There was a lot of generosity shown by our Lutheran community over Christmas last year. More than $630,000 was donated to Australian Lutheran World Service’s Gifts of Grace initiative and about $130,000 was donated to Lutheran Community Care’s Christmas Appeal. These funds are directed towards helping vulnerable people living in South Australia and the Northern Territory, while ALWS supports people living in developing nations.
We received this article from a member of one of our congregations in South Australia, who has been a long-term supporter of Australian Lutheran World Service. It reflects on giving at Christmas time.
Have you ever had one of those ‘light bulb’ moments, when you saw something you have been doing regularly and thought it could become so much more? That happened to me just before Christmas.
The catalyst for my ‘revelation’ was a newspaper article written by a journalist I would not normally read. For some reason it caught my eye, perhaps because of its heading: ‘Want the perfect gift? Spare us the guilt trip’. Comments within it started the flicker of light in my mind. ‘There are too many presents’, ‘if you can’t match each gift with one of equal value, you’re the lesser person’ and ‘one estimate is as a nation we’ll rack up about $30 billion on our credit cards in December’.
However, the comment that flicked the switch to full power was near the end of the article; ‘consider giving to charity on behalf of people, you can do it online in seconds’.
My wife and I have been doing this for some years now. We spoke to our two adult children and their partners at that time, and they agreed with our suggestion that instead of us trying to rack our brains thinking of a useful present for them each year, we would instead give them Gifts of Grace or something similar to the value of what we would normally spend on a material present. It is great watching them open the envelopes each year, while joking about who might get the long drop loo, or goat, or whatever else. It’s priceless!
Then in 2016, we started to include the grandkids. Of course as loving grandparents we couldn’t stop giving the youngsters any toys or other things we know they love, but we cut back the amount we would normally have spent on such items and gave the balance as Gifts of Grace or similar. This last year was about 20 per cent of what we would normally spend on them. Then when the children open their envelopes, we get them to read the information provided on the card and chat with them about it. Our hope and prayer is that they will get some sense of the suffering of others and see the value of doing what they can to help.
So what’s all this got to do with the ‘light bulb moment’ I hear you ask. Well I suddenly became passionate about the promotion of giving via Gifts of Grace and similar programs and saw what could happen if thousands, if not millions, of people got involved. Our governments regularly cut back on foreign aid when economic times get tough, yet even in our toughest times, we are far better off than many millions, if not billions, of people on this earth. So shouldn’t we, as God’s people, follow the lead of his son Jesus by helping others doing it much tougher than we are?
So I wanted to share my story with you and ask that you consider being part of the campaign. This starts with you using this gift giving method and then sharing in the promotion of it by encouraging others to be a part of it. And of course it doesn’t have to be restricted to Christmas. It can be used for birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and other celebratory occasions. Just inform your adult children that if they want to give you presents for any occasion in the future, then you would prefer that to be by way of giving for the benefit of others. It does not have to be via Gifts of Grace. Within Australia, you could give to Lutheran Community Care SA-NT.
None of this has to cost one extra cent. In fact, if you’re currently paying income tax, you get the benefit of being able to claim as a deduction the amount you spend on gifts to approved aid agencies. This reduction in tax payable could then be added to your next gift, so that you’re able to assist even more and still at no extra cost.
I should say at this point a big thank you and well done to those of you who already support aid agencies in this way. But perhaps this article has given you food for thought as to how you might be able to do so even more.
I ask that you all consider being part of an initially Lutheran led movement to improve the life of those who are in desperate need of help. You could start by reading and sharing the Gifts of Grace catalogue that Jonathan Krause and his wonderful team at ALWS put together, to get a feel for the situation of these people. I think you will be moved by organisations like ALWS and Lutheran Community Care and what they are doing on our behalf.
Just think, if only five per cent of the $30 billion dollars mentioned near the start of this article was given in this way, that would be $1.5 billion, and what a huge help that would be to the aid effort!
Please help to turn my little individual light bulb into a world of lights.
*The writer of this article requested that we withhold their name.