Adding Malawi

Due to the generous gifts of our donors, we are thrilled to announce that CompassioNow is adding the Passion Center for Children in Zomba, Malawi, to the list of clinics we support. For nearly 10 years, the Passion Center has been actively “rescuing, redeeming, and restoring” children, widows, and communities. According to Eric Sythoff, President of the Passion Center, “The Passion Center provides food, shelter, medical care, clothes, & access to education to over 250 orphans. We are focused on the Whole Child, in the Whole Community for their Whole Lives.”Group-of-young-Kids-626x469
Our connection with the Passion Center began last year when we partnered with Rock of the Foothills Lutheran Church in LaVerne, CA, to ship donated medical supplies to the Passion Center.

This coming year, we will be supporting the Community Health Network Project. Currently, the CHN supports the 137 surrounding villages through trained Community Based Groups of villagers eager to provide healthcare and education. Sythoff explains that since its beginnings 5 years ago, “the simple training in basic First Aid, hygiene and sanitation has now blossomed into a well trained & respected Network of Care for thousands. Additionally, most HIV and TB sufferers are too weak to travel to get their medicines. Our network is entrusted to bring these patients their medicines, provide updates on their condition and transport them- as well as other emergencies- via bicycle ambulances.”

The Community Health Network began when “Austin Chisuse, one of our Passion Kids came to us and asked us to train him and a few villagers who wanted to serve their fellow villagers in the area of Health Care. Mr. Chisuse is himself HIV+ as are many of the 40 CBO volunteers. In Malawi about 73% of the population lives in rural areas, it is in these rural areas that health care and health supplies are deplorably lacking. Since that initial request, Austin’s Community Based Group (CBO) has grown by 3 more and these CBOs provide sometimes the only Health care available to thousands of villagers.” The Passion Center provides training, supplies, and oversight for the Community Health Network.

Another way we are hoping to come alongside the Passion Center is through the purchase of newer bicycle ambulances to serve the surrounding villages. Sythoff explains, “Over the past three years we have provided the community groups with up to four Bicycle Ambulances of the older design. When we provide a Bicycle Ambulance we give them training on how to use and maintain them. We stress the important role the Bicycle Ambulances play in caring for the weak and sick, but we make it clear the use and maintenance of the Bicycle Ambulances is now their responsibility. The first one was given to Austin Chisuse’s CBO, and they used it all the time, transporting patients daily and sometimes twice a day. This group maintained their Bicycle Ambulance until the pedal crank actually broke.”

Buffalo Bicycle Ambulance

Since that ambulance broke, the Passion Center has been raising funds to purchase a newer design of the bicycle ambulance. Two have been purchased to date. Sythoff explains, “We keep one of the Bicycle Ambulances at the Passion Center in the event a child or person from the surrounding community needs to get to the Hospital or Clinic and there is no vehicle or driver around. Another Bicycle Ambulance is in use with Austin Chisuse’s CBO. This one is used extensively. Both of these Bicycle Ambulances are of the newer design, which is made stronger and more suitable for the village roads and conditions.” By providing more bicycle ambulances to the other CBO groups in other villages, we can improve the quality and speed of health care to the villagers there as well.

We are thrilled to be offering support for this network and to be bringing healthcare to more of the “world’s least served.” To learn more, visit To donate directly to CompassioNow’s work, visit

About Ebola

I haven’t wanted to write about Ebola. In part, because I don’t want to add to the already rather loud and raucous hysteria.

But also because for some reason I think if I say the name I make it somehow more real, somehow closer to home.

The other night as I was tucking my son into bed, he began talking about a “disease from Africa that is really bad and so we’ve got to remember to wash our hands.” All true and all appropriate for his age. But I reminded him that we must wash our hands for more reasons than “this mystery disease out of Africa.” Enter sis, toothbrush in hand. “Is he talking about Ebola?” she asks, eyes huge and terror etching her brow. Somewhere, she is hearing the hysteria.

And so I launched into my mama-bear act. “Ebola is a disease we want to avoid, and yes, it is imperative that we wash our hands to protect us from all kinds of diseases, from the common cold to the flu. But here in the United States, we have very good doctors and lots of medical supplies to help people recover from Ebola. We have big drug companies who are working hard to find cures and vaccines. We are going to be fine.”

End of discussion.

Except for the ongoing discussion we’re having at Compassion Tea. The weekly prayers for our clinics in eastern and southern Africa, that Ebola doesn’t find its way to them, these speak to a very different reality. Western Africa, where Ebola is rampant currently, is not unlike eastern and southern Africa. There are parts of the entire continent where there is just not adequate healthcare. There aren’t enough doctors, medical supplies, surgical gloves, masks, medicines, sanitation, and ways to isolate. There isn’t enough knowledge and expertise, particularly in the rural parts of the continent.

In a recent USA Today article, Alimatu Sesay, a nurse at a government hospital in the northern city of Makeni, Sierra Leone, is quoted as saying, “We’re getting frustrated because we are not equipped to respond to cases…. When there is a suspected case, we have to send to Freetown for tests and when confirmed, send to Kenema for treatment. But by the time they reach the treatment center, they are already too weak to recover.”

This is in a city, at a government hospital. This is the best medical care Sierra Leone and its neighboring countries can provide.

According to the article: “While much of the fight against Ebola in West Africa focuses on highly populated cities, often overlooked are rural areas where inadequate infrastructure and health care fuel its spread. The lack of any medical facilities for hundreds of miles in these remote regions of Sierra Leone — like in neighboring Liberia and Guinea — is a main reason the country is failing to gain control of the crisis.”

One example of the troubles rural patients face is getting to adequate care. On Oct. 10, a group of infectious Ebola patients was being transferred for treatment from their rural village to a nearby government hospital in the northern region of Sierra Leone. The ambulance carrying them “overturned on a narrow, dirt road, injuring the driver and patients and exposing the area to the deadly virus.” The government hospital proved unable to deal with Ebola and the patients were then “placed back in a vehicle to be driven to a treatment center more than 100 miles away.”

In much of Africa, hospitals are not equipped to provide for more than the medical care of patients. Family members are usually expected to provide food and clothing and clean bedding. With Ebola patients having to travel hundreds of miles to find healthcare, another problem arises. “When our relatives are taken to the center in other areas there is no one to comfort and support them – a few days later they will tell us of their death,” said Mohamed Milton Koroma, vice president of the Makeni Union of Youth Groups.

While the lack of medical care is hampering any efforts to stop Ebola, the disease’s ravages are felt beyond the threat of the disease itself. Another USA Today article says this:

“As Ebola continues its rampage across Liberia and elsewhere in West Africa, thousands of children are taking a double hit: losing parents to the fatal virus and then being shunned by relatives who fear they will catch the disease.

The United Nations estimates the virus has orphaned nearly 4,000 children across the region, and that number could double in coming weeks. Aid groups, such as Doctors Without Borders, fear the orphans are at risk of starvation and disease.

The children also could pose a risk to others by spreading the disease if they are allowed to roam free without being tested for the virus.”

The article tells of the growth of child-headed households due to Ebola and the struggles these children face when grandparents and aunts and uncles walk out of their way to avoid being near the homes of Ebola victims. “I went to my relatives after my mother died, but they chased me away, even after I told them that I didn’t have Ebola,” said 12-year-old Frank Mulbah, whose mother died in Liberia in August.

“In Liberia, the hardest hit country, with nearly 1,000 deaths from Ebola as of last week, about half of all mothers in the country are raising their children alone because thousands of men died in a 1999-2003 civil war. So when these mothers catch Ebola and die, their children have nowhere to turn.
Frank, whose father died in the civil war, said he found no one to care for him — neither in northwest Liberia, where he lived before dropping out of school, nor… in the capital [Monrovia], where he traveled in a desperate search for food and shelter from relatives who refused to take him in…. Frank hopes his relatives will change their minds, but he isn’t hopeful. He tries not to think about getting home-cooked meals or an education.
‘I don’t know when I’ll go back to school,’ he said. ‘Right now I’m just looking for food and a place to live.’”


While CompassioNow doesn’t have the resources in place to currently aid with the medical crisis in western Africa, we are praying for an end to the crisis. And we are redoubling our efforts to support our clinics in eastern and southern Africa. Won’t you please join our efforts and our prayers!

Go here to donate directly. And don’t forget that 100% of our after tax profits at Compassion Tea Company go to CompassioNow to aid “the world’s least served.”


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!


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!

IMG_0257 IMG_8083


“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