There are all kinds of gifts you can give this Christmas - but some are harder to wrap than others!
I know Christmas is several weeks away. But you need to act now if you want to give a really significant gift – one that can change lives, and even save lives. Compassion International (www.compassion.com
) is a wonderful organization that ministers to both the physical and the spiritual needs of impoverished people around the world. And they always make sure that people know the help they give comes from people who love Jesus.
There are a variety of ways you can help. You can give livestock that can support a family for years. You can give a gift of clean water. (Every 15 seconds a child dies from a water-related disease.) You can help a family start a small business that can provide income for generations.
The main thing is that you can trust Compassion. This time of year there are dozens of charities seeking your donations, but you shouldn’t just write a check and hope that you helped someone. You need to be a good steward and make sure your gifts go where they will do the most good.
Compassion International is almost as old as I am. Started in 1952 by Rev. Everett Swanson, they have a long history of service that has been characterized by both effectiveness and integrity. There are a number of points that set Compassion apart, but in my mind these three from their website are the most important distinctives:
Commitment to Christ
: Jesus Christ is at the heart of Compassion's ministry. This corporate commitment drives the content of our program, characterizes the kind of people we hire, and guides our ethics.
Commitment to Children
: Our ministry is focused on the individual child and his or her development. By working holistically with individual children to address their spiritual, economic, social and physical needs, we present every child with an opportunity to become responsible and fulfilled Christian adults.
Commitment to Church
: The Church is God's chosen instrument to bring hope to a hurting world and to deliver justice to the poor and oppressed. That's why Compassion works exclusively in partnership with local churches in developing nations to deliver a holistic child development program.
Another area that is important to me is their financial integrity and transparency. It is a founding member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, and receives high ratings from numerous other accountability programs. They list these on their website, along with their financial statements and auditor’s reports.
They don’t have the slick, expensive websites I have seen with some of the other charities I investigated. Compassion keeps their overhead as low as possible, so that 83.6 cents of every dollar they receive goes to minister to the 1.5 million children and their families that they serve. Only 9% is spent on fundraising, and 6.7% on administration. If you share this information with your friends, we can help cut their fundraising costs even more!
Compassion International is ranked by Charity Navigator among their top ten charities in terms of financial accountability, and is the only evangelical Christian organization on the list. Your gifts will be in good hands.
How can you help? Of course you can simply give a generous gift yourself. We give gifts to each other at Christmas; but whose birthday is it? Why not give a gift to Jesus? By giving to help these children, you are giving to Him. Jesus said, “I say to you, as much as you have done to one of these my little brothers, you have done that to me.” Matthew 25:40
You can encourage your Bible study group, men’s or women’s group, home fellowship or the church itself to make a donation. Or you could host a Christmas party where, instead of exchanging gifts with one another, you could ask your friends to bring a check for “the least of these.”
Finally (and I like this one the best), think about all the “stuff” you have. Do you really need any more? When I was a pastor I used to get gifts from church members, family, friends, and business associates. While I appreciated the generosity that prompted these gifts, I would much rather have seen that money spent on a gift to an organization like Compassion.
So I am stating – very publicly – that I do not want any Christmas gifts this year! I ask everyone that would be inclined to give me a gift to instead give some chickens, a pig or a pair of goats to a Compassion family in my name. Why don’t you do the same?