Useful Gifts: The Original Lifestyle Challenge
Did you know that the Useful Gifts Catalogue began as a creative attempt to reduce consumption and promote lifestyle change among Christians?
It was 1994. Bryan Adams' "Please Forgive Me" was number 1 on the Aussie charts, Christopher Skase was arrested in Spain and phone numbers were about to get an extra digit.
In Melbourne, TEAR's then National Director Steve Bradbury was becoming increasingly frustrated at the growing commercialisation of Christmas.
Reflecting on his feelings at the time, Steve said: “It seemed to me that in our largely post-Christian society, Christmas celebrations had deteriorated into over-the-top, materialistic pigouts and that this was something we in the church ought to creatively resist.”
Inspired and agitated, Steve and a small team created an educational resource to put the focus of Christmas back on the call of Christ to serve those facing poverty. This became TEAR’s Useful Gifts Catalogue.
Considering what Jesus would like for his birthday and the types of gifts that would bring him pleasure were the thoughts that ultimately prompted the first catalogue.
Steve said: “Jesus told his first followers that if they gave food to a hungry person or water to a thirsty person, it was as though they gave it to him. Jesus is saying that he wants us to express our love for him by giving practical gifts to those who are in need.”
While the catalogue concept has been adopted enthusiastically by many other agencies and organisations, it holds a very significant place in the heart of TEAR. A lot has changed since 1994, but the challenge remains. How do we as the church resist the relentless consumerism that continues to overshadow the Christmas message? How does our giving reflect God’s heart for the poor?
TEAR Australia remains committed to the idea that giving more “stuff” isn't what the world needs. Giving more usefully is.
Ben Allsop is TEAR's Fundraising Coordinator
Every gift you buy from TEAR's Useful Gifts represents a contribution to a long-term development project, helping people gain the skills and resources they need to address local problems and come up with sustainable solutions. It's the original way to buy a goat and other poverty-fighting gifts!