First of all though I want to say thank you. So many of you have been wonderful and generous in your calls, texts, FB messages, notes and meals to encourage me as I stepped into this period of change. In this blog I have tried to communicate the many things I have been thinking about and learning. Simply put, I am profoundly grateful. God is faithful, patient and relentless.
I will pursue these work projects with diligence and as much creativity as I can muster. I am delighted at what has come my way.
Today, I want to share about Eden Reforestation Projects (ERP). I have posted snippets here and there, but I want to explain a bit more about what it is and what I excited about. I first heard about Eden at Christmastime in church, when Free Methodist challenged its members to donate to Eden, giving the money we would normally spend on a Christmas tree. If we did so, we were to take an olive tree seedling as a reminder of God's love for his creation and his vision for us as his stewards of that creation. (The olive tree is a profound symbol of the depth, spread and beauty of God's kingdom in scripture -- plug it into BibleGateway.com, and you'll see references throughout the Old and New Testaments.)
My seedling is nearly ready to be planted in the bed of soil next to my bedroom window. It has grown at least 4 times in size -- which is a great analogy for how my heart has also grown for the work of Eden Projects. I met with Steve Fitch, the superintendent for the Free Methodist churches for So Cal, in early May, to talk over some other projects within the So Cal conference. But during our conversation we ended up talking about the many things going on with Eden, and where he needed some assistance. When I heard what Eden needed, I thought to myself, "What a perfect fit for some of the things I love to do!"
Steve is currently in Ethiopia with a team of folks to see what is going on with Eden's projects there. He sent me a long text last night, and this is what it said:
All Having the best Eden trip ever. Everyone is healthy. The highlands nurseries and plantation sites are fabulous. Taught the people at Teshome how to catch, clean, cook, and eat Tilapia fish. They dug the pond but had no idea what to do next since fishing has never been part of their culture. We hiked eight miles (at 8700') to one reforestry site. The survival rate for our trees is in excess of 90%! in three years there willl be four new forest in the highlands. Much more to share later but battery running low and no electricity and British Air lost my luggage at Heathrow again.To understand Eden's mission, it is best to go to the website and scroll to the videos at the bottom. They are brief, but packed with compelling information. The global church has spent valuable effort in the last few years to move beyond financial aid to more comprehensive care for the continent of Africa, providing clean water and better health care... what I am realizing, as I learn more each day about Eden and about the needs around the world, is that it is even MORE powerful to reforest. So much of the continent is absolutely devastated and DEforested -- yet as trees are planted, the forests then generate clean drinking water, photosynthesis is re-established, animals return, jobs are created, shelter and safety are renewed, and the soil is stabilized. Incredible! As it says on the logo of ERP, "Plant Trees, Save Lives." Eden's work emerged out of insights from missionaries who were on the ground in Ethiopia and Madagascar, who told Steve what was truly needed to provide sustainable support.
So what will I be doing? I've been brought on part-time for the next six months to assist ERP in three areas:
- Steve has written a dissertation -- many who have read it have told him it should be turned into a book. I will work on that with him. Our working title is Convenient Answers to Inconvenient Truths. Dig it!
- Churches around the country have expressed a desire to support Eden and become "champions" of the individual projects in Ethiopia and Madagascar. I will work to streamline a structure for that to happen more easily.
- I have a vision to see student chapters of ERP established in youth groups, in classes and at schools. Eden was established as a non-religious non-profit and is thus able to work in a wide variety of contexts.
PLEASE feel free to:
- DONATE - 10 cents plants a tree. It's incredible how efficient ERP is. $10 plants 100 trees!
- ASK me questions about how you can get involved.
- PRAY for my future with Eden. I want to be used by the Lord here.
- CONSIDER what you could be doing to increase your stewardship. I'm calling this work in Eden "Green 2.0" - it's moving beyond recycling and organic eating. Not that those are bad, but SO MUCH MORE is needed. I'm moved most by Eden's "subtitle" - "Poverty Reduction through Environmental Stewardship." It's social justice on a large scale. Please join us, and regardless, get involved in something like it.
NEXT: Updates on my new position with Providence Hall. Stay tuned!