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Search The Fig Tree's stories of people who make a difference:

Jubilee is about fair trade, living simply

by Mary Stamp

Over 25 years, the Jubilee International Marketplace at First Presbyterian Church in Spokane has grown to be much more than the Alternative Christmas Sale a team of volunteers started in 1988. 

Volunteers are still at the heart of its success as it draws thousands of shoppers and more than 30 vendors. 

Mary and John Frankhauser
A window in Mary and John Frankhauser's home depicts their commitment to peace.

The first year, they sold products from only Self Help Crafts, which is now Ten Thousand Villages. 

Vendors fill the church’s gym and fellowship hall with African baskets, Guatemalan scarves and weaving, Nepali sweaters, Chilean art and carvings, Hmong needlepoint, Kashmiri boxes, Thai artwork and much more.

The 2013 Jubilee sale is 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 8, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 9, at the church, 318 S. Cedar.

For two of the founding volunteers, Mary and John Frankhauser, the Jubilee International Marketplace is part of their commitment to the biblical understanding of jubilee in their daily lives.

“It has grown to be the largest fair trade sale in the region,” Mary said, “because we are blessed in Spokane to have several small business owners whose lives revolve around fair trade.

“Scriptures command us to love our neighbors as ourselves, and call us to empower people to move out of poverty,” she added.

“The biblical concept of jubilee is foundational for us.  God’s intention is that abundance is for everyone,” John said.  “Because imbalances are inevitable in an economy, Jubilee was a time to rebalance resources by forgiving debts and, every 49—seven times seven—years, to return the land to the original owners.”

Seeking to live according to the Scriptures, which speak so often of economic and social justice, Mary said, they choose to live simply.

John said they grew into their commitment to live simply because each learned to live frugally from growing up on their families’ small-grain and cattle farms—both about 470-acres—in North Dakota. 

They met at Minot State College, where John studied voice, graduating in 1971.  Mary, who studied education, completed her degree after they married and moved to Washington, D.C. From Minot, they moved to Chicago, where John spent a semester at Trinity Seminary and decided ministry was not for him. 

When they moved to D.C.,   John sang for four years with the Air Force Singing Sergeants. 

He completed a master’s degree in voice in 1975 at Catholic University in D.C.  She earned a degree in education in 1974 at the University of Maryland and started teaching.

Reformed theology fit their thinking, so they joined Knox Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis, when they moved there in 1976. 

John sang with the Minneapolis Opera Company and was a soloist at a large Lutheran church.   Mary taught part time while their daughters, Kresha and Katie, were babies. 

A group in Knox heightened their call to “radical discipleship,” to apply their faith to every part of their lives. 

They and two other couples decided to move to the Inland Northwest and form an intentional Christian community.  

While they moved to the region and have remained friends, the community took a different direction. 

The Frankhausers came to Spokane in 1981 with no jobs and settled in a home on Paradise Prairie south of Spokane, in open countryside with a fresh breeze that reminds them of North Dakota. 

About 17 years ago, John built their energy-efficient home next door to their first home.  In 2010, he installed solar panels that generate most of the electricity for their home.

In 1984, Mary began a 26-year career of teaching special education at Holmes, Finch and Jefferson schools.  She retired in June 2012. 

Their first Sunday at First Presbyterian, John mentioned to a greeter that he was a professional singer.  A position happened to be open for a soloist/bass section leader.  He continues in that role, and as a soloist with the Spokane Symphony and other area organizations.

“Living simply, we stretched our income a long way,” said Mary.

“We also choose to be frugal because of the world’s needs,” John said. 

Their desire to use fewer resources so the planet will last longer is an outgrowth of their spirituality.

When their girls were growing, they talked with them about their decision to live simply, so they would be conscientious in their lifestyles, too.  They buy used clothing as a way to use fewer resources.  They seek to make purchases that help rather than hurt.

“We appreciate the Presbyterian Church because diverse views and understanding of Scriptures are okay and we can talk about our differences,” said Mary.

At the 1,200-member First Presbyterian Church, they have been involved with a sister church in Salvador, Brazil.

John has visited that church twice, once in 1992 with a team that included their daughter Kresha, and in 2001 with Mary, Kresha and Katie.

“When I see people impoverished, I want to know what we can do to make the world a better place,” Mary said.

In Brazil, they learned how Christians in other parts of the world experience God in their settings as they face the challenges of loving their brothers and sisters, and living their faith in their cultures.

John and Mary also took Kresha and Katie with a church team in 1994 to Mexico to help work on a church building. 

The Alternative Christmas Sale that became Jubilee fit their interest in people around the world.

As concepts of fair trade developed, Jubilee has become intentional about selecting vendors. 

“So we’re not just a craft sale, we want the vendors’ purpose to be economic justice and follow the criteria used to determine if a venture is fair trade,” she said.

“We want to see the relationship that goes with fair trade,” she said.

The vendor’s goals are to sell fairly traded products from artisans in developing countries, to share artisans’ stories and to offer fair trade education.

Some local charitable organizations also sell locally produced products. 

There are also opportunities for “alternative giving,” such as giving a gift to a ministry in honor of someone.

Church volunteers run a booth for Ten Thousand Villages crafts.

Jubilee has central cashiering, which John coordinates.   He has developed a computer program, tweaking it each year. 

Central cashiering means vendors can spend more time with shoppers to tell stories of people who make the items they offer.

Last year, Jubilee purchases were the most ever, $72,000. 

That covers costs for First Presbyterian Church hosting, promotion and startup expenses for the next year.  The rest goes to the vendors for their labor and business development, and then to the producers. 

Some of the fair trade businesses are for-profit, but they balance what they need and what their producers need so everyone benefits, Mary said.

“Jubilee gives us the opportunity to continue conversations about social and economic justice in the world,” she said.  “It’s a hard topic for any American, even within a church.”

John said the Jubilee International Marketplace is a concrete demonstration of an alternative to putting profit first. 

It puts people and relationships first, de-emphasizing making money off transactions, he explained.

“Vendors’ relationships with crafts persons are the priority.  They work with people they know, people whose lives they want to make better,” said Mary.  “If producers have a living wage, it results in education, health care and meeting basic needs of their families.”

Each year at orientations for Jubilee volunteers, Mary educates them on key elements of fair trade to promote conversation about fair trade all year and encourage reflection about how they live every day.

“We need to each be aware of how our decisions every day affect other people,” she said.  “When we as Christians realize God loves every person on earth with the same love, it compels us to move to principles fair trade represents, to care about others as much as ourselves.”

John and Mary are pleased with the volunteers who make the Jubilee International Marketplace possible.  They hope more will come alongside them to learn the systems.

“People are eager to volunteer to help a cause that does good,” said John.  “It has broadened my appreciation for people who want to be engaged.”

“It gives the church family an opportunity to do something meaningful together,” said Mary.

Along with Jubilee and mission trips in the 1990s, John was part of the group that established Habitat for Humanity-Spokane in 1987 and another group that started Westminster House in 1992. 

In the spring, the Frankhausers visited their daughter Katie and her husband in Spain, where they have an import/export business. 

Then they traveled for three weeks in Europe, staying with Mennonite families, because “we want to feel connected with people around the world and see how Christians are working for God’s kingdom in different settings,” said Mary.

For information, call 448-0805 or email or

Copyright © November 2013 - The Fig Tree