When I was in high school chemistry, a friend and I asked the teacher if we could do an extra credit lab. We wanted to combine nitrogen and glycerin; and make nitroglycerin. Needless to say, the teacher said “no”, with great enthusiasm. As parents we have all been asked by our children for things that they wanted but would not be either good or necessary for them to have. As adults, we realize that sometimes there are more important things to give than merely what someone asks to receive.
For the last several years we have participated in Franklin Graham’s “Shoebox Christmas” program. This ministry provides boxes of gifts to needy children and evangelizes to their communities. This is a worthy program. However, is there a way to provide a longer term witness to the heart of Christianity? Is there a way to give to needy families that would last longer and provide greater hope not just to the children, but also to their entire family?
Heifer International began when its founder, Dan West, was providing cups of milk to hungry children during the Spanish-American War. As he gave out the milk rations, he realized that these children needed more than a small cup of milk; they needed a cow. He went home and arranged for the shipment of cows to hungry people. In 1944, the first shipment of heifers went to Puerto Rico. He decided on sending heifers with the stipulation that the family who received the cow would give someone else in their community the female offspring of that cow. In this way, not only would one family have a source of food and income, but it would extend to others in the community and thus the gift would multiply.
What has this to do with our church? Let me paint a picture. We have sent an average of 25 shoeboxes over the past several years. Assuming that we spend $20 packing and shipping these boxes, we invest $500 in providing a gift that will provide only a short term benefit. For that same $500 our congregation can send a cow to a hungry family and start a chain of gifts that benefit and feed more than just one family.
Anyone who wishes to participate in the Shoebox Christmas may do so; we have shoeboxes at the church for that. I would like to suggest that we attempt to raise enough money to buy a heifer through Heifer International. If you want to investigate this charity go to www.heifer.org. I have a musical box in the shape of a cow, not to promote Mr. Cathy’s business, but it could be a focal point, especially for children to get them involved. After all, how often have you told someone you bought a cow for a Christmas gift?
This Christmas, let’s truly act in the spirit of God by giving gifts that reach out and feed not only an individual, but as a community. Let us feed Jesus’ lambs.