Gifts That Give Back

Here’s a post I wrote for the website that I manage at work, God’s Word in Action

Are you still looking for the perfect gift for someone on your list this Christmas?

Do you always get Dad a tie & want to do something a little different this year?

How about getting a gift that gives back?

That’s where this handy list comes in. Ties get stuck in a closet, fruitcakes sit uneaten, and the latest gadget will soon be replaced with something newer. This year, consider purchasing items that will really make a difference in someone’s life. Many organizations will let you donate to fulfill a specific need (buy a goat, provide job training for women, etc) and provide you with a lovely card to present to your recipient letting them know that you’ve done this in their honor. There are also items like jewelry and coffee that you can purchase to give to your loved one knowing that the proceeds go to a wonderful cause as well.

So what are you waiting for? Check out the list of great ideas below & get shopping!

World Vision

What do you buy for the person who already has everything? World Vision’s Christmas gift catalog offers many ways to give a gift in honor of a loved one while helping someone around the world.

Here are some needs that you can help fill:

  • A backpack & school supplies for a child ($22)
  • 2 chickens for a family in need ($25)
  • Seeds, tools, & training in Africa ($30)
  • Feed a family in the US for 3 days ($48)
  • A small business loan for a woman ($100)

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. Click HERE to flip through their gift catalog.

International Justice Mission

IJM seeks to make public justice systems work for victims of abuse and oppression who urgently need the protection of the law. IJM fights injustice around the world, focusing efforts on rescuing slaves, victims of sex trafficking, and more. In all of its casework, IJM has a four-fold purpose: victim relief, perpetrator accountability, victim aftercare, and structural transformation.

Their “Gifts of Freedom” catalog allows you to join them in helping secure justice for victims around the world.

Some donations options include providing a bicycle for a former slave, aftercare help for a trafficking survivor, desperately needed medical care, funding to equip investigators, etc. Click HERE to explore the options.

Blood:Water Mission

Blood:Water Mission is a grassroots organization that empowers communities to work together against the HIV/AIDS and water crisis.

For their current Christmas campaign, you can buy a bag of cement in someone’s name. It’s usually not at the top of a Christmas list, but in sub-Saharan Africa, it’s a generous gift. Cement is the main component of most water and sanitation projects. In many of communities, it’s also one of the most expensive pieces of these projects. Although not glamorous, this gift will help transform lives for our neighbors in Africa. Each bag is $25 & for a limited time when you buy 2 bags, a 3rd bag will be donated free. Click HERE for more info.

31 Bits

What female on your list doesn’t love jewelry? Now you can buy some beautiful jewelry to give as a gift and know that it is helping women in Uganda too. 31 Bits is a socially minded business designed to give internally displaced women in Northern Uganda an opportunity to counter poverty. By giving women access to the international market, they are able to earn an instant income, providing homes, food, and education for their families. Their program equips women by providing literacy education, financial and vocational training, holistic care, and strong support systems, empowering individuals to further their careers and attain social equity.

And their jewelry is rather fabulous! Check out the collection HERE.

Project 7

Project 7 is a cause-related company that makes every day consumer goods, like bio-bottled water, gum, mints and coffee. They aren’t asking you to buy more stuff, just change the products that you already buy. For every purchase of a Project 7 product, some good is done in seven areas of need – Feed the Hungry, Heal the Sick, Hope for Peace, House the Homeless, Quench the Thirsty, Teach them Well and Save the Earth.

Their items make excellent stocking stuffers. Check out their online store for coffee, gum, mints, and more HERE.

Are you giving any gifts that give back this year? Have any other great organizations or websites to share?

Join the Fight Against Hunger – Famine No More

Fact: In the next 12 seconds, another hungry child will die.

In the Horn of Africa, hunger is stalking 12.4 million people, with 35% of all children in the region now facing emergency levels of malnutrition. Families are walking for weeks in search of food and water, often finding none.

The word “famine” isn’t used lightly. An official famine has 3 indicators: 30% or higher acute malnutrition rate in the area, at least 2 deaths per 10,000 people, and at least 20% of households facing extreme hunger. That’s why the famine in the Horn of Africa deserves our attention and help right now. It isn’t expected to end any time soon and supplies are running desperately low, but we CAN help.

Today I’m joining my friends at World Vision and saying that we can’t tolerate these conditions any more. The question they’re asking is:

What one thing can we give up in order to make a simple $10 donation to help save lives?

The truth is, I have a very comfortable life. I have never truly experienced hunger. I have never wondered where my next meal is coming from. I have never had anything other than an abundance of clothes & shoes to choose from each day. We tithe, we sponsor a child, and we give to our favorite charities but the truth is I have never really even given sacrificially – given until it really hurts.

By American standards, we are very, very average. Nowhere near what I would call rich. I look around at friends & family and sometimes struggle with comparing ourselves to others. But in reality, we are all much more privileged than we realize. If you make over $34,000, you are among the world’s 5% richest people. Let that sink in for a moment…

And I do truly believe that we are blessed so that we can be a blessing to others.

So really, at the end of the day I would never notice a $10 donation. And that’s why last week we decided to give much more than that. And really, we still won’t notice it missing from our account, but it will make a significant difference in the life of someone who really needs it.

What can your donation do? For the price of your favorite Starbucks drink (USD$4) you can feed a family of 6 in the Horn of Africa for a day!

Head over to the World Vision Blog where Joy Bennett has asked this question (What would you give up)?

Learn more & make your donation to World Vision at or text “FAMINE” to “20222″ to donate $10.

Controversial Generosity

My wonderful roommate, Marianne, & I at the Child Ambassador's Conference

I just spent a fabulous weekend at a conference for World Vision Child Ambassadors (of which I am one). We are volunteers who aim to talk to others about World Vision’s child sponsorship program.

It was a wonderful weekend of refreshment and encouragement for me in my ministry of finding sponsors to change the life of children in need.

  • We worshipped together
  • We watched some incredibly touching videos
  • We heard from amazingly inspirational speakers like Max Lucado & Marilee Pierce Dunker (daughter of World Vision founder Bob Pierce)
  • We learned more about the history of World Vision (started in 1950) and the nuances of how some of the different programs work
  • We got down to some nitty-gritty statistics and logistics (half of the world’s population – 3 billion people – live on less than $2 a day)
  • We got some great new ideas and set some goals
  • We were able to meet and bond with other Child Ambassadors from around the country

More of what I heard and learned this weekend may come out in some future posts, but one of the highlights for me was what Max Lucado spoke to us about. I have heard him speak numerous other times, but this time, he told us that he had taken what he was going to speak about and chucked it out the window, feeling that the Holy Spirit was leading him to share with us a message that he’d be sharing with his church in the near future. It was essentially a sneak peak of a brand new sermon from Max Lucado.

“Un-Scrooge Your Heart”

We all struggle with fighting off the threat of stinginess from taking over. “We ought to give… but don’t give too much.” “Serve others with our time, but we don’t really have that much time.” “Forgive, but not all at once”…

But our God is controversially generous. He has fun doing good. He has never been about stinginess or holding back or giving simply what is sufficient. (See Romans 2:4, 1 Timothy 1:14, 2 Corinthians 9:15, 1 John 3:1, James 1:5, Psalm 107:9, Psalm 23, Luke 6:35…)

God lavishes generous amounts of grace on us every day of our lives. And “grace is the seed out of which the tree of generosity grows.” It only makes sense that since we have received so much grace and generosity, we must bubble over to others. We must give because we first received. We must heed the call to live a life of controversial generosity.

That is a taste of what he talked about. And then, at the end, Max asked us:

How long has it been since you gave a gift that was controversial? (of stuff, money, time, etc)

Does this convict anybody else like it convicts me? I’m not even sure I can think of one good example, sadly.

How long has it been since you gave a gift that was controversial?

Blog Action Day: We’re Talking About Water

Today, over 4,000 bloggers from 130+ countries have signed up to spark a global discussion on a very important global issue – water. It’s called Blog Action Day. (Read more about it here & find other bloggers talking about it.)

Fast Facts

  • Over 1.1 billion people are without access to safe drinking water.
  • Every 21 seconds, a child dies from a water-related illness.
  • About 4,500 children die each day from unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation facilities.
  • On average, women and girls in developing countries walk 6 kilometers a day, carrying 20 liters of water, greatly reducing the time they have for other productive work or for girls to attend school.
  • When a community gains access to clean water, its child mortality rate drops by half.
(Sources: World Vision, 2010 and UNICEF Children and water: global statistics, 2006)

What About Me?

  • The average American uses 100+ gallons of water per day
  • Millions of the world’s poorest subsist on fewer than 5 gallons per day
  • It takes 53 gallons to make every latte
  • The average faucet uses about 4 gallons of water per minute (brushing your teeth with it running uses about 8-12 gallons of water)
  • In the US we each drink an average of 200 bottles of water per year (17 million barrels of oil are needed to produce all the plastic water bottles we use in the U.S. each year — and, shockingly, 86 percent of them will never be recycled).

Clean water is definitely something we take for granted. Most of the time we don’t even notice how much we use. This is something we must become more aware of and we must work together to do something about.

And it is easy. Continue reading

More on Child Sponsorship – Writing Letters

This is the letter, translated letter, and drawing we got from Mayra, our sponsored child through World Vision.

We sponsor a child through World Vision. Her name is Mayra and she lives in Guatemala. She is so precious. We’ve been sponsoring her for a year now. One of the highlights of sponsorship is writing to and receiving letters from your child. Many sponsors don’t take the opportunity to do this and it’s really unfortunate. The letter writing process is one of the ways to make it really personal. She’s not just a name & a photo. We are getting to know her on a personal level, and she is getting to know us.

I came home today after work and found one of those World Vision envelopes in our mailbox. It was as exciting as opening a Christmas card or something! I love when letters from her come, and I know she probably feels the same way to get one from us.

She is young (only in the 2nd grade), so she is currently not actually writing the letters, but someone in the community writes them on her behalf – either a staff member, or last time it was her brother. But with almost every letter she draws a picture for us and sends that along. We put them on our fridge!

Sometimes we also send little flat items along. In the last letter it said that she loved the stickers we sent her and that she was going to hang them up in her house “to remember us always”. In this letter it talks about the photo of us that we sent and it says she is going to keep it in a very special place.

Other great ideas of flat things you can send (it just has to be able to fit in a 6×9 envelope): stickers, photos, paper dolls, coloring pages & colored pencils (crayons can melt), hair bands, bracelets, kids’ waterproof bandages, baseball cards…

If you are a sponsor, I would highly encourage you to make sure you’re sending letters regularly to your child. It makes a world of difference and they treasure each and every one. It’s a great way to stay connected and be able to share bits of life with each other.

If you’d like to know more about sponsoring a child, go here.

Sponsor a Child Today & Help Change a Life

26,000 children die every day due to preventable causes. 26,000? Really? That is really hard to wrap my mind around.

Some other alarming statistics:

  • Every five seconds a child dies to hunger.
  • Every fifteen seconds a child dies due to a water related disease.
  • 15 million children have been orphaned due to the HIV/AIDS crisis.
  • Every other child that is born is born into poverty. (UNICEF State of the World’s Children Report)

These are heart-wrenching facts.

The good news is that we have the opportunity to help…

I recently felt called to become a volunteer Child Ambassador for World Vision, which means that I am seeking out opportunities to share their child sponsorship program with people and get children sponsored. Growing up my parents sponsored a child through Compassion. They wrote the checks and I wrote the letters to the girl. Now, as an adult, Cason & I have been sponsoring a girl in Guatemala since May and it has been a wonderful experience. I know that we are helping provide her with opportunities that she may not otherwise get. Just last week, we got a letter, written on her behalf from her brother. Part of it said that she was going to hang the stickers we sent her in the house so she could remember us always. It was really sweet. I admit that I don’t remember to pray for her as often as I should. It was a good reminder that we need to be doing that. Anyway…

Why Are We Called to Help?

Continue reading

Everyone Can Do Something…

It didn’t take much, but it made a difference to one family.

It started with one phone call last week describing the need. Then it was one email to a group of friends asking for help. In a matter of a few days, we had a handful of giftcards to Kroger to help provide a refugee family with food, when they had none.

It required a very small contribution from each couple. Literally something we’d never even notice was gone. But once added up, for that one family that had no food, it was significant.

I get very sad when I hear people say that they can’t make a difference, that they have nothing to contribute. There is always something you can do. It doesn’t always have to be a trip to a third world country or a major monetary donation. All it requires is to remain aware of your surroundings, to remain receptive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and then to respond in obedience and out of love for fellow human beings. Something that seems really small to you can mean the world to someone else. It can mean one more meal when they have none.