Background Music and Getting Outside of Ourselves


Jon Weece likes to introduce people to each other. Often it’s telling large crowds about someone he knows. And as “lead follower” at Southland Christian Church, a megachurch in Lexington, he has lots of opportunities to address large crowds. I’ve known Jon since he was a kid, and I was glad to be able to hear him speak last month at Ozark Christian College, his alma mater, as it celebrated its 75th anniversary.

Jon, a former missionary in Haiti, keeps his eye out for people who need a helping hand. One of those people is his friend Donnie, and Jon told us his story. In his book Jesus Prom, Jon writes,

When Donnie was six years old, he watched his dad beat up his mom. The trauma of that episode locked Donnie into a permanent state of childlikeness. Though he is fifty-two years of age today, Donnie thinks and acts and communicates like a six-year-old. Donnie loves me, and I love Donnie. He has taught me a lot about love.

Donnie washed dishes at a local restaurant for two decades. Each Friday he would cash his paycheck, and each Saturday he would ride his bike from one garage sale to the next buying albums and paper novels and costume jewelry. Donnie has a Christmas gift list and 385 people on it. Donnie loves people, and people love Donnie—so much so that he spends his entire year Christmas shopping for all the people he loves.


Donnie doesn’t know a stranger. When he meets people for the first time, he hugs them. And he doesn’t let go! When Donnie hugs people, he holds on! And it doesn’t matter who you are; once Donnie learns your name, your name finds its way onto his Christmas list. From the mayor of our city to the homeless men in Phoenix Park, Donnie konws a lot of people by name.

Donnie looks a lot like love.

Love holds on.

Love gives.

Love knows.

Jon also introduces people to Donnie one on one. He said that when Tony Anderson, another OCC grad, contacted him to get together, Jon brought Donnie along. Tony lives in Lexington and is a successful film composer with a long list of commercial and documentary credits.

Before Tony had become established in his career, he took on his first project, a short documentary for Christ in Youth and Rapha House, a ministry working to eliminate child trafficking and sexual exploitation. The film Tony helped them with was Baht, about sex trafficking in Cambodia.

Tony later worked on another production for Rapha House, creating the score for Finding Home, a longer documentary following three young women who’d gotten out of the sex trade in Cambodia.

Tony’s career took off when Musicbed made his growing body of work available on their licensing site, and now his clients include Ford, TOMS Shoes, ESPN, and National Geographic. When Musicbed produced a video highlighting Tony, he put Donnie front and center (and, yes, that’s Tony’s music in the background). Tony says that Donnie is teaching him how to recapture the “childlike innocence and joy” that he’s let slip away. He’s also teaching him about opening doors, seeing the value of relationships over competition and deadlines, and “getting outside of” himself.

And finally, here’s one more example of Tony’s work. He composed the music behind this short film, Onward. It’s about a family in Western Mongolia and their tradition of hunting with eagles.

(Jon Weece, Jesus Prom: Life Gets Fun when You Love People like God Does, Thomas Nelson, 2014)

[photo: “Sitting by the Piano,” by Difei Li, used under a Creative Commons license]


Fair Trade: This Christmas, Give a Gift That Comes with a Story

A handmade nativity set from Ten Thousand Villages is an example of fair-trade gifts available online.

Tasha Simons tells about meeting Tavi, cofounder—along with Center for Global Impact—of byTavi, a “faith-based micro-enterprise initiative . . . [that] teaches at-risk, impoverished women how to sew handbags and other accessories”:

She shared her heart, telling me how she lost both her husband and daughter to AIDS and how Center for Global Impact (CGI) had helped her learn a skill. Now with the income from making purses, she could send each of her kids to school and purchase needed medicine to help her stay well as she also has AIDS. Tavi also shared about the pride she has in her home. She was able to replace her mud floor with a cement one, which significantly improved her living conditions. When we finished talking, she asked: “Will you be my sister?”

Along with Tavi, there are currently over 40 Cambodian women in the byTavi workshop. Another one of them is Sreymao, who serves as a manager and designer. One of her creations is the “Wave Bag,” a large multi-purpose bag with four slip pockets hidden in a colorful wave design.

I learned about byTavi last week when I spent a day at the International Conference on Missions (ICOM) in Kansas City and got to see some of their products firsthand. It is certainly not the largest organization selling “fair-trade” gifts and crafts online, but it’s on my list of online retailers with which I’ve had some sort of personal connection. Maybe you’ll see something you like, or maybe you’ll be spurred on to look for other outlets. (If you want something much more extensive—and maybe a little overwhelming—try the Fair Trade Federation’s searchable online shopping site.)

So here you go, four sources for gifts with stories:

  • byTavi
    Besides the Wave Bag, byTavi also sells handcrafted elephant coin purses, scarves, totes, and quite a bit more. You can even see photos of the Cambodian seamstresses—and read about many of them—at their site.
  • Rapha House’s Freedom Store
    Rapha House International is a ministry that fights child trafficking and sexual exploitation by, among other things, providing safehouses for girls in southeast Asia and by helping them move beyond residential care through emotional support and vocational training. Rapha House’s first safehouse was established in Cambodia, and their home office is located in Joplin, Missouri (where I live). Their Freedom Store includes such items as bracelets, cosmetic bags, and backpacks.
  • Saffron Coffee
    The Saffron Coffee Company sells “100% shade grown organic Arabica coffee” from the mountains of northern Laos and processed outside the city of Luang Prabang. It was started by a friend of mine and his Laotian wife (whom I just met at ICOM) to give hilltribe farmers a sustainable cash crop, replacing the opium poppies that they used to grow. The company sells bags of several types of coffee—ground and as beans—as well as green coffee beans by the pound.
  • Ten Thousand Villages
    OK, this is one of the largest fair-trade organizations.. But I’d never heard about it until I read that a group of college students and academic and business leaders in nearby (to me) Pittsburg, Kansas, had opened up a store selling their wares from around the globe. Started in 1946, Ten Thousand Villages offers a wide variety of  “unique handmade gifts, jewelry, home decor, art and sculpture, textiles, serveware and personal accessories,” fashioned by “disadvantaged artisans” in 38 countries. (Info about these artisans is included throughout their Website.) They even have a clearance section, featuring more Christmas ornaments than you can shake a handmade chopstick at.

(Tasha Simons, “My Sister Tavi,” byTavi, May 2, 2013; Kristen Baynai, “byTavi Spurs Creativity,” byTavi, May 21, 2013)

 [photo: “Village Festival 7,” by pennstatenews, used under a Creative Commons license]