We were in Wal-Mart this morning to finally decide what we’re having for Thanksgiving dinner, and I realized that it’s time to talk about Christmas presents. No, this is not my Christmas wish list or my children’s lists. Well, not exactly.
I want to, rather, tell you a little story. Sometime ago, I guess about 2001, we were a little tight on cash around Christmas time, and wanted to find some way to still give Christmas gifts to the multitude of folks we needed to give to. Ann hit on the idea to make customized photo calendars to family members. It was a bigger hit than it would have been the year before, because Olivia had been born earlier that year. Well, since then, calendars are now our gift of choice more than a gift of necessity. In the process, a few years Ann has sold custom calendars to some other folks enough to cover the expenses (at least nearly) of doing our own.
Meanwhile, this led to our doing some consideration of what really matters about gift giving. When our kids started going to the Mother’s Day Out Ann worked for, we wanted to do something nice, as all the other kids did, for their teachers. We also noticed the small gifts that a lot of kids were giving Sunday School teachers, choir teachers, and so on, and so forth….
We didn’t want to give cheap trinkets. We had seen enough of those in our days, and even given enough of them. I think we’re nearly done moving those types of things, and have managed to pass them on or use them up. So, what to do?
Here’s what we did:
We took Christmas gift money and gave it away. We then made cards, put in a description of where the money had been given, and gave the cards. The basic message was that in honor of their work, we had given to do something. One year it was building a church in Qatar. One year it was ministry work in Central America. Some people kind of give us the “you’re odd!” look when we do this. Others like it. We do it. Not that we’re against gifts. We’ll still give gifts to many, but we felt that the greatest thing we could do in many cases was to show others that their efforts in love and faith were noticed.
(I do believe I found that there was a movie of some sort that encouraged this type of giving, as well as various email forwards. Believe it or not, I’ve never seen the movie, and almost never do anything simply because of email forwards, so I don’t think those influenced us.)
In this vein, since I started blogging, I’ve posted a Christmas suggestion list. Here are some of the places that I’d recommend you look for your Christmas list this year, with links and short descriptions:
1. There are times that you want something in hand to give. This is true in our house, and there will be some people here in Almyra that will receive a gift bought here. WorldCrafts Village is connected to the Women’s Missionary Union (WMU) and is an opportunity to buy items made, often internationally, by people in need of a job. Whether it’s a jobs program that enables local pastors to survive or funding support for women in danger or for refugees, every item has a story.
2. Another good group of folks are Rivers of the World. If you listen to K-Love, I’m pretty sure you’ve heard Ben Mathes on a voice spot talking about their work, at least a little. ROW is a ministry organization that travels, well, rivers, especially jungle ones, sharing the love of Christ. It was ROW that had a special opportunity, though, to help build a church on the Arabian peninsula few years back, and we got to help with that. They also were involved in Central America in a community that the Iranian Army was also trying to be involved in. The Iranians were doing some civil projects trying to show how good they were, and ROW had been there for a while as well. Eventually, the locals asked the Iranians to leave, because they’d rather have the Christians. The Iranian Army left. That’s right. How many US Presidents have had trouble with the Iranians? ROW is a great group of folks. There is also a store with artwork/crafts that you can purchase from, or you can just donate. I like the MegaVoice Bibles, but that’s just me. Getting God’s Word to folks is important.
3. Adoption is a good thing, when it is done by people who are willing to do it right. It’s just a bit overwhelming to go into it. A group of folks, like Shaohannah’s Hope can go a long way towards helping adoption work out well for orphans and families.
4. Back on getting God’s Word to people, there’s Wycliffe Bible Translators. These folks work to translate the Bible into the local languages of people without Bibles. In America, you can do that for profit and it’s worth it. (Note the ESV, NASB, NLT, NIV, KJV, and so on…) Other places, we need support to make it happen. If you want to give to someone you can know, go here and enter account number 200114. This will support Aaron and Joanna Choate. Or, give to the “Last Languages Campaign.” The goal is to have Bibles everyone can understand, everywhere, by 2025. I’ll be 50, and I’d love to see it happen.
5. The originators of the Advent Conspiracy videos that you’ve seen (click here) like Living Water International as a clean water group. There’s also Blood:Water Mission for similar work. We turn a tap and get water. We may not like its taste, so we filter it, chill it, flavor, make coffee or Coca-Cola with it. We buy it in bottles and in bulk. People in other places die for lack of it, or because what they have is so disease infected it kills them. It’s too far to run a pipe from Grand Prairie Water Association to them, but it’s not too far to help somehow.
As Southern Baptists, we set aside time at Christmas to push to strengthen our international missions efforts through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. If you’re Southern Baptist, ask around church, because someone should be able to tell you. If you’re not, ask your own church or drop me an email.
As Christians, there’s the Voice of the Martyrs and the Gideon’s, and many others. Always do a bit of homework. The groups named here, I’m familiar enough with, but don’t fall off the map and give your money someplace that does nothing good with it, or that spends 90% on admin and nothing on their work.
Meanwhile, have a happy Thanksgiving.
(note: I receive no form of kickback from any group mentioned here. If you want me to get a kickback, tell me what you want to order from Amazon.com and I’ll email you an affiliate link to the item that will pay me!)