1000 Hills

I just got another video from Wendy. In response, I asked her how she was holding up. Were it me, I’d be repeatedly excusing myself to go have a good cry in the loo. This is the week that Wendy and Stina Bjurstrom are spending at 1000 Hill Community Helpers in South Africa. Stina is acting as a nurse and Wendy is proving to be chief photographer, videographer, baby holder, and encourager. I’d like very much to share a few of the photos Wendy has sent on as well as a bit about the clinic.

Dawn Leppan, founder of 1000 Hills Community Helpers... giving proper credit where credit is due

Dawn Leppan, founder of 1000 Hills Community Helpers… giving proper credit where credit is due

From the 1000 Hills website: “The 1000 Hills Community Helpers project was established in 1989 by starting up a community feeding program.

In response to the needs of the community, we constructed our own community care centre in 2008 comprising a health and wellness clinic, children’s infirmary, education and development facility.This centre was named by the local community members as “Ikhaya Lo Thando” (“Home of Love”) that would cater for the needs of Orphaned and Vulnerable Children, supporting them with food and clothing.

Dawn’s eyes were opened to the political strife and devastation of families in the local community of the Valley of 1000 Hills caused by political unrest. In 1989 this heart breaking scenario inspired Alan Paton and herself to start up a community feeding program. This was first held in the open under the trees in the Inchanga area, then moving from there into St. Theresa’s Catholic Church

In 1990 it was realized that community members were in need of medical assistance due to the impact of HIV/Aids related illnesses. It was then decided to start up a basic clinic followed by an infant nutritional program. Medical volunteers were then sourced to assist in carrying this burden. We were blessed with having a Paediatrician join us as well as 5 registered nursing sisters.

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

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

From that first project, this vision has grown from strength to strength to provide essential services to the people in the form of health care, education, infant care and HIV/AIDS awareness, henceforth, the 1000 Hills Community Helpers community centre.”

Some of the happy faces coming to day care.

Some of the happy faces coming to day care.

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

I’m a 1000 HIlls Kid — it is so good to belong!

CompassioNow first met Dawn in that abandoned Catholic church when she was feeding people and dreaming about expanding services. To see the amazing growth and outreach of this community since then is inspiring, wordless joy, inexpressible amazement, and something that contracts the heart, rearranges the insides, and yes, sends the likes of me running to the loo for a good cry. Because the work is so far from done.

Wendy explains, "This precious baby boy was brought to Dawn Leppan at Thousand Hills Community Helpers one month ago. The mother put him on Dawn's desk and said, 'You're lucky I didn't chuck him in the toilet. Here's one for you.' So thankful for the life saving work being done here every day!"

Wendy explains, “This precious baby boy was brought to Dawn Leppan at Thousand Hills Community Helpers one month ago. The mother put him on Dawn’s desk and said, ‘You’re lucky I didn’t chuck him in the toilet. Here’s one for you.’ So thankful for the life saving work being done here every day!”

Photographs

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

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)

Compassion Tea Twist on the Easter Egg

image006This week, I have been faced with an awful conundrum. It centers around eggs. You see, we have 4 chickie ladies who produce the most subtly beautiful eggs daily. Chip lays blue eggs; Raindrop and Ziggy produce brown eggs; and Clarabelle produces pink eggs. What fun to see them all nestled in an egg carton! They are the perfect Easter egg collection.

That being said, it is Easter, and I have two little ones who are positive we should color (as in dye) Easter eggs this year. Do I go to the store and buy MORE eggs? White, mass produced, not so organic, not so fresh eggs? Alas and alack, I did. Such a first world problem.

But! This week, Compassion Tea artistic director, Jon Larson, shared this recipe for Chinese Tea eggs featuring our Lapsang Souchong Butterfly Smokey China Black tea. Something fun to try with our already beautiful eggs! Perhaps you would like to try too! (A big thank you to Jon for the recipe and the photos! You can see more of his work at www.compassiontea.com and at www.larsonimages.com.)

image002Ingredients:
6-8 eggs hard-boiled and cooled
2 tbsp loose tea leaves (Lapsang Souchong Butterfly Smokey China Black tea)
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp salt
¾ tbsp. Chinese fivespice
1 star Anise
2” strip of orange zest

Directions:
Hard boil eggs. I place the eggs in a saucepan then fill with cold water, one inch above the eggs. Bring the water to boil. After one minute at a boil, turn off the heat and let the eggs sit in the hot water for 10 minutes. Then, cool.

When cool, using a spoon or the back of a knife, crack the egg. Make the cracks deep enough that the tea mixture can penetrate the shell to give the egg the desired flavor and look. Just be careful not to let the shell fall apart.

Place eggs in a medium pot and fill pot with water to one inch above the eggs. Add tea, soy sauce, salt, and spices. Bring to a boil.

Cover, reduce heat, and simmer the eggs and tea mixture for about 2 hours. Add water as necessary to image003keep them covered.

Remove from heat and leave the eggs submerged in the tea mixture overnight (about 8 hours) to allow the eggs to absorb the flavors.

Enjoy!

(Store eggs with shell on in the original egg carton in the refrigerator for up to a week.)image004