This week my friends and I engaged in a robust conversation on Facebook regarding THIS post. (See also, THIS post, THIS post, and THIS post and THIS post I feel also apply, even though some aren’t directly talking about OCC) These posts focus on the western mindset and at times harmful consequences of the mass distribution of Christmas shoeboxes that we fill and ship this time of year.
These posts will challenge your everyday assumptions and they will expose the reality that we unintentionally miss at times when it comes to missions and our approach to it, especially this time of year. I love what one author says about opening our minds and thoughts to new ideas from those who are on the ground and have given input… “it’s not something we should repent of but learn from!” So if you haven’t read them… dive in. Try to keep an open mind, and know that nobody is saying you’re only making this about you or that your church is wrong for collecting shoeboxes. It’s just saying… hey, there’s more to this than meets the eye and we need to talk about it and change our actions if we desire to be truly intentional, holistic and helpful to our missionaries overseas. These posts also don’t set out to discount any positive experiences one might have had with the shoeboxes.
I decided to list a few ways that one might still have just as much fun and yet have more intentionality as well as an ongoing relationship that can blossom into a deeper and more effective impact on missions. This isn’t exhaustive… but it’s five I came up with fairly quickly after listening to those who are serving in countries where these ideas might be more helpful long term as well as helping them have a Christ centered Christmas season.
- Find a family or a team on the ground in another country instead of going through a big company. (If you need contacts, see your church or I can point you in some good directions) Talk to them about what would help/what you could send/what they’re lacking to help people there. You can even use regular shoeboxes to fill, wrap and ship!! Then get a picture of them to hang on your fridge or feature in such a way that your family is reminded of them often. (And that way you can think of ways to bless them during other holidays or tough times as well)
- Pool your churches would be shoebox money (often that pile of boxes represents a TON of money!) and send a family in your church with lots of needed items to spend Christmas or for a time afterwards with a missionary family overseas who would love having friends/family with them during or after the holidays.
- Pick a smaller organization doing local work that resonates with your heart (I.e. I personally love the org @shearlove who professionally trains women who have been victims of the sex industry how to be a hairdresser/makeup artist). Contact them and see what specific needs they have and if they have any wish lists for more fun gift ideas.
- Have your church partner with a local overseas church and see what you can send and what monetary needs they have in order to have a Christ centered Christmas season with their congregation and community! Skype with them during the Christmas Eve service!
- See what countries your local refugees/asylum seekers represent and where they are living (ideally some will be attending your church already) and find ways to celebrate Christmas in ways that introduce American traditions but also infuse and immerse their own countries traditions. Maybe bring several families a Christmas tree and decorations at the beginning of the season so to bring joy the whole month! (Sometimes having a joyful hope cultivating environment is more important than an abundance of things during seasons of need or loneliness)