Alternative Christmas
Christian ministries take gift-giving into a whole new realm

by Lori Arnold

As the nation’s poor economic recovery continues to squeeze American households, many families have re-evaluated their Christmas gift-giving priorities. In recent years, the popularity of alternative gifts has escalated, and many Christian ministries have responded by offering online catalogs for gifting.

We’re intrigued not only by the creativity of the gifts—tilapia ponds, supplying a marching band, Gift Ark, artwork, public pay-phones, a Gift of Peace on Earth—but also how they will improve the lives of people living and serving in impoverished lands. Here are a few samples.

Gospel for Asia
Gospel for Asia is an organization that specializes in indigenous missionaries, training local Christians who have been called into the ministry and sending them back into their communities to start churches. Their schools also give poor children the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty in their neighborhoods.

Gospel for Asia’s gift catalog includes a wide variety of items to improve home life or support occupational needs. Gifts range in price from $10 for mosquito nets to help prevent malaria to $220 for tin panels to strengthen and insulate a home’s exterior.

Other options include blankets, BioSand water filters, sewing and embroidery machines, adult tricycles for the disabled, fishing nets, paddy threshing machines, pull carts, pay telephones, rickshaws, solar powered LED lights for the home, work tools, weaving looms, fertilizer spray pumps and outdoor toilets.

Personal development gifts include $25 for the women’s literacy fund, $35 for child sponsorships and $30 for vocational training.

Jesus Wells benefit an entire community and are located near a church or Bible college to foster sharing of the gospel. Each well is $1,000.

In addition to purchasing gifts for the nationals, the Texas-based ministry also offers a gift guide for its missionaries.

Ministry resources include $25 for a lantern, $375 for a mobile public address system, $1,750 for a digital LCD projector kit and $1,800 for generators for film teams.

Transportation options for missionaries include bicycles for $110, motorcycles for $1,200 and heavy-duty vehicles at $17,000.

For their personal needs a winter clothing packet is $40, while an ongoing gift to sponsor a national missionary is $30 a month.


Heifer International
Heifer International, founded in 1944 as a nonprofit, humanitarian organization that is dedicated to ending hunger and poverty, caring for the earth, providing livestock, trees and seeds and training in environmentally sound agriculture to families in more than 50 countries. Over the years, the agency has helped more than 12 million families.

Their catalog offers livestock and animal options, including heifers, sheep, llamas, goats, pigs, honeybees, water buffalo, fish, a trio of rabbits and flocks of chicks, ducks and geese. Livestock prices range from $10 to $500.

Other items offered include trees, $10 to $60; gift of clean water, $300; send a girl to school, $275; biogas stoves, $50 to $1,000; launch a small business $365; and irrigation pumps, $150.

Specialty gifts include the $5,000 Gift Ark, which provides two of every Heifer animal: oxen, donkeys, water buffalo, cows, sheep and goats, bees, chicks, rabbits and others.

The Gift of Women's Empowerment, for $10,000, provides Heifer training and assistance so that mothers will be able to work and become self-sufficient. The gift allows them to send their children to school, pay medical bills and give themselves a way out of hunger and poverty.

The $725 Basic Necessities Basket provides clean water, improved shelter, food and income, while the Dream Basket provides shares of a sheep, heifer, goat, rabbits, and a flock of chicks for $120. The animals give families milk for nutrition and a source of income. The additional income is then used for school supplies, medicine and doctor expenses, and improved quality of living.

Finally, the Gift of Peace on Earth supports Heifer projects in places like Rwanda, Uganda and Cambodia, where families urgently need opportunities to build peaceful livelihoods. For $850 the gift includes livestock and training and microloans that can quickly jumpstart a local economy and encourage families to work together with their neighbors toward a peaceful future.


Project 7
Project 7, named for its seven distinct initiatives—feed the hungry, heal the sick, hope for peace, house the homeless, quench the thirsty, teach them well and save the earth—offers coffee and other products to benefit numerous Christian-based charities including four with Southern California ties: Restore International, the Children’s Hunger Fund, Invisible Children and Plant with Purpose. National ministries using Project 7 include Samaritan’s Purse and World Vision.

The coffee is available in nine-ounce bags for $9.95,12-ounce canisters and an 18-count case of 2.5-ounce fraction packs for $40. A six-month coffee of the month program is available for $40.

Other products on the website include clothing, accessories, sugar-free gum and mints and bottled water.


Joni and Friends
Joni and Friends, an international ministry to the disabled, operates an online store which benefits its ministry programs.

The store sells books, devotionals, Bible studies, church training materials and gifts.

Unique to the site is artwork by ministry founder Joni Eareckson Tada, who paints using her teeth. Several of her signed and numbered limited edition prints—Tulips, The Rose, Heaven Your Real Home and The Run are available from $100 to $250, while smaller framed prints sell for $12 to $15.

Christmas Cards, in sets of 15 and boasting Tada’s art, are $10, as are note cards. A daily planner is $15. Various jewelry items are listed for $6 to $15.


Food for the Poor
Finally, Food for the Poor is the nation’s largest international relief and development organization in the nation, with more than 96 percent of all donations going directly toward programs for the needy. Through its work in 17 Latin American and Caribbean countries, Food for the Poor focuses on offering programs to offset issues leading to poverty, including clean drinking water, deforestation, disaster relief, education, feeding centers, fishing villages, garbage dumps, HIV/AIDS, housing, medical centers, micro-enterprise, orphanages, starvation and hunger, tilapia fish farms and waterborne illness.          

Food gifts offered in its catalog include a fruit tree for a family, $10; feed a family for a month, $14.60; 100 pounds of rice and beans, $24; feed a child for a year, $43.80; two 100-quart coolers to store catches, $100; and 1,000 pounds of rice and beans, $240.

Education needs can be met with a school desk, $12.50; school supplies for a child for a year, $20; share of a computer, $25; provide one computer workstation, $100; and send a child to school for one year $150.

Livestock options include 20 chicks to provide eggs, $25; a goat to give milk, $90; three piglets for a family, $100; 100 chicks for poor families $125; a donkey for transportation $150; a cow for a family, $600; set of farm animals to start a farm $1,895.

Enterprise items include a sewing machine, fabric and thread, $114; a water pump for a thirsty village, $205; and a six-station computer system, $600. 

Large ticket items include an outboard engine $3,000, fiberglass boat, $5,750; tilapia pond, $8,450; tractor-trailer full of food, $10,560; water purification system, $25,250; and build a school, $70,000.


Published, November 2012

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