In his book Three Simples Rules, Rueben P. Job condenses Wesley’s guideliens for life as “Do no harm; Do good; Stay in love with God.” By doing your Christmas shopping at the Alternative Christmas Market and supporting Alternative Gifts International (AGI) we can live out these rules, and more.
Alternative Gifts International began in 1980 at Pasadena Presbyterian Church when one woman was looking for a way to give more Christ-celebrating gifts to friends and family. The following year five (5) churches in the Pasadena area participated, and by 2004 AGI had its present name, and markets were being held in 325 congregations across 43 states. AGI partners with grassroots organizations in third world and underdeveloped countries: 90% of what is collected at local markets in the form of “gifts” goes to the project. AGI holds itself to a high standard and audits the beneficiary organizations for compliance with its tenets and guidelines.
Giving gifts through AGI embraces three assets: it gives joy to the donor/shopper; provides global awareness and education to the recipient of the gift; and brings great benefit to those living in poverty. AGI looks for three things when it selects and/or accepts organizations as beneficiaries: they strive for peace; they provide or embrace justice; and the organization is sustainable.
Giving gifts through AGI challenges the trivia of our modern culture, and when we participate, we tell the world that “YES” we celebrate the birth and life of Christ. AGI provides authentic gifts that people cherish, always fit, and never get thrown away. With the variety of gifts available it isn’t hard to find a gift for the causes our friends and family care about, be it women, children, care for the environment, farmers, water, food, medicine, women in slavery, those that are less abled. If Aunt Jane was a teacher, buy her a classroom full of supplies for a school in a developing country; if Uncle John always tended his favorite apple tree, send trees to a farmer in need; if your best friend is a pediatric nurse, send a maternity kit to a woman in training to bring better outcomes to women living in poverty. My daughter’s 8th grade science teacher told the class about growing up on a farm in Minnesota and his intense dislike for having to milk the cows. In honor of his dedication to his students, we send him a farm animal every year. Create a new family tradition, after Christmas dinner see who can tell the best story using the AGI gifts they received. My Dad still “fusses” that my Mom won’t let him borrow her bike to check on his trees. Never mind that her bike is in Africa and his trees are in South America.
On Sunday, December 8, the Alternative Christmas Market will come to the United Methodist Church of Chugiak’s Community Center. From 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. you can shop for your friends and family and know that your gifts will provide joy to at least two people- the initial recipient (your friend or family member) and the person or community where your gift will be welcomed with joy and hope. Contact Stacy Flagg to sponsor a booth, to help with the event and to answer your questions.