They are calling it a “purchase with a purpose.”
The simple act of buying a Christmas tree is an annual tradition for many families. But this year, it can also save a life.
New Hope Ministries Church of God, in Corbin, is partnering with the “Buy a Tree, Change a Life” charity to help fund efforts in Southeast Asia to combat the human trafficking of children. The church has 200 trees for sale. A portion of the sale of each tree helps fund People for Care and Learning, a non-governmental organization that promotes sustainable farming methods and English as a second language in the region.
“The story really started when a few of us went to Southeast Asia in 2014 to build 10 homes for displaced families,” says Mike Addison, senior minister at New Hope.
“When we got there, what we say resonate with us. It’s the most dangerous place in the world to be a child.”
Through People for Care and Learning, New Hope, along with many other churches, helps to fund orphanages in Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Thailand that gives safe haven to children rescued from human trafficking. Many of those children are sold into forced labor or the sex trade.
“It’s not just until they are 12 or 18-years-old either,” Addison said. “It’s for a lifetime. We send them to elementary and high school, but we also help them go to college. We try to give the poor a working chance, that’s how we look at it.”
New Hope is currently selling Christmas trees near Campbell Motors on U.S. 25E just outside of Corbin. Trees are available for purchase from noon to 8:00 p.m. daily.
Last year was the first year the church participated in the “Buy a Tree, Change a Life” program. It raised $10,000 and was one of just 20 sites nationwide taking part. This year, the number of sites has more than doubled. Addison said New Hope has set a goal of $15,000.
“We are going to blow that out of the water,” Addison said confidently. “I have faith that we will do that.”
All told, “Buy a Tree, Change a Life” raised $283,000 last year. This year, the goal is $1 million.
“We have missionaries on the ground saving the children. They are literally saving their lives,” Addison said. “Human trafficking just overtook guns as the second largest black market in the world, and nobody has an answer for it. It’s sad. It’s an epidemic.”
“One tree at a time, one child at a time, we are trying to make a difference.”
Addison said some of the money raised through the program would also be used to help with needs in the Corbin Independent School System. He said it is important for churches to focus on local problems, and ones further away from home.
“I’ve been to 14 countries, and I have found in my own walk with Jesus that if I can reach people on the other side of the world, I’ll have no problem reaching people across the street.”
He also noted that what people consider “poverty” in the United States often pales in comparison to other areas of the world. In Southeast Asia, the average family lives on 24 cents a day.
“Doing this helps people and it provides us with an avenue to share Jesus in practical ways,” Addison said.
“People are going to be buying Christmas trees this year, and if you do, you know what you spend on one of these trees is going for a good cause … to help children globally and locally.”