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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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!

Rain, Rain…

We’re still doing rain dances here. Every time the weatherman forecasts another storm coming through, there is a collective intake of breath… a community wide inhalation like, “Oh! Maybe this will be the one to get us out of drought!” And then the weatherman inevitably says, “This is not going to be enough to get us out of the drought.” He’s such a Debbie Downer! So, we keep praying for rain. And when the rain comes, we don’t grumble. The inconveniences of rain boots and umbrellas and flooding roads and massive puddles… they are all born with a determination, a stalwart fortitude to bear through this “necessary evil.” The hills are green at last. The stream beds are flowing again. Local ponds are full and wildlife is finding water. We’re not out of the drought, but with each rain we are sighing relief.

 

And on the other side of the world, the rain won’t stop.

 

Toward the end of 2014, CompassioNow took on the support of another medical mission outreach program, that of Passion Center for Children’s Community Health Network in Malawi. And this rainy season in Malawi has not been good. Heavy flooding from the incessant downpours has caused countless homes to collapse, displacing thousands of persons and families. According to Eric Sythoff, director of the Passion Center, “In Zomba alone approximately 24,000 households have been displaced and are now living in schools, churches and health centers.”

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Sythoff explains further, “Right now we have children sleeping in the open because their homes are severely damaged. At least four houses (that we know of right now) from our Passion Center extended family have been destroyed and many houses need plastic sheeting and more grass for roofs to prevent further damage from rain, as well as doors and windows to keep the rain out. Also, treated drinking water is a major need as the government is concerned with a cholera outbreak due to poor sanitation and water source contamination. There are still households we can’t get to because roads and paths are blocked, which leaves people in our area who need clean cooking/eating utensils.”

 

On Feb. 3, the Passion Center staff joined with other relief agencies to provide supplies for displaced families. The PC staff went to the Namachete Primary school along with the Zomba District Disaster Committee to provide emergency relief care packages. “This school is in a remote area, hosting many people who have been displaced. We are working on identifying and helping those in our area. We have a number of pastors from our Passion Center Pastoral Ministry living here as well as one of our Community Health Network groups serving here.”

 

“The care packages were filled with: 5 kg bag of beans, 20 kg bag of Maize flour, 1 liter of cooking oil, 2 kg of salt and 1 roll of plastic sheeting for damaged homes. While they were going from each designated camps that housed those that have been displaced, they noticed more houses have collapsed due to another heavy thunderstorm. The disaster committee identified the following challenges: 1. lack of bedding, 2. lack of mosquito nets (classrooms don’t have any windows to keep mosquitoes out), and 3. lack of cooking utensils and storage buckets for water.” Sythoff further reports, “During the distribution, our staff prayed with individuals and shared the Gospel message in which 17 individuals gave their lives to Christ. As our team was returning to the Passion Center, another heavy thunderstorm hit and more houses gave way to the downpour.  We haven’t received reports of cholera outbreaks yet and we won’t know the extent of crop damage until the rains subside, but people are already preparing for these problems.”

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Immediate needs are as follows:

“The District Disaster Committee have identified the following challenges and need urgent supplies based on the living conditions of the displaced people:

1.  Lack of bedding (blankets and foam mattresses)

  1.  Lack of mosquito nets – this increases the risk for malaria because the classrooms do not have windows to keep mosquitoes out; the presence of more standing water attracts mosquitoes which carry the disease, increasing the likelihood for deaths from malaria for the young, sick, and elderly people.
  2.  Lack of cooking utensils and water storage buckets – many lost everything in the floods.
  3.  A critical need is fortified porridge for children under 8 years old.”

 

Please visit the Passion Center for Children website to make a direct donation, or visit the CompassioNow website to donate to medical relief for the children and families around Zomba.

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.

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)