Tuesday, December 22, 2009

presents that keep on giving

I’m not really one to follow big name US Christian speakers and their blogs. Google Reader doesn’t follow any of their feeds. (I’m not putting Pete Rollins in that category quite yet!)

Ever since the cotton wool up one nostril and down the other icebreaker at a MAD weekend, I’ve been a little more dubious of the Americal influence. (In fact, truth be told, people posting status updates with the wise words of US pastors is practically justification for being un-friended on Facebook, or un-followed on Twitter.)

Marko's family mugshot

But Mark Oestreicher’s blog has caught my attention as he adjusts to no longer heading up Youth Specialties and figures out what he’ll do next. I’ve been surprised by his frankness and honesty – an absence of the bravado that I’d half expected.

Anyway, this isn’t meant to be a review of Marko or a critique of his blog and the complete absence of capital letters in an ongoing tribute to e. e. cummings. Before going out of town for the holidays, his family “did” Christmas early. Two observations tickled me.

[my wife] is always grabbing a blanket to cuddle in while watching tv or reading a book. so one of the gifts i got for her was a snuggie. i wrote “for my snuggler” on the outside of the wrapping paper. when she saw it, the night before opening it, she said, “ha! that makes me think it’s one of those stupid snuggie things!” i seriously had to suppress laughter, knowing how completely awesome it was going to be when she opened it!

Always best not to second guess what’s in the wrapping paper and make snarky comments.

But his final point was brilliant.

my favorite gift we gave our kids was $50 kiva gift cards. as part of our adventure game, i brought my laptop to a local coffee house where we were having breakfast; then we gave them the gift certs, and they had to go online and figure out what they were and how to use them. liesl invested in a beauty salon in jinja, uganda; and max invested in a store in ecuador.

I’ve given people ducks and goats for Christmas in the past. This year a few family members – look away now if you think it’s you – will be getting stuff from the Fairtrade shop in Spires. But even better, give something that allows the recipient to in turn pass it on.

Kiva logo

Kiva is a non-profit organisations that allows people to lend money to small businesses in developing countries around the world through micro-financing schemes. (I've talked about micro-financing at least once before on the blog.)

Browsing through the kiva.org website, lenders choose entrepreneurs to fund, and all the little offers of loans are aggregated together to allow a local partner to distribute the money to the small business. As loans are repayed, lenders can either withdraw their money or lend it out again. Lenders transfer their money in through PayPal who – for once – don’t collect their usual fees.

This Christmas, Mark and his wife Jeannie gave their 15 and 11 year old children a present that reminded them about generosity, stewardship and using their material goods to encourage and empower others. Not a bad gift.

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