In America, it’s difficult to know who made our things. And aside from a hidden tagline somewhere, we generally aren’t aware of where our things are coming from either.
Who made my shoes? My shirt? The furniture I sit in? The computer I work on?
We are, at our core, a nation of consumption. But the things we use most often are rarely still made in the United States. Over time, our products have shifted geographical locations—across borders, oceans, countries, and continents. And suddenly we have no idea what goes into making a $10 shirt at Target.
Jesus calls us to something very different.
Jesus came for the least of these. The outcasts. The widowed. The orphaned. Jesus came for the eight-year-old child stitching together shoe after shoe for 12 hours with a nickel to show for it. Jesus came for the family so desperate for money, they sell their daughter to a man who will “offer her a better life.”
Jesus came for the twelve-year-old boy already addicted to drugs. Jesus came for the little girl seducing clients outside her shack so she can eat in the morning.
When we are aware of what we are buying—when our products have a story, a face—we are honoring Jesus’ radical call to love the “least of these” (Matthew 25:40). These are the ones who can’t repay you, whom you will most likely never meet or get a handwritten thank you from.
Below are eight companies that provide ethical gifts. If we’re going to be a nation of consumption, we should at least be a nation of intelligent consumption.
The jewelry from Raven+Lily is made from artillery shells found on Ethiopian farms and melted down to produce handmade beads. Consider using this byproduct of former war conflicts to express your love this Christmas.
Beza Threads, started by InterVarsity alumni, wants to use the wealth of the U.S. to save girls from sex slavery. By purchasing scarves for resale, Beza Threads provides funding for WinSouls, an organization that does just that.
Bags, jewelry, scarves, toys: $5-20
Through NationWares, people with exceptional needs such as physical or developmental disability, extreme poverty, or HIV/AIDS, can find education and financial and vocational training as they experience dignity and equality within the business world.
These shirts come from apparel manufacturers in some of the poorest regions of sub-Saharan Africa. Not only does your purchase allow these producers to earn a living wage and reinvest in their communities, but each t-shirt is screen printed by youth in Youth Enterprise, who gain life and business skills, academic support, and faith mentoring.
Bags, t-shirts: $8-20
Freeset employs women trapped in Kolkata’s sex trade industry. Whether giving a jute bag or an organic cotton t-shirt, buying from Freeset also means giving these women freedom as well.
Wallets, iPad covers, gym bags, purses: $12-60
Buy Her Bag Not her Body is created by Nomi Network, a non-profit co-founded by InterVarsity alumni that works to eradicate sexual slavery and the trafficking of women by employing women who are at-risk or survivors of sexual exploitation. With 100$ of their profit reinvested into training and career development programs for these women, you’re not just buying good products, you’re doing good too.
Rosa Loves is “everyday people aware of a need in our community.” Rather than supporting established charity organizations, Rosa Loves gives to individual people and needs within their local community and hopes to inspire consumers to other grassroots “love projects.”
At Justees, young men who were former drug users can work for a fair wage while still continuing their schooling through flexible work hours. Consider giving a justly-made shirt with a justice message.
Autumn Rupkey graduated from Drake University in Iowa with a BA in Magazine Journalism. The community of InterVarsity and the words of Pete Grieg have inspired her to live a life much bigger than her own. She dreams of redemption and pursues revolution. She is a freelance graphic designer and partner of Beza Threads.