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The best Christmas present you could give or receive this year?

Q: What do you give to the person who already has more than they need? (Or what do you put on your wish list when you have more than enough shirts and scarves already?)
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A: A goat?

Well, sort of: Give them the gift of generosity.

That's why my wife and I are giving a number of people a goat for Christmas. Over the last few years, I've been honored to be part of an amazing project among the Batwa people in Burundi, which I've blogged about here and here. (If you have a minute, check these links out.)

To make a long story short, the Batwa are amazing people - great dancers and singers, potters and storytellers, incredibly courageous and resilient. But they are also among the worst-off people I've met anywhere, desperately poor, landless for centuries after having been displaced (much like Native Americans in North America), objects of prejudice, excluded socially and until very recently, politically too. Through an amazing story (which I need to share sometime), a group of these landless people were given land, from which they just reaped their first harvest (potatoes!).
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You can read more about the Batwa of Matara here and see more beautiful pictures (read from the bottom up to get the story in sequence).

So ... here's what Grace and I are doing this year. We're giving a Christmas gift on behalf of some family members to the Batwa of Matara in the form of goats and cows. Well, we're not sending gift-wrapped goats and cows, but we're sending money to Claude Nikondeha of amahoro-africa.org, who is managing the Batwa project for Community for Burundi, so that goats, cows, and other farming resources can be purchased for them locally (which is good for the local economy).

We'll be making home-made cards that say, "A goat was given in your name to the Batwa of Matara," along with this link where they can learn more and spread the word:
http://communityforburundi.org/

If this idea makes sense to you, I'd be so grateful if you'd participate with us here.

A goat costs about $45 (they hope to give two to each family - a total of 56) and a cow costs $1250. You can make up a little card (you can easily pull photos from the site) and on Christmas morning, tell the story of why you've decided to give a goat or cow in their name. Somehow, I think this gift of necessities for others honors the birth of Jesus a lot more than giving luxuries to people who are already over-burdened with storing their excess luxuries. Maybe you could put GOAT or COW on your wish list?

Our little circle of online friends could easily meet this opportunity. And just think - it would save you hassling at the mall and giving people shirts and scarves they don't really need, because you could make this happen with a few clicks on our computer, right now, by going first here and then here.

Please consider this. I'll let you know what happens after the New Year.

More after the jump ...


Here's a poem I wrote after visiting the beautiful Twa people who were then homeless but are now settling in Matara ...

Culture Grief
Brian McLaren
They dance and sing as we arrive.
Dust rises ‘round us like rusty smoke.
Our dancing crowd moves like a swarm
Up the hill, through the village, to the center.
Short men smile and clap their welcome.
Women sway in tattered skirts.
One old woman leaps and spins,
Breasts flapping like out-turned pockets,
Arms arcing out like wings.
She dips, leans this way, that,
Eyes wild and alive as a dare.
Boys around me fuse like pistons
Into an engine of percussion.
They jump and stomp, rise and fall,
Feet in complex rhythms
Beating the earth-drum with themselves
As one.
We share the ecstasy of tribal and tribeless finding one another
After a thousand centuries
Apart.
Led by the hand, I stoop down, crawl sideways, fingerprinting red dust,
Into a Batwa hut of sticks, vines, mud, grass.
I, a visitor here, a stranger welcomed, strangely warm,
Adjust to the dim and humane light:
Reed mats, a torn mosquito net, dirt floor, three stones,
A cooking pot and gray embers from the morning fire.
I turn, push out, and squint, delivered back into stark midday sun.
A baby cries in fear,
Mine the first white face his eyes have ever seen.
In light of what has happened, he is right
To cry,
In this, his sad world, and mine, of light
And dark.
These little people, small as splinters in the palm of Africa’s pain -
Their poor neighbors despise them: smelly, dirty, poor, simple.
They have too little water to drink,
None to spare for washing.
They sleep on dirt, in huts,
On land they do not own.
When it rains, they get wet.
Unowned, they even lack the value of slaves.
They do not count.
In school, Tutsi and Hutu alike make fun,
Reconciled in their shared disdain,
And so Batwa seldom last more than a year or two
In school,
If that.
The chief, named No-Name by his parents,
Gathers us beneath a kind of trellis.
Speeches are made. People clap.
Eyes meet eyes. Shy smiles form.
Gifts exchange. My eyes brim.
Somehow they know I am here
To keep a promise and save
My soul.
They sing and dance again as we depart.
For a while I join them stomping in the rising dust,
Wishing I could stay.
What are they singing? I ask.
The translator by my side leans toward me:
They are singing a good-bye song, he says.
The Batwa sing and dance when guests arrive
And when they leave.
They sing when they have food, he says,
And when they hunger they sing.
They survive, he says,
This way.