The congregation at First Christian Reformed Church in Kingston, Ont., has a new year-end tradition: giving goats as Christmas presents to a needy world. For the past two years, the congregation has met and exceeded its goal of sending 100 goats.
What prompts an urban Canadian congregation like First CRC to present so many goats to rural villagers in developing countries? The primary impetus came from congregation members Neil and Gertie Minnema, a retired couple who first visited the east African country of Uganda in 2004 as members of a Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (now World Renew) building team. As they drove to the project building site, they passed through a village where CRWRC had presented 20 goats to assist 20 widowed women. On their return trip, the Minnemas visited some of the villagers and watched the frisky goats.
The Minnemas returned to Uganda in 2007 to work on a building project in Koboko. Their team met with an all-female town council, and one of those women spoke joyfully about how the gift of a goat can be life-changing for a poor village family. She told them that families who receive a donated goat give the first-born offspring of that animal to another needy family.
Back home in Kingston, the Minnemas told their goat stories to their church community and to the inmates they visit regularly in the local prisons. They urged their local congregation to consider making a gift of Christmas goats and set the goal of funding 100 goats for people in Uganda. Thanks in part to a generous $1,000 donation from a wealthy inmate and a prison chaplain who funded two goats, their efforts resulted in funding for 151 goats that year.
As 2015 year end approached, members of the congregation asked Neil and Gertie to make this another goat-giving season. The result: 389 goats so far and a new Christmas tradition!