Earth Day, creation stewardship, and the Great Commission

International (MNN) — Tomorrow, April 22nd, is Earth Day. But as we talk about missions and outreach, what do things like recycling and planting trees have to do with the Great Commission?

Gary Edmonds with Food for the Hungry offers his thoughts. “When we talk about a biblical worldview and thinking and operating in that kind of way, one of the first things Food for the Hungry will recognize is Jesus came to restore, reconcile, and redeem all things, everything in heaven and on earth. That means the created order, He hasn’t abandoned it.”

At the core of its ministry, FH works to eliminate all forms of poverty. And because of that, says Edmonds, “We believe that the care of creation, the care of the earth, the healthy cultivation and creativity that comes from the earth is part and parcel of our mission and purpose.

“One of the things we’ll do is we’ll use a text…Colossians 1:15-20, and it says that through Jesus, God has created everything; through Jesus, God sustains everything; and through Jesus, God reconciles or restores everything. So it’s a way of challenging Christians to look deeper, to look broader, to look more holistically about life and be able to say, ‘You know what? God is concerned with the whole of life.’”

Kenya is one example of environmental practices and the significant human impact they can have.

Thomson’s Fall in Kenya

Edmonds explains, “About 30 percent of [Kenya’s] population actually had forests. When there were forests, the watershed was established and sustained, the environment for animals, the crop life continued to flourish and grow, people were not as impoverished in those days. Then, all of a sudden, people began to cut down all of the trees, the forests, to a place where it was recognized probably about six years ago that it was down to three percent of the landmass of Kenya actually had forests on it any longer.

“That increased drought conditions, that increased issues related to water, [and] poverty levels began to rise quite dramatically.”

FH has several ministry programs that work to end poverty in all its forms — including poverty created through poor environmental practices. To do this, they’ll often partner with local churches. One thing they do is help farmers identify agricultural problems that are often created by poor creation care. Then they work to find and teach better farming practices for sustainable production. Learn more about FH’s outreach through agriculture here.

(Photo courtesy of Food for the Hungry)

And it’s all done in the tenor of the Gospel. “We’ll go in these kind of environments and we’ll actually teach them, what are the biblical values, what is the biblical rational or the reason behind doing what we’re doing?”

Back to the example of Kenya, FH carries out ministry in the country to support reforestation. Edmonds says it’s all about “getting the people, getting the youth to engage in planting a tree, caring for a tree. One of the approaches has been to get children to own or take responsibility to make sure the new seedlings get watered on a timely basis.”

So what happens when young people especially care for their resources? “A couple things happen. One is there’s sense of ownership — ownership of the land, ownership of their own environment — that rises dramatically. Whether [it is] them simply just poaching or trying to live off the land in a way that’s not healthy, they begin to own it,” says Edmonds.

“A second thing that happens is hope. You know, when you take responsibility for a plant, when you take responsibility for a tree, people watch it grow, develop, and nurture in different ways. As that occurs, people’s hope level begins to rise.”

There are several things you can do to get involved this Earth Day weekend! First, you can pray for wisdom and sensitivity to God’s work through creation care, and how it can start conversations for redemption in the Gospel.

(Photo courtesy of Food for the Hungry)

You can also click here to support Food for the Hungry and their mission to end all forms of human poverty in the name of Christ. To discover more about FH projects, just visit their website here.

“You can learn more about us, the countries, the contexts, the people with whom we’re working, and see how you might be involved, how you might be able to participate in saving lives, as well as restoring everything that Jesus came to die on the cross for.”

You can also take the time to teach future generations about the spiritual importance of environmental stewardship. Edmonds shares a personal reflection. “I have seven grandchildren, and I would take my oldest grandson and on the weekend we’d go out and we’d pick up trash and cans and paper and so forth that have been strewn along the side. And I would just say to him, ‘You know, this is our Father’s world, and He wants it to be cared for and loved.’ So, with my little grandson, I’m able to share with him what it means to be a caretaker and one who loves God and loves God in all dimensions and domains of life.”

Ultimately, creation care is about glorifying God with stewardship of the resources He has placed in our care. It’s about rejecting a selfishly materialistic mindset, and getting outside of ourselves to notice the impact our consumer and waste choices have on other communities and their environments.

As we represent Christ through our actions and holistic service, others will take notice.