By Shane Bennett
It is with a sober heart that I welcome you to the 2013 Practical Mobilization Christmas List column. One of our brothers will celebrate this Christmas in a whole new way, but his family will deeply mourn his absence from their table, tree, and lives. Ronnie Smith was killed in Benghazi, Libya on December 5. He was teaching high school chemistry there and ordering his life in a way to bring God’s blessing to Libyans. He leaves behind a wife and young son, along with many saddened but inspired and resolute friends.
This year’s column is dedicated to the memory and example of Ronnie Smith. If you click only one link, let it be this one for a lovely book Ronnie edited called The History of Redemption. Proceeds of the sale of the book go to help Ronnie’s wife Anita and their son. If you’d like to simply make a donation to help them, you can do that here.
As often happens, I believe God will use Ronnie’s sacrifice to inspire many to step up and fill his place and go beyond. Here are some gifts that will lift people’s eyes to the harvest around us.
Faces and Places
Long-time friend and accomplished photographer Mike Staub offers his images of people and places around the globe for sale. One of his shots, hanging on an office wall, will continue to draw a friend or loved one’s eyes and imagination to the nations. Maybe someday their feet will follow?
See also the great images produced by Matt Brandon and Tim Cowley.
Countries and Capitals
If you want to go big (and foldable), check out this recommendation from Anneli, who with her husband Frank has served with Operation Mobilization for 45 years. (Maybe you’d like to send them kudos or a thank you for their epic service!)
Anneli buys world map fabric, hems it, and gives it away. She says, “I have sent quite a few to pastors and missionaries and this map is an instant attention-getter. The name of each country and the capitol is on the map. It is fun to see students drawn to the map with many realizing their knowledge of geography needs a good brush-up! This fabric map is beautiful, machine washable, and easy to take with you or send overseas to friends.”
Missions Catalyst reader Lori suggests that these cookbooks from our Mennonite brothers and sisters would make good gifts:
1. For raising awareness:
Through stories and simple “whole foods” recipes, Simply in Season explores how the food we put on our tables impacts our local and global neighbors.
2. For an international smorgasbord:
Extending the Table invites you to experience a vast table with room for everyone and laden with taste-tempting dishes from over 80 countries: peach chutney from Botswana, ginger cooler from Ivory Coast, rice noodles with vegetables from the Philippines, and more. Interspersed among the recipes for these and many more dishes are stories about how hospitality is practiced around the world.
3. For supporting someone else to do the cooking:
If the act of buying and preparing food wouldn’t feel all “holly jolly” to your friend, can I suggest you bypass the cookbook and go straight to something like the Shatila Bakery website? If the UPS guy showing up at your door with baklava doesn’t indicate that God loves the world, I’m not sure what does!
The Gift of Chickens?
Want to help feed the world? A suggestion from my brother: Give chickens!
I know you’re saying, “If I give my friend chickens, I’m going to lose that friend!” Good point. Lucky for you, World Vision allows you to buy two chickens for a family in the developing world in the name of your friend.
“Chickens give children and families a lasting source of nutrition and income,” explains World Vision. “Fresh eggs raise the levels of protein and other nutrients in a family’s diet, and the sale of extra eggs and chickens can pay for vital basics.”
Now, to return the iPad I got my brother and get him chickens instead!
Lori (of the cookbooks!) also says, “Give a great travel vest with lots of hidden pockets, so it doesn’t scream ‘Rob me, please!’” Lori’s vest from Scottvest.com was a gift from one of her supporters, which is nice because they’re rather dear!
Lori goes on, “Most of the pockets are on the inside with weight balance, so it doesn’t look frumpy. It helps me dress like a traveler, not a tourist.”
1. For plugging in:
Here’s a cool gadget you may want to put in one of those pockets – a diminutive 3-outlet surge protector with USB ports and the ability to swivel its way to tough-to-reach outlets. Coupled with a set of adapters, your mobile friends should be able to tap the mains all over the planet.
2. For phoning home:
Some mobilizers never get on a plane, but drive trucker miles! Help them stay connected from behind the wheel while avoiding tickets with a sweet bluetooth headset.
Help those same friends keep their phone powered with this nifty credit-card-sized charger, and when they forget or lose the charging cord (or their kids take it to charge their own devices!), this hand-crankable charger may save the day.
Gifts that Keep Giving
One key task for most missionaries and mobilizers is communicating with donors. Here are a few gifts that will help your friend excel in this important endeavor.
1. For giving away:
Our buds at the Center for Missions Mobilization are making Hudson on a Mission, a new, illustrated children’s book about church planting from a family’s perspective, available at a deeply discounted rate to any missionary or agency to give to their supporters for a Christmas to thank-you gift. How about grabbing two dozen? (Or whatever your gift budget allows, at US$4 per copy.)
2. For staying in touch:
If your friend prefers to go electronic, consider blessing him with a gift certificate for a service that lets him create a postcard online with his own photo and text, then have it snail mailed to a donor, friend, or his grandma. At Postcardly.com, US$20 will get you 20 real-life postcards delivered.
3. For getting to the next destination:
And finally, nothing says, “I love you” like “Here are some airline miles; now go somewhere else!”
May God fill your heart with warmth and joy this Christmas. As we wrestle with the weight of a world gone off the rails, may God give us all grace to celebrate the birth of the king and look forward with great hope to his kingdom’s full presence on the earth.