By Beth Luthye, Grant Writer
My pastor recently taught on the story of a wedding at Cana in John 2:1-11"a little event that would probably have gone unrecorded had it not been where Jesus performed his first public miracle, turning water into wine.
This was a puzzling choice, perhaps, for a first miracle. It was much less flashy than, say, giving sight to the blind. And, at first glance, it seems so much less important. Sure, the hosts were sort of panicked, but resurrecting a party isn't exactly on par with giving life back to a young girl or setting free the oppressed, is it?
They say first impressions matter, though, so what would this coming-out miracle have revealed about Jesus? What did it reveal about his love? About the kingdom of God?
The Scripture passage says there were six stone jars, each with the capacity to hold 20 to 30 gallons of water. We don't know exactly how many guests were at this wedding, but surely 120 to 180 gallons of wine would have been more than enough to finish out a nuptial celebration.
I'm sure there is much more to say about this water-into-wine event, but I've held onto an observation my pastor made that is both simple and beautiful: God's kingdom is one of abundance.
And yet, it's sometimes hard to line up this picture of abundance with what we know of the world.
There are 925 million seriously hungry people in our world. People who dream and people who love. People who are children and grandchildren, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends. People who clearly don't have enough.
And yet, there is the promise of a Kingdom of Enough.
Plant With Purpose works for the transformation of poor, rural farming families by turning scarcity into enough. Enough food on the table. Enough nutrition for children. Enough income to send those children to school. Enough opportunity for a better tomorrow. Enough hope to hold onto.
The Irish talk about "thin places""where the distance between heaven and earth collapses and the two meet. Those places where the miraculous seeps into the mundane.
I'm thinking some of those thin places are ethereal and breathtaking"the kind of spots you'd want to capture in photographs and post on Amazing Things in the World. But some of the most beautiful thin places are simply meager plots of land in tiny communities far, far off the beaten path. Places where the hard, back-breaking work of women and men is turning into more food for their families. Places where land is being restored and hope is being renewed. Places where parents are making the most of their opportunities so that their children can make the most of their futures. Places where communities are celebrating the miracle of enough.
by Aly Lewis
Recently I was posed the question, Why are you here?
Not why-do-people-exist or what-is-the-meaning-of-life, but why am I HERE at this juncture in my life. At this computer at this desk with these coworkers at this job to do these tasks.
One answer is this:
February 2006, Managua, Nicaragua
Plastic smoldered and filled the air in a hazy smokescreen that seared my eyes and bit at my nostrils in the city dump of Managua, Nicaragua. Skeletal cows munched on the aluminum cans that children searched all day for in the city dump. This was their home, their school, their playground. Our yellow school bus heaved and rattled into the dump. We pressed our faces against the hot window panes, peering out into the ocean of refuse. When we realized where we were, our faces dropped, eyes averted and laughing silenced. One man lifted his dark, gnarled hand to brush the sweat from his furrowed brow. Our bus grinded to a halt and the door creaked open. Trevor, one of our program facilitators poked his head out and yelled something to the man in broken Spanish.
Did he mind speaking to us for a minute? Did he mind sharing his story with us?
The man carefully stepped over the debris, clambering his way to the open bus door. He moved through the sea of trash like an experienced sailor. Like he'd long since lost his land legs. We wore fresh skirts and smoothed slacks. The old man glanced down at his modest t-shirt, sweat stained and torn. We wanted to know what his life was like. How was he surviving? What did he think about God? Parched and at a loss for words, the man swallowed a few times, his tongue wetting his chapped lips, gums, and the few teeth he had. Then he told us the only thing he knew.
"Dios ha bendecido a mi familia." "God has blessed my family," he said. "God is good. Before this garbage dump we were on the streets, and that was worse. God has provided, and God is good."
Blessed? The last time I checked, my definition of blessed did not include the privilege of sorting through trash and watching your children inhale toxic fumes on a daily basis.
Trevor thanked him for sharing and handed him a cold, dripping water bottle. He greedily grabbed the fresh water, and the condensation formed tiny rivulets in the deep, cracked creases of his craggy palms"living water in a thirsty, barren land, fresh water in a sulfuric sea.
That's part of it. That's part of why I'm here. Writing this blog. Working at this nonprofit that serves the rural poor. Thinking these thoughts. Still struggling with the word blessed . Still working through what it means to see God at work in this unjust world.
It's why I'm HERE at Plant With Purpose. It's why I'm so passionate about the work of our field staff who empower and transform the lives of the rural poor.
It's why I have hope of a better story. A story of families restoring their land, raising their incomes, and learning to thrive BEFORE they end up desperate, on the streets or at the dump.
It's why I can tell a story like this:
Meet Jayaw Licha from Panasawan, Thailand. Jayaw Licha is a dedicated farmer with a wife and a child. With the help of Plant With Purpose, his life entire life has been turned upside down in the best possible way. Plant With Purpose taught him sustainable agriculture techniques, such as interplanting crops with trees and using organic fertilizers and pesticides, which he applied to his farm.
Now his thriving farm produces an impressive variety of food year round"coffee and tea, corn and beans, mangos, bananas, and pineapple, just to name a few! His land produces enough to feed his family and he sells his corn for extra income.
In fact, his farm is doing so well he no longer has to leave his community to work as a day laborer to support his family. Ultimately, he doesn't have to leave, his family doesn't have to leave, and there is no hint of slums, begging, or garbage dumps in their future.
So today, HERE, I am grateful to write such a story of hope and have my eyes opened to the blessing (yes, I said it) of seeing God at work in an unjust world.
But enough about me, what brought you here? What's your purpose?
Adapted with permission from our partner Plant with Purpose.
by Aly Lewis
Circle. Circle. Swirl. Spit.
Confession time: I love flossing. If I don't floss before bed I have nightmares of plaque and gingivitis taking over my mouth"if I can even fall asleep. Seriously.
My love of dental hygiene grew from a hatred of anything less than perfection. When I was 11, I received a report card from my pediatric dentist with red ink scrawled over the areas I'd missed in a big gaping mouth diagram. Next to the plaque inkblots was my tooth brushing score: a 60%.
That's a D in real life!!! And these weren't even my baby teeth! How could I accept any less than 100% for my smile?
But many children around the world don't have a choice. They don't have access to tooth brushes or toothpaste. Much less floss or dentists or the colorful goody bags I got from my dentist as a kid.
All of my pearly white vanity aside, dental hygiene is a big issue. Poor dental hygiene can lead to gum disease, chronic inflammation, and even increased risk of heart attack and other medical complications.
Now what does dental hygiene have to do with Plant With Purpose? Trees don't have teeth. We say "Trees Please," not "say Cheese Please," right?
Today I'd like to tell you more about one of my favorite Plant With Purpose programs. Dental Brigades. That's right, brigades.
No, no these dental brigades aren't little armies of marching teeth. Or even regiments of soldiers wielding tooth brushes in the fight against bad breath.
In our program in Oaxaca, Mexico we organize dental hygiene campaigns called dental brigades as a part of our mission to promote holistic community health and development.
For these projects, Plant With Purpose teams up with local health clinics to provide the families we serve access to dental health care. Through these traveling dental clinics, thousands of families have received dental care.
One father, Rodolfo, (on the right in the picture above), speaks of his experience with Plant With Purpose, "The first project with Plant With Purpose was the cistern, then stoves, then ten families built latrines, and then chicken projects. We also get dental care from Plant With Purpose. The church is growing and that is its purpose - to spread the word of God."
Saying dental cleanliness is next to godliness may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I do believe we can show God's love through dental care. And that's something to smile about.
re-posted with permission
by Kate Nare
Meet Elizé Calixte from the Savanette community in Haiti. He is 19 years old and lives with his mom, his step-father, and six other relatives. His mother has been working with Plant With Purpose's Haiti program, Floresta-Haiti, since 2007. She earns a living by baking and selling bread in the market to contribute to the family's income. Additionally, with loans she received from Floresta-Haiti she was able to construct a cistern, begin diverse farming techniques, and send Elizé to school.
Recently, Elizé graduated from high school and officially became a member of the Savanette Floresta-Haiti community group. He is using his carpentry skills to make furniture which he sells in the market. Since joining the group Elizé has contributed to the micro-watershed restoration project, which involves constructing soil conservation barriers and planting trees to restore the health of the soil and prevent erosion. He has also learned diverse agro-forestry practices, such as growing fruit trees side by side with timber trees to prevent soil erosion and increase his yields to provide food and income for his family.
Elizé's mother said, "Floresta-Haiti has taught us many things and we are very grateful. We are excited to see our lives improving and it is a joy for me to see my son using his education to help our family. His has a very entrepreneurial spirit."
This is what Plant With Purpose's work is all about: families learning and implementing sustainable techniques to lift themselves out of poverty and create opportunities to break the cycle of poverty and provide hope for the next generation. Elizé's story is one of many, and we are honored and grateful to work with these hard-working individuals.
Visit our website, www.plantwithpurpose.org, to learn how you can sponsor a village in Haiti for $30 per month. With our matching grant, this amount will be doubled to $60 per month to make an even greater impact in the lives of the rural poor in Haiti.
re-posted with permission
by Scott Sabin
This article first appeared on July 6, 2009 in Issue #15 of Mars Hill Graduate School
As our two pickups struggle through the grass and mud, it is clear that we are the first to pass this way in at least a few days. In the pouring rain the entire road, what Carlos, Plant With Purpose's Dominican director, calls the international highway, seems like it could wash down the side of the mountain.
Rising thirty or forty feet to our right is a tangle of green. Old tree trunks are visible through the undergrowth, and branches with reddish bromeliads overhang our path. Patches of heavy mist drift through the trees and obscure the tops of the mountain. To our left is a vertigo-inducing drop-off into thin air, the valleys of Haiti visible far in the distance.
We are driving between impoverished border communities through Sierra de Neiba National Park in the Dominican Republic, near the Haitian border. It is a place of breathtaking beauty. After crossing the pass, we begin the winding descent down the other side of the mountain range. The forest changes from broadleaf to tall pines.
After three days of visiting our work in the struggling hillside communities to the south, the park is a reminder of how magnificent this island once was. I begin to feel as though I've caught a glimpse of how things were meant to be in the Garden. One can only speculate about what creation in a pre-Fall world must have been like, yet for all that the curse has tainted and all that human sinhas done to damage our earth, the beauty of what God has made still shines through everywhere. God's ability to work things together for good is obvious in the intricate ways that ecosystems like this fit together so perfectly. Nothing is wasted, and everything has its niche. Everywhere life springs forth from death, and resurrection is foreshadowed.
Soon we drop out of the trees and leave the park. As we wind our way down muddy switchbacks, the forest gives way to newly planted bean fields blanketing all but the steepest slopes. The view is still spectacular, but now there is much that is clearly broken. Here the curse is obvious. Hugerills caused by erosion are a testimony to the unsustainable nature of the agriculture. On the far side of the gorge, above the flood-scarred dry wash that marks the border, dozens of Haitian homesteads dot the hillsides. There, years of intense cultivation have given erosion a head start, and the exposed bedrock that fills the fields is a portent for the Dominican side as well.
This is new territory for me; Plant With Purpose only recently completed initial surveys on this side of the park. The first village we come to, a collection of wooden shacks, a one-room school, and a military border checkpoint, has been appropriately nicknamed "The Armpit."
The conventional wisdom, that you can tell the location of the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti by where the trees stop, isn't entirely true, but it is close"the greater population density on the Haitian side makes the border obvious. But on both sides, circumstances have made it challenging for people to live without destroying their environment. And the environment returns the favor, its degradation making life tenuous for these forgotten people. It is a broken relationship in a fallen world.
Poverty limits the options of farmers who have no resources other than the hillsides. When times get especially hard, they cut the trees to sell as firewood. The Dominicans can clear more of the forest to plant their beans, moving into the edges of the national park, but the Haitians must cross the border daily to sharecrop the Dominican bean fields. They trade half their crops for the right to farm Dominican hills, taking their unsustainable farming practices deeper into the Dominican Republic.
As the trees fall, the soil continues to erode and the watershed continues to degrade, robbing the farmers of their two most important assets"soil and water. Thus, poverty spreads and is clearly visible in the eyes and on the faces of the shoeless workers that walk back and forth across this border.
But even here, there is hope. There is good news and there are options. The people may be disempowered, they may need to be reminded of their own God-given talents, but they are not stupid or helpless. Like all of us, they need to be reminded of their own importance in the eyes of God and of the love he has for them. The good news of the kingdom is that they can begin to live as if the curse were lifted. Relationships with God, creation, and neighbor can begin to heal.
Creation need not be an enemy. Farmers can learn other ways to farm that work with the steep hillsides, instead of against them. Trees can be planted that thrive in this environment and provide income to poorfamilies while slowing soil erosion and restoring the watershed. Waste can be used as fertilizer rather than river pollutant. By mimicking the diversity of creation and its cycles, a new, healthier relationship can be created. New life can come from decay. Like all of our relationships, these new relationships are still tainted by the fall, but they can be improved and health can be restored. Finally, as Dominicans and Haitians, people with a long history of mistrust and even violence, work together for a common purpose as brothers and sisters in the Lord, relationships between troubled neighbors can be healed.
In the few years that Plant With Purpose has been working on the other side of the park, we have begun to see the changes that occur when individuals and communities rediscover their God-given potential and heal their land. Tiny trees cover the hillsides. Beans are being replaced with a diversity of crops that make the best use of the steep hillsides and scarce water. There is reconciliation between Haitian and Dominican. It still doesn't look like the park and never will, but there is perhaps even greater beauty in the redemption that is taking place as life springs forth from death. Here in the Armpit, tha tredemption is still only a prayer, but we look forward with great anticipation to the healing that is to come.
This piece was forst printed in Creation Care Magazine. For more information click here.
Scott C. Sabin is the executive director of Plan with Purpose, a Christian nonprofit organization that reverses deforestation and poverty in the world by transforming the lives of the rural poor (www.plantwithpurpose.org).
by Audrie Peveler
Sometimes I live in a bubble. I get my five minutes of news after a TV show I watch with my roommate every Wednesday night, and then I get my fill of depressing information so I turn it off. When all I need is on my university's campus, it's easy to live that way. So when the earthquake hit Haiti a year and half ago, I was, naturally, one of the last to know. Since then I have been trying to make more of an effort to stay informed on international affairs, and interning with Plant With Purpose has been a medium for that.
Long before the earthquake, Plant With Purpose was working alongside Haitian rural farmers. Significant progress was being made. Then the earthquake hit. Although the earthquake was primarily focused in Port au Prince, rural farmers are still feeling the aftershock. As Scott mentioned in his one year blog on the progress in Haiti, many who once lived in the urban jungle sought refuge in the homes of their rural family and friends. With household sizes doubling and sometimes tripling, the farmers we work with have been pressured into using farming practices that are not sustainable. These practices don't just affect the farmers, but everyone who is downstream of the pesticide and fertilizer-infested waters. Disease has been at an all-time high.
But there is hope.
The reason Plant With Purpose works on long-term relationship building is precisely for moments like this. Plant With Purpose didn't come in after the quake; they had been there over a decade before. It's difficult to trust aid that comes in enormous chunks right when the disaster hits. What is easier to lean on is help from our Haitian Plant With Purpose staff who has been and are still teaching more sustainable agricultural practices.
In early 2011 alone, 36,273 trees were planted. Trees restore the soil, and in turn, restore the land and watersheds, providing clean water and more opportunity for growth. Barren hillsides are thriving. Over 290 fruit trees have been grafted this year. Rural farmers are gaining access to credit to use for agricultural endeavors, which is a much healthier way of providing for their now doubled or tripled household sizes.
Perhaps the question still remains, "Why isn't Haiti fixed yet?" And the answer remains: extreme poverty does not have an overnight solution. No matter how many handouts we give, unless the people learn how to restore their own land, the problem will never be solved. Tent cities were a necessary solution at the time of the earthquake, but the land is teeming with hope at the prospect of restoration, and not just restoration of the land, but restoration of its people.
It's easy to live in a bubble and not think about the rubble that still lies in Port au Prince 1 ½ years later, but we are called to a higher purpose. The problem in Haiti and in all of the areas Plant With Purpose works in requires long-term commitment. Trees are our loaves and fish, and your support of Plant With Purpose makes a tangible difference in the lives of those who had no say when catastrophe hit.
To learn more and donate to Plant With Purpose's life-changing programs in Haiti click here.
re-posted with permission
By Audrie Peveler
It's beginning to get "hot" in San Diego. The other night I had to laugh at myself as I went searching for a fan at 1am just so I could sleep. In my hometown of Henderson, NV (right outside of Las Vegas), what we're experiencing in San Diego would be considered a cold spell. This is my first July not in 100+ degree weather with humidity, and there's not a whole lot I miss about that. One thing I do love and miss about the desert, though, is desert sunsets.
Call me crazy, but I prefer my desert sunsets to the sun setting over the Pacific. However, a couple weeks ago there was an ocean sunset that took my breath away, along with the breath of the hundreds of other people who stood along Sunset Cliffs near Ocean Beach. All kinds of people flock to OB, but no matter where you were that evening, you paused. It was avery surreal experience, realizing that I had at least one thing in common with every person on those cliffs.
That brings us to segue #1:
This summer my family and I embarked on our first camping adventure in a long time. I met them south of Yosemite National Park, where we stayed for a few days before venturing into the valley. Our trip included hikes to gorgeous waterfalls, bike rides on trailslined with enormous trees, and finally, a day in world-famous Yosemite. I think the last time we were there for more than a few hours I was two or three years old, which means the three young boys in the picture didn't exist yet. Despite the years, Yosemite hasn't changed much. That's a beautiful thing.
Our day in the park included stepping on toes, running to catch the first available picnic table, and burning the brakes on our bikes; there were many, many people in the park, especially for a Monday in June. All nationalities, cultures, and languages were represented. At first, the situation was just plain annoying. Here we were, trying to enjoy a peaceful family vacation, and all these people had to come and ruin it.
But then I realized something: We all had one thing in common, and that was awe and love for creation. Welcome to segue #2:
If you haven't made the connection between the beautiful sunset, my awesome family vacation, and Plant With Purpose, let me help you out. Plant With Purpose works with people of all different creeds and color,but one thing we have in common with them is a love for creation. I find myself stopping to admire beauty in all sorts of places. There is beauty in the mighty Pacific crashing against the cliffs with all its might. There is beauty in untouched, open meadows. There is beauty indesert flowers that only bloom for a few hours. There is beauty in the diverse people Plant With Purpose has the privilege of working with. We serve a beautiful and creative God. His creation cries out for healing; healing of the land and its people. As you enjoy your summer vacations and various trips, may the beauty of creation point you to the Creator who clothes the lilies of the field, and watches over you, me, and every rural farmer PWP works with.
re-posted with permission
By Doug Satre, Director of Outreach and Development, Plant with Purpose
On a recent visit to the Dominican Republic, a small group of visitors and I had the opportunity to visit several farms where Plant With Purpose has been working to help farmers learn new ways of restoring damaged lands and increasing their incomes. We walked into the farm of Dario Peña, looking forward to seeing the typical projects farmers are so proud of - cisterns and garden beds, tree nurseries, and fields of green beans destined for organic food markets in Europe. But what was on Dario's mind was something else. "This is my daughter, Claudia," Dario said, glowing with pride. "She is at the university now!" Pleased to have an attentive audience, he launched into the story of how he had been able to develop his farm and raise his income so that his daughter could attend college. What before would have been a far-off dream had become a living reality.
Not having known Dario's situation before, it was hard for me to really appreciate how far he and his family had come. We had some time- so he told us the long version, of how he had received ownership of his land several decades ago, along with many others in his region. They didn't know how to raise a decent crop from the degraded soil, and so most of them ended up selling their land and moving to the city where they worked as unskilled laborers with few prospects. But because he was able to restore his farm to productivity he held on to his land and now his daughter was on her way to college, rather than coping with life in the slums of Santo Domingo. His farm had even created work for six more people in his community.
The relationship between child welfare and environmental problems is one that deserves our attention. From inner city kids with asthma, to the Japanese children of the 1970's born with deformed limbs due to mercury poisoning, it is children who suffer the most from environmental pollution and degradation. This is also true of the areas where Plant With Purpose works among the rural poor - places where few children finish high school, let alone attend university, and where life expectancy, nutrition and education levels lag far behind those in the cities. In many cases, especially in Haiti and Thailand, they are at risk of being victims of family or racial violence, abandonment, or being trafficked as slaves.
How could planting trees, or restoring soil make a difference in these kinds of situations? Dario and his family answered that question for me. His family's prosperity was a powerful example of what can happen when we understand the relationship between poverty and the environment: families stay together as parents find work in their home communities; children develop healthy bodies as they benefit from improved nutrition; children are able to stay in school as their parents can afford their school fees; and they grow up in an atmosphere where they and their families feel increasingly empowered as they absorb the message that they are loved by God and endowed by him with precious gifts and talents.
to support the programs of Plant with Purpose or to learn more click here.
by Jim Ball
As I discuss in my book, Global Warming and the Risen LORD (pp. 375-380), 2.5 billion people on the planet cook using simple but inefficient stoves. Amazing as it seems, such stoves are contributors to global warming, and therefore offer tremendous opportunities to both help the poor and overcome global warming simultaneously. The contribute in two basic ways: (1) through deforestation (if the fuel is wood) and (2) the release of black carbon (a form of soot), which is the second leading cause of global warming. As I say in the book,
"Unlike greenhouse gases, black carbon and other pollutants associated with it can also have regional impacts affecting about 3 billion people, including 20%-50% more warming, the melting of snowpacks and glaciers in the Himalayan region, and regional drought" (p. 375).
That melting in the Himalayan region is significant, as it is the fount for water for 40% of the world's population.
Now comes word that a company I talk about in the book, Envirofit, has just announced a major cookstove project in Nigeria.
According to a ClimateWire article by Lisa Friedman,
Nigeria could become a testing ground for the world's most ambitious effort to provide affordable clean cookstoves that can also earn carbon credits and turn a profit.
In a partnership announced today between the nonprofit cookstove maker Envirofit International, the Shell Foundation and the carbon finance company C-Quest Capital, officials laid out a plan to deliver 2 million improved cookstoves to Nigerian homes over the next seven years. The effort, C-Quest CEO Ken Newcombe said, is expected to eliminate 9 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
"It's really only, in my view, in the last 18 months, realistically 12, that it's been possible for the private sector to take risks" on projects like clean cookstoves, Newcombe said.
This is quite significant. In my book I argue that cookstoves projects at the scale needed will only be succussful if a business model rather than a charity mentality is the guiding force.
According to the article, the reason this project is moving forward is
because the United Nations' Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which enables polluting companies and countries to earn carbon credits in return for establishing clean energy projects in developing countries, recently published methodologies to support capturing the carbon emissions-saving values of cookstoves and also enabled the bundling together of individual cookstove projects into a larger program that can obtain CDM credits.
This is terrific news for cookstove projects around the world, such as the project EEN supports by one of our network partner organizations, Plant With Purpose.
The benefits of such efficient cookstoves are much more than their contributions to overcoming global warming. Indeed, such contributions are simply an added bonus. Here's how I summarized the benefits in my book:
(1) use energy more efficiently;
(2) reduce deforestation and its greenhouse gas emissions;
(3) reduce or eliminate black carbon emissions;
(4) improve human health;
(5) reduce time spent collecting fuel and cooking, thereby providing women and girls more opportunities;
(6) increase the family budget; and
(7) provide local employment.
I conclude by saying that one word can sum this all up: freedom. Efficient cookstoves are freedom stoves. So three cheers for Envirofit's new Nigeria project, and for the ability of other projects to get CDM carbon credits.
The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.
by Doug Satre
How well do you know the place where you live? Really know it- what plants are native to your area? What birds? Which species are thriving and which are endangered? For me, trying to grow in my commitment to environmental stewardship is to take the time to appreciate the uniqueness of the place that I live, and to gain a greater appreciation for it.
Yesterday I got some help in this process, when I visited one of our local San Diego nurseries, Moosa Creek Nursery,owned by Hank and Su Kraus. They started their nursery five years ago, focusing strictly on California native and drought-resistant plants. Since that time, they have grown to include over 300 varieties of native plants, most of which are gathered themselves from seed. Hank explains, "There are really no more than 30 or so native plants that you can go out and buy, the rest we have to hike around and find. This has become my favorite part of the job!" Hank went on to explain how they take GPS coordinates of every site they collect seeds, so that they can catalogue it and better understand each plants unique needs and adaptation.
One special experience for the Kraus's has been to propagate a number of species which are on the verge of extinction, or which grow in very few and threatened locations. One of these plants is the Catalina Cherry pictured here, endemic to California's Channel Islands.
As we walked around Moosa Creek, our discussion ranged from the benefits of planting native plants- (they use less water, require fewer chemicals and provide habitat for native birds and butterflies), to local water policy, to the challenges of living out the teachings of Jesus as a small business owner, to the connection between environmental degradation and poverty in developing nations. (Hank and Sue have chosen to support the work of Plant With Purpose in the Haiti- Dominican Republic border area, where deforestation and poverty are especially acute.)
What struck me was that, as the Kraus's have built an intimate connection with a particular place, their concern for global issues has also grown. And as they pursued the business of growing native plants, they had come to understand the interconnectedness of the plants, birds, insects and other animals that make up their locally ecology. It was a very inspiring time and I left wanting to know my own "backyard" environment better, even as I seek to be engaged with issues of creation stewardship around the world.
Doug Satre is Director of Outreach Development of Plant With Purpose. Doug is responsible for overseeing Plant With Purpose's fundraising and marketing efforts, working with the Plant With Purpose staff, donors and foundations to build awareness and financial support of Plant With Purpose's work to transform the lives of the rural poor.
Advent is upon us. This year we have decided to partner with Plant with Purpose and Food for the Hungry to highlight the plight of peoples impacted by severe environmental change. Throughout the next several days we will be putting up a daily story log first with Plant with Purpose than with Food for the Hungry leading up to Christmas Day. Please check back daily and follow along as we follow the lowly infant from Bethlehem.
by Alexei Laushkin
Did you know that half of all the people who have ever lived on the planet are alive right now. In the next 40 years the population of the earth will go from 6 billion to 9 billion.I am not sure we can get our head around big numbers. I might as well say that the nearest star to ours is Proxima Centauri approximately 4.2 light years or 3.97 x 1013 km away. It would mean about as much to you.
Consider this though; there are parts of the world where people are literally eating their way out of a livelihood. In Tanzania once home to some of the finest forests in Africa, locals are increasingly using up their wood for charcoal which they use to heat food. If the local population keeps using wood at the same rate that they are currently using they will depopulate their local forest. At that point they will not be able to make crafts from the trees to sell, the soil will not be fertile enough to plant, the trees will no longer provide a watershed for fresh drinking water, and when the rains come (and they will) local homes will be washed away due to the soil's lack of capacity to hold water.
In the words of Jesus "For the time will come when you will say, 'Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!' Then 'they will say to the mountains, "Fall on us!"and to the hills, "Cover us!'" Luke 23:29-30. For the people of Tanzania and Kenya a time may be approaching where their pregnant woman will long for the day when the mountains will cave in around them. They will wish that their children were not born to see such an age where people will need to become wanderers in order to survive.
The challenge to development and local missions is lifting people out of self-propitiating cycles of poverty. It's particularly hard when we ourselves are locked in our cycle of material poverty. We have access to so much that we don't know of the things which have real value. Think about Christmas, you'll receive lots of things (clothes, books, gift cards, DVDs, games, etc.). Which of these are truly valuable in a material sense? When you open the gift which of any will you say, hmm" something to hand to my children's children. That's the concept of inheritance. Proverbs says that a good man will leave an inheritance for his children's children. This world that's our common inheritance for our children,in what state will we leave it to them?
This Advent you can do something about these things. Consider giving to one of our partners who are working to lift people out of cycles of poverty into vitreous cycles of lifeand sustainability. Consider the work of our partner Plant with Purpose. Over the past 15 years they have taken deforested villages in Oaxaca Mexico and transformed them into prosperous centers were the people are happy to stay, live, and provide for their families. Check out Scott talking about his work in a recent creation care podcast.
Or the work of our partner Food for the Hungry, in Southeast Asia they are pioneering a rice system intensification method which increases rice yields and reduces the need for pesticides and water.
This Advent season consider giving the gift of life. Our Advent campaign will begin November 18 2010. Check back at http://creationcare.org or email us at email@example.com for more information.
An update from our friends at Plant with Purpose
We have heard from our Haiti Program Director, Guy Paraison, that our Haitian staff and farmers are all ok despite enduring extreme weather conditions from hurricane Tomas, which hit Haiti late last week.
Guy reported that the areas of Grande Colline, Fonds Verrettes, and Bainet experienced violent winds and rain last Thursday night. Although no one was hurt, many communities have lost livestock, and half of the recently planted pigeon pea crop has been lost as a result of strong winds and landslides. Some of the houses had their roofs ripped off by the wind, as well. In Fonds Verrettes, Guy said that farmers have lost 40 goats, one mule, and pigeon pea and banana crops.
Please continue to pray for our post-earthquake recovery efforts in Haiti. We are still employing farmers through our "Cash for Work" program to plant trees and construct soil conservation barriers. Since January 12th, 2010, we have employed over 6,000 farmers through our "Cash for Work" program to plant nearly 240,000 trees and construct over 360 miles of soil conservation barriers. This progress is encouraging, but there is still much work to be done. Please consider joining us in supporting Haiti by making a donation to our recovery efforts, or by sponsoring a village for $30 a month. Your contribution will empower families to reforest their land, feed their families, and grow in their knowledge of God's love and grace. Click here to see our open village sponsorships: www.plantwithpurpose.org/caribbean and click here to learn more about our Haiti recovery efforts: www.plantwithpurpose.org/haiti-relief.
"We want to plant trees everywhere around our community; we are dreaming of a forest! We know that if we can do this, the young men of our community will find hope and opportunity here, rather than having to look for work in the sugar cane fields of the Dominican Republic, or food in Port au Prince." " Ronald, a community leader in Fonds Verettes, Haiti. Get more updates by following the Plant with Purpose blog here.
By Scott C. Sabin of Plant with Purpose, from an excerpt of his book Tending to Eden. Click here to listen to a special edition Creation Care Podcast on Scott's work with Plant with Purpose.
"Daddy, when I grow up, I want to help you save the rainforest." My daughter, Amanda, then five, looked at me with an expression that made me melt. For a fraction of a second I thought we were completely in tune. Then she added, "I could be a butterfly or a fairy and fly around pollinating the trees." It wasn't quite the kind of help I was looking for, but it does serve to underline an important problem. Once we understand the state of the world and our call to be stewards, what can we do? Where do we start? The problems are vast and often seem so far away.
As each of us considers how to respond to the groaning of creation, there is much that can be learned from Plant With Purpose's story.The entire world faces vicious cycles similar to the one we recognized involving deforestation and poverty. And there are undoubtedly other virtuous cycles that can address two problems with one solution. Each vicious cycle we confront presents an opportunity for a corresponding virtuous cycle.
Two of the biggest problems in the world are environmental degradation and widespread poverty. There are 3.14 billion people living on less than $2.50 a day. If the poor are recognized as aresource rather than an obstacle, can a virtuous cycle be discovered in the midst of this? Is it possible that the poor could become leadersin solving the enormous environmental problems the planet faces?
Van Jones, in his book The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems, makes the case that thisis possible in the United States. He advocates putting the unemployedand underemployed to work to create a healthier, more sustainable country. Jobs can be created weatherizing homes, installing solar panels, and improving energy efficiency. As Jones says, we need to do everything we can to aid and encourage business and eco-entrepreneurs to develop market-based solutions to solve environmental problems. This is similar to what Plant With Purpose is doing internationally.
We must also look for opportunities to create smaller virtuous cycles in our environmental and economic solutions. Nature is designed to function as a series of virtuous cycles. But most often, ourattempts to address the problems are linear and finite. Recycling isone step toward closing the loop to sustainability"but it is only the beginning.
Solutions must be empowering. Everyone, from the church member in Michigan to the farmer in Haiti, has a role to play. The ruralpoor must have a role in the stewardship and restoration of the land, and the urban poor must have a role in greening and redeeming their neighborhoods and cities.
Any real solution must take into account both environmental and economic considerations. I once walked miles into a protected national park in Indonesia that was filled with illegal cinnamon plantations and criss crossed by paths used by illegal loggers to get deeper into the park. The national park was set aside with the best of intentions. But without corresponding changes in the incentives for the people who rely on the land, nothing will change.
The same applies to solutions in the United States. Economic incentives must be aligned with environmental outcomes. At a national level this means changing the way farm subsidies are applied. It means incentives and standards for improved fuel efficiency forcars. It means investment in alternative energies. It also means finding creative ways for local communities to participate in and benefit economically from the health of their surrounding environment.
Finally,any viable solution must have a spiritual dimension, because ultimately the problem is a spiritual one. The church must lead the way, offering the hope we have and setting an example withour own stewardship. We must forsake the wanton consumerism that has overwhelmed our culture and which is ultimately suicidal. And we must offer a healthy alternative based on biblical values of worship, contentment, community, and Sabbath.
How then should we respond as individuals? First, we as evangelicals need to getover our suspicion of science and learn what we can from it. Unless we understand our environment and how it works, how can we protect it? And we must learn not only from the scientists but also from our brothers and sisters on the front lines: the farmer in Tanzania who can no longer count on the rain, the Gabra elder who can no longer graze his animals, the Haitian family who has seen first hand the devastation that comes when life-support systems are wiped out.
Second, we in the church should realize how much we have in common with the wider environmental community. They value creation, in part, because they hunger for the Creator. We should engagein dialogue with them, but we must begin with an attitude of humility. We have been absent from the conversation for too long to be brash.
Nonetheless, we have something important to offer: hope in a place where there is a dearth of good news. A former colleague at Plant With Purpose told me he became a Christian partly because ofthe despair he felt as an environmental-studies major. The problems were too vast. The solutions proposed by science and government were draconian or came up short. As far as he could see, therewas no hope for the world, except in Christ. Of course, that is what we believe: that Jesus is the hope for the world. " from pages 112 to 115 in Tending to Eden by Scott C. Sabin, Executive Director of Plant With Purpose
by Scott Sabin, Executive Director, Plant with Purpose
When I first got involved at the interface of Christian development work and the Christian environmental movement fifteen years ago, voices were few and the audience skeptical. Thankfully, that is rapidly changing. There is a ground-swell of Christians who see care for creation as a vital part of their walk with Christ. However, as I talk to people, I still hear three common myths, which I will address in turn.
MYTH 1: ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERN WILL CAUSE YOU TO WORSHIP THE CREATION INSTEAD OF THE CREATOR
I have always found this puzzling. Wilderness and nature have the opposite effect on me. My involvement has taught me about the incredible intricacy and complexity of God's creation, reminding me of His attributes and my own humble place. "What is man that you are mindful of him?" (Ps. 8:4). It is probably no accident that so many of us became Christians while at camp, where, as we learned of God's love for us, we could look up and see that "the Heavens declare the glory of God." (Ps. 19:1). Or where, as we sat in humility, like Job, somewhere inside us a voice asked "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?" (Job 38:4). For centuries, creation has been understood to be part of God's general revelation, something that He called good, and which according to Paul, provides enough evidence of Him to leave us without excuse.
Indeed, I have never met a Christian who was tempted to worship creation. Instead I have met many Christian biologists and ecologists who have helped me to rediscover awe, wonder and mystery in creation, and to see the signature of the Creator in unexpected places. Far from straying from the Bible, one of the things that surprised me was how much these scientists used scripture and relied on it in their understanding of our role in taking care of the earth.
MYTH 2: YOU CAN'T CARE ABOUT BOTH PEOPLE AND THE ENVIRONMENT
At Floresta, it was our concern for the poor and hungry that led us inevitably towards caring for their environment. In our affluence, Americans have often been shielded from the consequences of our environmental decisions. If water is scarce or contaminated we can pay to pipe it across the country and purify it. If soil is degraded we can pay for fertilizers and amendments. The cost of seafood goes up, but you can still find your favorite delicacy. Because we are buffered from direct feedback, we tend to forget that the environment is our life-support system.
But the poor immediately feel the effects of environmental degradation, whether through drought induced by climate change, chronic diarrhea due to contaminated water, malaria epidemics exacerbated by deforestation, or myriad other examples. Any response to the needs of poor people that hopes to be sustainable must consider the environment. Conversely, in the developing world, any sustainable conservation effort must consider the needs of the poor. I hope to be exploring this relationship between poverty and the environment more deeply in future issues of this magazine. People and creation are part of the same system, and intimately connected.
MYTH 3: DEEP DOWN THIS IS ALL ABOUT A POLITICAL AGENDA.
There are policy issues with immense bearing on the health of creation, which I believe that we should take very seriously. However, much of what is going on around the globe transcends politics, or defies easy political classification.
For example, environmentalism is often depicted as being against private property. Yet at Plant with Purpose we have found ourselves advocating for property rights. Poor farmers who have the right to use wood and products from trees they plant will be much more likely to plant and care for them in the first place. Similarly poor farmers are more effective stewards of land that they are assured of being able to use in the future. But in other situations, government protection might make most sense.
The idea that stewardship and conservation are part of a liberal agenda seems ludicrous in much of the developing world. I remember the shock on our Dominican director's face when I first tried to explain the suspicion with which many of our American donors regarded the environmental aspects of our work. The issues just don't line up the same in Latin America or Africa. Being free of the political baggage that we carry here in the US, many of our brothers and sisters of in the developing world are way ahead of us in their understanding of stewardship.
Americans who are not ready to change votes or party affiliations can still be good stewards and creation care advocates. There are dozens of lifestyle choices that have nothing to do with politics. All of us can live more simply, drive less, recycle, buy food locally, etc. In our churches we can bring attention to the scriptural basis for stewardship"many Bible studies exist. We can encourage our churches and workplaces to reduce their own consumption and waste. And we can support organizations like the Evangelical Environmental Network, A Rocha, Care of Creation, or Plant with Purpose, which balance the focus on politics by working directly in endangered or vulnerable corners of creation.
God has called all of us to be stewards of the earth and in so doing to love our neighbors. There is a place for all of us to respond to Him.
Scott C. Sabin is the executive director of Floresta, a Christian nonprofit organization that reverses deforestation and poverty in the world by the transforming the lives of the rural poor (www.plantwithpurpose.org)