EEN Praises New Soot Standard
by Mitch Hescox
The health of our children took an important step forward today when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its new standard for soot pollution that provides a 20% reduction in fine particulates. To get technical for a second, it reduces fine particular matter (PM2.5) to 12 micrograms per cubic meter from the existing 15 microgram per cubic meter. These emissions come from vechicals, power plants, and industrial sources.
While our children's health will always push us towards the ultimate goal of eliminating pollution that harms them and limits their future, we believe the new standard strikes an acceptable balance between public health and current economic conditions.
Simply put, this new soot standard represents important progress in creating a brighter future for our kids.
We at EEN are grateful for the strong leadership provided by Administrator Jackson and for all the hard work that her team at EPA has put forward on this vital new soot standard.
The Rev. Mitch Hescox is President and CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network.
by Mitch Hescox
As Focus on the Family so beautifully depicts in the video below on the Dignity of Life "When we talk about being "pro-life," it's not just about a political issue. It's a worldview . . . it's a life-view."
Pro-life is so much more than being against abortion, it's also about protecting humanity from poverty, human trafficking, and for us the threats from pollution. Abortion is a nationally tragedy, but so is 1:6 children born with mercury levels that could cause brain damage, or the 78% increase in autism in the past decade, or the fact women now face a 1:8 chance of developing breast cancer " all linked to increases in toxic pollution. The Christian Church has long supported pro-life as whole life, from conception to natural death. Pro-life has everything to do with quality of life as well as preventing abortions. The long Biblical history promotes pro-life as a true concern for all life. To limit pro-life to only abortion weakens the Church's witness in caring for all God's children.
Psalm 139:13-14 (NIV)
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
God created us in His image and breathed into us the breath of life. We were created special --with special responsibilities to care for each other and to care for all of God's creation. Hopefully, no one will dispute the Christian call to be faithful stewards of all God has entrusted to us and this especially includes the earth. We live at a critical time as new chemical compounds are developed by the thousands each year, and many have never been tested for their effects on human life, especially in the combinations in which they are marketed in pesticides, herbicides, and even plastics. Lakes, streams, and ground water contamination continues from lead, mercury, organic compounds, and synthetic hormones. All these are threats to human life, especially our unborn children and "the least of these" that Jesus commands us to care. Moreover, this doesn't include another serious threat to human life - the climate disruptions caused by carbon pollution that result in extreme weather leading to drought and severe temperatures that menace human life, both here at home and around the world.
Recently, a few Roman Catholic and evangelicals developed A Joint Declaration on Life. Their goal was to call attention to the political partisanship that attempts to disrupt true Christian witness in favor of one party over another. The degree of partisanship of those concerned with our whole life message is troubling. No single political party has the full solution to life issues. The church must carefully speak on the need for action to reduce abortion and to reduce harms to all of life including harms that come from chemical exposure and the world we will leave to generations yet unborn. I signed the declaration as it represents a balanced whole biblical approach to pro-life and rejects a partial Christian understanding of pro-life.
Let's rebuff any worldview that "waters down" the Biblical message and witness that calls us to protect all life at all time in all ways. Pro-life as whole-life doesn't confuse the message but completely and fully describes our biblical witness.
The Rev. Mitch Hescox is President & CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network
by Gary Bergel
"Pollution is essentially a by-product of our vastly increased per-capita consumption, intensified by population growth, urbanization, and changing industrial processes. In the coming years, problems of environmental degradation will rise exponentially." (Ash Council Memo to President Richard Nixon, 1970)
The close of 2011 finds the U.S. at an historic ecological tipping point.
On Friday, December 16, 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) signed the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS). On Wednesday, December 21, these MATS were publically unveiled by EPA Administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, at the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, DC.
Also termed "The Mercury Rule" because they will sharply limit the emissions of mercury, a long-studied neurotoxin, the MATS will also set overall federal standards on emissions of other toxic heavy metals like nickel and selenium, as well as on arsenic, acid gases, cyanide and other carcinogenic chemicals routinely emitted by the burning of fossil fuels -- for the first time in the history of the U.S.
"By cutting emissions that are linked to developmental disorders and respiratory illnesses like asthma, these standards represent a major victory for clean air and public health " and especially for the health of our children," Administrator Jackson stated.
The risk of neurological disorders to America's unborn children by mercury and other toxic emissions was documented at a November 30, 2011 U.S. Senate Staff Briefing hosted by Sen. Robert P. Casey, Jr (PA), the National Association of Evangelicals, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Evangelical Environmental Network. Cynthia F. Bearer, MD PhD, Chief of the Division of Neonatology, Dept. of Pediatrics, University of Maryland Hospital for Children outlined the toxins, including mercury (Hg++) she looks for when examining newborns exhibiting neurological disorders.
Rev. Mitch Hescox President of the Evangelical Environmental Network, spoke at the briefings and MATS ceremony and pointed out that the MATS were "over 20 years in the making." "We are glad this moment has finally arrived, our unborn children and infants deserve it!" he declared. In his meetings with officials and in public appearances, Rev. Hescox boldly proclaims that evangelical Christians believe life is sacred and that human life begins at conception. He explains that it is this biblical "pro-life" belief, coupled with an evangelical believer's commitment to Christ, that compels them to work to protect the weakest members of society, the unborn, and to ensure their right to the "abundant life" that Jesus offers.
Various secular media reported on the support of MATS by evangelical Christians. Public Radio International (PRI) included a segment on Living on Earth, and chose to post and make their full audio interview with Rev. Hescox available.
When MATS were proposed in mid-March, 2011, officials such as John Bachman who worked for the EPA's Office of Air Quality Planning for 30 years, pointed out that the fossil fuel industry-funded lobby efforts, political in-fighting and resultant decades-long delay in proposing toxic emissions standards has "cost thousands of lives."
According to law, the EPA actively sought public feedback, regional public hearings were held, and the public comment period was extended to 140 days. More than 900,000 comments were received. Full review required an additional 30-day extension before the MATS were issued on December 16.
That these MATS were "over 20 years in the making" actually reflects back to the first legislation involving air pollution, The Air Pollution Control Act of 1955. Additional Clean Air measures were passed in 1963, 1967 and 1970. It was Republican President Richard Nixon, and his Special Message to the Congress on Environmental Quality on February 20, 1970, that really moved the Clean Air ball down the political playing field. In his speech President Nixon stated this about Stationary-Source Pollution:
Industries, power plants, furnaces, incinerators -- these and other so-called 'stationary-sources' add enormously to the pollution of the air.... Such pollution can quite literally make breathing hazardous to health, and can cause unforeseen atmospheric and meteorological problems as well.... Air is no respecter of political boundaries: a community that sets and enforces strict standards may still find its air polluted from sources in another community or another state.
In this February Special Message, President Nixon referenced that his Advisory Council on Executive Organization, headed up by Mr. Roy Ash, would be making recommendations to him by April. One of the Ash Council recommendations was for consolidation of regulatory protection and enforcement authority over matters related to the environment. The 1970 Ash Council Memo was prophetic in nature and predicted the "The Environmental Crisis" we are facing today:
Pollution is essentially a by-product of our vastly increased per-capita consumption, intensified by population growth, urbanization, and changing industrial processes. In the coming years, problems of environmental degradation will rise exponentially.
While our population will increase from 200 to 260 million by the year 2000, pollution will increase much more rapidly. Even if 50 percent of the nation's electric generating capacity is nuclear-powered by the year 2000, pollutants from fossil-fuel generations will double by 1980 and redouble by 2000.
At the same time, our demand for fresh water will increase from 350 to 800 billion gallons a day -- considerably exceeding the dependable supply of fresh water now available, some 650 billion gallons daily. More and more clean water will have to be retrieved from progressively dirtier waterways.
The enormous future needs for land, minerals, and energy require that the protection of our environment receive a powerful new impetus. In this, the nation will be on the "horns of a dilemma." The economic progress which we have come to expect, or even demand, has almost invariably been at some cost to the environment.
Various measures, including the National Environmental Policy Act which established the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), were swiftly passed by Congress. Richard Nixon created the EPA on May 2, 1971. This agency was specifically mandated to implement the Clean Air Act of 1970. Amendments calling for protection from mercury and other heavy metal toxins were signed into law by George H. W. Bush in 1990.
"The nation will be on the 'horns of a dilema.'" (Ash Council Memo, 1970)
Fortunately, while waiting for federal action since 1990, regulations similar to the MATS have been initiated by more than a dozen states, resulting in the installation of "scrubbers" by about half of the nation's energy-producing coal and oil utilities. Clean utility operators are calling their "dirty" peers forward in implementation of the new and reasonable standards.
While the MATS are projected to cost non-compliant utilities $10.6 billion by 2016, agency analysts project that the lowered toxic emissions will save $59 billion in annual health costs, preventing 11,000 premature deaths a year, debilitating heart and lung conditions, and lost workdays.
"On the whole, industry can comply in a timely and cost-effective manner." (Michael Bradley, Executive Director, Clean Energy Group)
Last-minute negotiations between the White House and EPA added a provision for extensions to power plant operators who apply for a waiver and demonstrate that they cannot meet the MATS three to four year deadline. Michael Bradley, Executive Director of the Clean Energy Group, testified at MATS hearings that, "on the whole, industry can comply in a timely and cost-effective manner."
Already-compliant utility executives, such as Ralph Izzo of New Jersey's largest electric utility, Public Service Enterprise Group, said the MATS were "long overdue" and that the new standards provide enough flexibility to allow all power generators to come into compliance without any threat to the nation's power grid. Contrary to scare tactics by MATS opponents, leading electric grid officials are assuring U.S. citizens that "no lights will go out."
Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) decried the MATS as a "thinly veiled electricity tax," and said that they are part of an Obama administration "war on affordable energy." Prominent Republican members of Congress fiercely opposed the MATS and are declaring that they will counter the regulations in Congress. Some utility heads said that they will challenge the MATS in court.
The oldest coal power plants in the U.S. have been spewing out mercury and other toxins for 90 years. Public awareness and scientific data regarding pollution has been building for almost a century. Earlier Clean Air standards have removed lead and toxins from gasoline and automobile exhaust. Work on mercury standards was set aside in the Clinton administration so that the industry emissions of nitrogen and sulfer oxides causing acid rain could be curbed through, ironically, a successful cap-and-trade program spearheaded by Republicans as they controlled Congress.
And now, at the close of 2011, even though huge sums of money were put into campaigns and behind rhetoric to make mercury and toxic emissions look innocuous and spin distortion that the MATS and cleanup would be "disastrous for jobs," another giant is falling.
We are at a positive tipping-point. Significantly, more conservatives are calling for conservation. Corporate corruption can be curbed and environmental degradation can be mitigated and even reversed. America can still regain moral leadership in the international community -- once again by example.
Some angry, shrill voices call for the abolishment of the EPA and decry the collaborative efforts of Evangelical Christians, Roman Catholics, and others in the Church who are standing and battling together against abortion, euthanasia, slavery and sex-trafficking, lack of religious freedom, racism, environmental degradation, climate crisis, threats to public health, and a host of other ills. Some say that the meaning of being "pro-life" is being "obscured."
Just the opposite is true. Biblically, being "pro-life" is far more than being "anti-abortion." The Evangel, "abundant life" Kingdom message of Jesus Christ, Savior of the world, is being unveiled and actualized. "You will know them by their fruits," Christ declared. (Matthew 7:16)
The Church is called to be authentically and totally pro-life. If we were really "getting it," then abortion would not be happening among so many "Christians," and there would be few rather than millions of foster children left to adopt in the U.S. The Church could be taking over health care, or at least starting new hospitals. Thank God for some new Christian clinics and at least a token concern for the handicapped. We each often fall far short of being "pro-life."
This MATS protective victory from toxic poisoning for mothers and their unborn children is evidence that the Holy Spirit, the Parakletos, "He who draws alongside to comfort and help," is mightily at work! The Lord is restoring the full meaning and requirements to being "pro-life."
As 2011 ends, we pray that "the meekness of wisdom" and "wisdom from above" (James 3:13-18) might be granted, enter in, and prevail. Christ, our Hope, stands smiling with arms outstretched before us on the 2012 horizon.
Soli Deo Gloria! For the Glory of God Alone!
The best of us make mistakes and it happened to us. One of our recent radio ads in Michigan suggested that Senators Stabenow and Levin are pro-life. Their voting record indicates they are not but are protective of children's health. During recording, the scripts simply were mixed as we also had ads for those with strong pro-life records. As soon as the mistake was realized, the ads were removed.
However, some of our critics have focused on this one mix-up instead of the truth behind our work and the threat mercury poses to the unborn. Mercury poisoning threatens 1:6 unborn children and the neurological damage lasts forever. Suggesting that neurological damage disappears as our critics have is simply untrue. And it shows how weak their position is that the best argument they can make is to tell parents not to worry about the brain damage mercury causes in their children because it may not last. If that's the best argument they have for supporting increased mercury pollution, it's easy to understand why they would try to distract from the real debate.
Mercury pollution that contaminates pregnant mothers and poisons unborn children is a pro-life issue. Our children deserve a better life than one faced with lowered IQ and developmental disabilities resulting from mercury.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the doctors trained to protect our children's health, have been fighting for this mercury standard for 25 years. When it comes to our children's health, it's their medical opinions and recommendation that I trust, not the coal industry's.
For many it might seem highly unusual for an Evangelical Christian to stand alongside EPA Administrator Jackson this morning. I am standing with her today because we agree on the need to protect children from mercury. Christians are called to protect life, it's sacred, and evangelicals take very seriously the Biblical belief that life begins at conception. As Scripture states:
Psalm 139:13 (ESV)
13For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
The unborn are the weakest members of our society. We must protect them and insure their right to an abundant life. Currently 1 in 6 babies are born with harmful levels of mercury in their blood. The largest source of domestic mercury emissions are coal-fired electric utilities and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards promulgated today will provide significant reductions, over 90%, of the mercury contained in the coal that is burned.
We have been waiting since the 1990 Clean Air Act for this day to come. It's been a long road,
but we're glad it has finally arrived; our unborn children and infants deserve it. As a father and now a grandfather, this is personal. It is also central to the Evangelical Environmental Network's ministry of creation care, because for us creation care is a matter of life. We understand the gift of creation as a sustainable gift empowering and providing for human life. Unfortunately, humanity has too often endangered creation and therefore endangered human life with pollution like mercury.
My organization, along with those we work with in the faith community including the National Association of Evangelicals and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, are thankful for recently finalized National Mercury and Air Toxics Standards and their life-saving benefits from mercury, particulates, and acid gases. Bishop Stephen Blaire of USCCB stated, "The U.S. Catholic bishops welcome this important move by the Administration to adopt long-awaited standards to reduce mercury and toxic air pollution from power plants and to protect children's health. In the end it just makes good sense to want to have clean air for our children and families to breathe and for future generations."
However, protecting our unborn children from mercury doesn't end with today's action. Addressing mercury from other sources, both domestic and international, remains a priority. We look forward to EPA's leadership in helping to protect our most vulnerable lives from these other major sources of mercury. For now, however, this mercury regulation marks a significant milestone in the fight to protect our unborn children from toxic pollution and is something to be celebrated. We appreciate the leadership of the President and Administrator Jackson in bringing this day about.
by The Rev. Mitchell C. Hescox
What a sad state of affairs when Christian brothers cannot agree to protect our unborn children's health. Cal Beisner penned another attack piece yesterday in World Magazine. I will continue to pray for Cal and his lack of understanding to the dangers our unborn children face from mercury poisoning. The Evangelical Environmental Network has had a long record of being pro-life and speaking out on abortion. We have marched in the March for Life almost each year, including 2005 when we carried a sign calling for an end to mercury poisoning of our unborn. Additionally, our latest issue of Creation Care Magazine features our pro-life position. Protecting our children from all threats is pro-life.
In the past year whether testifying before the EPA, on Public Radio International, to reporters or to members of Congress, we have constantly stood against abortion, we are pro-life in standing-up to protect our unborn from the devastating dangers from the poisons spewed into God's creation. Our efforts have brought new awareness and new openness to being pro-life.
In spite of Cal's comments, medical peer reviewed literature states that 1 in 6 children are born with threatening levels of mercury.1,2 A National Institutes of Health article from 2010, further exposes the problem by saying there is no known safe level of mercury.3 What compounds mercury poisoning in our unborn is that once mercury enters the child in the womb, there is no way to excrete the mercury. Research upon research testifies that umbilical cord blood levels may contain double the mercury present in the maternal blood.4
The American Academy of Pediatrics states:
We agree with the strong evidence the EPA provides to support their decision that the proposed rule is both appropriate and necessary to protect public health as required under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act. Exposure to likely harm from mercury and methylmercury continues, as does strong evidence of exposure to multiple, recognized carcinogens and other toxics that cause or increase risk of cardiovascular, respiratory, and other acute and chronic systemic damage" 5
EEN doesn't have any in-house medical expertise. Months ago, we sought out the leading medical expert on mercury's impact on the unborn, Dr. Phil Landrigan of Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City. You can listen to Dr. Landrigan briefing by clicking here. The Evangelical Environmental Network, the National Association of Evangelicals and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops held a Senate staff briefing on Mercury and the Unborn on November 30, 2011 where Cynthia F. Bearer, MD, PhD shared her expertise. Dr. Bearer is the Mary Gray Cobey Professor of Neonatology and Chief of the Division of Neonatology in the Department of Pediatrics at University of Maryland Hospital for Children, Baltimore, MD. Her presentation affirmed Dr. Landrigan, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Pediatric Association, and the vast other medical associations supporting the need to reduce mercury. Each statistic we cite is peer reviewed medical research and not some number pulled from an industry paper or environmentalist scare report.
Coal fired electric utilities are the single largest domestic source of mercury. Mercury, once emitted, falls to the earth and enters our food chain through fish. According to the United States Geological Survey, over 40% of the fresh water in the United States has enough mercury for fish eating advisories and the percent of polluted fresh water continues to increase.6 There are mercury fish eating advisories in all 50 states and hence the need for pregnant women to closely monitor their fish consumption. In many areas of our nation, it is simply not safe to go fishing, especially if you plan to eat the fish.
Please remember that the efforts to reduce mercury emissions are not new. Since the 1990 Clean Air Act signed into law by the first President Bush, we have to attempting to reduce domestic mercury emissions. In fact, many utilities have already acted proactively and eleven of the top fifteen utilities executives are supportive of Mercury and Air Toxins Standard. 7 The current "Utility MACT" or Mercury and Air Toxin Standard would reduce 91% mercury from coal burned by electric utilities. That's a good beginning and gives us a national standard.
Mercury poisoning of our unborn is real. It results in brain damage and lasts a lifetime.8 That makes it a strong pro-life message, and it is just sad for some to believe otherwise.
citations below correspond with the numbers above
 See Mahaffey et al., "Blood Organic Mercury and Dietary Mercury Intake" Environmental Health Perspectives, 112,#5 (April 2004).
 Trasande,et al., "Public Health and Economic Consequences of Methyl Mercury Toxicity to the Developing Brain," Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol.113, No. 5 (May 2005): p. 590
 Bose-O'Reilly, et. al., Mercury Exposure and Children's Health,Curr. Probl. Pediatric Health Care, 2010 September: 40(8):16-18.
 Lederman et. al., http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2516590/
 Trasande,et al., "Public Health and Economic Consequences of Methyl Mercury Toxicity tothe Developing Brain," Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 113, No. 5 (May 2005): p. 590.
by Alexei Laushkin
Every since I moved to Northern Virginia with my wife, I have attended the March for Life. As my friend and brother Gary Bergel reminds me "every child conceived is a potential witness to God and to the power of His love, mercy and Redemption." As the upcoming 40 Days for Life initiative reminds us there are consequences of abortion in our own neighborhood that require our response.
We can not forget that the unborn are the future saints and kingdom oriented leaders who would be set apart for a world in desperate need of a Savior. What are we losing? Do we even really know?
Our society is at risk with the way we treat the unborn and the world around us. Today over 100 evangelical leaders publicaly issued a statement on mercury and its impact on the unborn stating: "As Christians, we are called by our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, to protect those who are knit in their mothers' womb, love our neighbors and do unto others as we would have them do unto us. We are thereby called to protect our most vulnerable populations, especially unborn children.
In addition EEN is publically calling for pro-life members of Congress to live up to their pro-life principles by opposing efforts to remove restrictions intended to prevent mercury poisoning in the unborn. EEN has placed ads in parts of the country to re-enforce these efforts.
Up to 1 in 6 children are born with too high levels of mercury in their blood. A majority of the domestic mercury comes from coal fired power plants. Mercury is a cumulative toxin, so the longer we wait to clean up mercury the worse of an impact it will continue to have on the unborn.
Once emitted, mercury falls from the air into local water sources, becomes part of the food chain, is consumed by pregnant mothers when they eat contaminated fish, and can have devastating impacts on their unborn children. For more information visit http://creationcare.org/mercury.
by Keith Stoker
The sky grew dark as storm clouds billowed overhead. On the sand volleyball court, we looked up in apprehension and dismay, praying that the storm would hold back long enough to let us continue our game. Thunder boomed every minute and flashes across the sky warned of the rain to come, but we kept on playing, dedicated to the game until the rain came down. For an hour, in between points, I would look up and watch the magnificent display allaround me, orange and purple streaked across the sky at random intervals as lightning leaped from cloud to cloud. As we played, the lightning flashed and every time the sky would light up with color. Throughout this hour of thunder claps, flashes of lightning, sand beneath my feet, and sweat on my back, that verse from Psalms 19 kept passing through my mind. "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the works of his hands." (Psalms 19:1, New International Version)
I started my adventure in Creation Care earlier this Summer,as I was without work and a little bored. I was talking to Alexei Laushkin about my predicament, and he offered that I help him out with social media work for Creation Care. Although I had no experience with communications, and have never really considered myself an "environmentalist", I figured it couldn't hurt to help out a friend, use up some of my spare time, and get some experience; three days later, I was posting a book review about a book on animal stewardship. Now a month later, I can honestly say I care about the stewardship and care for this world. Of course I still have a lot to learn about what work has already been done to protect God's creation and I definitely have a lot to learn about what I personally can do to care for this world.
So why do I bring up the lightning storm and the volleyball game? A month ago, I probably would have been annoyed at the distraction to the volleyball game, or I might have looked at it once or twice but not really spent the time to enjoy this display of God's glory. However, as I looked up at that lightning cloud, all I could think about is that we serve a God that is so beautiful. Creation testifies to the existence of God as Romans 1:20 tell us "for since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities"his eternal power and divine nature"have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made,so that people are without excuse" (New International Version). I clearly saw the existence of God in the beauty of that lightning storm, and all around the world, breathtaking views of creation show the same God and the same beauty. Creation care truly is a matter of life, not only physical life but spiritual. God used a big lightning storm to remind me of this, maybe it will be a stunning sunset or a majestic mountain for you. When you see the creativity and handiwork of the Creator, remember, stewardship of His creation is a command and the protection of this world truly is a matter of life.
by Alexei Laushkin
"With slow rolling disasters it is much harder to draw people's attention. When disaster like the earthquake in Haiti strike there is an immediacy that really helps people to respond. Unfortunately the slow rolling one's, like what we are seeing in East Africa are no less severe in scale and needed response," said Casey Calamusa, International News Officer for World Vision. The worst famine in 25 years has already left 10,000 children died and has put another 600,000 at risk. (For background on what constitutes a famine check out my previous post by clicking here).
There are stories coming in from all over the affected region. Families have had to walk anywhere from 4 to as much as 14 days to find the refuge camps stationed along the Ethiopian and Kenyan border.
The crisis has come from the lack of rain. Many herds of cattle have been lost as watering spots have completely dried up. With crops and cattle destroyed people have little choice but to flee. The current estimates are that up to 12 million people are being impacted by the food crisis.
In the numbers you can lose the sense of the actual human toll. World Vision tells the story of Mama Selina and her families experience with the severe drought in Kenya. "In the past, the rains were more, and you could get something from the land," says Mama Selina. "But now, I cannot plow and get anything from the land."
Over the last year the family has had to make more and more desperate choices to survive. You can read their full story here.
To be part of the solution consider giving as little as a one time $10 gift to World Vision. Even a one time gift like $10 can be matched with other support from USAID and elsewhere to turn your $10 gift into a $50 gift. $10 from you = $50 worth of help. That's a good deal if you ask me. To donate click here.
Alexei Laushkin is the Senior Director of Communications for the Evangelical Environmental Network.
By Alexei Laushkin
"People do not drift toward Holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord"--- D.A. Carson.
By grace alone, does not mean that absent you, God will magically transform you into a holy obedient son of the most high. We dare not become like the unfaithful servant hiding our talent under the ground because we believe we know God's ways too well. Let us not prove faithless till the end.
Many of us experience seasons of spiritual difficulty, many of us live like those along the Mississippi in a state of constant peril, with the waters already rising around our homes. When those moments have come it is too late to ask if the foundation was built on solid ground, for if it wasn't, all we have left is to plead for deliverance.
Can I be fruitful in the midst of peril, even in the driest of seasons? Can we live the sort of life that produces spiritual fruit out of the dry rocks in our lives? What does it mean to have the sort of faith that says to a mountain that it will move and indeed it does?
The Pew Forum recently released a comprehensive study of American religious practices, it found two interesting trends. One, over 40% of Americans will change faiths at least once in their life time (Catholic to Protestant, Methodist to Pentecostal, etc.) and in the last ten years the number of atheists has jumped from 8% to 16%, with 50% of that group claiming astrong spirituality.
In ancient Greece, there was a philosophy called Epicureanism which is still very active in our day. Epicureans believed that people should seek to live their lives in the most pleasing manner possible to them. Many Americans have become spiritual Epicureans. Freedom of faith has become freedom to endlessly choice what makes us fulfilled. If your church doesn't fit your tastes, if your friends don't please you, if your work becomes difficult, than the overwhelming cultural response is, leave!
Free yourself from the bondages of pain in your life, but what if you can't? What if freedom of choice has made us all spiritually obese? The same sort of freedom that we hold as the highest of virtues has made us blind to our neighbor in need at home and around the world. We have becomes like the pious men of old who pass by the other side, while their neighbor lays on the street in pain of body and mind.
One of the most interesting and shocking trends in my generation is the number of people who have turned to psychiatry for freedom from self. I am not opposed to using professional help to deal with professional and deep seated issues. In fact in many cases, our church communities are too weak and ill equipped to offer the degree of help needed in house, therefore, in many cases professional help is better sought early. Yet, the amount of diagnosed and treated depression among young people in their 20s and 30s is startling and alarming. There is a generation of people who are starting to believe that they can go it along with modern psychiatry and some dose of spirituality. The modern vision for the "good" life is incredibly weak and unappealing.
In the next several decades more utopian communities and ideals will arise from the melue and mess of the early 21st century. You already see this taking place in parts of evangelicalism where the call for some sort of reform (emergent church, new monasticism, new reformed movements, etc.) is growing louder by the year.
Another trend noting is that since the 1970s America is becoming a much less Protestant nation. In 1975 America was 75% Protestant, today that number barely stands at 51% and is likely to dwindle into the mid-40s in this decade.
Some may point to the collapse of the Mainline as the main culprit, but let us remember to take the plank out of our eye before we seek toremove the speck in the eyes of our neighbor.
So, what will save us from ourselves? Well, only a turn to the Lord, not a one-time turn, or a momentary decision to forsake the idols in our lives, but a lasting turn away from self and towards the holy, full, and vibrant life offered in the gospels themselves. Does anyone have ears to listen?
Holiness is a word that has fallen out of fashion in the church. When is the last time you heard a sermon on holiness, even more difficult when was the last time you grappled with sin in your life? Not your shortcomings, or character flaws, or other euphemisms for sin, but the really grappled with the depth of sin in your own heart. Do you realize that the life you are called to in Christ Jesus is a different as the east is from the west as death and sin is to life and abundance in Christ?! When is the last time you truly repented and believed? Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and the Messiah will give you life!
You won't become holy by your own efforts or by your own ways. The fruits of this life are clear patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control, against those things there is no law. God has to move in your heart in such a way as to grieve you, possibly even literally, at sin. This sort of grief and turning God transforms into compassion and a true selflessness for others. How will you know when this life has come? Will the action of God in the world is compared to the wind. You do not see where it came from or where it is going but you know when it is here. You will know clearly that it has taken root in your life, because like the wind, the Holy Spirit will not hide himself from you.
The life offered in Christ is epitomized by peace and is as comforting that it allows you to rest easily at night. "My peace I give you, I give not as the world gives." Son, daughter, of the most high, do you love me more than these?
This piece was forst printed in Creation Care Magazine. For more information click here.
Alexei Laushkin is the Senior Director of Communications for the Evangelical Environmental Network and the editor of the Creation Care Magazine.
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 Edward R. Brown
It has been a year of flood and drought. This spring's floods along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers are old news to most of us, as is the ongoing drought in Texas, which is breaking records set as long ago as 1917, long before the Dust Bowl of the 1930′s.
But nowhere in the world are things as bad as what is happening in East Africa, not far from where Craig and Tracy Sorley are serving in Kenya.
The Worst Drought in 60 Years
"Once More Into the Abyss". That's how the Economist news magazine described the developing drought in Kenya and other East African countries a week or so ago:
BLOATED bellies with stick arms and legs; huge eyes staring out of skeletal heads; gaunt mothers trying to suckle babies on withered breasts. The world thought it might never see such scenes again. Famine in Africa, absent for many years, appeared to have gone the way of diseases for which we now have cures or vaccines.
Yet, after the worst drought in 60 years, more than 10m people in the Horn of Africa need emergency food aid. Livestock have been annihilated. Hundreds of thousands of people are streaming into refugee camps in search of help. Malnutrition rates in some areas are five times more severe than the threshold aid agencies use to define a crisis. Many children are already dying of starvation.
Our people in Kenya " Craig and Tracy Sorley and their Kenyan team " live just to the south of the hardest hit areas. Craig recently sent us the following email:
As I write this email there are roughly 10 million people requiring emergency food aid in the horn of Africa, with people by the thousands fleeing into Kenya and Ethiopia each day due to the extreme drought in Somalia (no rain for 2 whole years). Closer to home many Kenyans can only purchase 2 pkts of maize flour at a time due to rationing, and according to the relatives of one of our tree nursery staff members, most stores in Samburu District currently have nothing on their shelves to sell. Even more distressing, we just learned that 8 women were killed in this same district yesterday due to violence that erupted over conflicts for scarce pasture and water resources. In my recent visits to Mai Mahiu, just below our home in Kijabe, a similar story is unfolding. Most farmers will experience only minimal harvest if not complete crop failure (see picture) due to a lack of rain during the most important stages of crop growth.
On a more hopeful note I have also seen a handful of farmers (in Mai Mahiu and Ndeiya) who are using Farming God's Way and whose yields will be far better than those around them. In the second picture (which I took just yesterday) you will see the difference that FGW is making in our current demonstration here at Moffat Bible College. With all inputs being equal, the beans that were planted in the FGW plot are now 3 times as vigorous as the control plot planted in the conventional manner.
While we live in a hungry nation (and a hungry continent) we do have some very promising solutions to bring both spiritual and physical healing to communities. It is my hope that we can all work together to expand the reach of CCK's vision for God-centered environmental and agricultural stewardship.
Cutting Edge Strategy
It is more than interesting that the strategy Craig and his team have been pursuing through the Farming God's Way program is exactly the kind of intervention that world food authorities are recommending. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs has just released a report in which they say,
Food security must now be attained through green technology so as to reduce the use of chemical inputs " fertilizers and pesticides " and to make more efficient use of energy, water and natural resources.
Evidence has shown that for most crops the optimal farm is small in scale and that it is at this level that most gain in terms of both sustainable productivity increases and rural poverty reduction can be achieved.
Not Food Aid but Famine Prevention
In the face of an impending crisis like the ongoing drought and famine in East Africa, it is common for organizations to appeal for funds to provide food aid. At Care of Creation we don't do food aid. Lots of other organizations are involved in that kind of work, and we salute them. What they are doing is important. But we don't have the staff or infrastructure, and our calling is different. Rather then send you a picture of a starving child, describing the tragedy that is, we would rather you look at the healthy plants in the second picture above, and think about what could be.
What we're doing is working to prevent the next famine, and the one after that. If we can continue our work of training farmers to take care of their land 'God's way', we will be giving these farmers, their families and their communities a foundation of resilience that will allow them to live more prosperously in the good years, and survive with a little less pain in the bad ones.
Craig and the team need your help, facing their own small drought of funding in the next month or two. Chronically short of funds, they are overwhelmed with the needs that surround them. Your prayers " and your gifts " will keep them going.
re-posted with permission
Edward Brown is the Executive Director of Care of Creation, Inc. To read more of his work, go to his website Our Fathers World
By Kara Ball
A few weeks ago my husband Jim and I planted a pollinator garden in our front yard. We had a fun time providing what we hope will be habitat for a variety of butterflies, bees and other pollinators. We dug up the grass (Jim did that part), worked the soil and saved the earthworms, and selected plants from the local nursery and planted, watered and mulched them.
Pollinators are an indispensible part of the productivity of God's creation.1 For example, a recent study found that wild, native bees pollinate more than a third of California's crops. This "service" is worth up to $2.4 billion a year to California, which produces half of our nation's fruits and vegetables. The study suggests that it's worth conserving habitat that supports native pollinators and planting habitat buffers near crops for wild bees.
In his recent book Global Warming and the Risen LORD, Jim further explains how pollinators are vital to providing us with the fruits of God's creation.1 Pollinators are essential to the production of three-fourths of the world's main crops 2 and their global economic value is estimated at $30-$60 billion. Jim highlights one example: "A study in Costa Rica found that 'forest based pollinators increased coffee yields by 20% within 1 kilometer of the forest (as well as increasing the quality of the coffee)'"[and] 'increased the income of a 1,100 hectare farm by $60,000 a year."4,5 Global warming threatens 20-30% of the world's species with increased risk of extinction this century.6 What will happen if these pollinators disappear?
I understand the importance of the "ecosystem services" that God graciously provides to us through pollinators and a healthy ecosystem. Yet protecting the ability of nature to provide these services is only part of the reason that, as Christians, we are to care for God's creation.
Jim and I recently finished reading Simply Christian by Bishop N.T. Wright. Bishop Wright emphasizes that, through Jesus Christ, God has begun and will one day complete His new creation, putting to rights creation's current brokenness and decay. He says that as Christians, ""we are called to be part of God's new creation, called to be agents of that new creation here and now"7 and in our words and by our actions we are to invite others to join in. So all of our work for creation care, whether it's providing habitat for pollinators, conserving land for other creatures, or fighting for policies that protect against global warming, is part of what it means for us to be God's true image-bearers in Christ in the world.
 Jim Ball, Global Warming and the Risen LORD (Evangelical Environmental Network: Washington, D.C.; 2010), p. 114.
 United NationsEnvironment Programme-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC),Biodiversity and Poverty Reduction: The Importance of Biodiversity forEcosystem Services (UNEP: Cambridge, May 31, 2007), p. 16
 Sir Nicholas Stern, The Stern Review: The Economics of Climate Change, (Cambridge University Press,2006): p. 71, Table 3.2; http://creationcare.org/blog.php?blog=19
 UN Environment Programme(UNEP), Ecosystems and Human Well- being: Synthesis of the MillenniumEcosystem Assessment, (UNEP/WRI: 2005) p. 56;http://www.millenniumassessment.org/en/Synthesis.aspx.
 Ball, GlobalWarming and the Risen LORD, p. 114
 Intergovernmental Panelon Climate Change, AR4, WG2; Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation andVulnerability; Contribution of Working GroupII to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on ClimateChange; M.L.Parry, O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson, Eds.; (Cambridge UniversityPress, Cambridge, UK, 2007) pp. 213, 242; http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/publications_ipcc_fourth_assessment_report_wg2_report_impacts_adaptation_and_vulnerability.htm
 N.T. Wright; Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense (HarperCollins: New York, NY; 2006), p.236
Our colleague Rev. Jim Ball is now also blogging at The Huffington Post. Check out his latest post on "God's Love, Truth, and Global Warming."
by Alexei Laushkin
Scripture calls us to pray without ceasing, Jesus calls us to agree with one another in prayer. In Philippians 4:1-2 we find this:
"Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord" (ESV).
Beyond our differences we are called together as different parts of the same body to pray. Prayer is not a campaign, a hidden by-word for radical agendas, a time to cut one another down, it is a time for prayer.
We are urged to agree in the Lord.
Before Jesus goes to the cross we find Him praying these words in John 17: 20-23:
"20 I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me (ESV)."
Why does Jesus call for unity? So that the world may believe that God has sent the Son. Here's what John Calvin has to say on these verses in his commentary on John:
"if the unity of the Son with the Father is not to be fruitless and useless, its power must be spread through the whole body of believers."
We are called to unity, we are called to prayer. For the second year EEN has joined with the National Association of Evangelicals and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference for a day of prayer for creation care.
Last year was focused on discovering God's commandments to care for the whole earth, this year the focus is on the unborn, who suffer from the impacts of mercury toxicity. Every state in the union has a mercury fish advisory, and up to 700,000 babies are born each year with unsafe levels of mercury toxin in their blood.
But we dare not come before the Lord just to pray our own concerns. We invite God to come and soften our hearts. To teach us His ways, to fill us with His heart for the lost, to instruct us on how we should live. On this day of prayer, we proclaim Jesus Christ, His goodness, His sovereignty, and His profound love for all that he has made.
All are invited to join with us in this day of prayer for creation care, and are asked to pray for the matters that are closest to their hearts and conscience.
Great reflection from D.A. Carson via the Desiring God Blog:
People do not drift toward Holiness.
Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord.
We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.
(For the Love of God, Volume 2, paragraphing mine)
by Anna Clark
One soy-latte decaf Irish cream coming right up." It's my second time into Come Together Trading and already barista/owner Terry Marshall remembers my order. Easing into a comfortable chair, I sip coffee from the Ecotainer compostable cup and soak in my surroundings. Students cluster at one table; writers use free Wi-Fi at another. Piles of hand-woven beads and baskets and racks of colorful apparel line the shelves. It's like some place out of Boulder, Colorado"not Canton, Texas.
The location isn't the only surprise. Alongside health magazines are copies of Relevant magazine. Handmade merchandise is labeled with moving stories about those who made each item. This "hippie urban" boutique is a coffee house that acts like a ministry. "We are fueled by a desire to minister and educate about Fair Trade," explain owners Tammy and Terry Marshall. "By building the market for anti-slavery and anti-child labor goods, we help people help themselves and the environment also."
The Marshalls still marvel at the miracle their lives have become. Their transformational journey began in 2004 when the sponsored their first child through Compassion International (they now sponsor 12 children). "Our hearts were truly broken for the poor in 2005 after the words of Jesus were made more clear through our discovery and reading of Shane Claiborne's book The Irresistible Revolution," recalls Tammy. In 2006, they met Shane Claiborne at the PAPA Festival, who offered a fresh perspective on the Christian's role in alleviating human suffering. An interview they heard with Matthew Sleeth and Rob Bell was also pivotal. Changed, but still unsure of what else to do, the Marshalls continued searching.
"In 2009, we took our first trip out of this country with Compassion International. We traveled to Kenya and visited Kibera, the world's second largest slum. There is no infrastructure, water, electricity or plumbing," explains Tammy. "But in the midst of heartbreaking conditions, sights and smells, the people were so joyful. God revealed that these are our brothers and sisters. They may be resource poor, but they are spiritually rich. We have never seen a faith like that." Upon returning home, they knew they had to do something. "We felt God revealing more to us each day. Kenya changed everything for us; there was no going back."
"We prayed and prayed," explain the Marshalls. "Then, on a short trip to Estes Park, Colorado, we walked into a fair trade store. Immediately we saw things we had seen in Kenya. We looked at each other and said, 'This is it.'"
Wanting to do a Christ-centered version of the store, the Marshalls considered moving to Colorado, believing this couldn't be done in a Texas town of 5,000 people. "We fought this all the way," recalls Tammy. "I didn't know I had God in a box. It's like he was telling me, 'Don't limit me. Don't limit the people of Canton.'" Within two months they sold their RV business (in tough economic times a miracle in itself) and bought $5,000 in inventory. Then a storefront in the historic district that had been occupied for years suddenly came up for rent. "When I walked in, this was the space I knew I had seen in dreams," recalls Tammy. They took possession of the building in October 2010. "God has made this possible. We'll be here as long as He wants us to be."
The upper room is a prayer and community room, available for free. They've even held a send-off party for a young lady leaving for Thailand to teach jewelry-making to women who have been rescued from sex trafficking. "Church youth groups have also begun to meet here," says Tammy. "With less money available, churches wondered how to pay for a youth minister, but they realize that by sharing one and holding the meetings here, everyone wins."
"Every day God humbles us more," says Tammy. "The people here have such a heart for helping others."
Anna Clark is the author of Green, American Style. She lives in Dallas in one of the first houses to earn a Platinum LEED rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. For more on all things green, visit www.annamclark.com.
by David and Angie DeGroot
It is so awesome that one of EEN's core missions is to help spread the word that we are to "tend the garden". Let me relay a quick story explaining why "gardens" are so important to us.
One normal, sunny day in Washington, DC, I traveled through a neighborhood that struck me as rather depressing. I asked myself why this was so, and then considered the general lack of trees along the streets. It was just a concrete and asphalty area of abandoned parking lots sprinkled with a few weeds here and there.
I thought it somewhat profound that my mood was directly affected by the vegetation and the state of the natural environment around me. Perhaps I was acting a bit like Jonah when he got so upset after his grapevine died from over his head. At any rate, I wonder if any of you have experienced something similar?
Contrast my experience in the dismal, vegetation-less neighborhood I've just described with how you feel when walking through a neighborhood with old, large trees overhanging the streets and houses with well-kept, lush gardens. Imagine pretty flowers hanging from different walls or trees, and fruits and vegetables readily available on many different vines. Obviously, I'm taking this "garden" to an extreme, but the point is that well-kept verdant environments tend to make people happy. Is there any other way to describe it?
In Genesis 2:8, we learn that God created a garden:
"And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed."
God didn't create a building or a house for Adam, but a garden. Verse 9 even explains why a garden is good:
"And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food."
Gardens (and trees in particular) are pleasing to the eye and also good for food -- two important things for man. Apparently, a flourishing natural environment such as a garden allows man to flourish. What an idea!
Since this is pre-fall, I guess we can never return to this sin-less state and should probably just stop trying, right? Wrong. That's like saying that we shouldn't try to stop sinning.
Finally, just to quiet anyone who claims that pre-fall gardens didn't require any work, Genesis 2:15 also notes that God has Adam care for the garden:
"The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it."
We see that gardens allow man to flourish in a way that God intended. Does that mean that everyone should drop what they're doing and go find a garden to work like Adam? No, not necessarily. But knowing that gardens and trees play an important role in the way God intended for us to live is important to remember. In general, we must ensure that nature flourishes so that we too may flourish. Too often, in my opinion, the fact that we are to "have dominion" over the earth allows us to forget, to our own detriment, that God intended for us to tend to and live amidst a garden.
We live in a world of hurting people. A lot of marginalized persons live in gardens that are not well tended, if you can call them gardens at all. I argue that in addition to tending our own gardens, we should have special concern for neighborhoods with gardens that are generally neglected. We might do this by planting trees along streets or flowers and shrubberies in public spaces. I believe that cultivating well-maintained gardens and trees will achieve the following for people living in these neighborhoods: 1) They will feel better about themselves (because God created them to live in touch with and enjoy a garden); 2) They will see that you care about them; and 3) You will be doing God's will by tending the garden and caring for your neighbors.
Other ideas for participating in this vision include paying a visit to a local farm (hopefully an organic one that allows the plants and animals to flourish as was God's intent) to learn where we get our food, or even helping out at one. These activities will help us understand God's original intent for our lives and help us better serve our neighbors and our God.
Because I just can't get enough of scriptural backing for the importance of caring for our natural environment, here are other passages that demonstrate the importance of gardens to the Lord:
"Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness,
you who seek the Lord:
look to the rock from which you were hewn,
and to the quarry from which you were dug.
Look to Abraham your father
and to Sarah who bore you;
for he was but one when I called him,
that I might bless him and multiply him.
For the Lord comforts Zion;
he comforts all her waste places
and makes her wilderness like Eden,
her desert like the garden of the Lord;
joy and gladness will be found in her,
thanksgiving and the voice of song."
"Thus says the Lord God: On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be rebuilt. And the land that was desolate shall be tilled, instead of being the desolation that it was in the sight of all who passed by. And they will say, 'This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.' Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the Lord; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it."
by The Rev. Mitchel C. Hescox
It's time to be honest with ourselves. Facts no longer seem to matter in much our national discourse --- only the reality we choose. Our decisions are based solely on internal worldviews and what is best for us. Perhaps it has always been so, but today our internal standards have lead us to a national polarization unsurpassed in recent memory. Indeed, we face many problems. Our national debt is too large. The national infrastructure is falling apart. Greater numbers endure poverty, we face another energy crisis, and diseases like cancer are literally at epidemic proportions. Shouting at each other or calling those with different internal standards derogatory names, and even running away from discussion won't solve problems but only dig us into a deeper hole.
Our internal standards and worldviews inform our approach to national problems; from health care, budget, welfare, military, and beyond. However, allow me to address directly something that I know at least something about, our changing climate, and energy. (Please read on before you dismiss what I am hoping to address. I happen to be a registered Republican, although one that others might describe as "progressive." In other words, I'm center-right, and my desire for strong action on clean energy and climate change is not driven by partisanship.)
This week's US House of Representatives hearings are a case in point. Every major scientific body in the United States, the American Medical Association, our military, the CIA, and most major faith groups recognize climate change as a significance problem regarding human life, human health, increased international violence, and a host of other impacts detrimental to human well-being.
As the hearings demonstrated, the science doesn't seem to make a difference it's our individual standards. On one side are those who believe in the status quo. They understand our economy as based on a fossil fuel standard. It's been the norm of our nation for the past 200 years. Moreover, they are correct in assuming that fossil fuel energy has made America what it is today. Our abundant supplies of wood, coal, and petroleum have been the basis for our economic power from the beginnings of the industrial revolution up to and including today. They have fed our perception of individual freedom. Who in America doesn't enjoy the option of driving their cars to work, to grandma's or of course to the greatest American pastime --- shopping?
Looking at the facts might force us to change and no one likes change "that's a proven fact. Especially when coupled to the reality that the American energy business desires to maximize their profits for as long as possible. Who wouldn't! Profits in and of themselves are not a bad thing. Profits create jobs, are reinvested, drive stock markets, and fund many retirements.
However, petroleum, our most common fossil fuel, is a commodity that is increasingly in short supply with a large current demand making it more valuable and therefore more expensive.
Our internal standard is terribly misinformed on petroleum pricing. In times when crude prices escalate due to international crisis, we often hear demands for increased drilling and increasing domestic production. First, the United States, while still the third largest producer of petroleum, has only 2% of the proven reserves. Saving our reserves for when supplies are really scarce and for valuable uses such as chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and plastics seems wise. However, unless we wish our government to engage in price controls, the worldwide commodity market will determine the value. Drilling in the US simply cannot make a major impact in world production to effect price --- that's a fact. The "Drill, Baby, Drill" slogan simply ignores this reality, and prevents many from seeing our true situation.
Limiting our energy options only to fossil fuels limits not only our children's future but also denies the American Spirit of entrepreneurship and new economic opportunities. With our current employment woes, it makes sense to move beyond the limits we have placed upon ourselves by our continued over-reliance on fossil fuels and transition to a more vibrant economy based on new energy sources. Just a couple miles up the road is the village of Hametown. Once noted for hame production. (Hames are part of a horse collar.) Believe it or not the hame shops are gone, and so will be future jobs for our children if we don't unbridle our attitudes, values, and internal standards.
On the other side are those just as radical. Their desire promotes an entirely new society based on a false sense of moral superiority bordering on a utopian worldview. They demand immediate change and a new standard without considering our current values or fears. All business is viewed as potentially evil and legislation becomes the methodology for social change. Unfortunately, legislation, while important, doesn't change our internal standards or values. Only a society willing to discuss, listen, and learn from each other can come to understand a new standard with values we all share. Our paradigms must shift to insure the future.
We need to rediscover our shared values before it's too late for our children, grandchildren, and the world. A fossil fuel economy never was sustainable. Neither is complete and immediate trashing of our current economic basis. However, there is a third way.
First, let me be clear that the basis for my hope is faith. I profess loyalty as a follower of Jesus. As the sustainer and redeemer of all things, Jesus remains my hope and strength for the work needed to provide a future for our children. That said, below is an outline of a third way for moving beyond our current impasse to a new sustainable life of each of us.
i. Commit to examining your values and lifestyle. Look beyond yourself to at least your future generations, if not the world.
ii. Start at home and look for ways to live more sustainability. Consider options that would add value and health within your family and additionally save money. There are a number of great resource books such as Go Green, Save Green by Nancy Sleeth, Green Mama by Traci Bianchi and Green American Style by Anna Clark to get you started.
iii. Make a covenant to listen and not deride those with different standards or perspectives. Let's move into discussion with solutions and away from shouting.
iv. Encourage our political leaders to work on a bipartisan American Energy Plan including:
a. Eliminating all subsidies for fossil fuels;
b. Developing a Clean Energy Standard.
v. Learn all the costs of using fossil fuels, including added health risks and national security threats.
vi. Believe that together we can change and provide a future.
It's time to be honest. Together we can build a better today and tomorrow if we look first at changing ourselves and then consider the facts. That's a truth we can all agree on that will help give our children a future.
Rev. Mitch Hescox is President & CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network lives in New Freedom and speaks nationally on creation care and Biblical approaches to energy, the poor, and Christian Discipleship. Learn more at http://creationcare.org. This Op-Ed appeared in this Sunday's York Daily Record (York, PA).
By Gary Bergel
At 4:00 P.M. on January 28,2011, I saved a member of the Koi family in Hollywood, California from death. Actually, the Koi I rescued was an ornamental carp that had jumped out of a hotel pond and was frantically flapping and flopping about as I providentially walked by. While slipping this blotchy gray fish, drab compared to the bright yellow and orange Koi, back into the hotel pond I had a minor "epiphany"about water " adequate supplies of clean water are necessary to sustain life ofany sort on our planet. Dah.
Human babies are three-quarters water. The cells of the human body are 65-90 percent water by weight. The human family cannot survive nor flourish apart from water. It is projected that in just 15 years almost 2 billion people will live in regions of severe water scarcity.
World Water Day 2011 will be observed March 22. This year's theme, "Water for Cities" is very apt in light of the fact that over half of the world's projected population of over 9billion will live in cities by 2050. Water demand and water stress will continue to increase unless we intentionallyconserve and change how we value and use it. We in the West can no longer take water for granted.
I trust that the following compilation of stats and findings, gleaned from National Geographic's April, 2010 special issue on water, and a variety of sources, will perk us up, and help us alert others to observe World Water Day, and show us all ways we can better appreciate, conserve, pray for water managers, and work to preserve water reserves.
Many Americans use up to 100 gallons of water every day. This is in stark contrast to homes in the world's poorest nations where each person might use up to just five gallons a day. Women in developing countries must walk an average of 3.7 miles to get water. Almost 3.5 million die from water related health problems each year. Improved water sources and more efficient delivery systems now serve more than 85 percent of the earth's population, some 1.6 billion more than in 1990. Yet, one out of eight people still lacks access to cleanwater.
In Florida, 3,000 gallons of water are used to water the grass for each game of golf that is played. U.S. swimming pools lose 1,560 billion gallons to evaporation every year. Because of century-old pipes in many U.S. cities, including Washington, DC, more than 10 percent of water is often lost to leakage.
The earth's fresh water supply totals 9.25 million trillion gallons. Nearly 70% is locked in ice. Two-thirds of our water is used to grow food. Irrigation consumes 70 percent of freshwater. More efficient systems like drip-irrigation and micro-sprinklers could cut use by a third. Simple rainwater harvesting is one of the mitigation/adaptation techniques being implemented in drought stricken regions by EEN Creation Care partners and other agencies.
Severe water stress is present in the USA. Matt Black's "DesiccatedDreams," a powerful photo, text and audio presentation in the March/April,2011 issue of Orion magazine, documents the near-instant devastation of California's Central Valleyin 2009. Congress cut water to these croplands by 90 percent to forestall the ecological collapse of the Sacramento Delta, the largest estuary on America's Pacific coast.
Photojournalist Black says he hopes his graphic presentation of "a modern-day agricultural apocalypse" -- 200,000 acres of the nation's richest farmland out of production, unemployment above 40 percent in sometowns, bread lines stretching around the block -- will serve as a "wake-up call." A major earthquake could slash water supplies for two-thirds of Californians.
Moderate to extreme drought conditions have impacted a southern third of the U.S. Serious water stress and shortages continuein many places. The town of "Happy,"Texas sits on top of the vast but rapidly depleting Ogallala Aquifer. Intensive well drilling and farming since the 1950's has drained enough water from this non-replenishing aquifer to fill half of Lake Erie of the Great Lakes. Places like Happy are but harbinger'sof potential Dust Bowls, unseen in America since the Great Depression.
Water " not oil " has always been the most valuable resource in the western U.S. Apart from the Ogallala, the primary source remains theColorado River, now contested over by several jurisdictions. Interstate water wars will intensify.
A sign planted by an unemployed California Central Valley worker sum's up the reality of water crises now occurring in the U.S. and long-present in many regions of the world: "No Water, No Life."
The earth's precious yet finite water resources need more wise human managers and far fewer human exploiters and meddlers. Let us continue in concerted prayer and collaboration to this end.
by Mitch Hescox
On March 16, 2011, the EPA proposed the First National Standard for Mercury Pollution from Power Plants. This new national standard offers a historic opportunity for the evangelical Christian Church to put its preaching into action. Life, as sacred, has long been a foundational tenet of our faith. We are pro-life and have struggled long to protect the unborn from harm, especially abortion. Over 1,000,000 unborn children die each year from abortions. However, another great threat faces the unborn, mercury poisoning. Unborn children are the most at risk as they are developmentally unable to protect themselves.
According to research, at least 1 in 12, and as many as 1 in 6 women of childbearing age have unsafe levels of mercury in her blood, enough to put a baby at risk for brain damage, autism,and other neurological imparities. These effects are not just temporary but are irreversible. Other research depicts that mercury levels continue elevating in American women, putting more unborn at risk. Mercury easily transmits from mother to child. One UCLA research project found mercury in 30% of US females of childbearing age in 2006, up from only 2%of same age group in 1999. This threat to our unborn is simply not acceptable.
The primary domestic source of mercury comes from the burning of coal. Industrial and utility coal consumption represents at least 87% and as much as 99% of the mercury poisoning of the unborn. Smokestacks emit the mercury that then falls into our streams, lakes, and rivers. Fish consume the mercury we eat the fish and for pregnant mothers the contaminated fish finally accumulates in the weakest -- unborn children.
This isn't a limited problem. Mercury contaminates over 6 million acres of freshwater lakes, 46,000 miles of streams, and 225,000 wetland acres across the United States. The vast majority of our fresh water in every corner of America contains dangerous mercury levels. In fact, every state has some type of fish consumption advisory, including the recommendation for pregnant women not to eat any locally caught fish.
The Evangelical Environmental Network is putting action to our faith by standing in support of EPA's proposed standards limiting mercury and its threats to the unborn. The standard, twenty years in the making reduces 91% mercury released to the air. Some will attempt to weaken this proposed standard. However, unborn children deserve our greatest protection, and we believe the rule as proposed provides the best protection for the weakest in our society, the unborn child. This is an issue in life's sacredness. We encourage all who stand for life to stand with us and especially the unborn.
For more information, please visit www.creationcare.org/
By Kara Ball
I grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., so when my work with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy took me to rural Bedford County, Pennsylvania I had a lot to learn about country life. My new neighbors taught me many things, including how to care for my sheep and how to tell whether my hens had laid a 'boy egg' or a 'girl egg' (yes, you can tell by looking).
The most important thing they taught me, though, was how important it was to them to look after their neighbors. Caring for others was an integral part of life in this community. It ranged from deep and heartfelt prayers at church for the needs of others to dropping off food for a sick neighbor or plowing a neighbor's driveway unasked after a deep mountain snow.
Sideling Hill Creek, the local stream that had brought me to the area, has rich biological diversity and water quality so high that the state designates Sideling Hill Creek an exceptional value stream. Sideling Hill Creek flows into the Potomac River, which in turn flows into the Chesapeake Bay. I realized that the water that we were sending downstream ended up in the literal backyard of the Tangier Islanders I'd met recently through my friend Susan Emmerich. I saw a wonderful opportunity to connect my neighbors with their neighbors downstream on Tangier Island.
Amazing things happened when the two groups met. As they realized that they were connected by the water they shared, they developed the bonds that neighbors have. They shared food, stories, prayers and concerns for the water and land that provided their livelihoods. Inspired by the covenant taken by the Tangier Islanders and wanting to commit to sending clean water downstream which would end up in the crab pots and fishing nets of their newfound neighbors, landowners in Pennsylvania took a similar covenant to care for their land.
When a teacher tested Jesus by asking him what the greatest commandment was, Jesus didn't give him one commandment but two: "Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Mt. 37-40, NIV)
We are commanded by Jesus to love our neighbors as ourselves because we can't love God without loving our neighbor. We all have neighbors downstream--those who depend on the air, water and land entrusted to us. Whether our neighbors are next door, downstream or across the globe, caring for creation is part of what it means to love our neighbor.
See the inspiring story of the Bedford County landowners and Tangier Island families who were faithful to Jesus' command to love their neighbors at When Heaven Meets Earth.
Creation Care Ministries is a sponsor of Witner Jam 2011. We were a local sponsor for Knoxville, TN March 4 2011. Here's EEN's Alexei Laushkin doing a shout out at the concert!
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.
Great piece from our friend John Murdock over at the Flourish Blog.
By Kara Ball
Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land (Isaiah 5:8 NIV).
Cal DeWitt, one of my conservation heroes and a dear friend, shared this verse with me some years back. I think of this verse often because it reminds me that God intends the diversity of his creation to be a blessing to us.
I was especially reminded of this when I read For Many Species, No Escape as Temperature Rises. So many of God's creatures are already suffering from loss of habitat, pollution, overharvesting, or threats from nonnative species. Now they are facing the ominous threat of climate change. As areas are beginning to warm, species adapted to a particular climate must make other provisions to survive. Some can or try to move to a cooler habitat, either by moving upslope or towards the poles. But many species either don't have the means to move (trees don't have legs or wings), face fragmented habitats impeding their movement, or there isn't enough room where they are trying to go. Some simply won't be able to move fast enough to keep up with the rapidity of the changing climate. For example, under current climate change scenarios, plants must migrate 27 to 45 feet a day in order to survive. This is beyond the exceptional examples in fossil records of 9 to 13 feet a day.[i]
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that if global average temperatures rise 2 to 3 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, 20-30% of assessed species are likely to be at increasingly high risk of extinction.[ii] The actual number could be much higher. It also says that many of our ecosystems won't be resilient enough to adapt to the synergistic effects of multiple stressors if climate change pollution continues unabated.[iii] A new study further warns if we continue to not be proper stewards of God's earth, we could be beginning a sixth period of mass extinction.
Some species most at risk from a warming climate, like the Aberdare cisticola bird in Kenya, may seem small and unimportant to some. But Jesus, when reassuring his friends of their value before God, says "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God." (Lk. 12: 6 NIV). For this statement to make sense, the sparrows must have value in God's eyes too.
As God's creation provides us with life's essentials, it also expresses God's extravagant love and delight in His handiwork with its varied beauty, unexpected complexity, and abundance of God's other creatures. What a wonderful gift that God has asked us, as His stewards, to help care for His creation. As a woman committed to God's calling of creation care in my life, I've been encouraged by my many friends and colleagues whom God has allowed me to share my journey with, including my husband Jim, whose new book Global Warming and the Risen Lord describes the impacts of climate change on wildlife and people in detail. Those of you who have also dedicated yourselves to God's creation care calling in your lives have already done so much to help realize the full blessings of His creation that God intended for His people. Part of our calling now is to help reduce our global warming pollution and help God's other creatures adapt to a warming world, so we won't be alone in the land.
[i] SR Loarie et al. Nature 462, 1052-1055 (2009) doi: 10.1038/nature08649
[ii] Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; M.L. Parry, O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson, Eds.
Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 976 pp; Chapter 4: Ecosystems, their properties, goods and services Pp. 213, 243 http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg2/ar4-wg2-chapter4.pdf
[iii] IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, Parry et al, Chapter 4 p. 213 http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg2/ar4-wg2-chapter4.pdf
The image of the Aberdare cisticola bird - PatrickL'Hoir 2009, www.bird-picture.eu
by David De Groot
Sunday I had the opportunity to take a Sabbath rest. It's always interesting what God will do to me, be it a mental change or a particular event that will happen, when I take my Sabbath. Usually it's a little of both and yesterday was no exception. I was in a garden in Old Town Alexandria, having walked there from our little condominium up the road.
It was a beautiful day and I sort of laid down on a bench and let the sun shine on my face. It hadn't been this warm in months and it just felt awesome. As I was laying there a bug landed on my hand, I heard a woman coaxing her dog to come to her, and I looked up in the air and saw an airplane. I was resting (or trying to).
The airplane flew by and I thought that perhaps there was another one but flying in a different direction. I watched this figure in the sky and realized that it was a hawk flying in a relatively tight circle way up high in the air. A flock of birds flew below it and it was then that I began to wonder about this hawk because I think I've heard that a hawk can capture a bird out of the air.
In preparing for this post, I YouTubed for hawks catching their prey and found some pretty gruesome shots of hawks catching squirrels, but none of birds in the air. At any rate, I wondered at the wonderful things this bird must have seen from his vantage point up in the air.
Can we fly? It's hard to even imagine what that would be like, to stretch out your wings and suddenly be alone thousands of feet up in the air.
God created the hawk. The following passage is from the book of Job and it is God telling Job all of the wonderful things that He has to do as creator of the world, to include allowing the hawk to do all of the things that he does. I think it sort of gets at the concept of what I was thinking yesterday:
"Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars
and spreads his wings toward the south?
Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up
and makes his nest on high?
On the rock he dwells and makes his home,
on the rocky crag and stronghold.
From there he spies out the prey;
his eyes behold it from far away.
His young ones suck up blood,
and where the slain are, there is he."
These hawks are amazing!
God created them and He is telling Job how amazing they are so that Job will trust Him; He is telling Job that He is a great God and has everything under control. In summary, let us try to take a Sabbath rest to enjoy God's creation. Second, let us remember that God is incredibly mighty and impressive and we should worship Him and trust Him.
a great post from our friend Dean Ohlman athe Wonder of Creation Blog.
As most of us have heard, composting is a simple and productive means of living more sustainably. If you're privileged to have access to more than four square feet of land it is pretty easy to designate a receiving area for the apple cores and egg shells that you would otherwise have to pay to get rid of. However, on a college campus this is (much) easier said than done. It takes time, human power, creativity, ideas, buy-in from many stakeholders, andmaintenance; on a large scale it is usually significantly easier to put all the waste in the same place. But, this isn't good enough for an increasing number of students on Christian campuses. More people are willing to put in the time and effort it takes to implement a new (or old) way of doing things if it meansless garbage in the landfill. The problem is, most students don't have the natural ability to successfully start a composting system on a campus-wide level.
That's why on January 20th from 3-4 PM CDT Renewal is offering a free webinar entitled, "Starting and Maintaining aSuccessful Campus Composting Program." Presenters from Goshen College, Eastern Mennonite University, and St. Olaf College will share their experience with recent composting initiatives and attendees will be able to ask questions. If you are interested in attending this free event, please sign up here on Renewal's website. Why learn from your own experience when you can learn from the experience of others?
On February 2nd, 2011, Renewal is hosting an International Day of Prayer for Creation! This day of prayer is part of Renewal's core programing along with a day of service and day of advocacy. From its beginning, Renewal students have acknowledged the need for prayer and are asking you to join them.
This year, students chose the theme, "Prayer for Environmental Justice" to bring attention to the people and places that are suffering because of environmental degradation. Renewal aims to draw the connection between our actions here and how they affect people there. Focus issues were chosen from each habitable continent that illustrate specific environmental justice situations. From the recent sludge spill in Hungary to mining in the Philippines to ongoing pollution in Detroit, people need prayer for restoration, resilience, and the ability to successfully balance development with the health of their land, bodies, and culture .
Prayer also challenges our own hearts and makes us ask ourselves how we can alter our lifestyles to minimize our negative impacts onboth those around us and in faraway countries. Perhaps by learning about environmental justice issues we will pair our prayers with action.
In addition to focus issues, students also prepared ideas for potential events. On Renewal's website (renewingcreation.org) you can find materials for presenting the focus issues, setting up prayer stations, or just meeting as an informal group.
Although most of the event planners are students, Renewal would like to invite congregations, Bible study groups, families, and individuals to participate as well. We love joining with you in prayer over these critical issues from around the world. Please let us know what you're planning by signing up here.
By Alexei Laushkin
I am writing to those of you have been long time creation care advocates. I know many of you feel that you are one of only a handful in your congregation who has a passion for God's creation. I know the feeling of isolation that comes from holding your biblical value without the encouragement of other believers. You the scientist, the birder, the wildlife lover, the one who has a passion for justice and the poor, it can be at times very isolating in the church.
The church is good at uplifting and upholding the vocations of the pastor, the missionary, but has a harder time finding the holy and the ordinary in the strategic vocations of many of its members. If this is you,please read on.
I am working on the final issues of Creation Care Magazine for this year and it will focus on the oldhymn verse, "I will arise and Go to Jesus, He will embrace me in His arms." Letme explain why.
Many of you have been laboring in dry spiritual fields of creation care for a number of years; you have been met with derision and mockery for your interest in creation care. You are called the treehugger, thought of as a humanistic liberal, and definitely outside the mainstream of what the church really cares about. At times it's humorous, irritating, and every so often abusive.
You don't have to self-identify but I hope you read this piece if this describes you or at the very least pass this along to someone who it does describe. I want to encourage you. "Arise, go to Jesus." In other words speak out and serve, the Lord will meet you. He is longing to partner with you to bring spiritual transformation amongst His people.
"And he said to them, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest,'" Luke 10:2 (ESV). That's you brother. That's you sister. Arise and go. Creation itself is waiting for you.
I don't have a jaw dropping creation care story. I didn't study to be an environmentalist or a creation care theologian instead I got a degree in government with some focus in Eastern European studies. I sat in on some of the early sessions of the Evangelical Climate Initiative, and despite the difficulties and at times my own doubts the Lord said "go."
Where has going lead me? Well, around the country to many leaders within the church, Christian college campuses, to the environmental community, to other believers, sometimes even into the vipers nest, but consistently it has lead me to those who long to know the Lord. I have had countless conversations with former believers, environmentalists, and passionate believers. All I can say that all of them eagerly await a church that would follow the Risen Lord into a passionate care for the world he has made.
Creation care isn't about plants and animals (as important as those things are to me) it is fundamentally about people. It's about society, it's about how we live and the choices we make every day. Will we take the time to become informed actors of our choices? Is our God big enough to know that he cares about what we do with our stuff?
Are we missing out from our lack of interaction with His creation? Do we not realize that the Lord of life will have his way with all of His creation? Can you not hear the Lord's voice even saying, yes you do have great wealth but it is the spiritual resources that I would wish to endow you with. I know you have lot, but your comforts are mere rags in my kingdom. I have come to offer you life and life in abundance.
I am writing to you who are weary and heavy laden, you with the hidden passion for creation care; hide your lamp no more. Arise and meet your Savior He will embrace you in His arms. In the arms of our dear Savior, there are indeed still ten thousand charms.
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.