Gift giving itself isn’t the challenge at Christmas for many Christians. The challenge is that much gift-giving has become so self-centered, so materialistic and we suspect so useless, as most of us have more than we could ever need and know that many gifts are simply tossed or exchanged. Yet, we want to give. One solution might be to give from the many extraordinary resources from around the world that the web makes easily available to us. Rather than supporting a faceless corporation, gift purchases from these groups not only provide wonderful gifts (the quality and selection is astounding), but they directly provide a livelihood to individuals and community development. Below we have highlighted some of our favorites: TEN THOUSAND VILLAGES One of the oldest and largest of the free trade ministries offers a huge selection of all kinds of gift items from beauty care to toys to decorative items and jewelry. They have a unique selection of Christmas ornaments; two favorites include a red glass firebird ornament and a tiny nativity scene nestled in a flower. JESUS ECONOMY Jesus Economy creates jobs, plants churches and meets needs in the developing world. They fund their efforts through donations and the fair trade store. They’re dedicated to holistic community development. In addition to Christmas ornaments, the site features attractive jewelry, scarves, and decorative items. One favorite is the “Give a hoot” pillow, which is not only a fun decorative piece but also a conversation-starter to introduce people to fair trade nonprofit ministries. GLOBAL HANDMADE HOPE There is a large selection of beautiful items, many of the metal decorative pieces are equal to the ones in high-end design shops. Tasteful pottery, adorable knit angel and animal ornaments, plus lots of jewelry and accessories and so much more fill the site. THE FAIR TRADE FEDERATION Dozens and dozens of shops of certified fair trade organizations. Not all are Christian, but all are doing commendable work. Browse through for all your Christmas shopping in an immense list of items. One that caught my eye is JusTea, a delightful fair trade tea company. GIFT ALTERNATIVES FOR KIDS: Here’s an idea you might want to try with your kids: go online to one of the organizations (such as World Vision) listed below and print out gift items along with the prices and stories that go with them. At gift exchange time, give the kids an amount of money, a selection of the stories and pictures. They choose what to buy, what programs to support, what countries to give to. It’s fascinating to watch how they decide, how they discuss priorities and how they make the most of their money. At the end of the process, they are both excited about what they give to and conscious of the many needs yet unmet. Then go to the computer, enter in all the gifts and they get a thank-you card from the organization for their donation. WORLD VISION Lots of options in all price ranges from soccer balls to shares of building a well, school supplies to sewing machines. THE HEIFER PROJECT One of the oldest surrogate-giving sites, The Heifer Project, began with the idea that you could give a cow or a share of a cow. This has expanded to numerous programs that they describe in this way: “The core of our model is Passing on the Gift. This means families share the training they receive and pass on the first female offspring of their livestock to another family. This extends the impact of the original gift, allowing a once impoverished family to become donors and full participants in improving their communities.” HOPE INTERNATIONAL This group primarily provides micro-financing to help people in poverty start their businesses. This site is recommended as a giving project for older students with the same idea: Give them an amount of money and then have them decide what businesses to fund. COMPASSION INTERNATIONAL Releasing Children from Poverty in Jesus’ Name. Sponsor a child for a little more than $1 a day. Give a chicken or a goat to a family in need for Christmas. Compassion educates children, teaches them the Gospel, offers health-care and food and then gives all of the credit to the church in the local village. Shelby Systems has teamed up with Ministry Brands and Compassion International to help build a child development center in El Salvador. Read more about this Global Mission Initiative. Source: Ministry Tech Shelby Systems has decades of experience working with ministries of all sizes, for more creative ideas and suggestions contact your Shelby Sales Consultant today!