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Wise Generosity...and Chicks for Christmas

Almost 120,000 people have read my post on Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. That's about 1/10 of ALL of the hits I have on ALL of my posts over ELEVEN YEARS of blogging. Good grief. I knew I would hit a nerve, but not the entire nervous system.

Many, many people have asked me, But what's a better alternative? And I can't tell you how incredibly humbled and encouraged I am by you. First of all, that you were willing to listen to what I (and especially our church planting friend) had to say. And second, that there are so many people out there who sincerely want to help eradicate poverty and are longing to give generously and wisely. Seriously. It's inspiring.

So this is my attempt to answer that question. I really don't feel like an expert at this. But there are so many of you who are listening (thank you!) that I'm going to share what I've learned, and then I'm going to give you an excellent example of a great cause to donate to.

When choosing how to donate to poverty-fighting charities, consider the following:

1. One-size-fits-all rarely works. One massive lesson I've had to learn is that cultures and worldviews are more different than I ever would have imagined. And what works in my home culture is not going to work in other places. So what sounds like a great idea in your neighborhood is not necessarily going to work in another city. And most likely not in another country. Which leads to my next point.....

2. Smaller is usually better. Not always. But often. Smaller organizations are able to concentrate more intensely and intimately on the particular needs of a particular community. Which leads to my next point.....

3. There needs to be evidence of cultural sensitivity and an attitude of learning. If you hear about the next "big, exciting, God-sized project" that sounds like it would be amazing to support, stop and ask: Where did this idea come from? How much time was spent learning about and from the local people before plans were set in motion? Is this a project that's being done for the people or with the people? Which is why.....

4. Development is almost always better than hand-outs. Just think of that "give a man a fish/teach a man to fish" proverb. Ask: Is this project just giving people stuff? Or is it actually helping to bring about change? Occasionally, mainly during natural disasters or war, it is certainly appropriate to just give stuff. But that should be temporary and rare. Most of the time, projects should be focused on helping others improve their standard of living for themselves. Which is why....

5. Unless the charity is in your hometown, it's almost always better to donate money rather than stuff. I know that's disappointing, because shopping/selecting/packing stuff is a whole lot more fun and satisfying than sending money, especially for your children.***

But as good stewards of God's resources, sending money is almost always better stewardship than sending stuff. There will always be some exceptions, but usually the only "stuff" worth sending is specialized materials that cannot be found in the receiving country. A good example could be sending specialized equipment to help children with special needs in schools and hospitals. But even in cases like this, wait for the recipient to ask for it, don't just assume they need it.

So.....want a great example to consider supporting?

Let me introduce you to Kilimo Timilifu (Holistic Farming)... KT for short. 

KT is a Tanzanian sustainable nonprofit with a vision of sharing the love of Jesus while providing training and tools for their neighbors to elevate themselves out of extreme poverty.

KT is a farm, but it's not just a farm. It's not just helping the local community with what it produces, it's helping local farmers become better farmers. KT will soon start receiving Tanzanian interns who, after completion of their internship, will be sent as self-supporting Conversation Agriculture Trainers to serve Tanzanian coastal communities in the love of Jesus.

KT was started by our very good friends, Tim and Emily. They spent over 10 years years doing community development in rural villages before starting Kilimo Timilifu. They didn't set out to start this farm from the beginning. Instead, during those years of learning, they recognized the need and potential for this unique farm.

KT has already started a number of agricultural projects, but this Christmas, they are looking for donors for their new chicken farm, which they will use to train interns to start chicken businesses. $20 will pay for six chicks. 

This isn't a once-size-fits-all approach to poverty alleviation in Jesus' name. This is a very specific, very specialized, well-researched, culturally appropriate, small organization that has huge potential to make an extraordinary difference.

I encourage you to consider sponsoring some chicks for Christmas. I wholeheartedly believe it's a great cause.

This is just one example. There are many, many, many others like KT. They'll probably be small, probably won't have flashy campaigns, but if you look carefully, they will stand out. If you know of one, leave their info in the comments!

***One last note here. I get that sending money just doesn't have the same impact on kids as sending stuff. And I share your concern in wanting to help your kids develop hearts of generosity and service. So my next post is precisely about that.  

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