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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, what is this?

Be sure to crush your loose tea leaves before measuring!

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

Because maybe it is this.

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


Wendy and Scovia

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

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

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

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






And this.0-43

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

Some of the happy faces coming to day care.

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


Stina teaches the Community Caregivers how to use their new stethoscopes

Elphus in his tiny room

Where Elphus lives

Wendy and Dawn Leppan get ready to distribute the kits.

Community Caregivers with their new medical kits


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

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

IMG_0257 IMG_8083


Airing the Laundry

There’s a mountain of clothes in my laundry room right now. Wet non-dryables hang on the rack while the darks sit in the washing machine. Piles of whites and colors wait their turn. When they are clean and dry, there won’t be any baskets to put them in because last week’s clothes haven’t yet made it into the drawers and closets where they belong.

And yet, I need to talk about Kingdom work.

I need to talk about the enormous need.

I need to talk about global problems with no simple solution and about individuals trapped by war, displaced by famine, orphaned by disease, abused by the cycles of government ineptitude or corruption or pure evil. We can wring our hands, we can succumb to despair, we can turn a blind eye because we don’t have the solution.

But we miss the opportunity to speak love into one life. Because that’s how God’s work is done… bit by bit, person by person… one cup of tea, one blood pressure cuff, one load of laundry at a time.

Lisa-Jo Baker, blogger mommy activist, launched a campaign today to build a place for mommies in Africa to do their laundry. She writes: “Today I want to invite you to do virtual laundry together.
Help One Now and the local South African organizations that my parents work with, Take Action and the James 127 Trust have the architectural plans and the permission to build a community water point.
It’s designed with moms in mind. To make laundry days easier and bringing home water for cooking and drinking simpler.
The water point will be:
• Consistent: because it will include a water storage tank so that even if water supply is interrupted, there will always be back up water.
• Convenient: the water point will include clothes washing troughs – to make doing laundry easier.
• Community friendly: there will be benches to sit and wait for a turn to wash clothes or gather water.
• And offer food security: because it will be the water supply for a future vegetable garden.
And because the Internet can build a virtual bridge between here and South Africa moms the world over can offer to share a laundry day together. We all get being buried under piles of kids’ clothes and the knowledge that what we washed today will be dirty again tomorrow.
Let’s do virtual laundry together. Let’s build a water point and laundry facility for our sisters and their kids in South Africa.
So that every time you fold those socks and super hero underoos you are reminded that moms do brave things. Including Laundry!”

Click here to read the whole blog.

I encourage you to go to the website and check it out. She has fabulous photos of the current water source, a hose coming out of the ground, surrounded by mud. And while sometimes I’m quite sure the water coming out of my washing machine must in fact resemble a mud bath, I can’t imagine washing my clothes in mud.

Children playing in the mud

Children playing in the mud

And I’ve heard mommies talk about using laundry as a way to praise God. To use the time folding as a time of prayer… praying over the individuals who will wear, dirty, stain, split seams of the very clothing I’m folding. Do it all, even the menial, for the glory of God.

Bit by bit, sock by sock, we get it done… the kingdom work.

Laundry is hardly the extent of it though. Water in Africa is scarce. People sell water to make money. Wendy, who just returned from Zambia, South Africa, and Uganda, explained that her sponsored child, Scovia, a 14 year old Ugandan, walks one half km each way for water for her family. She carries it on her head. Scovia walks another 3 km each way to school. What water her family doesn’t use, they sell.

Wendy and Scovia

Wendy and Scovia

From childhood, from the moment a child can walk well, he or she is expected to carry water, even in a small jerrycan.

A boy struggles with his water load.

A boy struggles with his water load.

The distances are long, the water itself may be contaminated, and there is only so much to go around.

Carrying water on their heads

Carrying water on their heads

The same water that is used for laundry is often used for bathing and then transported home for cooking and drinking.

Gathering water by the side of the road.

Gathering water by the side of the road.

Frequently, animals use this same water for drinking, bathing, and as a toilet. It’s not easy to be healthy when this is your drinking water.

Laundry and water are carried in jerrycans long distances.

Laundry and water are carried in jerrycans long distances.

This is the big stuff. The kind of stuff that makes us scratch our heads, wring our hands. This is the stuff that has no easy answer. But as CompassioNow founder Ed Bjurstrom says, “We can wait around for government to figure it all out, or we can make strides to solve the problems in small ways, NOW.”

Bit by bit, sock by sock, cup of tea by cup of tea, blood pressure cuff by blood pressure cuff, person by person, we make strides, we tackle the big stuff.
Have you ever watched ants move house? They don’t just take the whole thing and lift it up and move it. They each take a part, …a morsel of food, a larvae, a clump of dirt… and they move it bit by bit.

A family heads to the water hole to do the laundry.

A family heads to the water hole to do the laundry.

Through the bravery of mommies building a laundry facility for neighbors in Africa, through the bravery of compassionate folks supporting CompassioNow, through the bravery of tea-lovers buying tea for a cause, we can move house like the ants. Bit by bit. It takes us all, acting in small ways, NOW.

Now, back to my laundry.

The Helpers

“Who would do such a thing?” I asked my neighbor over the fence recently. “I mean, poisoning a tree is just a vile sort of thing to do.” She has a tree at the tip of her property that for some mysterious reason has died this spring… with a large, dry brown spot ringing it. Arborists have investigated and confirmed her suspicions, poison. Someone has it out for her tree.

But it is the same question people are asking in the wake of the bomb explosions at the Boston Marathon yesterday. “Who would do such a thing?” Who would coordinate explosions at a running event where innocent people with no political agenda at the moment are gathered to cheer on other innocent people accomplishing great acts of strength and endurance. Who? It sickens the stomach to think someone out there thought it would be … what? Politically advantageous? Cool? A divine calling? Who? And why?

Of course, while this is relatively new for us Americans, there are parts of the world where this sort of thing happens regularly. People riding a bus, visiting a market, doing their daily shopping, going about their business, … even children playing in a field… bliss and everyday life interrupted by tragedy on a massive scale. Because even if the death count from the bus explosion or the market explosion or the marathon explosion doesn’t reach into the 100s, maybe doesn’t even reach into the double digits, for the families affected and for the wounded, life’s realities are altered. Safety, security, joy, and trust are marred forever… at least one’s sense of it. How do you get back on the proverbial horse again after something like that?

Forgive me if this sounds callous, but we do live in a broken world and senseless tragedy has been the rule of thumb since the beginning. Things like this make me want Jesus to come riding out of the sky this instant. “Enough!” I tell him. “Enough! End it… because only you Lord God can set this right and bring about your new world, your peaceful kingdom.”

Interestingly enough, yesterday morning, a photo of Mr. Rogers came across my Facebook feed with a nice quote about looking for the helpers in times of tragedy and sadness. That quote, with a myriad of photos, crossed my feed throughout the day yesterday as if each person on Facebook yesterday felt the need in the face of the marathon explosions to offer assistance of some kind, even if it was a reminder to look for the helpers.

Thank God for the helpers! There were lots of helpers on hand yesterday and the stories of people lending hands, racing people to care stations, taking off belts to stem the flow of blood on another are trickling out of Boston this morning. We need those stories. In the face of senseless, gruesome, horrific and unbelievable acts aimed at destroying a way of life, we need a reassurance that there is still goodness somewhere… most likely in the person next to us… but certainly in the bravery and selflessness of people jumping to help. And we think to ourselves, “What would I have done?” It’s nice to be encouraged by other ordinary people who instantly became heroes because they saw a need and filled it.

Thank God for the helpers! We at Compassion Tea and CompassioNow applaud the helpers in Boston and we lift up another prayer for the helpers at the clinics we work with in Africa. Danny and Nancy Smelser, Dawn Faith Leppan, Cindy Cunningham, Sister Marta, Geoff and Nell, David, and the countless others who provide help and health care to people in rural parts of Africa where tragedy smolders in a cut that becomes infected and there are no antibiotics to treat it; where tragedy lurks in unclean water and there are no medicines to eradicate the parasite within; where tragedy lingers in a broken bone that is never set right, becomes infected at worst and never heals properly at best; where tragedy lurks in the night and children are forced into slavery as soldiers, sex slaves, workers; where tragedy creeps through a way of life that passes on HIV/AIDS at a horrifyingly rapid pace and children are born with a disease that robs them of life shockingly early; where tragedy slinks in because there is no dental care or eye care or care for the crippled; where tragedy lingers because there is not enough food.

We need the helpers. But we are the helpers, too. Rallying after the Boston Marathon and not letting the bombs change our way of life (the race must go on!) is one way. But helping those in need has to be another way. Because when we look outside our little boxes, our lovely little bubbles, the terrors of our world are immense. We need more helpers. You can be a helper simply by drinking tea! You can be a helper by collecting items for our two trips to Africa this year. You can be a helper by donating directly and ensuring there is funding for the helpers in Africa… to pay their minimal salaries, to provide medicines and medical supplies so they can effectively treat the cases that come to them.

As Mr. Rogers used to sing, “It’s a lovely day in the neighborhood! Won’t you be my neighbor?” Please, won’t you be a helper?734003_10151436862608759_2129747872_n

Return on Investment

Following is the November/December newsletter from Tanzania Christian Clinic, one of the clinics supported by CompassioNow and Compassion Tea Company. The newsletter is full of interesting insight into life at the clinic and in the Maasai communities the clinic serves. Of note is the bottom portion. It takes all of 60 cents to treat a person at the clinic. For the cost of one holiday tea caddy ($12), 20 people could be served. What a great return on investment!

NOT beginning to look a THING like Christmas, Tanzania is now displaying a profusion of flowers, budding trees, and lush grass accompanied by colorful birds everywhere. How God’s rains have refreshed the dry landscape! As we enter the summer months here in the southern hemisphere, Danny and I anticipate the more familiar cold weather of the Christmas season when we fly into Amsterdam and on to the US soon to visit our families.

In addition to experiencing hot weather, we at TCC have also been on the “kiti moto” (hot seat) lately with an increasing number of new patients coming from far and near. Despite the more demanding patient work load, we try to stay focused on spiritual as well as physical ministry. One recent spiritual outreach was to Joseph Samwel (see photo) who was born again after attending several Saturday Bible classes.

Joseph Mollel preparing for baptism

Joseph Mollel preparing for baptism

Another case is that of a distinguished gentleman who came to TCC for his Parkinson’s care. On multiple occasions this man invited us to his home for fellowship and Bible study. After many thoughtful and insightful questions, he has decided to make Jesus Lord and Savior. A third person, a Maasai mother of a four-month old infant, has informed us that she will also be immersed into Jesus after eight more weeks. Tribal customs dictate that the mother can drink tea but no water and neither she nor her baby can be bathed or placed in water until this extended six month period ends.

Amazed that such customs do not result in the deaths of more people, we begin to understand the social factors that can lead to the serious patient presentations seen so commonly. Following a sore throat and extreme bout of glossitis, one five-year old boy appeared at TCC after several days in a nearby hospital with no improvement. Diagnosing him with Ludwig’s angina, we noted that the boy displayed high fever, a hugely swollen, fiery red tongue protruding from his mouth, inability to swallow, drooling, grunting respirations, and impending airway obstruction. Attended by his worried Maasai father and grandfather and many men from his village, all were waiting anxiously to see if the child would live. After prayer (on our part) and repeated injections of Rocephin and Dexamethasone over two days we were thrilled to see the boy’s dramatic improvement. “Asante Mungu” (Thank You, God)!

However, new Christians and patients with dire illnesses have not been the sole source of excitement recently. A few nights ago we were again awakened by a loud racket outside our bedroom window, including a wild animal’s hissing and ferocious barking by Phlebitis, our German Shepherd. When the guards began to shine their flashlights we again fell asleep, thinking little of the incident. The next morning a guard casually mentioned that another young “chewi” (leopard) had come calling in our front yard, having apparently no trouble climbing our fence!

Looking back over these five years in African missions we deeply appreciate you and our Lord for the sustenance you both have provided. Happy Christmas, and let us all remember to especially thank God for His indescribable gift— Jesus.

Because of Him,

Danny and Nancy Smelser

The magnificent crowned crane

The magnificent crowned crane

Crest of the Crane

On day five the Creator must have decided to make one more crowning bird. So He took a crane and added a special crest (see photo) and man now calls him the “Crowned Crane”. This elegant bird is commonly seen by visitors at the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania and has been designated as the national bird. But as beautiful as this bird is, it is no match for the true crown of God’s creation. Genesis tells us that man and woman are the only created beings that have been made in God’s image. We humans are the crown of creation. God himself described the people He made as being “very good”. So what is a “very good” person worth? It must be a lot in God’s opinion since His second greatest command is to “love our neighbor”. Would you think a sick person in Tanzania is worth $0.60? That is how much it costs for a patient to see the clinician at Tanzania Christian Clinic. Even at that price, some cannot afford the expense. So as you support the medical mission work in Tanzania, remember that all of us are part of God’s crown of creation. We all resemble God. We are all worth sixty cents. We are all worth a little bit of love …and then some. Thanks for your prayers, encouragement, and support.


Made by friends. Given to friends. Helping friends.

You may recall that Compassion Tea got started when a group of friends met with the purpose of discussing a better way to raise funds for their work with CompassioNow. This group of 3 couples had been friends from church and already had a long history of connection and community including group trips to Africa where certain members acquired the nickname “Lovey” (these people shall remain anonymous to protect the innocent – HA!) and the rigors of large bugs, shady food, and third world living were shared together. This was a group who was already in prayer for each other. By creating Compassion Tea, Ed and Wendy Bjurstrom, Jack and Chris Faherty, and Lee and Anne Kennedy further ensured their friendship; now, even though they are scattered around California, the meeting schedule, prayer schedule, and work schedule guarantees time together either through amazing modern communication or face-to-face time.

This past weekend was one of those face-to-face times. The kids and I traveled to Clovis via train (which has its own blog topic just waiting) in order to meet, work, and share in the community that is Compassion Tea. The beauty of the weekend was that we were working on assembling our holiday gifts. Boxes needed to be assembled, foam cut, pouches stuffed, tins shrink-wrapped, stickers applied, bows tied. None of this was particularly taxing – except perhaps for the foam cutting which required Ed’s engineering expertise to extract the most foam supports for the gift boxes as possible, and except for the heat of a hand-dryer on a hand while shrink-wrapping. On the contrary, our tasks allowed us to chitchat. As a relative newcomer to the friendship, this was great fun for me! At a certain point in the day, as Chris and I were finishing up a lively discussion about schools and teachers and expectations (oh and yes, we were labeling pouches), Anne and Wendy popped in to say, “Let’s switch partners when we start the next task!” While I worked with Wendy, I had the opportunity to hear about her experiences volunteering at the Care Harbor event recently held in LA. (Another blog in the making!) We finished the day off with a meal and fond reminiscing over our year together.

Oh, I’m sorry. Did I lose you somewhere? Were you distracted by the comments about putting together holiday gifts? Was your holiday shopping radar going off? Would you like to know more? WELLLLLLL! Yes, we’ve got holiday gifts and yes they are on sale and ready to go out. (So, really, now is a great time to order…

The holiday gift boxes are full of great things… a silver teaspoon for measuring the 4 loose teas tucked into reusable tins. The teas included in this gift are Monk’s Blend (flavored black tea), Bourbon Street Vanilla (flavored rooibos), Jade Cloud (green tea extraordinaire), and Iron Goddess Oolong (exceptional oolong). This is the kind of gift the tea-lover in your life would go nuts over!

Back in July, we were trying to discern the best way to package our next gift. It was a several hour conversation that wove its way through our entire meeting that weekend. This past weekend, we saw the fruition of that process! A satin red pouch filled with two round tins of Monk’s Blend and Bourbon Street Vanilla loose teas. There’s just something about those round tins all stacked up and waiting to ship out that is elegant, orderly, and compelling. The two tins collectively hold approximately 50 cups of tea, which makes this a lovely gift for just about anyone! I’m thinking friends, family, co-workers, colleagues, staff, employees, vendors, administrators, teachers, assistants, service providers, my kids (who ask for these two teas by name)….

The other really great gift for the above-mentioned folks is our black teabag caddy filled with pyramid tea bags. You can choose which tea you want in the caddy and the choices are as follows: Green Peach Apricot (flavored green), Caramel Rooibos (flavored rooibos), Egyptian Camomile (herbal), Earl Grey (black tea), and Provence (herbal rooibos).

Of course, we have our gift memberships for the gift that truly keeps on giving. I remember several years ago (like, decades ago) I was struggling with what to get that “someone who has everything” and I discovered a mail-order flower service that would send flowers on a monthly basis. How fun it was for my mother-in-law to receive bulbs and fresh flowers every month! I don’t remember how many months it ran but I loved the concept. This is what our gift memberships do; instead, we send 2 pouches of tea each month. You choose 6 months or 12 months of tea delivery, the variety changes every month, and every month your friend, spouse, family member is reminded of you and your loving gift. Ahhhh! Isn’t that great!

So, I’ve covered the “Made by Friends” part and the “Given to Friends” part. But what about this “Helping Friends” part? I saved the most important part for last. Remember, the mission behind Compassion Tea is to share tea and SAVE LIVES! We do that by donating 100% of our profits to our parent organization, CompassioNow. CompassioNow uses those funds to purchase medical supplies, to ship pharmaceuticals and medical supplies to Africa, to pay staff salaries at some of the clinics in Africa, to support projects such as buying a new engine for an airplane so people in the far away parts of the bush may receive medical care or such as digging a new well and providing the piping to supply a clinic with a fresh supply of water so that people don’t have to walk several hundred yards to a dirty river to procure water for the clinic. Through our sale of tea, we are helping to give grandmothers eyeglasses, which help them to see and better provide for their families. We are helping to provide antibiotics to treat infections that could become life threatening otherwise. We are supplying wound dressings for a man hit by a car and who was turned away from the government–run hospital because he couldn’t pay for his treatment. We are supplying vitamins for children growing up malnourished. We are helping a woman who for 20+ years was considered a drag on the community because she is crippled and we are giving hope to young children with cerebral palsy, HIV/AIDS, orphaned and malnourished.

I know that the economy is a hot topic these days. I’m not sure one can get away from the topic, actually! By most reports, it isn’t where it was four years ago. Could it be worse? Is it not good enough? Those are questions for the politicians to debate, and debate they are! What counts is what is in your pocketbook/budget for this year’s holiday spending. While I want to emphasize that our gifts are reasonably priced, I more so want you to think about the power of your spending. You will buy gifts for certain people, right? And I think we all know at least one consumer of fine tea. You could go to a certain local tea store or a coffee stand that sells tea too. They’re on every corner. You could buy your tea there. You could. OR you could make your purchase matter. Your purchase could make a difference for someone else… a friend in Africa.

What was that website again? Make your holiday gift-giving count.