers shown iridescent when he rose above the house shadows into the morning sunlight and had for a striking moment a sheer glory I would never have associated with a turkey.


Shortly thereafter, I drove the kiddos to school… in the rental car I am using while my car is in the shop yet again. As I was pulling up to the drop off lane, I noticed that the car was sputtering and acting funny and otherwise shutting down. I pulled off to the side as much as possible so as not to block traffic too much, sent my very worried daughter into class, and arranged for a friend to take my son to school. The minutes that followed were harried and disappointing, of course, but with some deductive reasoning (i.e. a friend who had something very similar happen to her once upon a time) and the discussion I had had with the rental car guy yesterday I deduced correctly that when this car says it is nearly empty it isn’t being gracious and kind and giving you an early warning. It is going to stop and it won’t go any further until it is fed… um, given more gas. (Insert parallels between children and cars here if you will.) The school principal and the school custodian remembered a gas can used for one of the school’s machines and filled the tank with enough to get me through the rest of the extensive drop-off line and to the closest gas station. I pray a lot out loud while driving and this trip was no different!


While filling up the tank, I began to think back over the events of the morning. And I saw very clearly some parallels. 1. Boy, did I feel like a turkey.


No seriously. I did feel like a turkey, that part is true. At times this morning, I felt very like the turkeys who heard the barking of the dog and in squawking and squabbling haste jumped pell mell over the fence. But really I had a moment of sheer glory when the sun fell full on my feathers and I didn’t just flap but soared over it all. It was when, with heart racing and knuckles whitening, I prayed out loud for God to get this car to the gas station without further shut downs. And He did. And it was when God made sure that the car shut down in a safe place instead of on a busy road. It was a place where the kids would be safe, could even get on with their days. It was a place where people were there to help. And even though I felt like a turkey, I feel blessed. It would have been very easy to complain and chalk this up to a very bad day. But thanks to friends who are great reminders to look for God’s blessings, and thanks to God who has been working on weeding that attitude of ingratitude out of my standard repertoire, I feel blessed.


Here’s where I normally bring it all back to Compassion Tea. The part where I explain what this all has to do with tea, Africa, compassion, or some combination of the three. Obviously, I am very grateful for the compassion of the school staff and the friends who helped me out this morning. Their love and aid made me feel less like a turkey. But, I really want to go back to that baby bird in the pool. Somewhere during the last 18 hours, I paused for a moment and thought about the mama bird. Was she watching her baby when it fell in the pool? Was she cheering it on as it attempted its first flight? Was she frantic at the edge wondering, “Who will help my baby,” wondering how to reach in there and save her baby? Was she out gathering food when a predator came and knocked the infant out of the nest? What was her response when she came home and took roll count? Do mama birds even have these thoughts? How instinctual is mothering and what does instinct dictate when there is loss?


And here is where my mind and heart crossed over to Africa and I thought about the mothers who watch their children starve or die of AIDS because there is nothing to be done. I thought of the mothers who die themselves and leave their progeny with little or nothing in the way of shelter and food, safety and security. I thought of the mothers who in fear walk miles to protect their children from men who may rape, abduct, or abuse them and of the mothers who have despaired for their children. In a world so cruel, where survival is the goal of the day, where medicine, food, water, and security are scarce, what is a mother to do? Some turn their backs, some sell their daughters into sexual slavery and their sons into forced labor, some abandon them to an orphanage… but at what cost.


I have a friend who, bless her heart, reads my blogs. After my last one, she commented on how some people have a heart for Africa but she doesn’t. She prays for people who work in Africa and appreciates their work, but she just doesn’t have a heart for Africa. Her comment sounded sad to me. There doesn’t need to be sadness in her heart, however, because while her heart may not bleed the same color mine does for Africa, it certainly bleeds for the mothers in our community. This friend will do anything to help another mother… she provides childcare, school drop offs and pick ups, prayer, meals, and endless emotional support. And our community is so blessed because of her.

Do you remember that Bette Midler song… The Wind Beneath My Wings? In the song, Midler sings about friendship being that inspiration, the necessary uplift to get us off the ground. My friend, the one who has a heart for local mothers, is certainly that kind of uplift, the “wind beneath the wings” of so many of us moms. Because of her support, we are able to get beyond the shadows, up into the sunlight, and if it is even just for a millisecond, our feathers shine iridescent and our flight is more soaring than flapping. Faith in God is also that amazing “wind beneath the wings.” I’m learning every day how He provides the winds to help us soar. What a rush!


And through the work of Compassion Tea and CompassioNow, we can provide the “wind beneath the wings” of mothers in Africa. By providing health care, education, job training, childcare, and food Dawn Leppan at 1000 Hills in South Africa is turning around an entire community. By educating, feeding, housing, and providing medical care to orphans, places like Lily of the Valley and Village of Hope are able to provide children with the mothering they need and so desperately crave. Mission Medic Air in Zambia, Tanzania Christian Clinic, and Karero Medical Dispensary give mothers a place to turn for medical aid. Person by person, mother by mother, child by child, we are saving lives in Africa thanks to the support of those who drink Compassion Tea or donate to CompassioNow.


You know, we all have turkey moments, even turkey days. But friends, the good Lord, and even our bleeding hearts can take us to heights we can never imagine. And for a moment, we are less turkey and more glory. May your day be full of glory.


Part 2… The Hope Part

“I’d like you to watch this video. In it, a boy is crying because he is the head of his household. He went to the well to get water for his siblings. The other children at the well pushed him and he wasn’t able to fetch water for his family. He has a mat and no blankets for his family to sleep on. His 4-year-old sister is lame and requires care for even the simplest of things. The boy is 12. At 12, my daughter hopes to purchase her first phone and get her ears pierced. While she will have responsibilities around the house, she will certainly not be responsible for running the household. This boy’s story breaks my heart. And this is just one story. One horrific, unthinkable, unbelievable, mind-blowingly sad story. (stay tuned)”

I wrote and published that two weeks ago and I owe you the rest of the story. Here, I’ve added a story from a woman named Rose. I thought about condensing it but it is so powerful that editing it down would destroy its power. (taken from the Village of Hope website)

English is not Rose’s native tongue, but we have reproduced her story here verbatim so that you can get a sense of her personality and her passion. -Ed.
It is year’s back, when I strongly got inspired to work with the children while I was still a child myself. I was eight when the 20 year war in Northern Uganda began. My family and I were tortured and displaced from our small village called Acholibur. My father had several arrests and each time he was arrested, he was badly beaten to the point of death. Our hearts were always so torn apart. Being a man, our father also got detained with so many others, who were all killed, but God spared him every time. This caused his legs to be paralyzed, till today.
We then fled to the refugee camps and it was there that I made so many friends. Realizing our vulnerability as children, I wanted someone to come and rescue us, but there was no one.
I then wondered whether God could guide me to make some difference in our own lives. During this time all schools were closed down, many young girls were raped and defiled, many children kidnapped and abducted. We would go hungry for days without food, in fear of being found getting food from our own gardens. We would sleep out in the bush in fear of camp attacks, many were bitten by snakes during the night, heavy rains hit us, and others still met these rebels in the bush and were killed.
At the age of ten, being someone so thirsty to serve my peers, I began to teach my friends about God and I would encourage these girls to boldly reject the elder men’s’ proposals for early marriage. All this happened under a “big mango tree” and as I think back, it brings tears to my eyes. But my consolation is that, it is so amazing how God used me at that early age and I must say it really worked out. The children had a change in their lives as a result. They had every reason to refuse to attend the “mango tree Sunday school” teaching!! Besides, I was just a young girl then. But God is so amazing, none of them rejected to come and we were such a huge population. It’s now that, I can see how great and good God is. He used me in my innocence to bring some change in the life of my fellow suffering friends
During this time, we started expanding our mission outside the “mango tree”. We would minister with our parents door to door within the refugee camp. As children from a traumatized community though, it’s now, that I can define what the problem was then. Many families had broken up and most children had been separated from their parents and were now on the streets. They would spend nights anywhere they wished and others were already involved in theft, prostitution and so on. We went and prayed with them, and I got so impressed, because so many of these street children got transformed as a result of this ministry. Many went back home and were reconciled with their parents, and we kept following them up till they settled into their homes. This made me feel that God could also strongly use me to do bigger things despite being a child.
The war then intensified and so many of these friends with whom we prayed did not survive. Some were massacred by the Rebels, others abducted and so on.
We continued fleeing. I went and joined my elder sister Jessica and her family where we were safe. She took care of us and put us back in school.
My heart remained behind because my parents and my friends had remained in the danger zone. This fills me with guilt to date, because I fled and left my friends who never made it.
Since my heart remained back at my roots, having experienced what it felt to be caught in the war, I kept praying that God would empower me to help my people some day at school, I always targeted a course that would help me go back and work better with the suffering people in the northern part of Uganda. I then decided to do social work and social administration, I later added counseling because the war has caused a huge untold level of trauma in people’s emotions, therefore they will need a lot of psychosocial support and that, I promise to offer as long as I live.
After my education
Immediately after my education, as promised, I went back to Northern Uganda. But this time, the rebel activities were more intense. Many from the other part of the country wondered why I was moving back to this region, given the security situation. I only told them that God will take care of me.
This seemed one of the worst times. The attacks were more frequent, many children were killed and others abducted. Thousands of children would walk long distances in search of safer places within the heart of the town, where the government soldiers guarded and so the rebels feared to reach.
Lots of risks rose as a result of such kind of sleeping because they slept at the shop verandas just mixed men, women and children. In the process many children were raped and tortured.
As if the above trauma and torture was not enough, the children traveled very long distances both mornings and evenings. Then later to school, most times without food, if any, then one meal a day which made most of them look so weak and vulnerable to diseases.
On seeing the above risks, we as volunteers wanted to see that a change is made. We advocated to the district that something must be done to make sure the children are separated from the big men who were taking the young girls at such risks of early pregnancies, HIV/aids exposure etc.
We decided to spend nights out with these children so that we could guard them from the rapists. This helped some, though these same risks were also experienced on the way to these sleeping places and besides, the children were so many and scattered, meaning the three of us only wouldn’t really monitor their safety so well.
Due to this demand some NGO’s started opening the night commuter centers which helped to safeguard the children from these risks because most of them restricted the age to 17yrs maximum. We sorted out these children and we allocated them to the different centers, out of the streets.
It didn’t take long, when I got employed by Medicines Sans Frontiers {msf swiss} in the night commuters’ center as a center counselor.
Here, it seemed like it was just the beginning of everything.
Over four thousand children came to this night commuter center every night. So scared, helpless, tired and most of them, so hungry. I was the only counselor to handle all these children every night.
It was a big challenge. Because all of them wanted me to at least listen to them, given the different problems at hand. Most of these children were so torn away from their parents, because they had very little time for each other. Since the parents would leave their sleeping places, and immediately try and search for something to eat for the children, they move from the night commuters centers, back and right away to school without seeing their parents and during the evenings, they leave school, and most times go straight to the centers. Because if they moved back home, it gets late and risky for them on the way since the rebels would also trap them on their ways when it gets late. That is why they would choose to go hungry, rather than get abducted on the way.
It wasn’t easy for me myself, to listen to all these heart breaking stories. Many times I could first lock up myself into the counseling room and weep, before I could go on again. It was so terrible seeing and listening to very heavy stories, from a baby. So young to even carry the burdens of life but they are already doing so.
During this time, I made individual and group counseling.
Through this, I was trying to lift these children back on their feet, but the situation here was so tricky. Reason being, it was very hard to terminate a session with these child. Their problems were always retriggered immediately they leave the center. Some of the perpetrators are the guardians, frustrated parents, and the rebels themselves. So I had to carry on with all the clients on board.
I then decided to design another method of work. I started working 24hrs day’s planed a day schedule from 8:00am-6:00pm and from here I moved direct to the night commuters’ center. During this time, I made follow ups and family/school monitoring. I also made door to door counseling to both the children and their family members affected by the war. This seemed to work, because then, I was available for them whole day and even all night from the center. All in all I thank God for the strength he gives me to serve the children. On my own, I know I could do nothing.
After a year, I moved to World Vision, though still worked with the same children, but this time under another organization. On top of that, I had more vulnerable children to deal with this time. The formerly abducted, others could have spent as long as ten years and above in abduction, has under gone a lot. For example: children who had killed several people including their own close relatives, psychological torture, like killing their own parents, cutting the stomach and removing her intestines, then it is rubbed all over ones body and one is forced to stay with it that way, for a week, in the name of initiation to wipe away all the fear and make one bold to freely kill as many people as possible. I think you can now imagine the level of trauma we had to fight out.
Within the community, I went ahead with the group method, here I was trying to reduce the stigmatization of the formerly abducted and former soldiers, enhance proper reintegration, through the kind of forgiveness we got from Christ, so unconditional!. We decided to mix these formerly abducted with the none formerly abducted so that we could give them a clear understanding of each other, and it’s the same them, who help us sensitize the community through music, dance and drama. Before this, the formerly abducted were rejected from the community, with a wrong perception that they are the ones who have caused all the suffering people are under going in the North. So this made many parents reject their own children, with the fear that the other community members will attack them. This provoked many of these formerly abducted to move back in the bush and join the rebels. With all the anger, they have been the worst in making serious vengeful attacks to these community members. But when the anti stigmatization campaigns went on, the community started understanding and now as I talk, it has really worked out well. We are still moving on with these sensitizations from camp to camp and the community response is really good, thus more corporation between the formerly abducted and community at large.
Well, that is what I’m still doing up to now. Though the government ordered that all the night commuter centers get closed, last Dec 15, 2006. And so now that the security was a bit calm compared to before, most of these children now sleep at home. Through some still went back in some verandas due to the fear of abduction and besides, most of these displaced families have limited space at home so the parents/guardians don’t fit in the small huts rented so the children are sent out to look for where to sleep.
When time had come for me to leave World Vision, because my contract with them had ended, I told myself that the end of this contract does not mean the end of my work. So I just continued to do the same kind of work with the children. Looking at their faces calling out for help, I really couldn’t let them go, because they are so precious to me. What I do with them, is so little, but they have made me understand that this little thing means a lot to them. Being there for them whenever they need me means a lot in their lives. And I thank God who still enables me to be around them.
As usual, God sees miles ahead of our sights. During this time we surely needed some support beyond what I was providing for the children, so I always shared this with friends so that we can pray for God’s provision, besides the counseling and follow up I’m doing. To my surprise, one day, an organization called ALARM came with a team that was ready to provide to the child headed house holds. I remember that day; I was just from visiting a child headed household. They are five at home, the eldest is 13yrs, she was so sick that day and so the family had spent some three days back without food, there wasn’t any drugs for her to take, so she was just waiting for anything to come her way. When i reached there, she felt so relived and was sure that as usual, I have either brought them food or some money for upkeep.
Unfortunately, I had nothing that day because I was so broke myself. On seeing the condition, I decided to rush home so that I could get them even the little I had, plus some medication. That is when God opened for us a way. I got this call that the child headed families will be supported in terms of school fees, meals and medical care and this money was already sent to my account. I just sat down in the middle of the road and wept with joy. Though this seemed just a drop in an ocean, but it means a lot in the heart of these few beneficiaries their lives are changed because of this and so many out here are still looking for the same.
Never did God stop here with his surprises, he went ahead and introduced me to someone so loving and caring to the chidren and that is a sister in Christ Cindy Cunningham.
She then came up with even a greater dream for these children, just like I did but I couldn’t afford at my level of course. This dream is that of a children’s’ home fully equipped with the basic needs like a school.
And this village is called “Village of Hope”
When she shared this idea with me, I felt it was God’s calling. And as I speak I’m already working for “Village of Hope”. I must confess I’m so glad that I can work to fulfill the children’s’ dream through Village of Hope, I pray God gives me more strength to make his will be done for the suffering children of Northern Uganda.
Many of these children were born within this war time and so they have never seen what a peaceful home is like!!!
They get surprised when they hear of a warless land, to them it’s strange and unrealistic all they know of is war, fights, fleeing, abductions, killing and seeing loved ones get killed, family separation and losing hope for any good, happening to them at all.
This gives a great opportunity to Village of Hope to operate and see to it that, this need is addressed by the grace of God I believe these children will see the other side of the coin. We will struggle and together fill this gap.
Our cry goes out to any heart that feels for these wounded children who lost their childhood, the same way we do, to come and join hands and together we will make the total healing in their lives. For it doesn’t take a millionaire to bring this transformation, because we serve a big, big God. Even the poorest is most welcome into this battle. Remember!!! A Thousand years from now, it won’t mater the expensive fancy cars we drove, the big mansions we occupied, the heavy bank accounts we owned, but many generations will know about the transformation you brought into the lives of these wounded children in Africa.
We need your continuous prayers! May God bless every reader.
Love from the very bottom of my heart and that of the children I work for they love you big— time.
We are all praying for you too.
May God bless you always.

The place Rose mentions here, Village of Hope, has a clinic on its campus. The clinic is staffed by Nurse Susan and Dr. Mac and serves the roughly 200 orphaned children living at Village of Hope as well as children who attend school at Village of Hope and the staff members and their families. Nurse Susan and Dr. Mac provide care for complaints such as malaria, typhoid, syphilis, epilepsy, bacterial and fungal infections, coughs, allergies, asthma, abdominal complaints, and ulcers. Many of the children at the orphanage, and those served by the clinic, are suffering from major trauma, both physically and emotionally.

About 10 years ago, Wendy Bjurstrom of CompassioNow and Compassion Tea met Jessica, Rose’s older sister. Jessica shared with Wendy the plight of the children in northern Uganda in a way that touched Wendy’s heart. She began following Invisible Children’s efforts, and through Jessica and her work with ALARM, began supporting a child financially. Through these efforts, Wendy met Cindy Cunningham, founder of Village of Hope. Their paths continued to cross over the years and in early April Wendy brought the clinic at Village of Hope to the CompassioNow board of directors and asked that CompassioNow begin financially supporting the clinic. The clinic was approved and the first check has gone out!

CompassioNow now supports the work of rural clinics in 5 African countries: Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, South Africa, and Uganda. We are so excited about this addition! Ed and Wendy will be traveling to Uganda this year to ascertain first hand the needs of the clinic and to lend further support.

Village of Hope and its clinic are remote, about 60 miles from the nearest city and hospital. Therefore, the roughly 1000 residents of the surrounding area do not have easy access to quality health care. When asked if she would like to open the clinic up to more of the community, Village of Hope founder Cindy Cunningham responded, “That would be AWESOME!” It is our hope for Village of Hope’s clinic that, through your support of Compassion Tea and CompassioNow, one day the clinic will be able to serve the broader community. For now, we are thrilled to be helping the children at the orphanage and their caregivers. Thanks to you, we can!

But I Don’t Wanna Go To Bed!

“But I don’t wanna go to bed!” Sound familiar? Irritatingly, we have this conversation nearly every evening. Usually, it revolves around the fact that the kiddos want Mama to read another chapter of the book we’re reading together. Right now, we’re reading The Chronicles of Narnia series, and quite frankly I could stay up all night reading these books. Nevertheless, that is not wise for any of us.

Over the weekend, Clara uttered her little nightly complaint once again and I found myself launching into a mini tirade about the privilege of going to bed. I expounded on the beauty of her warm, soft bed layered with clean sheets and quilts and fluffy pillows, in a dry room, safe and snuggly, loaded with stuffed animals, soft classical music playing in the background. Kind of makes you want to curl up right here, right now, doesn’t it!

Did you see the photo shoot that made the rounds of Facebook and other social media outlets recently? The one focusing on children around the world and their treasured possessions? Many of the children are posing on or near their beds. Take another look! Here’s the link.

Reading through posted comments is one of those vacuum cleaner activities… I hate it but I get sucked in. So, I read through some of the comments. Many were complimentary of the photography; some commented on the similarities between countries while others were shocked/disturbed/amazed at what was considered a treasure. And then there were a few snarky comments regarding the photographer’s choice of subjects… particularly regarding the photos from Malawi and Kenya. Why choose only “the most heart-wrenching” subjects? There are wealthy Malawians and Kenyans. Why choose these subjects? Why choose only a seemingly wealthy child in India? Why not visit the slums of Calcutta? Or the cardboard camps in Honduras? That probably has more to do with access and money more than some grand social engineering on the photographer’s part. But I think the point has been lost. There are children around the world living in grand luxury and children around the world living in abysmal circumstances, children with amazingly comfortable beds and children with a cot or a mud and straw mattress or nothing, children with hundreds of toys and children with 1 or 2.

Then there are the children of Uganda. It is estimated that between 60,000 and 100,000 children have been stolen from their homes in the middle of the night, have been enslaved by Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army, and have been orphaned by the 20 + year war he perpetrated on the country of Uganda. Do you remember Joseph Kony and the Invisible Children video calling for his arrest that went viral last year? He’s still out there. According to the Invisible Children website, he is moving north toward the Sudan where he is finding more friendly governments, but he remains at large in the Congo. And in his wake, he has left thousands of children. Some children join their parents on a daily hike to the nearest city… sometimes over 10 miles away… so they may sleep in the streets, protected by the largeness of the city, and avoid being abducted. Others have been uprooted from home all together, living in dire refugee camps. Other children have escaped from the LRA but live with the terrors of being abducted in the middle of the night; of being beaten nearly to death; of having to kill brothers, sisters, parents; of being used as sex slaves; of being a tiny soldier. There are children who have returned home to find no parents, who are heading the household at tender ages, responsible for the food and safety of the smaller siblings. I’d like you to watch this video. In it, a boy is crying because he is the head of his household. He went to the well to get water for his siblings. The other children at the well pushed him and he wasn’t able to fetch water for his family. He has a mat and no blankets for his family to sleep on. His 4-year-old sister is lame and requires care for even the simplest of things. The boy is 12. At 12, my daughter hopes to purchase her first phone and get her ears pierced. While she will have responsibilities around the house, she will certainly not be responsible for running the household. This boy’s story breaks my heart. And this is just one story. One horrific, unthinkable, unbelievable, mind-blowingly sad story. (stay tuned)

Collection Call

There was a season of my life during which I hung on the every movement of the doctors of a certain ER. Their lives were fascinating as were the intersections of their lives and those of the patients who poured through their doors. Dramatic operating room and emergency room scenes depicted life-saving in action… sterile drapes, caps, gloves, instruments, walls, lights, meds aplenty. I don’t recall a single episode where the doctors called for an instrument or a med and it wasn’t readily provided by an eager nurse, not even that time the whole city was shut down from a monster snow storm and people were lining the hallways in need of medical care. That, of course, was TV.

Nor do I recall ever walking into a doctor’s office or ER or hospital and hearing things like, “We’re out of antibiotics; sorry we can’t help you” or “We’ll have to make do; try to get things as sterile as possible. But we’re out of caps, gloves, and drapes.” There has always been heat, light, water, cleanliness – one might even describe it as a cold sterility. This, of course, is my reality.

It is not the reality for so many people in Africa. CompassioNow has received a list of medical supply requests from Mission Medic Air Zambia. Written by hand and in the language of medicine, I find it difficult to translate. But I can make out things like theater caps, masks, and gowns; surgical and examination gloves; catheters; surgical blades; cord clamps; bandage; pain relief ointments; panadol (equivalent to Tylenol) tablets; cotton wool; ultrasound gel and paper; crutches; wheel chairs; braces; thermometers; and eye drops. Can you imagine? CompassioNow seeks to fill these requests for places like Mission Medic Air and the clinics it serves along with clinics in Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa. Collecting the items through donations or through purchasing the items using the money raised by Compassion Tea Company and from individual donors is only half the battle. Safely transporting the medicines and supplies is the other half… the more perilous half.

Currently, CompassioNow is collecting supplies for the Tanzania Christian Clinic in Tanzania and the Karero clinic in Kenya. Two Compassion Tea directors will hand deliver donated pharmaceuticals and medical supplies in June when they visit the clinics. How can you help? 1) Your purchase of tea from Compassion Tea Company provides funds for purchasing needed supplies! 2) Purchase supplies from the following list and send them to Compassion Tea! 3) Make a direct donation to CompassioNow! 4) Pray for the team as it prepares and travels to Africa!

Items requested for Tanzania/Kenyan Trip, 2013 Following is the initial list of items we are seeking for our trip to Africa in June. These are items that we pretty much take for granted here in the United States, but that are difficult to get in the remote medical clinics we will be visiting in Tanzania and Kenya. Contact us at or 1888-SHR-TEAS for more information.

• Pepto Bismal (tablets only) (Expiration date at least 6 months out) • Disposable Nebulizer Kits • Exam gloves – all sizes, but especially medium and large • Casting Material – Ortho Glass-Comfort (Synthetic Splint System) and Delta-Cast Soft (Semi Ridged Cast Tape) (Expiration date at least 6 months out ) • Ace Bandages (various sizes) • Sterile Gauze Pads and Sponges – all sizes ((Expiration date at least 6 months out) can get at CVS, Walmart, Target, Amazon etc. • Children’s Liquid Ibuprofen and Tylenol (Expiration date at least 6 months out) • Infant’s Liquid Ibuprofen and Tylenol (Expiration date at least 6 months out) • ENT Examination Equipment (including powerful odescope) • Digital Celsius thermometer (must be Celsius) • Neosporin or generic antibiotic salve in tubes. (Expiration date at least 6 months out) Every donation counts! And so does every prayer! Thank you in advance for your support!