LakeWorld Store Promotes Fair Trade -- and Missions
Does where you shop and what you buy really matter?
It matters to the Lakewood UMC congregation in Houston. In 2010, according to Pastor of Worship Life Elizabeth Duffin, “at the suggestion of our Senior Pastor Chappell Temple, and as a part of our visioning process, we decided that our church would increasingly rely on Fair Trade products: coffee, tea, chocolates, and cotton in the t-shirts we print, to ensure that laborers who produced those goods were paid a fair wage.” Lakewood took that commitment a step further in November 2011 by launching the LakeWorld store on-site to fundraise for missions by selling Fair Trade coffee, chocolate, baking supplies, and other food items, as well as items that are brought back by mission teams from countries served. The store raised right at $6,000 for missions during its first year.
Working with Betty Christian, Carol Henderson helps manage this store at Lakeview. “Each week 2-3 volunteers run the store, and find that our biggest sellers are jewelry, coffee, purses, baskets, nativity sets and all kinds of beautiful gift items from all over the world,” says Betty. The church store is open on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings, and is accessible by appointment. In addition, Lakewood UMC has started having an annual Christmas Cooking School, where each presenter has to use at least one fair trade item in their recipe. The 2012 event was held in early November and featured eight “courses” where all receive a generous taste. Donations of about $800 were split between Carenet Pregnancy Center and Redeeming Ministries to fight human trafficking.
Last Valentine's Day, Lakewood UMC had a fair trade bake sale, where each goody featured at least one fair trade item and the proceeds went to Haiti relief. And at Easter, Lakewood’s Social Outreach and Witness team made Easter baskets with fair trade chocolates that were given to members of the congregation who were unable to leave their homes.
Adds Betty, “Although our profits go to missions, we feel our most important mission is the original purchase of the goods from the Fair Trade producers and members. Today, our partners are feeding their children and providing medical care, housing and education that might not be possible if they were not a Fair Trade partner.”
As the Coordinator of Community Life and Neighbor Ministries, Betty works to facilitate solutions to social justice issues and to educate the congregation and others about the responsible buying of Fair Trade items when possible. Pastor Duffin agrees this is a revitalizing activity. “It’s a great – and growing – ministry of our congregation,” notes Elizabeth. “I think the LakeWorld store is a tangible way for our people to make a difference in the lives of people around the world. As they buy Christmas gifts at a reasonable price right now, they’ll know that the artisan who made the gift is getting a fair wage for their work. So many of our church members are passionate about world missions, but cannot personally go on a mission trip. This is a way they can be involved in our mission work right at home.” Betty admits, “It is amazing to think that thousands of miles away, people are crafting (many from recycled materials) such lovely items, and that the lives of their families can be forever changed through the sale of their work.”
In response to questions from other churches, Lakewood UMC has developed this Q&A on what fair trade means, how the purchasing process works and how other churches can use similar practices in their own congregations. Download File