Christmas giving

Tonight we went out with Marta and Andy: great Italian food, a serendipitous meeting with Wendy Clark Goodwin (who invited us to a concert she was giving at Borders…you can hear them yourself at NFC Dec. 17)…but most of all, outstanding conversation.

Marta and Andy, over the last couple of years, have felt God’s leading to make a difference in the world. They’ve visited Thailand and made amazing connections with Remember Nhu and International Justice Mission. Those stories will have to wait for another time. Tonight, we talked about Jesus and justice and Christmas. There’s a church in Portland called Imago Dei, and they’ve come up with a great idea for changing Christmas patterns; Marta’s blogged about it here, here, and here.

The basic idea is, spend less on gifts to everyone; make your gifts more relational; and give what you saved to important projects that make a difference in your community and the world. I’m starting to work on a list of links of places I’d like to encourage NFC’s folks to give to. But in the meantime, I want to make a plug again for Kiva…which really seems to be taking off.

Kiva is a vehicle by which you can loan money (in as little as $25 increments) to specific individuals around the world who have been pre-screened. These individuals are starting businesses to break the cycle of poverty; Kiva’s website has a web page for each person that tells about their business and what they will use the loan for. You loan through Paypal; they pay it back (usually within a year); and you’ve made a capital shift from the richest place in the world to one of the poorest through a microloan. You can take the money out after it’s paid back, or you can re-loan it to someone else. Instead of earning a few cents of interest on $25 in your checking account, you can make a difference in someone’s life. We’ve got pictures of those we’ve lent to on our fridge, and I pray for them like many who sponsor children around the world.

So we’re doing some of our Christmas giving this year through Kiva (mom and dad, block the last sentence out of your memories). Maybe you want to give a gift like this, also. Buy a gift certificate on the Kiva website, and give it to someone. They choose to whom they will loan the money, they can follow their progress, and in 6 to 18 months, the person you give to will have cash from a paid back loan if they want it. So you’re giving an actual gift; it’s just a little delayed. And chances are, some if not all of them will just choose to re-loan the money, and then we’re multiplying the effect of those dollars.

It’s simple, a great idea, and it really makes a difference. Thanks to Peggy Parsons, who first tipped me off to Kiva almost a year ago. You can find answers to all your questions on Kiva’s great website, and you can see our lender page here. (And I’ve got an idea brewing for another connection with Kiva. Stay tuned!)

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