by Corbyn Small
[Ed. note: This article is part of our weekly series of church activities, called Cultivating Community, published on Thursdays.]
This is it, the time of year we’ve all been waiting for: the holiday season! It’s a time to gather with family, enjoy seasonal music, and think about how we can give gifts that will really make someone else happy. What a wonderful concept, putting ourselves second and stopping to think about how can we bless someone else with a present that he or she will love!
Sometimes, though, we get a little too caught up in the gift-giving and the holiday spirit of department stores, new gadgets, and this year’s most stylish attire. Christmas to so many people in our culture has been reduced to materialism.
But recently, churches everywhere have been reminding us of the true meaning of Christmas. We have been hearing sermons that draw on early Christian tradition and focus on the story of Jesus’ birth, a magnificent story of divine intervention, victory over adversity, incredible faith, and overwhelming promise. Returning to this heart of Christmas helps us consider how we can best bless our loved ones at this time of year.
So, then, what do you get for the person who has everything? How can you honor the spirit of Christmas and still show your loved ones that you care? Sure, you could help dad dress smart and grab him another necktie, keep your sister’s toes warm with a new pair of comfy socks, and fatten up your college-aged nephew with another restaurant gift certificate.
But what if we asked a different question: What can I get for the person who seems to have little?
It is possible to give gifts that will not only bless your loved ones, but also make a world of difference in the life of someone who is less fortunate. What if, instead of giving gifts that will eventually break or go out of style, we gave in a way that honored the gift of Christ’s birth: restoring relationships, fostering peace, and bringing hope and life to the broken?
One organization affording us that opportunity this year is Plant With Purpose. By partnering with rural communities to transform local lives and ecosystems, Plant With Purpose is restoring broken relationships and bringing the good news of Christ to people around the world.
Many farmers in developing countries plant the same crops over and over again. After each harvest they replant the same crop in the same place. They also clear-cut forests in order to have more land to plant extra cash crops. These practices strip the land of vital nutrients and decrease its successive yields. This vicious cycle of deforestation and over-cropping is detrimental to the land and ultimately results in decreased rainfall, damaging erosion and soil runoff, depleted soils, and poverty on the part of the community. Farmers realize their part in this vicious cycle, but they have no other option to provide for their families day-to-day. Eventually, families are forced to migrate in search of more land or some other opportunity to sustain their loved ones.
Plant With Purpose works directly with thousands of rural farmers and provides them with the tools they need to feed their families, raise their incomes, restore health to their communities, and grow in their knowledge of God’s love and grace through reforestation and sustainable agroforestry efforts.
One such farmer is Rubiera Martínez, a woman who struggled for years to make a living off of her land in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Rubiera participated in Plant With Purpose projects that helped her and her family conserve water, grow more food, and improve its economic situation.
“We are very happy that these projects have improved our income and helped us feed our children,” says Rubiera today. “We have finished the construction of a new greenhouse, and now the plants are producing a lot of fruit.”
Plant With Purpose has been working with farmers like Rubiera in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Tanzania, Burundi, and Thailand for over 25 years. And this year, as Christmas mugs crop up at Starbucks and the mall calls out to us with holiday deals we can’t resist, Plant With Purpose is providing the opportunity to give a more lasting gift. You can partner with Plant With Purpose to give the gift of nutrition and health to a family in Mexico, or the gift of consistent income and food to a family in Thailand. You can provide a rural family in Tanzania with a safer and healthier way to cook their meals. Or plant trees in Haiti that will revitalize soils and bear fruits for subsistence-level farmers for generations to come.
We aren’t misguided by our desire to sacrifice of ourselves in order to make someone else happy. Gifts are wonderful things! After all, Christ’s birth was a gift for all humankind that would restore the broken relationship between God and his people. So here are some gifts that will not only be a blessing to your loved ones during this season, but will also make a sustained, life changing difference for families in need of a tangible expression of the hope of Christmas.
Plant Hope – Planting trees controls erosion and improves soil fertility, which leads to increased crop production and income for families.
$10 – Plant an orchard (10 trees)
$25 – Plant a hillside (25 trees)
$50 – Plant a grove (50 trees)
$100 – Plant an entire forest (100 trees)
$30 – Buy a fuel-efficient stove for a family. These stoves will use less wood and produce less smoke, allowing women and children more time to spend with their families, and protecting their lungs against deadly smoke inhalation.
$50 – Plant a family garden to increase nutrition and income. These gardens provide nutritious food for families and typically produce enough for that family to sell the extra vegetables in the marketplace.
Visit Plant With Purpose’s new Holiday Village Market Catalog and get your Christmas shopping done with gifts that matter.
With each transformational gift you give you will receive a Christmas card to give to your loved ones, letting them know why the gift you thoughtfully chose to give in their honor is making such a big difference in the lives of women like Rubiera.
Corbyn Small serves as Plant With Purpose’s Outreach Coordinator. He cultivates relationships with donors, churches, artist,s and musicians to generate interest and enthusiasm for Plant With Purpose’s life-changing programs. He is a graduate of the business school at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego and has been the Outreach Coordinator at Plant With Purpose for a year-and-a-half.