Milestones

When there is a new baby in the house, you mark milestones. Whether is it the first time he rolls over or mutters a discernible word, mommies and daddies mark it down. And in today’s world, we post it online, on some form of social media, for the whole world to enjoy with us.

 

We have a new baby. She’s 15 weeks old and already potty trained. Ornery and feisty in the morning, she is the perfect lap dog in the evening when we’re all on the sofa ready to read and relax. Yes, she’s a fur baby, another goldendoodle, and she is the perfect compliment to our 4 ½ year doodle Winston. Maggie is her name and we are smitten. We are marking her milestones, her shot schedule, waiting impatiently for the day we can safely take her for a walk around the neighborhood, tracking her weight gain, and teaching her manners. It’s fun marking those milestones!

 

As I mentioned, Maggie has a big brother, Winston. While Maggie is very much her own dog, she looks up to her older and wiser doodle. While they play together something fierce and while I love watching them romp, I most enjoy watching Winston guide Maggie, showing her the ropes, minding his manners so that she learns hers. I caught this photo of them together the other day. You get the idea.12510461_10208182632501642_3559157654668221333_n

 

I wanted to share this photo with you for two other reasons.

 

  1. When Compassion Tea started on February 26, 2011, (Do you note the date? Do you see the milestone?) we began much like this photo, looking up to our God for guidance and direction. We founded our company on these 5 Bible verses:
    1. Proverbs 19:21 “You can make plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.”
    2. Psalm 37:5 “Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you.”
    3. Psalm 16: 1-3 “Keep me safe, O God, for I have come to you for refuge. I said to the Lord, ‘You are my Master! Every good thing I have comes from you.’ The godly people in the land are my true heroes! I take pleasure in them!”
    4. Psalm 90:17 “And may the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful!”
    5. Isaiah 46:9-11 “Remember the things I have done in the past. For I alone am God! I am God, and there is none like me. Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish. I will call a swift bird of prey from the east – a leader from a distant land to come and do my bidding. I have said what I would do and I will do it.”

Over the past 5 years, we’ve held approximately 250 prayer calls to pray over our tea, over our business, over our customers, over the people we are serving in Africa, over the people in Africa who are providing medical and spiritual care at our partner clinics, over each other. We have consistently held up the company before the Lord and asked him to heal, redeem, direct, guide, provide wisdom, to multiply efforts and monies and supplies, to give us strength to keep walking forward, faith to take the next step, and hope for an even bolder, broader, and beautiful future wherein we are able to serve more and more people. 250 calls. Yes, we’re like puppies looking up to the big dog to see what’s next!

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2012-10-13_14-10-53_91tea rounds ready to goTea pouches for Christmas Tea bazaarAnd he has rewarded that faithfulness on our part, offering the next steps when the time was right, bringing new customers and directions, and multiplying the funding we are able to provide to CompassioNow. And the number of prayers He has answered in those 5 years is astonishing. With God as our CEO, we have built a thriving business, we have changed lives here in the US and in Africa, and we have brought Him continual glory. That’s not to mention the new connections and the healing and the stronger relationships and the safe travel and the beneficial exchange rates and shipping costs. The list of success and answered prayer goes on and on!

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Reason 2:

On February 4, 2006, CompassioNow was awarded its non-profit tax status, making it a legal and legit organization. Ed and Wendy Bjurstrom recently tabulated what they have been able to provide monetarily to the clinics in Africa over the last 10 years. They discovered that it was over $1 million! Another milestone… $1 million and a 10 year anniversary! Woo hoo! But that hardly shows the full impact of those 10 years. It doesn’t tell the stories of the lives changed, the clinics that have been built, the new buildings and medical wings, the staff and supplies, the men, women, and children who have turned to one of our partner clinics as a last resort, after the witch doctor didn’t work, after the government hospital sent them away without proper treatment, after they’ve come to the end of their ropes, desperate for relief and healing.

It doesn’t tell the stories of the people tested early for AIDS and who began early medical intervention, the lives saved from parasites, which could have been lost had it not been for a basic antibiotic; the children who have been given life through urgent medical care and/or pre and perinatal care of their mothers; the home-bound who have community health care providers making regular visits; and the children who have been granted eyesight from a donated pair of eyeglasses.

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This doesn’t tell the story of medical training and supplies, of medicine shelves stocked, and birthing beds delivered, of bicycle ambulances, and fixed airplanes to transport medical staff and those who need more urgent medical care.

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We can put a number on the money raised for Africa but we can’t put a number to the people who have been touched by CompassioNow and its mission to bring “life-saving medical care to the world’s least served.”

 

Oh the milestones! Biblically, when people wanted to celebrate and remember what the Lord had done for them, they built an altar or raised a rock on end. They made a physical mark on the landscape to say, “Here, God answered us.” That is no longer tradition. But here, we raise our Ebenezer, we make our mark on cyberspace, we count the successes and mark the milestones. And we look forward to the future, knowing that with God as our CEO there is more goodness to come. “Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him and he will help you.”

 

 

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Perspective

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!

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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!

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Masterpiece

I have so much else to do, but there’s a refrain playing in my heart and if I truly believe God is a God of abundance and generosity, He will take the time and bend it and shape it and time warps are possible. And so I believe He, who spoke this refrain, will sanctify the time I spend mulling His words in it.

Masterpiece. I showed the ladies a copy of the Sistine Chapel. “They should have clothes on.” I showed the Mona Lisa, the façade of Notre Dame, Paris. I handed out copies of War and Peace, Hamlet, Moby Dick. I passed around Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet and Handel’s Royal Fireworks music. What do they all have in common? Masterpieces. Someone’s hard work, opus magnum, life’s blood spilling in artistic fervor, passion in word or paint, creative genius, something that had never been before.

And then the mirror comes out.

What do you see? “A wreck.” “Oh dear.” That one actually turns the mirror and won’t look. “My rosacea.”

One gets it. “God’s masterpiece.”

God says, “We are God’s masterpiece, created anew in Christ Jesus to do the good things He planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10

God’s masterpiece.

Compassion Tea's Anne and Chris learning about the first pluck in Sri Lanka.

Compassion Tea’s Anne and Chris learning about the first pluck in Sri Lanka.

Visiting the doctor in all her finery at Tanzania Christian Clinic

Visiting the doctor in all her finery at Tanzania Christian Clinic

Clinical officer David at Tanzania Christian Clinic

Clinical officer David at Tanzania Christian Clinic

One of the "mommies" caring for the orphans at Village of Hope Uganda

One of the “mommies” caring for the orphans at Village of Hope Uganda

Celebrating at the watering hole… masterpieces at Village of Hope Uganda

Celebrating at the watering hole… masterpieces at Village of Hope Uganda

Dawn at 1000 Hills Community Helpers holding two new masterpieces

Dawn at 1000 Hills Community Helpers holding two new masterpieces

A masterpiece with ice cream at 1000 Hills Community Helpers

A masterpiece with ice cream at 1000 Hills Community Helpers

Wendy Bjurstrom of CompassioNow with Scovia

Wendy Bjurstrom of CompassioNow with Scovia

Blowing bubbles at 1000 Hills Community Helpers

Blowing bubbles at 1000 Hills Community Helpers

I’m preaching this to everyone who will listen. To my daughter who thinks holding her nose when a certain boy walks by is okay. To my friend who has a “thang.” To my husband who needs to be reminded as he walks through the lonely halls of business. To myself because the accuser and the world conspire to whisper the opposite. Why do I even give them audience?

I’ve been putting off reading this blog. But this morning, reciting “We are God’s masterpiece created anew in Christ Jesus to do the good things He planned for us long ago,” for the 10th time today, I click on the link. And I find that God is preaching this message through others too.

God’s masterpiece. Creative genius. Passion in flesh and blood. Unique and never been before. His blood spilling in artistic fervor. That’s you.

Define Healing

For years, I’ve carried a chip on my shoulder. Because I prayed for what I wanted to happen and it wasn’t granted.

I wanted healing and miracles and for what the doctors said to not be so. But it wasn’t granted… not in the way I envisioned it.

If it had been granted, I’d be the mother of 6. And from this side of things, I think the path that I traveled was probably the best path. Irregardless, I’ve been healed and am being healed daily.

Because daily I find comfort in something… maybe it’s a song on the radio, or watching the wind in the trees, or a whisper in my head that prompts me to act or think or move or be still. Since I started claiming God’s blessings as God’s blessings and not writing them off as happy coincidences, anomalies, and inexplicable events, I see those blessings on so many sides.

And that I count as healing. Because healing isn’t just a clean bill of health from the doctor.

“I’m sick of being sick,” my dad told me that a few days ago. He’s had a rough go, recently. In and out of the hospital, infections, pain, even near-death experiences. It’s been a rough go.

From this distance, I wonder what and why and how and even though God assures me continually that He’s got this covered, worked out, and there is glory in the finish, I doubt. This morning, during prayer time, I became shamefully aware that the word “healing” doesn’t even enter my prayers anymore. I pray for wisdom, patience, peace, strong and right decision-making… but the possibility of healing seems overwhelming. I have my doubts that this side of the heaven there will be healing.

And so it makes perfect sense that this morning, after working in my son’s classroom, as I climbed in my car and thought about my next hour and a half, as I tried to frame my thoughts for the blog I wanted to write this morning, as I turned to a song that was going to pump me up and get me psyched for writing the blog, God had a different idea. He firmly told me to turn to song 9 on the CD, not song 8. And the lyrics brought me to tears. “I hear Your voice it whispers my name/ And all at once You quiet my pain. If Your voice lit the sun and night was overcome, You can speak and light up my world, with just one word.” –Newsboys “One Word”

“If Your voice lit the sun and night was overcome, You can speak and light up my world….”

There are volumes in there… God the eternal, the healer, the creator, the redeemer, sun-lighter, darkness chaser, death overcomer, personal gift of love. But healer…. If God can light the sun, then He can heal.

In her Bible study on the book of Daniel, Beth Moore spent a video session talking about the biblical story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and their fiery session in King Neb’s furnace. The words that stuck the most put their experience in personal terms. Sometimes, Beth explained, God steers us away from the furnace completely. That’s a situation we don’t need. Sometimes, He walks into the furnace with us and walks us out of it, refined and improved, not even smelling like fire or smoke or singe. And sometimes He walks us home through the fire, the ultimate healing. Because in Heaven there are no tears, there is no pain, only the unfailing, unwavering light that is God.

We don’t get to choose which option God chooses. He simply assures us that He will walk with us no matter what.

There’s a buzz at Compassion Tea lately. It stems from our recent visits to the African clinics we support. You see, at Tanzania Christian Clinic, posted at the gate to the clinic is a sign that says, “for healing the whole man (John 7:23).” DSC_0158At Village of Hope, there is a sign that reads, “You will be secure because there is hope in the Lord.” 0-79And at 1000 Hills, the dedication stone reads, “To God be the glory for all His inspiration and guidance.”

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

 

We support the delivery of quality medical care in places where there is little. Through our selling of tea, we are able to donate medicines, medical supplies, funding for indigenous staffing and for special projects. We recognize that there is a great need for medical care in rural parts of Africa. And we’re dedicated to that.

But healing doesn’t always end there. In fact, often healing begins somewhere else… in the spiritual realm. Healing isn’t just finding the right antibiotic, it’s finding the Great Healer, He who walks us away from, through, or home through the fires of life.

After 2 miscarriages, and at the beginning of my third pregnancy, the one that would produce my daughter, I found this verse from Psalm 103:
“2 Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

This became my declaration of hope and I continue to wear it today on a bracelet as a reminder that my sins are forgiven, my doubts, too; that my diseases are healed or healing; that my life is redeemed from the pit; and that I am crowned with love and compassion and renewal.

And this is a hope that needs shared. This is the hope that the staffs at Tanzania Christian Clinic, Village of Hope, and 1000 Hills, to name a few, are sharing.

God lit the sun. He created each of us. Sometimes, He calls us to be His hands and feet… to deliver healing, and above all else, compassion. Now.

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.”

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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.

Operation Snake Rescue

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Hissy

A rustle in the dry leaves at the upper end of my garden is not unusual. But this rustling went on for a while and so it caught my attention. What I saw was the tail end of a snake. “KIDS! You gotta see this!” I hollered. Very cautiously, I approached close enough to ascertain whether or not this creature was poisonous or not. Looking for the telltale rattle, I inched closer, snapped a photo on my Android, and backed away. It looked docile enough and it must have been afraid of us because it didn’t move for a very long time. I confirmed through the city naturalist that I had a gopher snake on my hands. It was most welcome. The rodents were a worse menace than the snake! Eat all you want, Mr. Gopher Snake!

The next day, I decided to see if Hissy, as the kids had named it, was still in the bushes between our house and the neighbor’s. I could see Hissy coiled up but something wasn’t right. Gasp. There was black netting around his “neck” and face. Concerned that there was now a large dead gopher snake in the bushes decaying I called the neighbors to suggest working together to extract Hissy. They never returned my call. Which brings us to the third day. I came home from a very hot session of horseback riding and figured I better check on the chickens who were panting worse than the dog. And I wandered up toward the top of the garden to see Hissy’s body. Oddly enough, it was now hanging partly under my fence again. That snake was NOT dead… or it was having an extremely long period of dying. In fact, when I brushed its tail with a twig, it shuddered and contracted. Hissy needed help and fast. I grabbed the pruning sheers from the shed and stuck them through the fence hacking away at the netting as best I could. Eventually, I cut away enough of the netting that I could gently pull Hissy’s body through the fence with a long, thick stick. Now that his head was clearly in sight, I saw that he was choked in two places. I put a bucket over him to keep Winston from messing with him and ran into the house for a pair of scissors. This was going to be finer, closer work than pruning sheers would handle. With the scissors in one hand and the large stick in the other, I carefully began cutting the tightest spots. When that last choking chord was sliced, Hissy’s body curled up, contracted, slithered, sighed. Now, there was just a chunk of netting around his face. Again, stick in hand, and with steady scissors, I began cutting away around eyes that were now focusing and alert. As the netting fell away, Hissy grew more and more animated. I never did get the netting completely off his mouth before he high-tailed it deep into the bushes. Perhaps that last bit will keep him from eating; I don’t know. But I did my best.

I’ve given you the photographic version of the story. Add in the emotional. A snake in the garden was in fact nightmarish for me. I can deal with the idea of snakes when a trained professional is explaining and showing them … like recently at my son’s 6th birthday party when Owen brought his boa constrictor, corn snake, California King Snake, and gopher snake to share. But this was remarkably close to home and reinforced that notion that creeps me out… there are things lurking that I can’t see and I don’t know if they are malignant or benign. Shudder. What was even worse was the next day when the snake was still there… seemingly dead. By day two, Hissy had a name and a gender to help him fit into my paradigms. He wasn’t just “a snake.” God has made amazing creatures and populated His world with them. The markings, the beauty, the potential for danger were all, in their own creepy way, attractive. And I was forming an odd little bond with Hissy. I have never been one to see pain in someone’s eyes and not feel a measure of it myself. And I saw, as faintly as it was through the ivy leaves, a measure of pain and voidedness in Hissy’s. By the third day when it was evident that Hissy was clinging to life by threads as fine as those binding him in place, I couldn’t take it. Creepy or not, Hissy deserved a chance. As I worked over his body in the hot sun, I found at one point an incredible desire to touch him. Remembering all the city naturalist’s lessons about how to pet a snake, I reached out and stroked his midsection. Soft, supple, amazing. I am proud of doing what I did for Hissy, concerned about his future, and saddened that I may never see him again. For three days, he was a constant in my life. Loathed and feared at first, he grew to be endearing and action-prompting… not because he changed, but because I changed.

I will be the first to admit that not every human I interact with do I find endearing and action-prompting. Toward many I have a gut-level reaction that is less than generous. It is an intimate and convicting reminder of my own humanity. As much as I seek to model my life after Christ’s, I’m not there yet.

Our team that recently returned from Tanzania and Kenya were met with situations that on occasion left them thoroughly grossed out. At one point, they were taken to a Maasai village… one of the most impoverished places they had seen yet. Here, the houses were built of cow dung and the animals were paddocked “in town” during the night. Consequently, during a demonstration of how to start a cow dung fire, the four team members were covered in flies. Flies thicker than you can possibly imagine. Anne was given a fly swatter made from elephant hairs; according to her it merely shifted the flies from one part of her body to another. That would have totally been outside my comfort zone! It was disgusting.

Later, when the team visited the Tanzania Christian Clinic, they met Sabina, one of the nurses who works there. Her purpose is to attend to the mommies and babies who come to the clinic. While the team was there, a young lady of 21 years came to see Sabina. She brought her child for a check-up. During their conversation, the young lady explained that this was her fourth child; she had given birth to her first-born at the tender age of 10. My daughter just turned 10. If you don’t think this information was a kick in the gut, think again.

My point here is simple. Gross, frightening, loathsome, horrific – choose your adjective – the world is full of it all. Some of it is the way we have grown to perceive things, like flies and snakes, and some of it is because of the way evil has sway. But spending time with it, getting to know it, caring for it, strips away the filth and the fear and reveals both a beauty and a greater need. Underneath every ugly is beauty. Inside every fearsome is a soft spot. Behind every horrific is the redeemable. Whether it is a snake trapped in netting, the people of the Maasai village trapped in abject poverty, or a young lady trapped in a society that embraces polygamy and child brides, we are called to serve and care for everyone.

I’m not sure how Danny and Nancy Smelser of Tanzania Christian Clinic or Dawn Leppan of 1000 Hills or Cindy Cunningham of Village of Hope do it all the time… face the ugly, the hurt, the broken day after day after day searching for the beauty, cutting away the traps and fetters of disease, seeking to heal the whole body spiritually and physically. But they do. I am thrilled that through my support of CompassioNow and Compassion Tea, I am able to provide the tools they need to do so. And I am confident that God gives them the strength they need to carry on.

Just as He used me over the last three days to free a snake. And isn’t it interesting that freeing that snake has given me so much too. Hissy is free… but so am I… free from a fear. That’s one down… oh so many to go!

TCC TLC

“So, what did you do today, dear?” The question is not meant to be loaded, but most days I struggle to answer it. Between running errands and shuttling children, cooking, cleaning, and carrying on, what do I actually do that might have any comic value, insight, or interest to a man who is about to fall asleep on the sofa? I recently asked Danny Smelser, the chief physician/missionary at Tanzania Christian Clinic, a variation of this question. “What does a typical day look like for you at the clinic?” I asked. His answer was an honest, “No day is typical!”

 

But if he had to pin it down to broad generalities, it would look something like this. A weekday begins around 6:30 AM when Danny and his wife, Nancy, open the clinic for cleaning. An important part of every day is pumping water to the holding tank for use in the clinic. Because patients are seen in the order in which they arrive at the clinic, one of the staff begins handing out numbers around 8 AM. Danny and Nancy hold a short devotional around 8:30 before they meet with their first patient. Lunch is taken from 1:30 to 2 and closing time is roughly 4:30 PM depending on when the last patient is seen and treated. Afternoons may also include home visits to see patients who aren’t mobile and runs to the nearest hospital. Danny commented that his evenings are short as there is really nothing to do after the clinic closes. Saturdays are reserved for the week’s shopping of groceries and medicines in the closest town, Arusha, a 45 minute drive away. Sundays are spent at the little church next to the clinic or in Bible studies in the homes of the locals.

 

During our conversation, Danny also spoke about a wide range of topics such as his thankfulness for an x-ray machine that was recently donated to the clinic. Now, he is actively seeking a trained technician to run the machine. He spoke about the challenges of finding medicines such as Pepto Bismal, which is often used to treat a myriad of gastrointestinal complaints at the clinic, but which is not available locally. He commented that things like gloves, casting materials, elastic bandages and dressings run out quickly… things we would never expect our doctors to go without.

 

The complaints that Danny treats most often at the clinic are febrile in nature, such as malaria and typhoid. Gastro and parasitic diseases are the next most common complaints followed by pulmonary illnesses such as pneumonia and bronchitis. Over course, HIV/AIDS is ever-present, affecting nearly 10% of the area population. Hypertension, diabetes, and asthma are on the rise, according to Danny. Danny commented that about 1 in 5 children qualify for protein supplements at the clinic, which indicates a low caloric/low protein diet, but rarely do they see a life-threatening case of malnutrition.

 

The clinic treated approximately 5,700 patients in 2012 at roughly a cost of $5.50 per patient (a cost which includes labs, pharmaceuticals, and seeing the doctor!). The donations the clinic receives help to keep these costs low; however, even that low of a cost is still difficult for Tanzanian patients to pay. The clinic staffs the Smelsers as well as David, the clinical officer, two nurses, one lab technician, and 15 Tanzanians as grounds and security staff.

 

“We lay our a-typical days on God’s care,” stated Danny as he wrapped up our conversation. “And we thank you for your support of the clinic and the work we do there!” Thank you, Compassion Tea friends, for your support!

 For more information, visit http://www.tanzaniacc.org.

 

Sanctity of Life

It has been roughly 11 years since I saw my first ultrasound, saw the little bean of a baby and watched the fluttering butterfly of a heart inside. And while it hurts a lot less these days, I still remember walking into the doctor’s office in great anticipation of seeing that little heart bigger and stronger and instead hearing that it had stopped. That was the first day my world stopped. Stood still. Wound around itself in a web of despair and darkness. If I had carried full term all of the children God placed in my womb, I’d have 6 children. God, in His amazing wisdom, gave me 2 bright and beautiful children to love here on Earth and a passel of kiddos waiting for me in Heaven. What a grand reunion it will be one day when I meet them all and when Joseph meets his twin.

I mention this because this week is the 40th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade and therefore is simultaneously the week of Sanctity of Life Sunday across our nation and the March for Life in Washington D.C. Because of my past, that phrase, “sanctity of life,” has special meaning for me. If a heart starts beating around 12 weeks of life and its cessation means there is no life, then how can an unborn child not be protected as a living being?

When I was a sophomore in high school, I joined the speech and debate team. As an original orator, I wrote a speech and week after week delivered it to an ever-tiring group of other high-schoolers who could recite each other’s speeches by the end of the season. My topic? Abortion vs. adoption. Why? Because I was adopted. And somewhere along the way, it dawned on me that my life could very well have been ended shortly after it began, before it ever really got going. That is kind of a daunting thing to face! Instead, I have spent my life singing silently the praises of the woman who had the courage to give me life in so many respects… living, breathing life and life in a family with loving, doting parents who could provide a steady, stable environment for me and boundless opportunities.

Recognizing the sanctity of life is equally important after birth. This past Christmas, Dawn Faith Leppan, who runs the 1000 Hills Community Helpers clinic and feeding center and school outside of Durban, South Africa, posted a picture of a beautiful little three week old baby who had been abandoned that day.

Christmas Baby at 1000 Hills

Christmas Baby at 1000 Hills

His mother left him with a friend, wrapped in dirty linens. The friend brought the baby to Dawn who through the help of donations to her clinic was able to provide for the little one. The story is not uncommon in Africa. Between the ravages of HIV/AIDS, war, famine, and abject poverty, it is estimated there are over 40 million abandoned children in Africa. Some live with their grandmothers while others are sent to orphanages or government child welfare organizations. Still others are left to fend for themselves on the streets of the larger cities or in villages too poor to help each other.

You may recall the story of Yohanna, (link) who lived with his grandmother. She was too poor to own a goat, too poor to provide food on a regular basis. When Ed and Wendy Bjurstrom met Yohanna, he was suffering from malaria and malnutrition and was being treated at the Tanzania Christian Clinic. Or you may recall the story of Patrick (link) who was rescued from an orphanage by the Mission Medic Air team in Zambia and who was sent to a Christian school. He had been abandoned by his mother. During a visit to 1000 Hills outside Durban, South Africa, Lee Kennedy watched the children play outside. Amidst the screams of joy, a little boy wandered off on his own, disoriented and unwell. Lee asked a nearby nurse what was happening. She explained that the boy was probably in the last stages of HIV and probably wouldn’t make it. This is the fragile balance that has gone grossly askew in Africa.

The stories of the children are the most heart-wrenching. Why is that? Is it because kids are just so cute? Is it because they are so little and helpless and innocent? Is it because their lives have just begun, lives that could hold so much promise if given the right opportunities? Yes. Yes. And yes. They remind us of the sanctity of life, of all life. The children pull on our hearts because we don’t want to see innocence ruined by harsh reality, because we feel so protective of the powerless and the helpless, because we see in children the hope for a brighter tomorrow.

Lily of the Valley Medical Clinic, one of the clinics Compassion Tea and CompassioNow supports, operates in conjunction with an orphanage. Several of the directors of Compassion Tea support children at this orphanage. Opened in 1994, the Children’s Village accepts children from government-run child welfare organizations. Most of these children have lost parents to HIV/AIDS and are quite ill themselves. At the village, they are housed in one of 23 3-bedroom homes. Each home has a house Mother and 6 children. The Mother cooks, cleans, helps with homework, and generally cares for the children the way a mother would. Through education, a community garden, computer classes, and day care for the small, Lily of the Valley seeks to improve life and provide opportunities these children would not otherwise be given. 

We can’t change this situation overnight. But we can do small things that will make big differences. Please join us in supporting the work of people like Dawn Leppan, Geoff and Nell at Mission Medic Air, Danny and Nancy at Tanzania Christian Clinic, and the Mothers at Lily of the Valley, the boots on the ground so to speak, those who are acutely aware of the sanctity and the fragility of life.

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.

$1.50 Can Save a Life

The San Francisco Chronicle recently ran an article about Dr. Frank Artress, a cardiac anesthesiologist from Modesto, California, who after a brush with death while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro determined to leave his work in California to give back to the medically underserved of Tanzania. (http://www.sfgate.com/cgibin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/05/04/BA8MUSL28.DTL&ao=all) Tanzania, according to the article, has an 80 percent unemployment rate. The other 20 percent earns “the equivalent of $1 a day” leaving them without the money for bus fare, “let alone a doctor bill.” According to the article, “… the patient-to-doctor ratio is as high as 60,000 to 1 in some of the more remote areas. Poverty, isolation and lack of dependable medical care mean most adults have never seen a doctor. Most don’t live past 40, succumbing most often to malaria, tuberculosis and routine infections from drinking dirty water. A quarter of Tanzanian adults are HIV-positive, and the majority has no access to antiretroviral medicines that keep the virus from escalating to AIDS. Half of all Tanzanian children are malnourished.” As Artress explained, “You can save someone here with $1.50 worth of antibiotics – but the heartbreak of Africa is that people don’t have access to that most basic care, so they are dying of completely preventable diseases.”
Sound familiar? It should! This is the very purpose behind CompassioNow and its Compassion Tea Company. CompassioNow supports the Tanzania Christian Clinic in the rural village of Ngaresh Juu in northern Tanzania. About 6 km away from Monduli and about 50 km from Arusha, this part of Tanzania falls under the designation of a “medically underserved area.” The clinic’s February 2012 newsletter describes some of the typical complaints coming to the clinic: “Continuing to travel a long way to be seen, patients with malnutrition, rheumatoid arthritis, typhoid fever, amoebic dysentery, inability to urinate due to schistosomes (parasites) in the bladder, acute alcohol toxicity, fungal and bacterial skin infections, sexually transmitted diseases, scabies, TB, brucellosis, and HIV frequent the clinic.”
In their March 2012 newsletter, Danny and Nancy Smelser, who serve as MD and RN at the clinic, retold the story of a 32 year old man who had been hit by a motorcycle last December. Because he was unable to pay for the leg surgery he badly needed, he had been discharged from the government hospital. Desperate, in severe pain, and badly infected, the man arrived at Tanzania Christian Clinic. They removed the dirty cast and bandages and assessed the situation. Steady rounds of antibiotics and continuing dressing changes have eradicated the infection and through the help of the TCC and its supporters, the man is awaiting surgery scheduled at a teaching hospital 2 hours away.
Following this description of success, the Smelsers recounted an afternoon’s events. They wrote, “Yesterday, while patients crowded onto the clinic’s front porch, our grounds worker, Enock, spotted an eight-foot black mamba [snake] nearby. Needless to say, that was one patient that did not leave TCC alive! Meanwhile, our German Shepherd was disassembling our washing machine on the back porch of our house to capture a hedgehog which had taken up residence behind it. Oh the thrills of East Africa!”
Treating the medical needs of patients who come to the clinic is only part of the picture. TCC also believes in empowering local peoples with knowledge of how to treat and prevent disease, infection, and wounds. Mobile medical clinics go around to areas surrounding the clinic with the intent of teaching. This, too, is an important element of CompassioNow’s mission and vision for helping. CompassioNow’s board and founders believe that part of the transformation of the African continent will come about through the “development of self-sufficient communities.” In a place where the patient-to-doctor ratio is a staggering 60,000 to 1, the odds are that a person isn’t going to see a doctor in his/her lifetime. But maybe a neighbor has and maybe that neighbor knows what to do for a skin infection or maybe that neighbor teaches how to wrap a wound to prevent infection. In a place where $1.50 can save a life, a little bit of knowledge can save many lives.