The Weary World: Practical Ways to Give This Christmas Season
I am about to say something that is macro-controversial: I hate Christmas music.
"Jingle Bells"? Annoying. The song about the drummer boy? Unrealistic; the last thing you want is for a baby to be woken up by someone playing a drum. "Deck the Halls"? Fa la la la stop.
I can’t help it. When it comes to Christmas music, I’m a bit of a scrooge. It’s just who I am.
There is one exception to my Christmas music kabash: "O Holy Night." I love that song. Not for the tune, although it is pretty, but for the words. Specifically these two lines:
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
"O Holy Night" is a call to action. It reminds the listener (as if we need reminding) that the world is weary, tired, sick, and sore. As 2016 comes to a close, I think we can all relate to that. It also reminds us that the slave is our brother, that there is a global connection to the pain and oppression happening around the world. What’s happening to the oppressed affects everyone else.
So how can we help the oppressed around the world during this season of giving? How can we help bring forth a “new and glorious morn” for our brothers and sisters who are suffering? One way is to donate to the charities and nonprofits who are doing the hard work on the ground to alleviate suffering. My family is donating Christmas this year. Instead of giving gifts, we are donating to nonprofits around the world. Last year I donated something in everyone’s name and made them a small gift to represent their donation (a mug, an ornament, a picture), and I guess I started a trend.
Even if you can’t persuade your family to donate their Christmas, maybe you can spare a few dollars to help make a difference in the lives of those around the world. I know that a lot of readers of That First Year are from Tennessee and Texas, so I have included some local nonprofits from those states below in addition to some awesome international nonprofits that are working to stop oppression around the world and in the Middle East.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a good start.
Mission: "The NET serves three communities in poverty in Fort Worth: the homeless, women affected by the sex industry, as well as low-income youth. The link between these programs is our goal to create an environment of dignity and empowerment among the people we serve.
The NET is all about building community with people in poverty, because we believe that people need people more than they need stuff.
The NET uniquely serves the greater Fort Worth area and works with communities that go largely under-assisted and unseen. One of my favorite NET programs is the Rise Program Partnership.
RISE is designed for women incarcerated for prostitution in Tarrant County who are looking for a fresh start. The NET provides mentorship, spiritual and social support to the women of the RISE program. We provide collaborative after-care for the women in this program alongside partner agencies who provide substance counseling, housing, case management, and probation. The NET is the piece of this program that is relational, provides social and recreational activities, discipleship and advocacy through our volunteers. Every volunteer has been through an extensive training learning the 'in's and out's' of the problem of sexual exploitation in Fort Worth and how to befriend someone who has experienced trauma and also spend time in the justice system."
The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Houston
Mission: "To inspire and enable all youth, especially those who need us most, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible, and caring citizens."
The Boys & Girls Clubs of America are incredibly effective and the Greater Houston club is no exception. There are 13 clubs in the area and each one is open after school until 8:00 pm. The clubs have homework help, activities, after school snacks, and teach kids to maintain healthy lifestyle. Think the Boys & Girls Club doesn’t have a huge impact on the world? Think again. Misty Copeland learned ballet at a Boys & Girls Club in San Pedro, a community in Los Angeles and now she’s the first African-American principal dancer in the American Ballet Theater. I’m just saying.
YMCA International Services
Mission: "YMCA International Services is a unique center of the YMCA of Greater Houston that delivers client-centered programs to refugees, immigrants and other vulnerable populations to advance their economic independence, social integration and civic participation. The Y helps newcomers restore hope, build stability, create opportunity and change futures. YMCA International Services is continuously recognized as a leader in the Houston immigrant community."
My time at the YMCA was spent swimming laps with my fifth grade swim team, but the YMCA is so much more than the neighborhood gym. The YMCA of Greater Houston offers programs for resettled immigrants and refugees, and let me tell you, this organization is doing great work! They give vulnerable populations the necessary building blocks to create a future of hope and stability.
Allies Against Slavery
Mission: "Allies Against Slavery develops community networks that build slave-free cities.
Working to that end, we:
- Engage and mobilize the community through advocacy, education and activism initiatives
- Support and empower local survivors of human trafficking alongside our partners
- Coordinate the Slave-Free City Network"
Allies Against Slavery is working to make anti-human trafficking a priority in Austin. From engaging the community to providing aftercare support for trafficking survivors, they are taking a holistic approach to anti-human trafficking in Texas’ Capital.
Safe Haven Family Shelter
Mission: "Safe Haven Family Shelter empowers Middle Tennessee homeless families with children to achieve lasting self-sufficiency."
Safe Haven has been working with homeless families in Tennessee for over 30 years, and their approach is working. Safe Haven helps families that need it most to lift them out of homelessness and help them become self-reliant.
End Slavery Tennessee
Mission: "The mission of End Slavery Tennessee is to promote healing of human trafficking survivors and strategically confront slavery in our state."
End Slavery Tennessee educates the public (approximately 8,500 people per year), provides aftercare for victims, advocates for policy change and works to prevent human trafficking in Tennessee.
In late November wildfires ravaged the Great Smoky Mountains near Gatlinbug, TN. Though the fires have now been extinguished, many families are left homeless and without hope. The My People Fund within the Dollywood Foundation provides $1,000 each month for up to six months to Sevier County families who lost their homes in the wildfires. If you want to help those affected by the Gatlinburg fires, this is a great way to do it.
Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area
Mission: "Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area (LSS/NCA) walks with our neighbors in need and mobilizes community partners to provide services that offer hope and rebuild lives."
Lutheran Social Services works with vulnerable populations in D.C., including resettled refugees. LSS helps refugees get a fresh start in the DMV area. They go above and beyond to create better lives for refugees by furnishing apartments, offering employment leads, and helping refugee families integrate to their new environment. LSS is doing great things for folks in D.C. and beyond.
International Justice Mission
International Justice Mission (IJM) is a global organization that protects the poor from violence in the developing world. They use lawyers, investigators, law enforcement, and social workers to work in almost 20 field offices around the world.
IJM fights violence and human trafficking in almost every corner of the world. If you want to help the oppressed, then donating to IJM is a pretty great way to do it.
International Rescue Committee
Mission: "The International Rescue Committee (IRC) responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and gain control of their future."
According to the IRC website, “In the past week, around 4,000 people fleeing Aleppo have arrived in Al Dana, a town in eastern Idlib where the IRC is providing emergency cash relief. We are very concerned that violence will follow them to this already unsafe part of Syria." IRC is helping those fleeing Aleppo. So if you’ve been heartbroken over the crisis in Aleppo, donating to IRC is an excellent way to help.
Preemptive Love Coalition
Mission: "In the face of terror, you can confront fear with preemptive love and remake the world."
Now THAT’S a mission statement. You may be wondering what organizations are on the ground in Aleppo, and the answer is not many. Preemptive Love Coalition (PLC) is one of the few still working in Aleppo. They are giving out food and sleeping bags to those trapped in the city. By all estimates they are feeding 25,000 people a day but they desperately need more food and funds. PLC is working where no others are to help people that no one else is helping. If that’s work you want to be a part of, check out their website.
Happy holidays, y’all.
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
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[Photo by Julie Bloom.]