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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
On today's Live Your Belief Podcast, Kalene Barry, Chief Projects Officer for Jesus' Economy talks with Victor Momoh, founder of the Sierra Leone branch of Global Missions Africa. His ministry goal is to bring the truth of Jesus to a predominantly Muslim nation and to unleash Africa's potential through the work of the Gospel. Find out how Victor and his team are doing this work. Let the Spirit bless you through their story. Listen below.
Global Missions Africa wants to ensure that Africa is for Jesus. Their pan-African missional efforts aim to reclaim Africa as an inheritance of God's purpose until the Word reaches every nation on the continent. They are currently working in Sierra Leone, Ghana, South Africa, and Madagascar -- ministering the Word, planting churches, training pastors, meeting basic needs, and providing entrepreneurship opportunities. To find out how you can support this great effort, write to Victor at globalmissionsafricasierraleone[at]gmail[dot]com.
Or by mail, write to:
Global Missions Africa, Sierra Leone
7 New Signal Hill Road, Congo Cross
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On today's Live Your Beliefs Podcast, Kalene talks with Hayley Donor (Development and Communications Associate) and Brittany Barb (Sales and Branding Associate) of Indego Africa, a non-profit dedicated to women's empowerment in Rwanda.
Indego Africa is a New York and Rwanda based non-profit whose mission is to break intergenerational cycles of poverty by providing female artisans with the tools and support to reclaim their own futures, flourish as independent business women, and drive development in their communities.
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Anite, pictured below with her daughter, is the creator of the daisy clips and other daisy art. Through the sale of her daisies, Anite has been able to add new concrete construction [pictured] onto their thatch house. The new construction is taller, which is better for the flood season, and features a brand new bathroom. Without Anite's hard work and your support, this would not have been possible for her family.
Ginny contributes her talents to the group of women who make earrings in Jubilee. Through the profits from the sale of the earrings, she and her husband [pictured below with their youngest child] have been able to build a new home. Their home [pictured] is about five times the size of the tin home they used to have and is made of concrete, as opposed to mud or scraps of tin.
2nd Story Goods is making a difference in Jubilee. Jesus' Economy is proud to partner with them to accomplish this work. Find out more about 2nd Story Goods and shop online to support more artisans in Jubilee.
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When we engage the Bible, we engage the world. When we engage the world, we engage poverty, both spiritual and physical poverty.
Using Scripture and stories from my life, including one from Bihar, India, in this message I explain why Bible engagement is a critical part of transforming our world and what that engagement really means for each of us.
This message was recorded at Biblica's chapel in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Biblica is committed to making God's Word accessible to people around the world and helping them engage it. They translate and distribute Bibles. It is a beautiful vision. I am proud to be a friend of Biblica's. I pray that their example may inspire all of us to do more to engage the Bible and our world.
Engage the Bible. Engage poverty by alleviating it. Be empowered today.
Helping the impoverished is difficult, and for many, it's frightening. But I have some solutions for you.
In this talk, I tell you what I have learned about helping the impoverished and how Jesus approached poverty, sharing several real life stories. I also share about the miracles that Jesus has performed in my life.
I delivered this talk at Latin American Bible Institute in San Antonio, Texas (on Thursday, February 27, 2014) to an incredible group of young disciples of Jesus. Through the students and faculty at Latin American Bible Institute, I believe that God will make an incredible impact on the world, and I hope we all learn to have faith like them.
I regularly speak at events, and may even be in your area soon. You can reach me at email@example.com or learn more here.