For years now I have made an effort to buy quality gifts when I buy gifts. By that I don’t simply mean not from large box stores that offer low prices on short term disposable items.  I mean gifts that would have a use and not just get shoved in a closet.  Initially it was fruit…then art…then goats in Africa in your name…then cash to a local under resourced family in your name. and that worked for a while until kids needed gifts and second hand was not ideal so I bought wooden or instructional gifts after failings initially.

When I decided to move to Portland a few Januaries ago, local friends told me about this church that was not buying gifts but giving resources for Christmas. The members didn’t keep the money they gave it.  It was amazing and what I thought I was doing. Except as I mentioned earlier I wasn’t giving the money, I was using it on other things.  In my general practice of finances a good bit is given away, but probably not as much as I think.

So this is my plug for Advent Conspiracy a week into Advent.

Advent Conspiracy is an amazing project.  There are others like it but I like this one.  I have been impacted by it.  The money is split up and a portion is given to international organizations like IJM and Living Water International.  Then most says local.  Underage sex and labor trafficking is a major problem here in Portland. As is high school dropout rates.  A portion of the money raised is directed to the city to help them pay for their desirted programs.  Like a high school reentry tutoring program.  Or a temporary safe house for young girls.  A heathen, broken, dirty city receives money from it’s churches!  That is fascinating to me.  In this connection there are also volunteers for the city’s program built in.  The church has people and some money.  And these are gifted to the government instead of a corporation. How novel is that?

I am constantly amazed that the church gives money to the city. There is a verse about that which is rarely applied to paying taxes.  Because taxes are always used for evil …unless you talk to JK Rowling.

At Imago Dei a portion is given back to the members to launch their crazy ideas to save the city.  Ideas like tutoring at local schools, tools for free handyman work in the community, or grants to keep people inside for people on the end of eviction and homelessness.

This may seem complex, but instead of spending millions of dollars on stuff that will clog landfills there is a revolution of people giving practical gifts and giving that money away to make this world better.  Seems like the message of the Season to me.

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