It’s the Christmas season! It’s time to snuggle under a blanket with loved ones, with a cup of hot cocoa, a roaring fire, and all things peppermint. Along with the warmth and cheer of the season, it is also a time of reflection and generosity. Many seek out ways to bless others. After all, there are so many blessings to celebrate. Searching for the best ways to spread Christmas cheer, meet real needs, and honor Christ can be surprisingly difficult.

Weighing Your Options

In our desire to be generous, one of those difficulties comes from weighing the many opportunities available. Some organizations have done wonderful jobs of marketing their opportunities and making them accessible. I think of the bell ringers for Salvation Army, shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, toy donations through Toys for Tots, donating animals and sponsoring children through Compassion International, and sponsoring children for Christmas through Angel Tree. And these are just a few off the top of my head. 

With all of the available options, do we share our time and money locally or internationally? What organizations, people, or ministries do we want to focus on? An added factor for parents is finding opportunities that provide tangible and visual examples that children will remember. Our desire is to help instill the tradition of generosity in our children’s hearts. In a culture that screams “more!” we want our children’s hearts to instead sing “give!” This alone can be hard enough to sort through.

Meeting Real Needs

Another difficulty that has gained more attention lately is gifts or donations not meeting real needs. This is not a new problem, but one that donors are thankfully becoming more aware of. Although impoverished families may appreciate the temporary joy brought by small toys, toothbrushes, clothing, or even gifts of food, their underlying problems are not addressed. If their children are still dying from water-borne illnesses and their parents from medical conditions, then toys, warm blankets, or even food, will not save their lives. From an economic standpoint, providing temporary aid can create dependency and lower self-esteem. Recipients may become depressed and unmotivated.

Providing aid for impoverished countries can unfortunately be met with corruption within locals and their governments. Tejvan Pettinger, an Economics teacher in Oxford, writes a blog about economics, the developing world, and how aid can disrupt local governments.

“Aid is often subject to vested interests and fails to make real improvements in living standards,” he said in a post titled “Trade not Aid.”

He said that aid can interfere with democracy and referenced Milton Friedman’s Collection of Essays in Public Policy, “Foreign Economic Aid: Means and Objectives,” where Friedman said “many proponents of foreign aid recognize that its long-run political effects are adverse to freedom and democracy.”

In the same post, Pettinger gives an example of how foreign aid can be detrimental for a developing country rather than helpful.

“If aid finances public health care, governments in developing economies may feel they don’t need to set up efficient tax collection and spend money - as they can rely on foreign aid. This is damaging for the long-term,” he said in the post.

Financial Transparency

The last difficulty I would like to focus on is the lack of financial transparency within organizations like nonprofits and charitable organizations. It can be nerve-wracking to donate money both overseas and domestically, especially if you aren’t sure exactly where your money is going or how it will be used. Some organizations face corruption within the countries they are serving. Far too often, when donations arrive on site, they can be taken by criminals, and governments or people in need may be forced to pay high fees to get the aid meant for them.

Another thing we are wary of is high overhead costs. When an organization’s donations go to highly paid staff members or extravagant fundraisers, donors can be discouraged, and people may not receive the help they need. Websites like charitynavigator.org exist to keep charitable organizations accountable and to make consumers aware of exactly where their donations are going.

One Solution

With all of these things to consider, I would like to share why my family is choosing to serve through Jesus’ Economy. Jesus’ Economy takes a holistic approach to community development. We provide a platform for artisans in impoverished countries to showcase their handmade goods. 100 percent of the proceeds are reinvested in the artisans’ communities.

The artisans are provided with jobs, hope, better futures, and self-esteem. Jesus’ Economy partners with local organizations to meet basic needs and support church planters in the impoverished communities that the artisans live. We offer microloans, ethical business training, and we are the guaranteed buyer of products produced. We meet basic needs by identifying with local community leaders the most pressing issues and help solve them. We have successfully dug seven water wells in Bihar, India providing access to clean water for thousands of people.

You may be wondering how an organization can reinvest 100 percent of their proceeds. The answer is simple. Jesus’ Economy is 100 percent volunteer run. Even the founder and CEO, John Barry, and his wife Kalene, who serves as the CPO, volunteer full time. They sold their home and most of their stuff to start Jesus’ Economy, and live incredibly sacrificial lives to run it. I have volunteered with Jesus’ Economy for five years, and I have the utmost respect for our team. I can attest to the fact that every dollar donated goes directly to the designated destination. Donors can indicate which specific aspect of the ministry they would like to give to.

Involving Your Kids

If you are a parent, you may be wondering how this opportunity translates into a hands-on giving project to include your children. I offer two suggestions.

As a family, we began purchasing items from the Fair Trade Shop. My children got to pick presents for aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, neighbors, and teachers. When they arrived, we wrapped and delivered them. Rather than giving trinkets from the store, we provided jobs. We talked about the items, marveled at the intricacy, and prayed for the artisan families that would be blessed by our purchases. We also prayed that the recipients would be blessed and perhaps challenged to consider making similar choices.

A second suggestion is picking a specific aspect of the ministry, and asking that your loved ones donate to that cause in your name. Last Christmas, our family asked that loved ones donate in our names toward a water well in Bihar, India. We made a chart and cheered together when donations came in. We also did several water related science experiments and crafts to drive home the focus on clean water in their minds. We were thrilled that it was fully funded! We made charts and celebrated each time a donation was received.

Essentially it comes down to conversation and involving your kids in every aspect. If you walk them through it and let them be intricately involved, they’ll grasp the importance of helping others and see the results. They’ll also get the chance to be excited about being generous which can be hard for kids at Christmas time when everything is geared toward them and their Christmas wish lists.

There are many other organizations with similar models, and I encourage you to look into them. Leslie Verner, author of the blog Scraping Raisins, has compiled a wonderful list of ethical companies. I highly encourage you to look into some of them. In the meantime, perhaps you can think about some of the difficulties I presented when you choose where you volunteer your time, efforts, and money this season. Maybe it’ll help you to better figure out where your donation will help the most, leaving you with full confidence that your dollar went where you want it to.

I hope you have a blessed season in which you embrace the old adage, “It is more blessed to give than to receive!”

Continuing with our "Living for Jesus This Christmas" series, we have another post filled with hope for you this holiday season. 

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. For some this means absolute joy, for others it’s a more difficult time of year. I understand both sentiments—as I have had both throughout the years.

No matter where you are this time of year, or how you feel about it, I have a hope-filled message for you.

Right from Jesus’ birth, we see how God likes to surprise. He doesn’t choose the richest woman in the land to give birth to Jesus, but instead one of the impoverished. The angel Gabriel says to Mary:

“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you. … Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in the womb and will give birth to a son, and you will call his name Jesus. This one will be great, and he will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. … The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore also the one to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Luke 1:28–38 LEB).

Mary’s ultimate reply, after learning that she, a virgin, will conceive miraculously: “Behold, the Lord’s female slave! May it happen to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38 LEB).

Mary speaks truth. These are words each of us need to hear today: May we act according to God’s will, so attached to him that it resembles a slave following his or her master. May God’s will happen according to his word.

But these are not just contemplative words—they are words of gratitude and joy. Although Mary may be feeling perplexed, she is in wonderment. She sees that great and wonderful things are coming (Luke 1:29, 34). And even when we are perplexed, we should look to God in wonderment too—knowing that he will do great and mighty things.

Christmas is meant to remind us of the great and wonderful things coming our way. We are meant to celebrate the occasion with pure joy. We should contemplate both what God did by becoming flesh—forever marrying humanity to himself—but also how he chose to become flesh.

God could have chosen a rich young woman or a queen. He could have chosen to be born into wealth and power. But that’s not what God chose. God chose a humble and honorable woman. He chose someone from poverty, who had no power at all.

And in this act, and so many others in Jesus’ life, we see that this is really what the Christian journey is about: a walk with God, in humility, grace, and love.

Christmas reminds us of all this. But Christmas also reminds us of Mary’s words about Jesus:

“My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced greatly in God my Savior, because he has looked upon the humble state of his female slave, for behold, from now on all generations will consider me blessed, because the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for generation after generation to those who fear him. He has done a mighty deed with his arm; he has dispersed the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted the lowly. He has filled those who are hungry with good things, and those who are rich he has sent away empty-handed. He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, just as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever” (Luke 1:46–56 LEB).

This is what God does. This is who God is. This is what God is about.

May you be filled with joy today. May the power of the living Christ transform you and work through you. May you realize who God really is, and act according to his ways—lifting up the lowly and feeding the hungry.

This article was previously published under the title, "A Song of Gratitude for Christmas Day: Joy No Matter What."

You can still choose fair trade for Christmas.

Get your fair trade products by Christmas. Simply order today and select express mail. Choose from any of our fair trade products from Haiti, Guatemala, Brazil, Uganda, and Kenya.

*Please note that orders from Rwanda and Nepal will not be filled in time for Christmas. 

Shop Fair Trade for Christmas

 

Still need that last-minute gift? We have you covered. Simply choose Priority Mail when you make a purchase today, and you'll get it by Christmas. Jesus' Economy has hundreds of new products this fall, including adding tons of new products within the past few weeks, and you'll be sure to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list. But today is the last day to order priority mail and receive your gifts by Christmas, so hurry! 

 

Shop Fair Trade for Christmas

 

This does not apply to our fair trade from Rwanda or Nepal. You can still order products from these countries, but your gifts will not arrive by Christmas. 

The fair trade shop at JesusEconomy.org has some new baskets—just in time for last minute Christmas shopping! Now you can shop fair trade, take care of the environment, and decorate and organize your home at the same time. Here are a few of the beautiful fair trade baskets and storage units created by artisans from Rwanda.  

 

Baskets from Rwanda: Constellation in Black & Tea   

This basket comes in small, medium, or large, and is perfect for serving or display. You could put a small basket near your front door and use it for keys, or a medium basket on your dining room table filled with fruit. Each basket also has a loop on the back for easy hanging, and they would look gorgeous on your living room wall. And when your guests ask about it, tell them the story about where it comes from and how you positively impacted a community in Rwanda.

 

Banana Leaf Tapered Tray from Rwanda

This tray is crafted from locally-gathered stalks of leaves from banana trees. The leaves are carefully threaded around the stalks, and the result is a super sturdy tray that’s great for any use. Buy one, or buy three—they’re easy to stack!

 

Baskets from Rwanda: Teardrop in Red and Natural  

This unique and beautiful bamboo basket is handcrafted in the traditional Rwandan technique. It is lightweight and delicate, perfect for display or for holding your treasures. Each of the colors is created with natural dyes such as tea, soot, and rock applied to the grass with banana flower.

 

Banana Twine Magazine Tote from Rwanda

The magazine tote is a great basket that makes a practical decoration, and an easy on-the-go carrier. With hand-spun banana leaf twine, this basket is sturdy and durable, and perfect for a stack of books, a few skeins of yarn, or some of your tot’s favorite toys. It could even work as a little picnic basket! Buy one and bring hope to artisans in Rwanda!

 

Banana Leaf Nesting Cubes from Rwanda

These beautiful rustic boxes are a wonderful way to stay organized in fair trade style. They are available in three sizes, and they fit inside each other nicely. These cubes are practical and durable, and are the perfect way to manage craft supplies, toys, or sweaters. The large size is even designed to fit into regular modular storage shelves. You can’t go wrong with these storage cubes, and you can’t go wrong with fair trade.

 

Baskets from Rwanda: Traditional Grass Peace Basket in Black and White

This striking basket is the quintessential Rwandan gift. In Rwanda, these baskets are often used to hold other gifts—like the one given by every bride to her new husband’s mother. This type of basket is often used to hold dry goods like beans or rice. Each grass basket takes an entire week to weave, and it’s made from all-natural and locally grown materials. Be smart about the environment, support artisans around the world, and buy one of these baskets!

 

Banana Panel Storage Box from Rwanda   

Having trouble staying organized? These boxes are the answer! Created with banana leaves. These boxes are practical and can hold up to your demands! Use one to store your favorite photos, some small toys, or use it to stack napkins in the middle of your table. Pick up a fair trade storage box and change a life in Rwanda today!

 

Doing some really last minute gift shopping? Today is the last day to order first class mail and get it by Christmas! Today is also the last day to order Azizi Life fair trade until after the holidays!

Shopping fair trade brings communities together, treats the earth right, and is an all-around ethical way to buy things for yourself and for others.

 

Shop Fair Trade from Rwanda 

 

 

Christmas is right around the corner, and we have everything you’ll need from Christmas gifts to decorations. You can choose to shop by artisan, country, or category. Our holiday collection is packed with everything you’ll need for the season, and even better, all the products are beautiful, handcrafted, and ethically made.

Here are a few of our cheerful holiday products:

 

 

Shopping fair trade brings hope to artisans around the world who are working for a better future. And since Christmas is a perfect time to reflect on hope, it’s a perfect time to shop fair trade.

Shop Holiday Collection 

 

 

It seems like it was just summer, but now it’s December, and Christmas is going to be here before we know it.

Whether you’re looking for an ornament to spruce up your tree, some decorations to liven your holiday parties, or wonderful gifts to give, Jesus’ Economy has you covered. Our holiday collection is full of beautiful and practical holiday products that are ethically made, fairly traded, and leave a positive impact on the world and the people who made them.

 

Ornaments

Every Christmas tree needs ornaments to brighten it up. Each ornament can tell a story and be a part of the Christmas celebration. Here are some gorgeous ornaments that tell a story of hope—a story you can tell people when they ask where you got it. And while you’re shopping for your own tree decor, consider buying a few ornaments for friends and family. Tree ornaments make excellent holiday gifts, and here are just a few that are available in our holiday collection.

Ornaments from Haiti: Angel

A Caribbean angel has alighted on your tree, sent directly from sunny Haiti!

 

Ornaments from Haiti: Punched Tin Tree   

This simple but stunning tree is handmade from recycled tin and brings hope to artisans and the environment.

 

Ornaments from Rwanda: Miniature Baskets  

A weaver uses natural fibers and traditional basket weaving techniques to craft each of these fun little baskets.

 

Ornaments from Guatemala: Globe

Hand embroidered in traditional Mayan design, this cloth ornament is bold and joyful.

 

Ornaments from Haiti: Christmas Star  

These Christmas stars are more than ornaments. They are made by a Haitian artisan working to rebuild her home after it was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake.

 

Ornaments from Haiti: Bottle Pendant

Celebrate the season with these ornaments made from recycled glass and aluminum.

 

Ornaments from Rwanda: Hand-Carved, Tree Branch Bird  

Artisans use Jacaranda branches to carve these charming little birds, which are similar in size to our Rwandan fire finches. They look beautiful clustered against the dark evergreen of a Christmas tree.

 

Each of these ornaments are intricately designed to add beauty and a story to your Christmas tree this season. Buy one today and change the world through fair trade.

 

Shop Holiday Collection 

 

Merry Christmas!

May your day be filled with the joy of Jesus!

With much love and many blessings,

Jesus' Economy

 

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. For some this means absolute joy, for others it’s a more difficult time of year. I understand both sentiments—as I have had both throughout the years.

No matter where you are this time of year, or how you feel about it, I have a hope-filled message for you.

Right from Jesus’ birth, we see how God likes to surprise. He doesn’t choose the richest woman in the land to give birth to Jesus, but instead one of the impoverished. The angel Gabriel says to Mary:

“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you. … Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in the womb and will give birth to a son, and you will call his name Jesus. This one will be great, and he will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. … The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore also the one to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Luke 1:28–38 LEB).

Mary’s ultimate reply, after learning that she, a virgin, will conceive miraculously: “Behold, the Lord’s female slave! May it happen to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38 LEB).

Mary speaks truth. These are words each of us need to hear today: May we act according to God’s will, so attached to him that it resembles a slave following his or her master. May God’s will happen according to his word.

But these are not just contemplative words—they are words of gratitude and joy. Although Mary may be feeling perplexed, she is in wonderment. She sees that great and wonderful things are coming (Luke 1:29, 34). And even when we are perplexed, we should look to God in wonderment too—knowing that he will do great and mighty things.

Christmas is meant to remind us of the great and wonderful things coming our way. We are meant to celebrate the occasion with pure joy. We should contemplate both what God did by becoming flesh—forever marrying humanity to himself—but also how he chose to become flesh.

God could have chosen a rich young woman or a queen. He could have chosen to be born into wealth and power. But that’s not what God chose. God chose a humble and honorable woman. He chose someone from poverty, who had no power at all.

And in this act, and so many others in Jesus’ life, we see that this is really what the Christian journey is about: a walk with God, in humility, grace, and love.

Christmas reminds us of all this. But Christmas also reminds us of Mary’s words about Jesus:

“My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced greatly in God my Savior, because he has looked upon the humble state of his female slave, for behold, from now on all generations will consider me blessed, because the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for generation after generation to those who fear him. He has done a mighty deed with his arm; he has dispersed the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted the lowly. He has filled those who are hungry with good things, and those who are rich he has sent away empty-handed. He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, just as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever” (Luke 1:46–56 LEB).

This is what God does. This is who God is. This is what God is about.

May you be filled with joy today. May the power of the living Christ transform you and work through you. May you realize who God really is, and act according to his ways—lifting up the lowly and feeding the hungry.

For two days only, get 10% or more off fair trade Christmas products. The sale ends at the end of the day on Friday, December 19.

 

 

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