Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 14, 2012

Become a Christmas co-conspirator

By JALETTA ALBRIGHT DESMOND
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— Most people think of snow and Christmas going together but some creative and generous folks think of water and Christmas. Specifically, clean water.

Advent Conspiracy is a campaign I’ve mentioned during Christmases past. It started in 2006 with just five churches and now approximately 1,500 churches in more than 17 countries are part of Advent Conspiracy. AC is made up of churches from various denominations — Baptist, Catholic, United Methodist, Lutheran, and Episcopal — as well as dozens of non-denominational Christian churches.

The five pastors who began the campaign wanted to “make Christmas a revolutionary event” by encouraging their faith communities to buy less for themselves and their families and give more to others in need. The primary focus of the group was the world’s number one killer: the lack of clean drinking water.  

Advent Conspiracy “co-conspirators” say $450 billion is spent on Christmas every year, while it would take only $10 billion to make clean water available to everyone in the world. On average, $1 provides water for one person for one year, according to AC.

The first year, the AC’s effort saw half a million dollars generated in donations. By the following year, that number had grown to $3 million. Advent Conspiracy doesn’t collect the money itself, but encourages churches to fund various projects, efforts or foundations.

One project AC promotes to its campaign members is Living Water International. Since Christmas 2006, families and churches have provided clean drinking water to more than 300 communities around the world — more than 200,000 people now have drinkable water through Advent Conspiracy. All donations made to Living Water International on behalf of Advent Conspiracy go directly to providing water. None of it goes to administrative costs. LWI has developed 11,266 water projects in 24 countries.

A church in Tulsa, Okla., decided one Christmas to become “co-conspirators” and set a goal to raise $5,000, enough to drill one well in Central America. The church found that it quickly surpassed its $5,000 goal during the first week of Advent that year. By Christmas, it had collected, $27,000 — which the church decided to use to fund five Living Water International projects in Guatemala, according to the AC website. Not only that, but church members decided to go help dig the wells themselves. They saw first-hand the impact their new vision of Christmas was having on peoples’ lives.  

“The clean water that the communities of Nuevos Bracitos, Santa Rosa, El Pijuy, Granada, and Centro Urbano Rosario now enjoy is truly a life-transforming gift,” write AC organizers. “When was the last time you got one of those for Christmas?”

We don’t usually get life-transformation wrapped up and put under our tree. But we can give it.

Again, Advent Conspiracy doesn’t accept donations but its message and purpose is simple: “Worship Fully. Spend Less. Give More and Love All.” The organization provides information and materials that encourage faith communities and churches to be creative and find their own ways to donate time and money (AdventConspiracy.org).

Anyone considering joining this effort — churches, families or individuals — can decide where and how they want to spend their money. For those interested in supporting local businesses during the biggest retail season of the year, it is still possible to do that while helping people in need — simply buy locally and share locally or package it up and send it abroad through programs such as Operation Christmas Child.

Advent Conspiracy is now also supporting the International Justice Mission, an organization striving to help victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression around the world. IJM reports that each year nearly two million children are exploited in the global commercial sex trade. IJM lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals work to “rescue victims of violent abuse and ensure long-term aftercare; prosecute their perpetrators under local laws; and transform public justice systems to protect entire communities.”  

Although fighting oppression and providing clean drinking water are worthwhile causes, some of us simply don’t have much extra money these days. The other message Advent Conspiracy is promoting is to “Give Presence.” If you can’t donate money or products, donate your presence. Give your time, energy and compassion to those around you without support. Deliver meals, visit residents in an assisted living center, tutor an adult in reading, tutor a child in an afterschool program or wrap gifts for someone with a disability. Wherever you live, you can find at the end of your street or around the corner a lonely person who needs the simple gift of conversation and company.

Become a co-conspirator this Advent Season to bring a merry and meaningful Christmas to others in need.

Jaletta Albright Desmond is a columnist who writes about faith, family and the fascinatingly mundane aspects of daily life. She lives in North Carolina with her family. Contact her at jdesmond@bdtonline.com.