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!


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!




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.”




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!

Compost Tea

Compost tea, according to Ancient Peaks Winery in Paso Robles, CA, “is a liquid extract containing soluble plant nutrients, beneficial plant compounds, and beneficial micro-organisms.”

In short, it is the liquid by-product of the compost pile. Ancient Peaks uses their compost tea to suppress disease, reduce “fungicide and fertilizer requirements,” to cut costs, and to “improve soil structure and overall plant health and vigor” of their vineyards.

I use compost tea, made with fruit and vegetable discards, coffee grounds, tea leaves, ash from the fireplace, and chicken droppings, to boost the nutrients in my garden. And for the indoor plants, I use half-consumed cups of tea for watering. Tea leaves are rich in nutrients and are very beneficial for the soil and plants.

I bring this all up because some of our Compassion Tea staff spent some time at the Ancient Peaks Winery this past weekend and saw their compost tea at work. And it reminded us of some earlier thoughts we had on Sustainability… thoughts that are still pertinent and relevant today.

(And remember, this earlier blog was written before our name change. CareNow Foundation became CompassioNow. To become a Compassion Tea member or to peruse our tea selections, visit

The Constant

Moon resting on the shoulder of the ridge, street lamp underneath copying the light, poor substitute, mocker. And yet there’s something delightful in the pairing – God’s creation, Man’s attempt to light the night, imperfect and yet brilliant.

Frost on the rooftops, sweat on my brow. This early morning walk to clear the gullet, the sinuses, the brain before today’s demands awake.

The first bird of the morning flits from under a bush and makes a peep, tentative. “Is it time to get up?” it seems to query.

Across the valley, the sky is yellowing. The blue over the ridge is washing out, too. The moon still hangs, awaiting the arrival of the sun, wanting to greet the maker of its light. How lovely to be here for the passing of the giants.

Clara saw it in reverse the other night while riding the horse. Sun set across the valley, slipping down the ridge into the bay, while moon arose, full and orange, larger than life in the tricks of the atmosphere, triumphant in its artificial light. It spoke to her as this morning speaks to me.

Since the beginning of creation, there has been this moon and this sun and how many mornings and how many evenings have they passed in the sky, nodding to each other, tilting their hats in polite recognition. “Good morning, Sun.” “Why, a good morning to you too, Moon.”

It is the continuity that startles me today. While the things of life seem ever changing, ever awash, while I balance precariously on the tightrope of life, while the storms of life strike again and again at me and certainly at those around me… this is unchanging.

My unstated resolution for the year… to reread the Bible cover to cover. I bought a chronological Bible divided for just such a goal as this. I’m reading the stories of Jacob and Joseph, captivating stories, coming to life again in the holy words. Jacob, in his wrestling with God, saw this same sun. Joseph, from his cell in prison, must have marveled at the moon through the window. The same sun shone on Dinah and Rebekah and Rachel and Sarah too. And they marked their days by the stages of the moon.

The sun, it shines on little Prosy in Africa today, in Uganda, and South Africa and on the people seeking healthcare and the people serving them.

It will shine on tea drinkers, opening the morning paper, reading today’s Facebook posts from friends, heading to work, or settling into the sofa still in jammies for a morning of leisure.

It will be there later today when I drive a road that requires extra prayer. Constant, like its creator. And in that constancy I can relax; I find assurance, hope and faith are built.

Even in the parts of the world where cloud covers the sky, rise up above, soar through the clouds, and there on the other side is the sun. It didn’t disappear. It didn’t go whizzing off into space in a frightful blaze. No, it’s glory is there, behind the clouds, waiting to be revealed.

And tonight, somewhere in the sky, Moon and Sun will tip their hats in polite greeting. “Well done, friend Sun.” “Why thank you, friend Moon. Carry on!”

A Morning Minute

There was this.

A little boy in his jammies, not quite ready to sit up, jiving to his own jingle on the bar stools after breakfast. The sound of the fans kept me from hearing the words, but his little voice carried pitch above the jet engine going off in my kitchen. Such a moment of calm and joy.IMG_20140112_081805_976

Then there was this, a Facebook post:

In 3 weeks 288 orphans will load up into vans and make their way to their homes! For many of them, this will be the first time they have slept in a real bed, in a real home. The first time they will sleep in safety, not wondering if someone will attack them in the night. First time they will have 3 meals a day!

If you wonder, “are my donations making a difference?” The answer is, YES THEY ARE!!!!

Thank you!!!

From Village of Hope Uganda, celebrating the return of the students to the original campus and a group of 96 who will travel to the second campus, brand new. A school, a medical clinic, training, love, shelter, food, the beginning of life anew. How do we reconcile these words… “the first time they have slept in a real bed, in a real home.” Ever. Not just in a month or in a year… ever. Joy to be a part of that! Hallelujah and Praise God for bringing them to a home, protecting them from “someone attacking in the night.” Joy!

Then there was this, another Facebook post:

we are all devastated . One of our community children on the way home from our centre was knocked down and killed.

RIP little one

This one from 1000 Hills Community Helpers, South Africa. And pop… joy explodes, gushes from the balloon. One of the least of these. Fragile life made more fragile by want, poverty, disease, death. Fragile life found friendship, hope, food, medicine, community. And yet death comes anyway. We say too early but who is to say God’s commands are wrong. We are devastated by tragedy, by the tragic loss of young life, by the wrongness of it.

And then Jesus says, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” (Luke 18: 17)

The little one, the least of these, dancing on the streets of gold brings joy beyond measure. Sadness for the family, the community, but joy for the child embracing Jesus.

All in a morning minute.

Medical Advances Miraculous

Singing glory hallelujah over here for medical advances! The kind of medical advances that have helped Cindy Cunningham, founder of Village of Hope Uganda, conquer a brain tumor. Within the past week, she had a skull plate installed to replace the one that was dangerously infected after the last surgery. A cocktail of meds and careful vigilance and she’s home tumor free and with a new skull plate.

Or the kind of medical advances that allow a mom to be monitored for days, a mom and her unborn baby, and a team of doctors assessing and watching and deciding the moment when it becomes safer for baby to be delivered than to cook a bit longer inside. And the medical advances that make caesarean birth safe and that quickly assess the status of the baby. And the medical advances that allow surgery on a newborn to correct heart problems and the advances that can help babies born at 32 weeks survive and thrive.

Or advances that diagnose, that can picture and picture and picture the body assessing and determining is that benign? Or do we need to investigate further? Because it may mean the difference between life and death. Medical advances.

And the kind of medical advances, maybe not so cutting edge, that have taken my cold of weeks and finally turned it on its head. Antibiotics… I knew I needed them and as soon as I stepped off the plane I called the doctor. Relief.

Here in this time and this place, we have a strong medical system. We have strong medicine. We have machines and procedures and devices and surgeries and people that can/who can fix, monitor, assess, correct, extract, replace what has gone wrong in our bodies.

Here in this time and this place.

But not there in that place.

CompassioNow is sending a birthing bed to Tanzania Christian Clinic so they can begin to build a labor and delivery wing to their clinic. This bed is the first for the clinic.

CompassioNow, in partnership with Rock of the Foothills Lutheran Church, is sending a 40-foot container of medical supplies to Malawi to outfit a clinic there with enough supplies to presumably last for 4 years. Wound dressings, bandages, basic antibiotics, creams, ointments, over-the-counter meds, eye drops… the kinds of things we can easily obtain in this place.

This year, CompassioNow/Compassion Tea directors made two separate trips to the African continent to deliver these kinds of medical supplies to outlying clinics serving villages and orphanages far from the modernity of the cities.

Because there in that place the kind of medical advances we wax glories on don’t exist. That is a place where medical devices might be donated, like x-ray machines, but finding a skilled technician to work the device is years-in-the-searching difficult. It’s a place where bicycles serve as ambulances, and where solar power and generators provide the necessary lights and electricity, and clean water may have to be carried from the river a football field or two distance away and then treated. It’s a place where people, full of compassion, do the best they can with what they have, and wring their hands and lift their voices in daily supplication because they know the supply is limited, the resources are dwindling, the advances are just not there.

As I pop my antibiotic relief like a New Year’s cocktail, I look toward 2014. Will it be a year forward or like so many before will it be another year that leaves certain parts of Africa regrettably in the dark past of medical advances? We at CompassioNow and Compassion Tea pray that we’ll be able to provide the basics at our clinics, because basics even save lives, and we pray for the miraculous, for a feeding-of-the-5,000 kind of spread. And when you stop and think about it, really, medical advances are miracles. The miraculous.

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.

Technology… Who Needs It?

I have a tween in the house and the other day she greeted me at the school gate with these words, ”Mom, I am like the only person in the fifth grade who doesn’t have an iPod or a phone of my own. I so need one.” Something about the tone simultaneously made my toes curl and my heels dig deep as if they were growing roots right there on the school sidewalk. Need? You NEED an iPod or a phone? Whatever for? NEED, like water, air, safety, love? NEED? We have radio, CDs, computers, and an iPad. She has a Kindle all her own. I am rarely more than 10 minutes away from her vicinity and when I am she is with trustworthy adults who are armed with cell phones. I made her write a paper explaining her needs. She needs technology so she can do research. Well, we have technology already available. No. There really is no reason at this point in time that my tweener needs more technology, except maybe to feel cool for the 2.5 seconds a material possession will bring happiness. I am that mom.

In the middle of this ongoing discussion, I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Why Your iPhone Upgrade Is Good for the Poor.” The article, written by Daniel Fletcher, professor of bioengineering and biophysics at the Blum Center for Developing Economies at the University of California, Berkeley, explains how Fletcher and his students are repurposing smartphones. Such repurposed phones are now able to capture images of human cells to look for malaria parasites and tuberculosis causing bacteria. These repurposed phones are able to screen for parasitic worm infections, to scan the eye for retinal diseases, to scan for oral cancer. Fletcher tells how other researchers have been able to create a cellphone stethoscope and a portable ultrasound system. Says Fletcher, “But with smartphones capable of providing basic primary-care services and diagnostic work, and with expanding wireless services that allow doctors to interpret results and recommend treatments remotely, many of the services we enjoy at the doctor’s office will be available in the field – anywhere in the world.”


Geoff and Nelle of Mission Medic Air hold the portable dental chair.

Isn’t that beautiful! It reminds me of the portable dental chair Wendy and Stina Bjurstrom just delivered to Mission Medic Air in Zambia. The chair is lightweight enough that it can easily fit in their airplane and can be worn as a backpack. It comes with a drill that is solar powered and it will make dental clinics in the bush both easier and more productive. The article also reminds me of the medical kits just delivered to the Community Caregivers at 1000 Hill Clinic in South Africa. Each medical kit has a brand new stethoscope donated by MDF instruments and basic health care items donated by Giving Children Hope and CompassioNow.

Community Caregivers with their new medical kits

Community Caregivers with their new medical kits

These kits will go with the caregivers into the villages surrounding the clinic serving some 20,000 people. The caregivers are the front line for the clinic, assessing patients at home, assessing needs, providing basic health care and education. Imagine if they were armed with smartphones capable of scanning for parasites or infections!

When Anne and Lee Kennedy returned from Tanzania in July, they noted that since their last visit to Africa, what had changed the most, what they found to be the most shocking change, was the prevalence of cell phones. People in Arusha had more than one phone, were calling each other frequently. In fact, cell phone coverage was better than the roads. One day when they were trying to find a particular clinic, Anne and Lee called Wendy back in the United States to get directions. The locals didn’t know where the clinic was, but through the use of technology, Anne and Lee were able to find the remote spot. Lee commented then on the changes this increase in technology will bring to the remoter parts of the world, parts of the world where healthcare is so scarce. Hospitals and clinics and transportation providers will be able to communicate more effectively. Doctors in the cities may be able to diagnose complaints over the phone for patients far out in the bush. Or better yet, doctors will be able to provide ever more sophisticated tests and treatments while in the bush.

And yet, we must remember that technology has its limitations. A beautiful x-ray machine sits at the clinic at Lily of the Valley Medical Centre in South Africa, useless because someone stole the computers back in May. Similarly, Danny and Nancy Smelser at Tanzania Christian Clinic have been praying for months for a trained technician to come operate their newly donated x-ray machine. People are still needed… to carry and use and protect the technology, to provide the healthcare.

This past week, Wendy sent daily photos, videos, and updates from her smartphone… updates that told the stories of the 1000 Hills Clinic in South Africa. How marvelous it was to open my inbox and see these pictures, to hear the joy and gratitude, to read the heartbreaking stories, and to know that it was all happening in real time, on the other side of the world, but it felt so close, so accessible. Yes, technology is making the world smaller, bringing communities together, advancing new methods of providing healthcare to parts of the world where healthcare is scarce, teaching us about our neighbors on the other side of the world. As we search for ever better reception, pixels, platforms, functionality, as our affluence demands higher quality, we are helping the poor.

Perhaps if my tweener had written that last line as the reason for her need of further technology, I might have caved. A little. Perhaps.

A Clinic Day….

We’re here; they’re there. We’re asleep and their day is underway. What happens in tandem with our busy lives, what happens on the other side of the world? What goes into the Thursday clinic at 1000 Hills, what goes on, who is helped, and who is loved?

Wendy and Stina arrive at the clinic at 7 AM this morning ready to serve. Dawn, founder of 1000 Hills Clinic, has been there since 5. Even before she arrives, patients begin lining up outside the gate. Karin, Dawn’s daughter, opens the gate and allows people into the waiting room. 0-19Before the other doctors and nurses arrive, Karin begins to triage the patients, running tests and determining who needs a doctor and who could benefit from a nurse’s touch. 0-41One of the first patients is this 12 boy. He lost his mother in March and is now cared for by his gogo (grandmother). Yesterday, he burned his leg while trying to cook an egg. He is taken to the treatment room to be bandaged.0-42

8:30ish: One of the health workers starts singing a hymn. Almost all of the waiting patients join in. Then, they begin praying their individual prayers out loud. 0-46While waiting for the healing of this world, it makes sense to pray to the Great Physician. We are thrilled that His love and salvation are shared with every bandage, pill, and check-up!

Nurse Joyce and pharmacists Jimmy (82 years old) and Peter arrive to man the pharmacy.0-47

9 AM: There are no seats left inside the clinic. Patients arriving now must wait outside in the muggy weather. 0-35Dr. Kirstie (chief doctor) and 2 volunteer doctors from the UK are now here too. 0-33Over at the kitchen, it is time for morning porridge and for the bread line. 0-31Many of the patients line up outside the kitchen to receive two loaves of day old bread which would otherwise have been thrown away. 0-32Also, local school students are asked to bring an extra sandwich to give to the less fortunate. These are also distributed through the bread line.

Time is awash now. So many people need treatment and the day is creeping, scampering, fleeting. Next patient… 14 month baby Thando. Thando was badly burned on Saturday when she was scalded by boiling water at her aunt’s house. There are many burns in the clinic because most of the cooking is done on the ground. Thando was taken to hospital but, like so many people who can’t pay, was released way too early, before the wounds can begin to heal. Her mom needs the bandages changed. Infection is a fear. Wendy explains, “The mom and health worker were trying to get the bandages off with warm water. It was a long process and we all cried with little Thando.”0-43 0-44 0-45

Stina treats a woman with an ear infection.1234546_10151600495771791_842250301_n

Patients continue to pour in. Scabies-like rashes, coughs, lung infections, stomach ulcers are common complaints. People needing TB treatments also arrive. 8 year old Spellilli has an abscess on his tummy that needs drained. His courage during the process earns him some stickers Wendy brought with her. 0-37The pharmacy hums with busyness.0-39

Wendy takes a break and heads to the nursery to check on Zowakha, a one month old who was brought to Dawn. “You’re lucky I didn’t chuck him in the toilet. Here’s one for you,” said his mother.  1045059_10151597323681791_89119693_nHe has gone to hospital for a thorough exam. When he returns, a new infant is in the nursery. Okuhle, an girl, has been brought by her mother this morning. “I can’t take care of her any longer.” A third infant wails nearby. Asiphile, Zowakha, and Okuhle will spend their days in the nursery and their nights with caregivers… for now.0-34

Back in the clinic, another line forms. Each person is given two pieces of fruit. In another line, patients can pick out items of used clothing. Dawn hands out condoms.

110 patients today. 0-36110 stories of strife, deprivation, injury, hardship. 110 opportunities to heal, help, share. While we slept on the other side of the world. Simultaneously.

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!”