Monday, December 10, 2012

Overdue: Christmas Gifting Ideas

I have been an inconsistent blogger over the years that I have had this habit, but apparently the last three Christmas seasons I have done the same thing, and I probably shouldn’t stop now. After all, I’m a Baptist, and this is how we work: the first time we do something, it’s a novelty and very, very scary. The second time it’s a repeat and underwhelming. The third time? It’s a tradition and must therefore be done forever and ever, even past the Millennial Kingdom.

After this, it will be something I have to do, even if they shut down the Internet.

What is this habit? A blog post giving some suggestions on where to do some Christmas gift-giving. No, this does not have the links to my Amazon Wish Lists. Or to my Gander Mountain Wishlist, for that matter…

Ann and I have, over the years, chosen to give to certain ministries, missions, or projects in lieu of some of the “giving of obligation” that happens this time of year. You know the gifts: one little trinket for this person or that person, who is receiving a pile of token gifts every year. We first thought about this the year that Ann was in early childhood education and I was in ministry: we really appreciated the cute coffee cups and other items, but there was just a lot of “stuff.” So we asked this question:

What would we want?

Well, we want world peace. Barring that, we would like to see as much of the world as possible acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father and for them to do that now, joyfully, rather than in the end, mournfully. To that end, how could you give us that for Christmas? Not that I don’t want the plate of cookies, mind you, but instead of the fancy plate from Kohl’s, put the cookies on a paper plate and a little note showing where you sent the plate money.

Where to start?

I’m glad you asked. That’s what this list is for. Mind you, I receive absolutely nothing in return for this: unless you choose to mention to an organization that I sent you their way, and they choose to acknowledge it, this is just between you, them, and God Almighty. I will take this much responsibility: I have dealt with the individuals, organizations, or groups named personally. They have received money from me—I have trusted them that much. Do your own due diligence as you see fit.

1. Southern Baptist Missions: I am a Southern Baptist/Great Commission Baptist Pastor. It is not only a duty, though, but a joy to recommend to my fellow SB/GCBC folks to get the information from your church regarding the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

1a: There’s always a disaster. When those happen, you can give to a new start-up hoping to help with the situation, or you can give to a group with pre-funded infrastructure and administration. The former has no alternative but to use some of your crisis-giving to help with admin. That’s not bad, just reality. The latter? If they say 100% is going to Disaster Relief, it is. Here is a link to info on what Baptist Disaster Relief and how to give to it: ABSC Disaster Relief Page.

2. The next thing I would highlight is WorldCrafts that is connected with the Women’s Missionary Union. This gives you the opportunity to actually put something under the tree and also feel good that your spending helped people better their lives. Most of us already spend plenty of money helping corporate America buy bigger yachts, and WorldCrafts helps people do things like escape slavery.

2a. One major issue these days is human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Go to this section, set1free, to see how something as simple as your Christmas shopping can be a starting point to help someone. Often women and children escape trafficking situations only to find themselves starving on the streets, because there is just no work. Set1Free is a specific effort from WorldCrafts to step into the middle of that.

3. We have friends who are helping the Lavukal people of the Russell Islands get the Bible in their own language. Those friends are Aaron and Joanna Choate. They work with Wycliffe Bible Translators, and if you would like to give in support of their mission work, you can click here.  (One note: the page there will state that the Choates are in the US for Aaron to finish his MA in linguistics. They are here. But congratulations to Aaron, he’s done!!) I would trust this family with all things precious to me.

3a. You may also consider giving to the overall mission of Wycliffe Bible Translators. I would like the Bibleless Peoples Project myself.

4. Ann and I made the acquaintance of Eric and Gaye Ramsey this year. They are part of Tom Cox World Ministries. More than encouraging you to support them or even have them visit your church, though both would be fine, I would encourage you to look at the projects they support in terms of orphanages and other ministries. Check this page for more info.

5. Finally, we blessed in America to have an overabundance of nerd-pastors and brainiac ministers. There are other places where even a minor amount of training for those who serve churches is a luxury. The school I attend, B.H. Carroll Theological Institute, has a program to provide ministry and Bible training to pastors in Cuba. Yes, that little island that we think of having a missile crisis, old cars, and good cigars also has churches. However, there is not the widespread societal support of churches in Cuba as there is in the US. The school provides scholarships to help students study to better understand the whole of Scripture and the history of the church. You can click here for more info.


Those are my suggestions this year. Of course, there are myriads of social programs, ministry opportunities, and people in need around you. Open your eyes and answer some hard questions this year: Do I really need to get that? Do I really need to give this? Or can I give it away instead?

You might be surprised…

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