Archives For Christmas

When I think about some of the most meaningful moments from Christmases past, it occurs to me that most of them involve music. Whether it be putting up garlands to the rich tones of the Robert Shaw Chamber Singers, whispering the melody of “Silent Night” at the end of a Christmas Eve candlelight service, or cajoling my sister into playing duets from our old Christmas piano recitals, there’s something about music that can make even the simplest moment sacred, that can tell a story more powerfully than speech, that can bring splendor and wonder and awe and joy.

So perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that when the Lord wanted people to know about the birth of His son, He sent a choir.

This year, as Christmas nears, I’m expanding my holiday playlist. Friends from across the HOPE network took a moment to share the songs—both reverent and lighthearted—that they most enjoy, and their recommendations helped create this special HOPE Christmas playlist.

Please join me—and HOPE’s partners, clients, and staff around the world—in celebrating the coming of the Newborn King!

Continue Reading…

by Peter Greer, President & CEO

’Tis the season for planning Christmas compassion projects. From filling shoeboxes to setting up angel trees, churches and organizations around the world are thinking about how to launch these elegantly simple ways of caring for others during the most wonderful time of the year.

There is so much that is right and beautiful about these annual giving traditions.

I love that they offer a way for whole families to practice generosity together. I love that they’re an invitation to think beyond our me-centered, consumeristic desires and recognize that there are significant material needs in the world. I love that they invite us to share some of what we’ve received. And most of all, I love how they provide a glimpse into sacrificial love and service, reminding us of the story of Jesus.

At the same time, there are shadow sides to many of these projects, particularly if they don’t extend beyond one-time charity distributions. 

For those of you who might be exploring what you should participate in this year, here are three questions to ask as your church and family seek to love and care for others well by getting involved this Christmas: Continue Reading…

Kathy Dodd was always at a loss when her four adult daughters asked her what she wanted for Christmas. Knowing she had more than enough stuff, she would joke, “Just peace and harmony in our family!”

But after learning about HOPE seven years ago, she soon began requesting items from HOPE’s gift catalog. Now each year, her daughters honor her with a gift while also investing in families around the world.

And Kathy doesn’t just turn to the HOPE gift catalog to build her own Christmas wish list. It’s also become a tradition for her to use it to choose gifts for her four grandchildren, ages two to nine.

Here are three reasons Kathy chooses HOPE’s gift catalog each December: Continue Reading…

For 51 weeks of the year, the front lobby of Willowdale Chapel’s Kennett Square campus is an airy space with cozy chairs and a café. But one Sunday each December, the room transforms into the HOPE Market—a vibrant, bustling marketplace operated by the church’s youngest entrepreneurs.

The wooden tables where people usually chat over coffee instead display greeting cards and candles, wooden clocks and mini-marshmallow shooters, all handcrafted by the children at Willowdale. With each sale, the kids work toward paying back the small loan they received from the church to make their item. Once that’s done, they give their profits to HOPE International. Last year, all their work totaled up to being a significant gift of $5,000.

“Part of our church’s vision is to love the world that Jesus is working to restore, and we wanted our youth to really learn what that means and to be a part of it,” says Jodi Byrne, who serves as a children’s ministry pastor at Willowdale Chapel, a church network in southeastern Pennsylvania that partners with HOPE.

The kids are invited to explore the role they play in that restoration during the three months leading up to the HOPE Market.

Continue Reading…

by Haley Smith, Regional Representative

When I was young giving didn’t necessarily come naturally—but finding ways to make money did.

At the age of six, my first business was the classic lemonade stand. I made the lemonade, painted a traffic-stopping sign, and set up a table. As the minutes ticked by without a single cup sold, I started to get impatient. Unready to surrender my losses, I determinedly went door to door, and, to my surprise, I sold every last cup.

For me, this was a turning point. I had earned something on my own, and now it was up to me to decide what to do with it. Recognizing this new passion, my parents began to talk with me about managing my own money.

They wanted to know how I would use my newfound income. Did I want to save any of it? Did I want to give any of it away? I wanted to give—but I also really wanted the new Boyz II Men cassette tape. It was going to be a tough call.

Over time, my desire to keep what was mine slowly shifted as I watched how freely my parents shared what they had. They gave out of a love for God and gratitude for what He had given them. We had many conversations about why they chose to tithe to our church but to also invest in the needs of others. These conversations helped form my understanding of stewardship and my responsibility to give.

Honest and transparent conversations are necessary if we want our kids to grow up with healthy, wise, and generous perspectives on what we have each been given.

So where do you start? Here are some simple steps parents can take to instill a passion for generosity in your children:

  • Show children and teenagers how you give. Too often, giving is a family secret. But by showing your kids how you give, children can catch the vision for generosity and the causes you are passionate about.
  • Read Watching Seeds Grow by Peter Greer and Keith Greer. On a trip to Rwanda, 8-year-old Keith had his eyes opened to the stories of entrepreneurs, starting a family journey to learn financial literacy at a young age.
  • Match your kids’ giving. When parents match their children’s giving, parents begin to understand what touches their children’s hearts, and children discover that parents also value those causes.
  • Give from HOPE’s gift catalog this Christmas. Transform gift-giving into a teachable moment by purchasing items that represent tools used by families living in poverty in honor of your loved ones.

Smith-Haley Born and raised in East Texas, Haley Smith is a graduate of Baylor University and Fuller Theological Seminary with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and a Master of Arts in theology and ministry. Now fully converted to the beauty of the West Coast, Haley serves as the regional representative for HOPE International in Los Angeles, Arizona, and Nevada. Her role is to gather people around the mission of HOPE who desire to see entire communities flourish through the blessing of good work.

Reposted from www.peterkgreer.com.

Santa Clause, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle. But Saint Nicholas has another lesser known moniker—the patron saint of pawn shops.

How could this jolly old fellow be known as the patron saint of such a seedy business?

Pawn shop

In the Middle Ages, montes pietatius were charities similar to urban food banks. And they were created as an alternative to loan sharks.

These charities provided low-interest loans to poor families. Started by Franciscans, they became widespread throughout Europe.

Even the pope (Julius II) gave an edict endorsing montes pietatius.

In folklore, Saint Nicholas generously provided a poor man dowries for his three daughters, gold coins in three purses. The symbol of gold coins in three purses became the symbol of pawn shops and fit with his title of patron saint.

In the 1300s, people in poverty met caring friars when they entered the doors of pawn shops. The shops existed to help the poor get back on their feet. These friars had their best interests in mind.

Today, often the opposite is true.

Over time, pawn shop owners lost sight of their identity. Created for good, pawn shops have drifted away from their purpose. From caring for the needy to an instrument often preying on families in distress, pawn shops have lost their original intent.

Here’s the reality: Mission Drift is the natural course for industries and organizations. Having a clear founding identity and purpose, having initial zeal for the cause, and even having Father Christmas as your patron saint are insufficient safeguards from Mission Drift. It takes focused attention to sustain your mission.

“It’s the exception that an organization stays true to its mission,” said Chris Crane, president and CEO of Edify. “The natural course—the unfortunate natural evolution of many originally Christ-centered missions—is to drift,” he said.

My colleagues Chris Horst, Anna Haggard, and I have been studying Mission Drift in Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities, and Churches, being released January 14. We’ve discovered some prominent examples of Mission Drift—Harvard, ChildFund, and the Y.

Mission Drift is recognized as the normal direction for faith-based organizations. In a survey of hundreds of Christian leaders at the Q conference in Los Angeles in 2013, 95 percent said Mission Drift was “a challenging issue to faith-based nonprofit organizations.”

Realizing the seemingly inevitable drift, it became our passion to find organizations which have protected their core identity for generations. By researching and sharing their practices, we hope to equip many other organizations to faithfully stand the test of time.

This is a personal issue. I care deeply about the work I do with HOPE International. Founded by a local church in response to needs in the former Soviet Union, our mission has always been to address material and spiritual needs in places of intense poverty. My aim is to ensure the decisions we are making today help this organization stay true to its founding ideals. My desire is that it does not follow the slippery path of pawn shops and so many other organizations.

This Christmas, every time I see a photo of Santa Claus, I’m reminded how easy drift occurs. Let’s be involved in building organizations that remain focused on what matters most.