Are you looking for some beautiful and unique home décor? Azizi Life, a new partner of Jesus’ Economy, is a fair trade organization that sells vibrant products inspired by Rwandan tradition. Each of their products is handmade using natural resources such as locally-sourced Jacaranda wood, tea dyes, and forest grasses. These home goods are not only practical and environmentally conscious, but they are also fairly traded, and their purchase ensures support for the artisans who made them. Each piece is carefully crafted and gorgeous, while also being a great conversation piece to add to your home.
Here are some of the stunning products created by artisans with Azizi Life.
These nesting trays, made from the locally-gathered leaves and stalks of banana trees, are ideal for serving, decorating, and organizing. They come in sets of three, with either a natural or a chevron pattern interior, and are perfect for a variety of uses. Use the medium tray to keep fresh cookies warm (it fits a 9”x13” baking pan!), or to display towels in the guest room. The three trays fit inside each other for great storage, too.
Each one carved from a single piece of wood, these bookends truly are functional art. What a great way to add style and organization to your bookshelf or to showcase your favorite books. These are made from Jacaranda trees, a tree that grows quickly, and even grows back after being cut, making it a renewable resource.
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 to hold your keys, or place a large basket on your dining room table and fill it with fruit. Each basket has a loop on the back for easy hanging, and would look fabulous on your living room wall. When your guests ask about it, you can tell them the story about where it came from and how you positively impacted a community in Rwanda.
Available in nine eye-popping colors and two different sizes, these earrings are sure to be a perfect addition to your wardrobe. They are created with all-natural sisal fibers and woven with an age-old basket weaving technique. The hoops are then attached to hypoallergenic earring hooks for your comfort. Pick a color to match your favorite sweater, or select a more basic white or black to accent your dress for a night out.
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, 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!
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.
Shopping fair trade is an amazing way to provide for the things you need while supporting the needs of others around the world.
Azizi Life, a new partner of Jesus’ Economy, represents over 400 artisans in Rwanda. Azizi Life is dedicated to working with artisans who receive fair wages for their labor, and because of this, the lives of the artisans are greatly improving. The income they receive helps them maintain their businesses, and also provide for the basic needs of themselves and their families. This means that, unlike before, they have access to medical insurance, school materials for their children, soap and cleaning products, healthier foods for a more balanced diet, farm animals, and financial independence.
Azizi Life represents 25 independent artisan groups. As artisans with Azizi Life work to provide for their families, they help improve their Rwandan communities. They are working toward a more hopeful future for themselves, their children, and entire communities.
Azizi Life operates with Christian integrity, and strives to show God’s love and truth to people through their business. Most of the artisans who work with them are Christians, and the encouraging fellowship among them has led to friendship and spiritual growth.
Many of the artisan partners of Azizi Life have experienced great sorrow and need. But they, like Azizi Life, are excited for positive change as they fight against poverty, develop themselves, and provide better lives for their children. They are incredibly strong, hopeful, and ready to make the world better.
Shopping fair trade is a responsible way to buy things you need and support artisans all around the world. Shop fair trade and change lives today.
As we remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. today, I am reminded of his statement:
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Here's its original context, its origins, and what Dr. King would say to us today.
At the core of this statement, you can hear the prophetic voice. Let us remember that Dr. King also had another title—Reverend. He was a preacher.
In King's time, as in ours, many people looked at the injustices and simply ignored them or demeaned them. But for a person living in a country that treats them unjustly, these issues are not something that can be ignored. It’s only convenient to ignore injustices until those same injustices inconvenience you. King regularly pointed this out and mobilized people for action.
Dr. King said the famous, "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" in his work from Birmingham Jail, where he was imprisoned for advocating for equal rights of African Americans.
The context should remind us that this phrase cannot be a platitude; it must be lived. It means so much because of who said it and from the context in which it was said.
And it is injustice that we see today—all over our planet. The racial and economic inequality King was fighting against still exists today. So let us not just remember, but act. We have made progress but we must keep moving forward.
Near the end of his life, King was working to bring equality by creating jobs. And yet, so much of the world still lacks jobs, because we haven’t completed the task. This is injustice.
We look around the world and we also see those who are oppressed—who lack spiritual and religious freedom, who lack knowledge of Jesus. This too is an injustice.
We look around our own country today and we still see racism. And this isn't only within our nation (against one another), but it also has to do with the worldview many people hold. Many people view those from other places as outsiders (or less than Americans). There is racism and xenophobia on the global stage. This is injustice.
We must stand up, lift up, and rise up—to fight these injustices, boldly proclaiming that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
The prophets resonate with Dr. King’s words, with lines like:
“Wash! Make yourselves clean! Remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes! Cease to do evil! Learn to do good! Seek justice! Rescue the oppressed! Defend the orphan! Plead for the widow!” (Isaiah 1:16 LEB).
“Thus says Yahweh, ‘Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been seized from the hand of the oppressor. And you must not oppress or treat violently the immigrant, the orphan, and the widow. And you must not shed innocent blood in this place’” (Jeremiah 22:3 LEB).
“Remove from me the noise of your songs, and I do not want to hear the melody of your harps! But let justice roll on like the water, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:23–24 LEB).
The Bible’s cry is justice, mercy, and love. There is no other way that aligns with God’s desire.
Much of our world's problems come out of fear. We fear acting against injustice, because of the possible ramifications. We fear those we do not understand. And fear causes us to do terrible things and to not take action when we should. We must fight fear.
Fear cannot dominate our worldview. If any of us are to call ourselves Christians, we must believe in justice for all. We must love without bounds. We must lead out of mercy. This is the Christian cry. Jesus once said:
“ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37–40 LEB).
Love means placing others before ourselves—to love God is to love others. The book of James puts it this way:
“If anyone thinks he is religious, although he does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:26–27 LEB).
Love is only truly practiced by those who can manage their own words—we must all work at this. Love also requires us to prioritize the needs of the widow, the orphan, the refugee, and the outsider. We must believe that is what is good for the entire world is also good for us, because it is.
But love does not mean simply loving those who are hurting—although that is certainly a major part of it. Jesus also once remarked:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘Hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven, because he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:43–44 LEB).
There is no us and them; we’re all simply humanity. God does not look on the world and smile upon one country over another. He loves the entire world equally. And we must do the same.
Love those you don’t understand. Love those on the other side of the aisle. Love those who protest. Love those who protest against you. Love in a way that forces you to self-examine. Love in a way that moves you out isolation and insulation. Love in a way that demands justice. Love with mercy. Simply put, truly love.
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For her birthday in 2017, Jesus' Economy volunteer, Rachel Thompson, took on an ambitious task: to raise $500, half the value of a water well in Bihar, India.
When the donations came pouring in and Rachel's campaign surpassed its goal, she went one step further. During the Christmas season of the same year, she asked friends and family to donate in order to raise the full $1,000 value of a water well, providing thousands of people with clean water. We interviewed Rachel about her campaign journey and the stories of God's faithfulness she saw along the way.
Q: Rachel, tell us a bit about yourself, your family, and your involvement with Jesus' Economy.
My husband and I both work in church ministry in Ithaca, New York. We have two beautiful young children. I've volunteered with Jesus' Economy for several years. I started out throwing house parties for products and more recently have served as the executive assistant. I enjoy being part of a driven and talented team.
Q: Why did the idea of a birthday campaign appeal to you?
There is such a disparity of wealth and resources in our world. When I think about accumulating more stuff, it just strikes me as ridiculous. Especially after moving all of that stuff recently! Fundraising through Jesus' Economy is really attractive and easy. I think people are looking for meaningful gifts to give their loved ones. I thought I could leverage that to shine some light in the world. Many of us want to help people in need, and are looking for the way to do so. While I was thrilled about the generosity of my friends and family during this campaign, I wasn't surprised. Good people are looking for ways to help others, and organizations like Jesus' Economy are offering streamlined ways to do so.
Q: Why did you choose to raise money for clean water in Bihar?
Especially since becoming a parent, I have refocused my priorities. The most important thing to me is that my family's needs are met. When my husband comes home to a peaceful sanctuary, my kids know love, they have food to eat, and a warm bed to sleep in, I can also thrive. My heart aches for parents who do not have access to basic needs like clean water for their children. I don't understand how people can be dying from water-borne illnesses in 2017. We live in such an interconnected world, and organizations like Jesus' Economy are connecting Western prosperity with third world needs. Jesus' Economy's Renew Bihar project is promoting a holistic approach to empowering the impoverished. I love that the church planters we partner with in the area will have the opportunity to share the love of Christ, the Living Water, through this well.
Q: Please share with us some stories from your campaign. How did you see God working through your efforts?
It was really beautiful to witness God inspiring the people who donated to this campaign. Donors included people from all walks of life—farmers, missionaries, teachers, nurses, stay-at-home moms, ivy league grads and PhDs, teenagers, and children. A student from our youth group made a large donation. There was one story in particular that was really special. My sweet friend and fellow pastor's wife shared the well project with her children [and invited them to participate]. She recounted the story below.
"'So you know Mrs Thompson? For her birthday sometime in the summer, she was asking people to donate money to build a well in India instead of giving her presents. She was hoping to raise money for half the well which costs $500, but she ended up raising more than that. So for Christmas, she decided to ask more people to donate money instead of giving her Christmas gifts to see if she could get enough to build a whole well. She has raised [at the time], $911. She only has $89 left to getting a full well built. You don’t have to, but would you like to give some money to help her get her well built?' James had a lot of questions about the well. We talked about how not every child has access to running water like we do. I did emphasize that giving was optional and the amount was optional. No sibling had to know what the other gave. Adam and Sophia gave generously but what touched me most was James (who is 7). He jumped up and ran upstairs for his piggy bank. He had $2 in it and he took out a dollar and gave it to me for 'Mrs Thompson’s well.'"
If you would like to start a campaign for clean water, empowering women, church planting or another aspect of the vision of Jesus' Economy to create jobs and churches in the developing world, start here.
I learned much of what I know by volunteering. I originally started volunteering because I believed in a cause, but I quickly discovered that investing in other organizations accelerated my professional growth — win-win!
In a setting where people need volunteers, you can be involved in high-profile roles very quickly. And this means you learn things that a regular career will never teach you (or at least not when you’re young). No one at a regular corporation will invite you to discuss the company’s financial situation, unless you’re an executive or in finance, but on a Board of Directors for a non-profit, this is a regular activity. And this is just one of dozens of examples that volunteer non-profit work will teach you.
When we started the non-profit Jesus’ Economy, I was serving in four different volunteer roles for four different organizations. I was a Community Relations Coordinator for a developing world non-profit; the Co-Chairman of a government appointed advisory board aimed at helping people with developmental disabilities; a Chapel Preacher, Treasurer, and Board Member for a gospel rescue mission for the homeless; and the President of a church plant. I eventually left all those roles to focus on Jesus’ Economy. But it was those experiences that taught me how to lead Jesus’ Economy.
Volunteering also led to promotions at my day (pay) job for Faithlife Corporation (makers of Logos Bible Software); my volunteer experience accelerated my professional growth, teaching me new skills that led to promotions and more responsibility. I learned most of what I know about finances and corporate organization from working with non-profits. And the experience of running a full organization with Jesus’ Economy allowed for me to literally experiment with any aspect of a company, which again made me a better leader at my day job. (If you know how to run a company, you can run a division!)
When my my wife Kalene and I decided to start Jesus’ Economy, we also decided to invent the best volunteer experience possible. I use the word invent because we literally reexamined the entire process, imagining what we would change about each of our volunteer experiences if we could. What was good? What was bad? What could have been better? We then took all the best things about our various volunteer positions — and some of our own ideas — and built the Jesus’ Economy volunteer program. (And since that time, we’ve improved it with the input of other leaders; a big contributor to the design has been Mike Freyberger, our volunteer CTO.)
The volunteer program we have in place involves three types of roles: internships, apprentices, and full volunteer staff positions. All three types of positions involve investing in the lives of those who volunteer with us. The leaders in our organization have real, authentic relationships with other volunteers who report to them; mentorship (and discipleship) is involved. We’re there for one another, teach one another, and pray for one another.
The three types of positions also give people room to explore their passions and experience the joys of promotion within our organization. It’s ultimately our vision to give full areas of responsibility and “ownership” to volunteers. And we’ve done so multiple times to great success. This means that people move up in our organization until they’re leaders of our movement, driving it forward with passion, zeal, and self-sacrifice.
Over the years, we’ve seen many people move up the ladder: from an intern, to an apprentice, to a full volunteer staff member. Full volunteer staff members run whole areas of the organization and it’s impressive to watch. Interns assist in those roles. Apprentices work side-by-side with full volunteer staff members, learning how to master a skill by working with a master. For our apprentice roles, the best analogy is the journeyman carpenter: “Come and do as I do; work alongside me.” And the intern positions are best understood as assistant roles; you will get to do important work, while being closely supervised and critiqued. (We don’t expect for you to be able to make a table yet, but we do expect you to learn to use a hammer well. And we plan on showing you how tables are built.)
For many people, their volunteer roles with Jesus’ Economy have led to a broader portfolio to present to employers; learning a new skill that garners more pay at their jobs; and expanding their network and overall skill set.
I had a great moment of joy last year when one of our apprentices (who was promoted out of our intern program) wrote a blog post about how much working with Jesus’ Economy has meant to her personally. (I didn’t review it before it went live and she had no coaching in what to write, outside of that we wanted her to share her story and invite other people to volunteer.) It was when I read that post that I knew that the program was truly working; for her, volunteering with Jesus’ Economy has given her new skills and been a true joy. And that’s what I’ve always wanted to hear.
Tell me about your volunteer program or volunteer experiences. I would love to hear from you. Also, if you would like to volunteer with Jesus’ Economy to expand your portfolio, skill set, and gain new experience, check out our volunteer opportunities here.
John Barry here, CEO of Jesus' Economy. It's that time of year: Christmas is wrapped up and you're thinking about donating once more before 2017 is over. Here are seven very good reasons to choose Jesus' Economy for year-end giving.
With Jesus' Economy, you can choose your passion and have 100% of your giving go where you designate. This means you can donate to a developing world project and 100% will go straight to the developing world, specifically for that project. Our Operations Fund is what makes all this possible. For year-end giving, consider fueling the movement of Jesus' Economy by giving to our Operations Fund.
We post all of our financials online; GuideStar gave us a Gold rating for transparency. We also connect you to the real stories of what your donations are doing in the field by posting reports from the field on our blog regularly and sending out annual reports.
We've developed technology that makes it possible for you to shop fair trade and give in the same place, in the same transaction. And that's just the beginning of the ways we're innovating to make it easy for you to empower others.
We're innovating to solve global poverty by using a new model and leveraging technology. We believe that the spiritual and physical health of a community are interwoven. That's why we create jobs, plant churches, and meet basic needs at the same time.
Currently, Jesus' Economy operates on an all-volunteer staff. You read that right. And my wife Kalene and I literally sold our house and nearly everything we own to further this movement. We will never ask you to do something we haven't done ourselves.
In Northeast India, we're bringing the gospel to unreached people groups, people who have never heard the name of Jesus before. In the same region, we're also meeting basic needs, such as clean water and literacy training. One of the most impoverished places in the world is being renewed through Jesus' love in word and deed.
Every time you give and shop with Jesus' Economy, you're being part of the solution to the problems our world is facing. You're joining a movement of people who have chosen this innovative solution and are collectively changing our world, for the better.
Jesus' Economy is nimble and innovative, resulting in a big impact per dollar. We're leveraging our interconnected world for the good of the global poor and unreached. And I want you to be a part of it.
Continuing with our "Living for Jesus This Christmas" series, here is a story of the importance of gratitude and faith this holiday season.
At this time of year, the stress levels for many are almost too much to bear. We struggle through the ups and downs of the season, as we navigate family, our budget, and our church life. It’s all too easy to become frustrated and angry, and then to lose sight of our priorities. The key to changing all this: thankfulness -- for Christ, salvation, and what we have been given.
During Christmas season, I often find myself up awake at night, wondering about all that is and all that could be. As I stare at the ceiling, I struggle with the thought that maybe I’m not living up to what God intends for me to be. And indeed, there are always areas I can improve, but much of this self-doubt is probably rooted in ungratefulness.
My wife Kalene's recent solution to some of these difficulties was to share with me a lovely song from the 1954 film, White Christmas:
“When I'm worried and I can't sleep / I count my blessings instead of sheep / And I fall asleep / Counting my blessings / When my bankroll is getting small / I think of when I had none at all / And I fall asleep / Counting my blessings / If you're worried and you can't sleep / Just count your blessings instead of sheep / And you'll fall asleep / Counting your blessings”
And isn’t this the truth? We all have the blessing of Jesus, who saves, as well as many other blessings. If only that were our focus instead!
Paul the Apostle understood this. Repeatedly, he opens his letters with words of thankfulness. For example, even when addressing the Corinthian church, who he is struggling to maintain a relationship with, he says:
“Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in all affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, thus through Christ our comfort overflows also” (2 Cor 1:3–5).
Here is Paul, in the midst of a struggle with the Corinthian church, and with some struggles of his own, showing a spirit of thankfulness. By counting his blessings, he finds a way to have joy even when things are hard.
When we really get down to it, there’s an obvious point that we all know, but that maybe we should take a second to remind ourselves of: This season is about Jesus, or at least it’s supposed to be. Breathe that in. Tell yourself that everyday. Remember what Jesus did for us, and be thankful for it. It will change everything.
And then, take a moment to remind yourself how the one who gave it all calls us to give it all for the betterment of our world.
When we give, our thought patterns change -- and our general attitude about life changes. We find ourselves realizing what God can do through our lives and then we find ourselves grateful for it.
Jesus can do so much through your life, and wants to do so much. Give over more of your life to him this year. Let him work through you in this season, to show love to others with a generous and grateful spirit. Work with Christ to transform lives and our world.
This article was previously published under the title, "Reclaim a Spirit of Gratitude this Christmas Season."
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The Jesus' Economy Gift Card can be used in our Fair Trade Shop or be applied to a cause, such as church planting, empowering women, or clean water. This is the perfect gift card for that family member or friend who cares deeply about our world and its people. The Jesus' Economy Gift Card is the perfect last-minute gift.
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