Margin

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!

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I-See Update

Back in April, Cindy Cunningham traveled to Uganda to visit her dear kiddos at the Village of Hope villages. She carried with her an I-See Kit donated by CompassioNow. (Click here to read more about the kit!)

To date 19 children have been blessed with the gift of improved eyesight through this kit. And 43 others have been assessed and they need glasses. That’s just one of the two villages!

Lucy is one of the girls given a new perspective on life through this gift of improved eyesight.

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Won’t you join us at Compassion Tea and CompassioNow in raising the funds to buy the needed eyeglasses for the other children! Go to http://www.compassiontea.com to order tea which supports this effort or go directly to http://www.compassionow.org to donate directly.

Addressing the Fair Trade Question

Inevitably, the question arises. “Which of your teas are Fair Trade?” It’s a valid question because we want to support fair trade practices, protect workers, and pursue sustainable and ethical methods of production. But it is a question that actually is a bit dodgy for the tea industry.

Fair Trade blankets many industries and its guidelines for membership are not industry specific. And because so much tea is sold to places like Russia and Turkey, where an emphasis on equality and fairness in the workplace is much less than it is in the US, it is not economically prudent for most tea companies to pursue Fair Trade status.

However, in 1997, a number of large tea companies decided “to work together to monitor and assure their own supply chains.” They formed the Tea Sourcing Partnership, which would evolve into the Ethical Tea Partnership in 2004. Its vision is to promote a “thriving tea industry that is socially just and environmentally sustainable both now and in the future.”

Specific to the tea industry, the Ethical Tea Partnership monitors tea estates “to help protect the environment as well as [provide] social and labor provisions.” Among the programs the Ethical Tea Partnership overseas are training and support programs “that make workplaces better, fairer and safer” and that “reduce poverty and improve progress… in tea communities.”

According to the Ethical Tea Partnership, ”The organization is run and regulated by member companies and bolstered by regular external audits by Price Waterhouse Cooper. The goal of the organization is to provide consumers with a complete understanding of where tea is grown and manufactured. Everything from fair compensation to health coverage, housing and childcare comes under close scrutiny. The ETP is similar to the Fair Trade organization, but has a much broader scope for tea consumers since its focus is on tea only. Because tea is not a publicly traded commodity like coffee, Fair Trade is unable to penetrate many of the nuances and regional peculiarities of the tea trade.” (Visit http://www.ethicalteapartnership.org for more information.)

The majority of our tea is sourced from members of the Ethical Tea Partnership.

Back in January, several of our board members traveled to Sri Lanka and met with one of our biggest sources of tea. They were impressed with the provisions made for tea plantation workers, provisions such as quality housing, educational opportunities, and healthcare. And they commented on the tender care taken of the tea plants and their environment. Many of the tea bushes are hundreds of years old. Their health and well-being are critical to the quality of the tea they are producing. Therefore, they are treated with care and reverence.

We also carry two teas from Africa, Ajiri tea from Kenya and Igara tea from Uganda. Both of these teas are produced on co-ops where the profits from the sale of the tea are used directly to fund educational opportunities and healthcare for the workers.

Ajiri tea from Kenya

Ajiri tea from Kenya

Igara tea from Uganda

Igara tea from Uganda

If you still desire Fair Trade tea, we recommend you try our Jade Cloud green tea or our West Cape Chai, both of which are certified as Fair Trade.

Our Jade Cloud is Fair Trade, but most of our teas are ETP.

Our Jade Cloud is Fair Trade, but most of our teas are ETP.

West Cape Chai is also Fair Trade certified.

West Cape Chai is also Fair Trade certified.

Going Under

They’re talking about spending the afternoon in the pool like it’s gonna be the best thing ever and I’m thinking about going under. The heat is settling in and the lines of traffic are suffocating. Better to focus on how I really could use a cute pair of red shoes. Because that is so much easier to face than the chicken feed spilled across the carpet, the chicks escaping from their box, the girls in Nigeria stolen from their school and held as living ransom. Moms at school are dragging, shuffling toward summer, throwing their hands up in despair at projects and events, dreaming of summer. And the realists are saying that summer won’t solve the problem. It will simply reshuffle the issues. It’ll be bliss for 10 minutes and then the kids will start fighting and we’ll all be praying for school to start again. I’ve got piles of laundry, a dishwasher that needs emptied and refilled, and a drought. Somehow I’m to cut 25% of our water use while tending my farm, my pool, the gardens and the children. Perhaps we just bath in the pool going forward. And I’m thinking I’m going under. It’s a hot, red mess out there. And going under sounds about right. But God. He shows up. There’s a surprise donation from old friends for CompassioNow. There’s a letter to Cindy Cunningham that speaks to the hearts of all the children of Uganda who have been rescued, the heart echoed in the letters from my own sponsored child. She’s come from a hot, red mess that I can’t even begin to fathom, that makes my hot, red mess look like a cake walk. She’s 11 and she lost her parents 9 years ago. How and why are up to the imagination. How and where she’s been living since… again, up to the imagination. And she’s thanking God for us, for the part we are playing in giving her a safe home, consistent food and medical care, love and Jesus. It’s so little on our part. So little. And it’s making such a difference. But God. He shows up. And I’m on my knees praying for the friends with cancer, the job interview, the waiting friend, the hurting friend, and He washes me with a stillness. And He says, “I’m God. I’ve got this.” From the beginning, He’s got this. Until the end, He’s got this. In the fiery furnace, He’s got this. In the cold, waiting night, He’s got this. He’s there in the cry of the newborn and in the sigh of relief, in the anguish of disease and the peace of a fulfilled promise, the long, endless hours and the short blink that really is life. He’s got this. I preach this to myself. Because I need it. Like a parched desert wanderer, I chug this truth, this reality instead of mirage. Guzzle, inhale, take it in as fast as possible. I’d rather drown in this truth than in the craze of the world that forces me under.

Be still and know that I am GOD. Psalm 46:10

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.

Adopted…

There, in the middle of the hymn, out of the corner of my eye, her belly caught my attention. She came up the aisle and slid in the pew behind me, her round belly taut with meaning. Echoes of Sylvia Plath’s poem… a melon walking on tendrils, a riddle in nine, a full house, she’s boarded the train and there’s no getting off. But the beauty of a pregnant belly, the fine roundness, the stretch and pull of possibility, the swelling of potential… it is beauty, startling and suspenseful.

And there was a moment of sadness. My time is up. Those days are past. In some respects, that’s a good thing. But that oneness, that communion of shared fluids, heart beats, growth and stretching, that alien inside kicking and hiccupping and squirming in the tightening space. That was beauty, too. Seeing her brought to mind that I’m older now, that time is passing, stages are crossed, and motherhood in its ever-changing ways has moved on.

And I thought of my friend, admitted into the hospital this week to await the birth of her daughter, and the prayers of her friends that it proves to be a longish stay to give baby girl more time to grow. The joy of that pregnancy, the fulfilled desires, the dreams in that womb ripening, health and glow, amniotic peace… waiting and waiting and praying and waiting. All worth it. All the healing this will bring, all the joy in store, the allness of that baby girl growing in her amniotic bubble. Joy to watch. This is my seat for the show, on the sidelines, not in the center ring, but the anticipation and hope is so palpable I am happy beyond words for her, for them.

“I am your daughter.” These words that stab a new kind of joy, a new sense of possibility. She’s new to our family, our sponsored child in Uganda, rescued from child slavery, from poverty and starvation and threat and brought to an orphanage to learn her worth in the eyes of God so much greater than in the eyes of man. She sent us a Christmas card to thank us for sponsoring her, to share her prayers for our one-day meeting, to express her love of God and His love for her and us. And in the middle of it all, she wrote, “I am your daughter.” Beautiful, heart-wrenching words. Half a world away, she turns to us as family, because family is gone. Orphaned, abandoned, abducted, enslaved… these were her potential titles, her family tree. And my heart opened, bloomed fragrant, radiated in the newness of this form of motherhood. I wear a beaded bracelet made by her fellow orphans in remembrance, in prayer for her, my African daughter, half a world away, newly adopted, new to my heart, but so at home there. My heart has been yearning for her without my even realizing completely how complete the knowledge of her would make me feel.

We start singing another song, a variation of Angels We Have Heard on High, Gloria in Excelsis Deo. The bridge begins, “How could Heaven’s heart not break, on the day, on the day that He came down?” How could God’s heart, so full of love, not crack brittle as glory shrunk, magnificence unrobed, trinity unity broke like waters gushing and godhead became infant born not in palace but in barn. How did Father not weep when Son left on that journey? And Mary, round and taut, stretching and pulling, did her heart break in the delivery of God’s promise? It would later on, doubtless.
A word scratching at my brain, back there, pushing its way forward, rushing out to be born in light, the word birthed… is adopted. And I see. In the heart break, in the trinity break, in Father cracking brittle as Son journeys off, in Son leaving, there is one great adoption of sons and daughters, one monumental, earth-cracking, family-growing welcoming of all in the family. Without glory shrinking, without magnificence unrobed, without trinity unity broken, there is no great orphan rescue. And we are orphans, broken by our graceless, illness-infested, dysfunction, starving for LOVE, insecure, abducted by evil. In need of a sponsor, we got Him. In need of rescue, we got Him. He sent Himself, Prince on the White Horse, blade slashing death and slaying dragons. Glory in the rounded belly, magnificence birthing in a lowly stable to become our Brother Savior.

Paul speaks of it. Ephesians 1: 4-14 “Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.
7-10 Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.
11-12 It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.
13-14 It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This signet from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life.” (The Message)

We are the adopted children of God. Initially, God had His holy family, the family of Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and his sons, the 12 tribes. But God wasn’t content with that. He wanted more. He wanted the Jews and the non-Jews, the yous and the mes.

Staggering reality. Christmas births new meaning. The sweet story of pregnant Mary riding toward Bethlehem, weighty with the Savior growing in her firming, rounding, stretching belly, the shepherds scared to death by angel wings and angel song and light brighter than the sun, the animals around the manger warming the peaceful babe with their bovine breath, the mysterious star that led strangers across a desert, the fragile and humble, all of the nativity becomes a great rescue operation. Umbilical cord becomes life-line.

And I, like my daughter half a world away, I cry out to my adopted Father. “I am your daughter. Thank you for sponsoring me, for rescuing me.” God loves me and God loves you, enough to split open Heaven, His yearning for us so strong that it took Son on the cross to sign the adoption papers, to clear the court.

This is Christmas, when fullness bursts, ripeness completes, and through the pregnancy the adoption is instigated. Brother, sister, take my hand, gather round bend the knee. He is come.

This I Know

I walked my daughter to her bus, a big charter, the last of 3, took her picture as she signed in with the teacher, took another as she climbed aboard, thankful for the camera hiding the tears in my eyes.
A myriad of moms laughed. “You’re not crying are you?” Ha ha!
Others assured me that she was going to be fine and that she was going to have a great time. I know that deep, deep down in my toes, because I’ve asked Jesus to stay by her the whole time. And He will be there… this I know. He always is.
She smiled big and blew me a kiss as the bus pulled out of the school parking lot. And my baby girl, my first big blessing, my first shooting star of a promise from God, headed out to be with her 5th grade classmates at Outdoor Ed for the next 3 days.
And there’s a sense that this is a rite of passage, that she’s going to come back a little more grown-up, a little more individual and dare we hope responsible, a little wiser, a little less in need of a good mommy. I think that’s why the tears.
I had a conversation in the grocery store yesterday with a mom also sending off her daughter but simultaneously sending off her 22 year old son… off to live his life on the other side of the country with a girlfriend. And she felt a sadness that all those nights of worry and loving and care… all have paid off and he’s done what he’s supposed to do which is to grow up and be self-sufficient… but where is her mommy role now in his life. Where does she fit in?
And last Friday at the Fall Festival I talked with a mom whose middle school son may or may not be struggling with his grades. Mom is trying to back off and let him do his thing, which is the party line of the middle school faculty anyway. But she’s shrugging her shoulders and sighing and asking, “What’s a mom to do?” And under that sigh she’s really wondering what her role is, what is her sphere of influence, does she even have a sphere of influence with him anymore.
I stepped up on my portable pulpit for a minute and preached it… God blesses us with children, they are truly a gift from Him, and it is our beholden duty as parents to lead these children even in the face of faculty saying they have to do it themselves. Borrowing a line from my husband, “as long as those children are under our roof,” it is imperative that we lead them, guide them, defend them, love them, model in our imperfect way the kind of solidarity God has with us.
So, this comes through from the Rainey’s, on their Moments Together for Couples daily devotional online…
“You will pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me, for You are my strength. PSALM 31:4
Try to picture this scene: With 50,000 men watching intensely, a 15-year-old young man, Trent—blindfolded and barefoot—begins stepping cautiously across an outdoor stage. Before him are a dozen steel animal traps with their jaws wide open. Each is labeled with words like “peer pressure,” “drugs and alcohol,” “sexual immorality,” “rebellion” and “pornography”—the “traps” that can
easily ensnare teenagers today.
Right beside me, on the opposite end of the platform and the traps, stands the boy’s father, Tom, anticipating his son’s every move. After two tentative steps, the boy’s third step places him directly in the path of the biggest snare on the stage—a bear trap powerful enough to absolutely crush his leg. (It had taken three grown men just to set it.)
Before his son can raise another foot, Tom yells into the microphone, “Trent, stop! Don’t take another step!” Circling the traps, he positions himself in between his son and the bear trap. After whispering some instructions, he turns his back to the boy. Trent eagerly places his hands on his father’s shoulders. Then slowly, they begin navigating the trap field together.
When the two finally reached me and we took the blindfold off, father and son hugged each other. Applause at this Promise Keepers event swelled to a thunderous standing ovation across the stadium. Above the roar, I shouted through the sound system, “Men, that’s what God has called us to as fathers—to be there and guide our children through the traps of adolescence!”
For Tom and Trent, the trap demonstration was a setup on a stage. But for you and your teen, the traps of adolescence are all too real and treacherous.
Don’t allow your children to risk the journey on their own. Grab them by the hand, watch your step, and move out together. Let God guide you through.”

This morning! As I’m packing the last of her things! For the next three days, I’m not going to be there to walk in front of her and guide her through the minefield. But that’s okay because Jesus is. This I know, for the Bible tells me so.

And then I see Davion’s impassioned plea for a family. It was on my radar a week or two ago, but it popped up again thanks to Kristen over at Rage Against the Minivan. In case you’ve been hiding under a rock, Davion asked his social worker to take him to church one Sunday; he had a message to deliver. The message was that he wanted a permanent family; “I’ll take anyone,” he told the congregation. “Old or young, dad or mom, black, white, purple. I don’t care.” This young man has been in the foster system and he’s tired of not belonging. Just like the 101,000 plus kids waiting for a family in the US right now.

So, I’ve prayed over Clara, who is afraid of bees and bee stings and is apprehensive that she might get stung while she’s at camp and no one will know what to do. I’ve packed a surprise for her… brand new pajamas with the school logo… the ones she has been yearning after. I’ve labeled everything, right down to her socks and unmentionables. It’s all

organized, prayed over, loved on, even those smelly shoes (Heaven help her cabin-mates when the shoes come off).

And it dawns on me.

There are children for whom there is no Outdoor Ed, no mom crying on the sidewalk, no paparazzi photographing every move for posterity sake. There are children for whom no one is praying, for whom there is no soft bed laden with pillows and a mother’s gentle kiss and a father’s blessing. There are children who don’t know the kind of love and joy of a parent who marvels at their accomplishments, who cheers for them, defends them, leads them through the minefield of life.
These are the Davions of our country. And the Scovias of the world around us.

Wendy Bjurstrom of CompassioNow with Scovia

Wendy Bjurstrom of CompassioNow with Scovia

Scovia is a 14 year old girl living in Uganda. Her mother and father were both dead by the time she was 5; her father was killed by the LRA. Scovia now lives with her aunt and her family. They eat one meal a day… posho and beans. And Scovia is hoping to go to high school, if her grades are good and if she has the money, if she has the sponsorship. There are actually several thousand Scovias in Uganda, children who have seen their parents die of disease or be killed by the LRA, who have been rejected by family because they were abducted by the LRA, who run the family of younger siblings despite their own tender age. It’s estimated that 66,000 children were abducted during the 23 year war in Uganda. Millions have been displaced, killed, and maimed. Read the sponsorship page at Village of Hope sometime. Watch this video.

Oh my gosh. The children.

So I sit here on my knees, praying for Jesus to be with them too. Because Jesus loves them, too. This I know. But do they? Do they see that love daily in the face of a mom who would split the waters, race the desert, climb to the heavens if necessary? Do they hear it in the instruction of a fatherly voice? And if not… how do we… teach it, preach it, lead, guide, and defend?

Davion said, “I want someone who will love me until I die.” Don’t we all? Jesus, come and rest by these children.

(For another really good perspective, read Kristen at Rage Against the Minivan’s thoughts on the matter.)

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.

Village of Hope

The medical hut at Village of Hope

The medical hut at Village of Hope

A number of photos from Village of Hope, Uganda, came in over the weekend and we thought this might be a good way to share them.

Mike and Janelle, on the left, oversee Village of Hope.

Mike and Janelle, on the left, oversee Village of Hope.

Mike and Janelle run Village of Hope. They manage the 200+ children, their homes, and everything else including farming, water, latrines, piggery, corn shucking, tractor driving, mango planting, hosting visitors, Beads of Hope jewelry project, budgeting, and ordering the medicine.

Wendy has really enjoyed meeting the children and learning their stories.

Wendy and Scovia

Wendy and Scovia

This is Scovia. Wrote Wendy, “Scovia is sweet and very smart. Her mother died when she was young and her father was killed by the LRA. We are staying in a hut like the one behind us.”

The children danced a special tribal dance for the Bjurstroms. Here they are doing their Acholi dance.

Children doing the Acholi dance

Children doing the Acholi dance

The Acholi dance

The Acholi dance

Stina has been happily helping Dr. Mac and Nurse Susan in the clinic.

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

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

A boy named Fred broke a bone in his elbow. Wendy wrote, “14 year old Fred (with brace on his arm) had broken a bone in his elbow. The girls were very worried about him and came into the clinic to pray for him. The girls prayed and sang and cried for him for 15 minutes. After Dr. Mac put a splint on his arm, his house mom, Beatrice, went with him on the back of a motorcycle (with the driver) to Kiryandongo, about a 40 minute drive on a mostly dirt (bumpy) road, to get an X-ray. He will have to go back to get it in a cast after the swelling goes down.”

CompassioNow and Compassion Tea Company are thrilled to be supporting the work of this clinic!

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.