Some 15 years ago, my aunt and uncle gave me the gift of goat for Christmas.
Let me rephrase: They didn’t give me an actual goat, but they donated a goat — in my honor — to a village in the developing world.
At age 15, I was less than pleased. The plight of starving children and the needs of my indigent brothers and sisters around the globe were far too serious and far too abstract for my selfish teenage brain to wrap itself around.
Today, though, I find myself in the ironic position of wanting to buy goats, mosquito nets, and other items as Christmas gifts in honor of my own family members. This causes me to look back on my selfishness as a teen and see how blind I was to the idea of grace — how blind I was to the beauty and significance of my aunt and uncle’s gift.
I bring all of this up because of a new web/television show that debuted last week on the interweb called "Missions in Action." In the interests of full disclosure I must confess that I am a creative producer for the show and helped develop it from its inception, but the reason I signed on to the project was not to be involved with a television show.
Instead, I bought in because of how inspiring the mission was: to bring the camera into pockets of the world where unsung missionary and humanitarian organizations are doing amazing work. God's work.
On our very first phone conference, the show’s producers told me that they wanted to show the world what the face of selflessness looks like and in the process demonstrate for people exactly what their gifts and donations accomplish when they go to a missionary and/or humanitarian nonprofit organization.
In this first season, Missions in Action has teamed up with four nonprofit aid organizations: Compassion International, World Vision, ChildFund, and the Mocha Club.
Last week, the show’s first episode went live and featured host Alex Boylan meeting families in the Philippines whose lives are turned upside down each year because of the epic flooding that takes place in the area.
The second episode — a new episode launches every two days — also based in the Philippines, features a 22-year-old Filipina named Maan and traces her 15-year trajectory through the Compassion program: the five sponsors who helped her along the way, the education she received through the program, the hope she found in Jesus, and the way she is currently finishing college and hopes to work as a project director for Compassion so she can help other kids like herself rise above their disadvantages.
Watching organizations like Compassion make a signficant impact on people’s lives is teaching me how important it is that, as human beings, we realize how we truly all are connected, that we must do whatever we can to support one another in our time of need, and provide hope for their future.
In other words, watching these first episodes of "Missions in Action" has reminded me that there is but One Love and that we are to, as Bono says, "carry each other."
In that spirit, this Christmas I will be doing what I can to help, and I hope that my teenage cousins won’t be too distraught when they see how I’m choosing to do it. But then again, who knows … they may be far more mature and selfless than I was at 15.
Maybe they'll think it's wonderful when they find out they’ve just given goats to a needy family on the other side of the world.
To learn more about organizations like Compassion and WorldVision and to follow along on Alex’s journey, go to MissionsInAction.tv. You can chat with him on Twitter @missionstv and follow his progress on Facebook.
Perhaps Alex's journey will inspire you to give the gift of goat this holiday season.
Austin Carty is a writer and speaker from central North Carolina. He is the author of High Points and Lows: Life, Faith, and Figuring It All Out, and he blogs daily at www.austincarty.com.