Being a Missionary through Community Gardens

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I was wondering how important creation care is central to my mission core of ideas. When we think about mission we always think about sharing the good news of Jesus among the nations and helping the poor. However, few people think about mission as creation care. Paul says as broad as possible about the reconciling act of Christ:

. . .“And through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:20).

The book of Revelation in the chapter 21 verse 1 talks about God’s creation being transformed and renewed, the new human community, the consummation of human work and culture. In this chapter, we can see the Old Testament vision of the song of creation and asks if there is room in our theology of mission for our stewardship of creation.

Vinoth Ramachandrain his essay “Integral Mission” highlights four interrelated areas of Christian discipleship: listen humbly to God’s word; promote social justice, locally and globally; care for the earth and our non-human environment; and share the good news of Jesus among the nations.

Of these four interrelated areas, environmental concerns have not been a feature of our mission education until relatively recently. Our creation care in practical terms has been even more neglected in our church environment.

I have lived in Fort Collins for about 4 years. Since then, the city has become more environmentally friendly. There is an environmental program called ClimateWise from the local government which is helping the Fort Collins community meet some of its greenhouse gas reduction goals highlighted in the Local Action Plan to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions. It is a free and voluntary program. So far, participating businesses in the ClimateWise program reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 136,000 metric tons of CO2e per year (as of 2010). There are over 100 churches in town and only 6 churches joined the ClimateWise Program of the City of Fort Collins which is less than 10% of the total of churches in the city.

This number shows that the church as a whole doesn’t see environmental stewardship as part of our missionary command. Besides the missionary command, taking care of God’s creation is a way of worshipping our Lord! It is a way to thank him for everything he’s given us!

Neglecting our creation stewardship is the most horrid blasphemy, in the words of Wendell Berry in his book Sex, Economy,Freedom & Community. He also says, it is flinging God’s gifts into His face, as if they were of no worth beyond that assigned to them by our destruction of them.

Taking Berry’s words, we can say the opposite, taking care of God’s creation is a way to worship God and be thankful to what he has given us.

So how we as individual Christians think about it as part of our everyday lives? How is our behavior and attitudes towards creation? Do we think of creation care as part of our Christian mission?

As the world has been concerned with some many environmental problems recently, it is paramount that the church be involved in those issues in a more practical way.

I was thinking about my responsibility as a creation steward and how I could do something to help our planet as a worshipping act to God, not only my responsibility towards creation but my responsibility to the integral Christian mission. In other words, how I could tie listening to God’s words, promoting social justice, care for creation, and sharing the good news of Jesus?

My wife and I thought about doing something in our church and we didn’t know what exactly. We wanted to do something to include the Integral Mission concept. So we prayed and then we thought about a community garden in our church. We both didn’t have any expertise in the theme but we wanted to try and start from the learning by doing process.

We talked to our local pastor and he said we were an answer of his prayers. They already had a garden in the past but the person in charge could not continue taking care of it. So we both decided to be in charge of the garden. It was amazing to see that the church had already eight beds and a whole structure to develop it.

We felt this calling to take care of it, even though we didn’t know anything about gardening. We started reading extension materials from universities and the main crops to grow in Colorado.

We put an announcement for volunteers in the church bulletin and about 10 people came to talk to us to help.

It was amazing how we started working in the garden with the volunteers and having that sense of community. It was awesome to study how to grow crops and through the months see the plants coming out of the soil as a miracle.

I felt as part of God’s co-work, helping God in this creation care thing. I just praised God every time I was in the garden in how awesome His works are.

Besides being co-participants in His creation, we decided to give away all the harvested produce to the church resource center. This center helps the poor in our local community. I just saw this whole link of being humble and listen to God’s word, being part of a community to take care of God’s creation and the fruit of this work helping the poor in our local community. And for me this is to share the good news of Jesus to our community, not only with words but sharing the whole Gospel in its integral way.

Sources:

1. Peskett, H.; Ramachandra, V. (2003). The Message of Mission: The Glory of Christ in All Time and Space. England:  InterVarsity Press.

2. Berry, Wendell (1993). Sex, Economy, freedom, and Community. New York: Pantheon

Below of is a screen shot of an article I wrote for Creation Care Magazine in February 2012 called “Being a Missionary through Community Gardens.”  Click here to download the full article (pgs. 12 -14):

Screen Shot 2013-03-04 at 10.09.45 PM

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12 thoughts on “Being a Missionary through Community Gardens

  1. Very inspiring Paulo. I wish you and your wife much luck in your gardening. I too believe this world and all that is offered is a gift and very much appreciate and care for it as a gift shared with all of us. My wish would be that others see it as such too. You will also be sharing your gift when you grow produce to help those less fortunate.

  2. Indeed very respiring! It is good to see others that see the importance of creation care and are doing something about it. My husband and I also love gardening and find it a fun and rewarding experience, as well as good exercise! You might also be interested in reading what the Lausanne Movement has to say about Creation Care: http://www.lausanne.org/en/documents/all/2012-creation-care/1881-call-to-action.html They too are sounding the call that for too long the church as a whole has been negligent in this area. It is time we wake up!

    By the way, your English is perfect! I know how important it is to know that when writing in a second language. Magari se il mio italiano così perfetto! (If only my Italian were so perfect!) Great post!

    • Hi! thank you for your kind comments! Credo che il tuo italiano sia molto buono! (my Italian is not the most amazing anymore….sorry). I am familiar with the Lausanne Movement. The Christian student movement (kind of campus crusade) in Brazil had a major participation in this movement in the past (I don’t know if they have some connection yet). But, I’ve read some of their documents. Even their old ones speak to us at present. Blessings, Paulo

    • Hi Peter,

      Thank you for your question. Yes, I think so. I believe there is a wide range of churches regarding environmental stewardship. We have, on one extreme, churches that have no idea about creation care and climate change. The other side, churches with serious commitment with creation including climate change. Then, we have all kinds of church in between. It is possible to find churches in their creation care path where climate change is not a priority yet. I see this commitment increases as churches get more educated about it and being exposed to its biblical knowledge. It is a gradual process.

      Blessings,
      Paulo

      • I guess I was thinking more along the lines that the tiny little bit that a church can do makes no difference in the grand scheme of things. And is so much more that a church can do locally to make a difference with respect to developing habitat, removing native species, planting community gardens, etc., that have more impact, develop more community, and are a lot more satisfying.

      • Hi Peter,
        Sorry for my misunderstanding. I somehow have to agree with you. It is a battle and churches struggle to meet all the community’s needs. But that’s why we have organizations such as A Rocha to work with churches and the society as a whole filling this gap. I also don’t think this is the primary role of the Church to fill this gap but to foster the necessary changes and support and cooperate with organizations and individuals that contribute to it. One example is sustainable consumption. It is not the church’s responsibility to produce “sustainable goods”, but we can foster and support locally and sustainable goods and services in our community. Also, the garden in our church now has been supported by local non-profits in town. We mainly host the garden and through our local partnerships we have resources for seeds, soil nutrients, extension services, etc so that the burden doesn’t fall heavily on the church.

        Paulo

  3. I love the idea of missions through community gardens, Paulo! We are in the process of re-starting our community garden at our church, and I plan to use your article to inspire others to get involved. Thanks for sharing (and reading/commenting over at the Grace Garden blog!).

    • Hi Sara,
      thank you for reading my blog. I’m glad to hear that my article is being used to inspire others. We are also about to start the preps in the garden in our church too. I hope to write about some of the experiences of this planting season. Blessings, Paulo

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