Throwback Thursday — Healers

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

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


About Ebola

I haven’t wanted to write about Ebola. In part, because I don’t want to add to the already rather loud and raucous hysteria.

But also because for some reason I think if I say the name I make it somehow more real, somehow closer to home.

The other night as I was tucking my son into bed, he began talking about a “disease from Africa that is really bad and so we’ve got to remember to wash our hands.” All true and all appropriate for his age. But I reminded him that we must wash our hands for more reasons than “this mystery disease out of Africa.” Enter sis, toothbrush in hand. “Is he talking about Ebola?” she asks, eyes huge and terror etching her brow. Somewhere, she is hearing the hysteria.

And so I launched into my mama-bear act. “Ebola is a disease we want to avoid, and yes, it is imperative that we wash our hands to protect us from all kinds of diseases, from the common cold to the flu. But here in the United States, we have very good doctors and lots of medical supplies to help people recover from Ebola. We have big drug companies who are working hard to find cures and vaccines. We are going to be fine.”

End of discussion.

Except for the ongoing discussion we’re having at Compassion Tea. The weekly prayers for our clinics in eastern and southern Africa, that Ebola doesn’t find its way to them, these speak to a very different reality. Western Africa, where Ebola is rampant currently, is not unlike eastern and southern Africa. There are parts of the entire continent where there is just not adequate healthcare. There aren’t enough doctors, medical supplies, surgical gloves, masks, medicines, sanitation, and ways to isolate. There isn’t enough knowledge and expertise, particularly in the rural parts of the continent.

In a recent USA Today article, Alimatu Sesay, a nurse at a government hospital in the northern city of Makeni, Sierra Leone, is quoted as saying, “We’re getting frustrated because we are not equipped to respond to cases…. When there is a suspected case, we have to send to Freetown for tests and when confirmed, send to Kenema for treatment. But by the time they reach the treatment center, they are already too weak to recover.”

This is in a city, at a government hospital. This is the best medical care Sierra Leone and its neighboring countries can provide.

According to the article: “While much of the fight against Ebola in West Africa focuses on highly populated cities, often overlooked are rural areas where inadequate infrastructure and health care fuel its spread. The lack of any medical facilities for hundreds of miles in these remote regions of Sierra Leone — like in neighboring Liberia and Guinea — is a main reason the country is failing to gain control of the crisis.”

One example of the troubles rural patients face is getting to adequate care. On Oct. 10, a group of infectious Ebola patients was being transferred for treatment from their rural village to a nearby government hospital in the northern region of Sierra Leone. The ambulance carrying them “overturned on a narrow, dirt road, injuring the driver and patients and exposing the area to the deadly virus.” The government hospital proved unable to deal with Ebola and the patients were then “placed back in a vehicle to be driven to a treatment center more than 100 miles away.”

In much of Africa, hospitals are not equipped to provide for more than the medical care of patients. Family members are usually expected to provide food and clothing and clean bedding. With Ebola patients having to travel hundreds of miles to find healthcare, another problem arises. “When our relatives are taken to the center in other areas there is no one to comfort and support them – a few days later they will tell us of their death,” said Mohamed Milton Koroma, vice president of the Makeni Union of Youth Groups.

While the lack of medical care is hampering any efforts to stop Ebola, the disease’s ravages are felt beyond the threat of the disease itself. Another USA Today article says this:

“As Ebola continues its rampage across Liberia and elsewhere in West Africa, thousands of children are taking a double hit: losing parents to the fatal virus and then being shunned by relatives who fear they will catch the disease.

The United Nations estimates the virus has orphaned nearly 4,000 children across the region, and that number could double in coming weeks. Aid groups, such as Doctors Without Borders, fear the orphans are at risk of starvation and disease.

The children also could pose a risk to others by spreading the disease if they are allowed to roam free without being tested for the virus.”

The article tells of the growth of child-headed households due to Ebola and the struggles these children face when grandparents and aunts and uncles walk out of their way to avoid being near the homes of Ebola victims. “I went to my relatives after my mother died, but they chased me away, even after I told them that I didn’t have Ebola,” said 12-year-old Frank Mulbah, whose mother died in Liberia in August.

“In Liberia, the hardest hit country, with nearly 1,000 deaths from Ebola as of last week, about half of all mothers in the country are raising their children alone because thousands of men died in a 1999-2003 civil war. So when these mothers catch Ebola and die, their children have nowhere to turn.
Frank, whose father died in the civil war, said he found no one to care for him — neither in northwest Liberia, where he lived before dropping out of school, nor… in the capital [Monrovia], where he traveled in a desperate search for food and shelter from relatives who refused to take him in…. Frank hopes his relatives will change their minds, but he isn’t hopeful. He tries not to think about getting home-cooked meals or an education.
‘I don’t know when I’ll go back to school,’ he said. ‘Right now I’m just looking for food and a place to live.’”


While CompassioNow doesn’t have the resources in place to currently aid with the medical crisis in western Africa, we are praying for an end to the crisis. And we are redoubling our efforts to support our clinics in eastern and southern Africa. Won’t you please join our efforts and our prayers!

Go here to donate directly. And don’t forget that 100% of our after tax profits at Compassion Tea Company go to CompassioNow to aid “the world’s least served.”

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!

To Sugar or Not to Sugar

Not long ago, I made the Saturday morning trek to the Farmer’s Market downtown. I love the Farmer’s Market… all the fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, organic breads, and even the balloon man. Usually, I stop to chat with a local olive oil producer whose olive oils are amazing. (Olivina if you are interested!)  This day, I mentioned my work with Compassion Tea to Charles and his ears literally perked up. “I drink way too much soda,” he shared. “I’m looking for a new beverage that doesn’t have as much sugar in it.” Well, you can imagine the next 30 minutes! Duh! ICED TEA!

I’m not sure what sparked Charles’ decision to alter his drinking habits, but it seems to be a trending topic.

You may have noticed on September 14 that New York City’s Board of Health approved Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on 16 oz. soda and/or sweetened drinks. Effective March 12, 2013, this ban will prohibit any beverage with more than 25 calories per eight ounces from being sold in a container larger than 16 ounces. So, basically, in 6 months’ time, when you take in your weekly movie or swing through Jack-in-the-Box in New York City, you won’t be able to buy the mega beverage of your choice. You can, however, drop into the grocery or 7-Eleven and purchase a 2 liter or a Big Gulp. And at the restaurants, you may have as many refills in your smaller cup as the restaurant will allow. The reason behind the ban? According to Mayor Bloomberg, banning these drinks will “curb obesity” and “save lives.” To read more about this, click here and here.

Okay, so don’t travel to NYC if you plan on consuming large amounts of Pepsi. Maybe stay in Trenton instead.

This week, the New York Times ran an article in the opinion section of the paper titled, “Is Alzheimer’s Type 3 Diabetes?” In the article, Mark Bittman explains the scientific advances that are suggesting a link between the body’s reaction to too much sugar over long periods of time, the development of type-2 diabetes, and the similarities between type-2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s. In fact, studies with rats have shown that, when the insulin in the brains of the rats is limited, the brains of the rats “show all the signs of Alzheimer’s.” (Bio refresher: Insulin is released by the pancreas and goes knocking on the doors of cells telling them to open up and grab the glucose, which is what the body turns sugar into, coursing past in the blood. When insulin becomes a constant, persistent, and annoying knocker, which is what happens when we consume large amounts of sugar regularly, the cells become “insulin resistant;” they stop listening and refuse to open the door. This is damaging to blood vessels, the heart, and other organs, and causes the kind of damage to the brain noted in the article.) The article goes on to discuss the implications of this study from a health perspective and from a “cost-to-society” perspective. It also adds the caveat that while sugary drinks and foods are instrumental in increasing the rate of type-2 diabetes in Americans, sugar may not be the only culprit. Heavily processed foods certainly have their place in the decline of American health, too, according to the article.

Interestingly enough, I was recently reading an update from Karero Medical Clinic in Kenya… yes, as in Africa. A team of doctors and dentists from the States had recently visited the clinic and had provided dental services to “dozens of people.” Rev. Jeff Spainhour, from North Carolina, was among the delegation of professionals who traveled to Karero. After watching the extraction of countless teeth among the Kenyans, Rev. Spainhour commented, “It was obvious that sugar has had a great negative impact on the health of the people seen.” Even in Africa, sugar is becoming the boogie man. It starts with the teeth, spreads to diabetes, and may even lead to the most mind-debilitating disease we know.

As our pastor always says, “So what.” As in, “What should we glean from these campaigns, comments, and studies?” I see the answer as very simple. Put down your 16 oz. Coca-Cola and pick up your tea cup! (Or maybe moderation?)

There has been lots of talk throughout time about the medicinal properties and health benefits of tea consumption. Ironically, when you look for conclusive evidence to support tea as the healthier alternative, what you find is lots of “suggestions.” “This study suggests,” “studies on this are not conclusive,” and “not enough research has been done” are the constant caveats. I’ve turned to my favorite stand-by, WebMD, for a little help here. According to a compilation of studies put together by Julie Edgar, here’s “what some studies have found about the potential health benefits of tea:
• Green tea: Made with steamed tea leaves, it has a high concentration of EGCG and has been widely studied. Green tea’s antioxidants may interfere with the growth of bladder, breast, lung, stomach, pancreatic, and colorectal cancers; prevent clogging of the arteries, burn fat, counteract oxidative stress on the brain, reduce risk of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, reduce risk of stroke, and improve cholesterol levels.
• Black tea: Made with fermented tea leaves, black tea has the highest caffeine content and forms the basis for flavored teas like chai, along with some instant teas. Studies have shown that black tea may protect lungs from damage caused by exposure to cigarette smoke. It also may reduce the risk of stroke.
• White tea: Uncured and unfermented. One study showed that white tea has the most potent anticancer properties compared to more processed teas.
• Oolong tea: In an animal study, those given antioxidants from oolong tea were found to have lower bad cholesterol levels. One variety of oolong, Wuyi, is heavily marketed as a weight loss supplement, but science hasn’t backed the claims.
• Pu-erh tea: Made from fermented and aged leaves. Considered a black tea, its leaves are pressed into cakes. One animal study showed that animals given pu-erh had less weight gain and reduced LDL cholesterol.”

The article has little to say about the health benefits of different herbal, rooibos, and chai teas even though so many claim benefits such as weight loss, digestive aid, cold prevention, and stress reduction. Again, the issue is lack of study. (Click here for the whole article.)

What the article does point out is that bottled iced teas are often laced with sugars and/or artificial sweeteners and should therefore be avoided. Edgars includes a quote from Diane L. McKay, PhD, a Tufts University scientist who studies antioxidants as saying, “You want to incorporate healthy beverages in your diet on a more regular basis to benefit from these health-promoting properties. It’s not just about the foods; it’s about what you drink, as well, that can contribute to your health.”

So what? I realize people like soda. I grew up drinking it and I haven’t grown two heads or sprouted wings or anything too bizarre. But when it comes to health and making healthy choices for me and my family, I’m inclined to avoid things that contribute to obesity (goodness gracious, I have enough trouble keeping off the pounds!), tooth decay, and now possibly Alzheimer’s. Yes, soda offers variety and flavor and caffeine and a cool, refreshing pick-me-up or get-me-going boost. But, I have to argue that tea is even better.

As a Compassion Tea drinker, I find plenty of flavor and variety in our offerings, enough to keep my changing palette intrigued and satisfied. And because of the intense and robust flavors, I don’t need to add sweeteners to the teas to improve flavor. If I want sweet, there’s Provence or Bourbon Street Vanilla or Almond Rocker or Jasmine Vanilla Rooibos or our new flavor Caramel Rooibos in the pyramid bags. If I want fruity, well, that selection is endless. From blueberry to mango, we’ve got fruit! For a spicy mood, there’s West Cape Chai, Cochin Masala Chai, or Spicy Rooibos. If I’m looking for something gentle and delicate, there’s Sencha Cherry Rose or Peony White Needle or Silver Needle or even Coconut Oolong or Jade Cloud. And of course, there’s always the oolong, pu’ erh, and black teas, which offer that robust cup, the get-me-up-and-going cup of tea. Tea is varied and as long as we don’t pour in a pint of sugar it is healthier than soda.

Why not make it your beverage of choice!