Our Most Precious Resource

In the court of public opinion, there are no winners.

Am I the only one who thinks like this?

I’ve crafted a life that very carefully kowtows to the various cults out there… the environmental cults of save the trees and save the animals from plastics, and the food cults that say processed is bad and fresh is best, and the cult of cleanliness is next to godliness, and the cult of send your kids to school with colorful, nutritious lunches packed in neat little boxes, send them neat and tidy and well-showered and (goodness knows I try) well-groomed (although my tween is really challenging my style and sense of well-groomed). I have bowed at their altars, taken photos of my triumphs and shared them on Facebook, proud of my stellar accomplishments, expecting another star for my motherhood crown.

And now, in a barrage of letters, newspaper articles, and yard signs, I’m suddenly told that my efforts are not good enough because we’re in a drought and everyone needs to reduce water usage by 25%. Suddenly, water, and not trees, or the atmosphere, or the polar ice caps, is our most precious resource. And I’m scathing that poor planning, lack of responsible management, and politics have led us to this point (I can’t honestly say that I know these things to be factual, but it is ALWAYS easier to point the finger at someone else!).

So, in my mind, I’m playing David Letterman and creating the top 10 list of how to conserve water, and I’m laughing like a maniac at how it all flies in the face of the other altars of humanity at which I’ve been bowing. Like this:
10. Do laundry less. Because stained and smelly with food hanging off the sleeve is the new black.
9. Buy more clothes so you can do laundry less. But some poor person in a third world country is sitting in a sweatshop under horrific conditions for you to buy those new clothes at a “reasonable price.”
8. Flush less. Ewwww. At what point does that become unsanitary?
7. Use less soap and water for cleaning and more harsh chemicals.
6. Eat more processed foods…. We save water in these ways: watering the garden, rinsing the fresh foods, preparing the foods, washing the prepping pans, cutting boards, knives, spoons, etc. After all, no water is used when you take your meal straight from the freezer to the microwave.
5. Paper plates, plastic silverware, Styrofoam cups! Can’t you just hear the tree-huggers screaming! But if I’m not running the dishwasher, then I’m saving water.
4. Plastic baggies for packing school lunches. Suddenly, my life is getting easier! And the plastic industry is happy!
3. Become bigger consumers… eat out more, travel more, be away from the house MORE… it’s someone else’s water bill.
2. Bathe less and when you do, do it Navy style, and line the shower with buckets to capture every last drop of this precious resource. People, I have a tween … I can attest here and now that this is a public safety issue.
1. Live like this is a third world country.

Okay, I might be a bit cynical about this whole thing.

And the conscious kicks it into high gear.

Because back in 2011, when I first started working with Compassion Tea Company, I became aware of a medical clinic in Zambia called Chalabesa Mission Hospital. This medical clinic was run by a nun who worked tirelessly to bring medical care to the people of the bush. Her clinic was the only one for miles around. People walked all day to reach it. They waited all day to be seen. The nun might treat over 200 people in one day. And the clinic operated on solar panels that worked sporadically and it’s water pipes had broken. At that time, the nun and her meager staff walked 169 yards to a dirty river where elephants bathe in order to bucket brigade water back to the clinic. (read more)

Waddington by the Mission Medic Air plane and team members.

Waddington by the Mission Medic Air plane and team members.

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Carrying water on their heads

Carrying water on their heads

A boy struggles with his water load.

A boy struggles with his water load.

Laundry and water are carried in jerrycans long distances.

Laundry and water are carried in jerrycans long distances.

Three years have passed.

And while the nun is a different person, the bucket brigade continues. The medical care is often provided by flashlight. And 100s of people still walk miles and wait hours for the care.

CompassioNow has worked with Mission Medic Air, Zambia to remedy this situation, but things move slowly in Zambia. We’re waiting breathlessly to hear that the pipes have been fixed, that a new well has been dug, that running water is back at the clinic. It could happen soon! We’re praying it happens soon.

Water is a precious resource, and Zambia is a third world country, and they’ve learned to be creative and resourceful to meet the needs of the people there.

And I’m writing cynical letters to the editors in my head, throwing snarky comments around in my head when I see the neighbor’s teenage son hosing off his beater car, and generally in a bad frame of mind over this new inconvenience.

And there’s Jesus at the well, talking to the woman who has come to fill her bucket for the day. He’s telling her that he can offer her living water.

John 4: 10 Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”

11 “But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? 12 And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?”

13 Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. 14 But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

15 “Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.”

Jesus doesn’t tell her that she’ll never have to come to the well again. She’ll need to go to the well again. Life demands water. But the burden of it will be lifted. She hears his words thinking this is the fountain of youth he is offering, a spring of water that offers perpetual youth and strength, eternal life even. In the sense of life on earth forever, not in the heavenly sense. And she’s ready to sign her name on the dotted line, to enter contract on this amazing fountain of joy.

Give me this water! My heart echoes her’s. Give me this water that I will never be thirsty again. Thirst is a wild craving. It gums up the throat, it clouds the brain, it pastes the tongue in place. Thirst is a cynicism, body turning into desert.

Give me this water! This water that quenches the cynicism, the dried up thoughts and pasty mouth, that says, “You have eternal life through Jesus; so what’s the fuss?”

“A fresh bubbling spring within them.” A spring fed by the Holy Spirit, joy unspeakable, life eternal.

This is the most precious resource.

Building an Ark

“It took Noah 120 years to build the ark.” Wait. What? My understanding of Noah and his cruise through the floodwaters of the world has been shaped significantly by the cartoonish tellings of children’s Bibles with the sweet pictures of animals snuggly resting and the rhyming words that gloss over the reality of what was under the water. My understanding looks something like this: Noah gets a word from God to build a boat. God gives him very specific instructions about size and shape and cargo. Noah gets busy and finishes just in time to load the animals before the deluge hits, killing all life except what is on that boat. I remember studying the flood in college. There, we read a number of flood stories from a number of different religions. Based on the prolific motif of a flood destroying the earth found throughout early literature, we can safely assume that such a thing happened, so concluded that professor.

Well, it appears to be Noah week in the drama of my life. On Tuesday, we studied the life of Noah in Bible Study. My son Joseph is learning about Noah in preschool. In fact, he wore a green shirt and brought two stuffed animals to school today so that his class could form a rainbow (based on shirt color) and an ark-like zoo (hence, the stuffed animals). And last night, the Bible story I blindly pulled off the shelf to read to my kids was… yep, Noah.

So, Noah. The Bible tells us specifically that he was 500 years old when he had his first son and he was 600 when the flood started. He was 601 when he finally left the ark. He was a righteous man who walked with God and did exactly what God told him to do. And my Bible study commentary says that it took Noah 120 years to build the ark. Curious, I looked at Genesis 5-9, the story of Noah, over and over again in a number of translations. All I could see there was in Genesis 6:3 where God makes a promise that in 120 years He is going to wipe out the earth. Fed up with the evil, sad that He had created His creation, God says “Enough.” 120 years and the game’s up. But because Noah is righteous, God will save him and his family and seven pairs of every animal, bird, insect. (I feel like singing… “The Lord said to Noah, ‘There’s gonna be a floody floody.’ Lord said to Noah, ‘There’s gonna be a floody floody. Get those animals out of the muddy muddy. Children of the Lord.’”) So, I turned to the internet. Turns out there is a lot of discussion about how long it took Noah to build the ark. Hypotheses range from 50 to 75 to 120 years based on God’s promise of destruction and salvation, when Noah had his sons, when they were old enough to have wives, etc.

I felt discouraged. Noah taking 120 years to build the ark seemed so dramatic and cool. 50 years? Not so much. But, really, that’s ridiculous on my part. Can you imagine the situation? You’re far away from the sea. You are a farmer. You start building a large boat in your backyard. Why? Because God told you to. It doesn’t really matter how long it took. If it took 120 years, wow, that’s a long time to believe, follow through, and obey. If it took 75 years, wow, that’s a long time to believe, follow through, and obey. If it took 50 years, wow, you get the picture. Perseverance. Noah stuck it out.
One has to believe that he took some grief for his grand boat project. “Crazy old Noah! Always good for a laugh!” must have been the taunting around the neighborhood. After all, the Bible tells us that Noah was the only righteous man to be found. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that no one else knew God and/or if they had heard of Him they certainly didn’t believe, follow, or obey. Yes, Noah must have been the subject of many jokes. But he persevered.

With the jokes, were there other nuisances? Or even threats? If Noah knew that God was about to destroy the world and if he was telling the naysayers why he was doing what he was doing, which the Bible tells us he knew and he did, don’t you think there might have been some who were angered by the message? Who thought Noah was too proud and needed to come down a peg? Who might have tried to sabotage his work? Or who mocked Noah at every turn? “Where’s the rain, Noah? Where’s the flood? You’ve been working on this for 50 (or 75 or 120) years. Do you really believe this God is going to do what He says? Don’t you think maybe you just made this up in your mind?” But Noah persevered.

Do you know any Noahs today? People who buck convention, stick it out, persevere through thick and thin? People who seek to follow God’s ways, obey His commands, walk with Him even when the rest of the world is laughing?

A couple of our Compassion Tea directors are currently preparing for a trip to Africa this summer. While there, they will be distributing supplies, visiting clinics, taking notes about what is needed at the clinics, and well, frankly, risking their safety and certainly their comfort. Facing this huge trip must feel daunting, something like building an ark. How much and what is needed for the trip? How to collect medical supplies? How to carry those supplies to Africa? Once there, they will run across lots of other Noahs who are building arks in the shape of medical clinics and churches, who are tending to the most basic needs of their fellow man in places where voodoo is still the preferred method of medical treatment and where supplies for treating even the most basic illnesses are scarce. One of the clinics they will be visiting has a recently donated x-ray machine. This is new technology for the clinic. The machine is all set up and ready! But there is no one trained in how to use it. So it sits unused. Another clinic has patiently been waiting for its running water to be restored. They’ve been waiting for 2 years. The funding is there, but getting anything done in Africa is kind of like building an ark in the middle of a desert. It takes a whole lot of perseverance. The kind of perseverance that has led one of the missionaries with whom CompassioNow works to return to Africa after medical time off in the States. This missionary has celiac disease and has to eat gluten-free. Rural Africa doesn’t understand gluten-free. But for the sake of fulfilling God’s calling on her life, this missionary is stocking up on gluten-free food and heading back.

Fulfilling God’s calling is rarely easy. Whether it is building an ark in the desert or running a tea company or traveling to Africa to bring supplies and comfort, it takes a special brand of perseverance. I am pretty sure that when Noah heard God shut the door behind him and saw the waters pour forth from heaven and earth, he was infinitely glad he had listened and obeyed. Once the first x-ray is taken, once the first drops of water flow into the clinic, once the missionary sees the smiling face of a goo-goo (grandma in Africa), there will be much joy and relief. When our Compassion Tea directors deliver duffle bags of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies to clinics in Africa, there will be much joy and relief. When the directors return from Africa, there will be much joy and relief, too. But it will take continued perseverance for all of these things to happen… and a lot of tea!

That’s where you can step in! By drinking tea, by joining our membership, you can help the directors collect medical supplies to take to Africa. By drinking tea, by joining our membership, you can help CompassioNow send medical supplies to the clinics in other parts of Africa. By drinking tea, by joining our membership, you can provide funding for staff and water projects and other projects. We would love to welcome you aboard our ark!

Share Tea, Save Lives

These summer mornings have become quite precious. Later bedtimes mean long sleep-in times for the kids, but not for the dog. And consequently, I’m up early with him. This makes for a great time to read emails, catch up on Facebook, and most importantly to spend some time in God’s word. I am now subscribed to a number of daily devotionals including Girlfriends in God (go to www.kkla.com and sign up for this daily devotional and see an advertisement for Compassion Tea!) and GodTube. Today, there was a very moving video about Rachel Beckwith, a 9 year old who donated her birthday money to help people in Africa have clean water. She was tragically killed in a car accident before she made it to her 10th birthday, but in her name $1.2 million has been raised to drill new boreholes in Ethiopia. Watch:http://www.godtube.com/charitywater/

What a kid, huh!

I also received an email this morning from Chris and Jack in South Africa. They have been there for a week visiting the two clinics that CompassioNow supports in that country… Lily Medical Centre and 1000 Hills Community Helpers. This email was about their experience at 1000 Hills with Dawn Faith Leppan, the founder. From their writings:

“Jack hadn’t been to Thousand Hills for six years – when it was still at an abandoned Catholic church. We found the new campus to be an oasis in the middle of exceptional poverty. It was very well kept, with gardeners and workers (volunteers from the community who work for the two meals a day offered) busy at all corners of the site. Dawn Leppan met us with warm open arms. She gave us an extensive tour through the various infant, toddler, and pre-school rooms. All of this was very clean & colorful. There were kids everywhere but no chaos. It was remarkable and encouraging. We also toured the kitchen where cheerful volunteers were preparing meals for the numerous folks waiting patiently. We also visited the well-baby clinic that was taking place that day (every Tuesday). We saw about ten pair of mothers (or grandmothers) and infants waiting to be seen and numerous others had already been seen.

They have a craft store with merchandise produced by locals as well as a trauma center that Dawn’s granddaughter staffs as she is a licensed social worker on the government’s payroll. Dawn recounted some tragic stories of some of the locals who had been abused sexually and otherwise and how they’ve tried to help them recover and move forward.

Dawn took us to a local community [this is the Claremont Camp I wrote about in the Olympics and the Temporary blog] where they’ve established a “safe house” and daytime crèche (daycare). The housing there was appalling with waste smell in the air and outdoor bathrooms overflowing. There were exposed live electrical wires running on the ground throughout and barefoot children nearby. We saw one encouraging house that had a small garden – modeled after the garden at the safe house. We ended this visit by touring the safe house that was part of this neighborhood. The house had the cleanliness of the Thousand Hills Clinic with about twenty kids sitting well behaved at clean, bright plastic tables. Just beyond them was a fenced in garden that would be impressive in any U.S. suburb. The contrast between the safe house / crèche and the surrounding shacks was extraordinary and a real testament to the impact that this group can have on a community.

We ended our visit with the distribution of the four duffle bags we brought there. Dawn was very moved by the supplies provided; commenting regularly about how certain items would be helpful. It was very moving.

We returned on Thursday morning as we were so impressed with this group’s impact…. [W]e gave Dawn the gift of Compassion Tea that we had brought for her and her staff…. We also got to witness some of the impact of the supplies delivered. Dawn gave a pair of reading glasses to a grandmother there. She was very happy but her glasses started steaming up. Dawn asked what was wrong and the grandmother replied that she could finally see well but she had no money to pay for them. Dawn said that they were free and the grandmother was overcome with joy.”

Whether it be fresh, clean water or a pair of eyeglasses, we can change lives. We at Compassion Tea believe that by sharing tea, we can save lives. Please join us!

Olympics and the Temporary

Oh Olympic fever is taking hold! The excitement is building! Opening Ceremonies are on today and I’m thinking about how to best view them and what foods to have at the ready. As I’m typing this, I have a window open to USA Today’s online Olympics coverage where a clock is ticking down the time until the Opening Ceremonies. It’s not long now!

Next to the clock is an article about Michael Phelps in relation to his housing in the Olympic Village.  (http://www.usatoday.com/sports/olympics/london/swimming/story/2012-07-25/michael-phelps-ryan-lochte-share-suite-in-village/56485516/1) The Olympic Village is of course the temporary housing for all of the athletes and is meant to be cozy, a good place to relax, and designed to encourage friendly camaraderie with athletes from around the world. According to the article, Phelps has a single room in a four-bedroom suite he shares with six other swimmers including his rival Ryan Lochte. Apparently, the village has no air conditioning (and after having lived in London for a year I question why it would need air conditioning) but “athletes use rotating fans of the kind familiar in college dorms.” And then the article finishes off with: “Phelps said his room ‘is about the size of a closet. … You walk in, and I’m not joking you, my room is probably about that wide.’ And here he spreads his arms and then tucks his elbows in, to indicate his room is not as wide as his famous wingspan. ‘I have, like, a bed, a nightstand, a dresser,’ he said, ‘and that’s about all I got.’”

Doesn’t it just pull on your heart strings? After three very successful Olympics, shouldn’t Mr. Phelps be entitled to something more posh for his fourth and last?

“Temporary” is the key word here. The Olympic Village is home for roughly two weeks. Temporary.

Two of my Compassion Tea friends, Chris and Jack, are currently flying to South Africa where they will be visiting our partner in serving, Dawn Faith Leppan at the 1000 Hills Community Helpers clinic in the Valley of 1000 Hills. While they are visiting, they will be making a trip to Claremont Camp near Inchanga. According to Ms. Leppan, Claremont Camp was created “in 2007 [when] the local municipality identified a squatter camp near Claremont, on the outskirts of Durban, and it was planned that this population would receive government subsidized housing in Inchanga. In the interim they were moved to temporary housing structures adjacent to the land where the subsidized housing would be developed.” That was in 2007. Five years later, the population still lives in the temporary housing, which consists of  “6 rows of pre-fabricated temporary housing units with 60 rooms per row.” The estimated population is 2500 people of all ages. Ms. Leppan has described the camp as a place of high unemployment, high rates of alcohol and substance (mostly marijuana) use, and highly dangerous for several reasons.

1.     There are communal toilets but they are “blocked and littered with excrement.”

2.     The municipality supplies water but the connections are broken creating a “wet area which is a breeding ground for disease as well as wasting valuable water.”

3.     The camp has electricity… in the form of wires snaking across the ground, open connections and uninsulated wires exposed to physical contact. Ms. Leppan writes, “There have been several incidents of children and adults being shocked by electricity.”

4.     There is no safe place for the disposal of garbage so the camp is littered making it dangerous for children and animals and serving as another breeding ground for disease.

5.     HIV, sexually transmitted infections, and tuberculosis rage in this camp where people are over-crowded and there is little privacy.

For more information about the camp, read the blog from 1000 Hills regarding their initial visit to the camp: http://1000hch.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/the-story-of-inchanga-camp/

Ms. Leppan and her staff have set up a weekly mobile clinic at the camp in order to provide much needed medical care on-site including supplying contraception, training on how to live more healthy, and creating support groups for patients with chronic illnesses. They serve 40 to 50 patients a week at the clinic and are securing food for the roughly 200 families in need of food. Currently, they have enough to cover 60 families.

This is a slightly different temporary housing situation than Mr. Phelps’ closet-sized bedroom. And it is much less temporary. Thankfully, Ms. Leppan is making headway in improving conditions. Yet, this gives another insight into why waiting for government organizations to take action is not effective planning. CompassioNow and Compassion Tea both understand the necessity of grassroots efforts of support for organizations already operating in rural Africa. So, what can you do to help?

1.     Donate directly to CompassioNow on their website: www.compassionow.org.

2.     Purchase a tea membership through Compassion Tea (www.compassiontea.com/memberships). 100% of after-tax profits go directly to CompassioNow and on to people like Ms. Leppan.

The situation in Africa is proving to be anything but temporary. Together we can make it more temporary!