Too Christian or Too Environmental?
Written by Plant With Purpose on April 19, 2011 in General
by Corbyn Small
“For a long time Plant With Purpose was considered too environmental for most Christians and too Christian for most environmentalists,” our executive director commented yesterday morning. He and I were speaking on a webinar to the Lancaster, PA staff at HOPE International on the first day of their ‘creation care week’. It has long been the case that Plant With Purpose fell into a difficult position in the eyes of its constituents as it sought to meet the very real environmental needs of subsistence level farmers, while at the same time teaching others about the love of God. There hasn’t always been a plethora of places for us to tell our story as a Christian organization that reverses deforestation and poverty by transforming the lives of the rural poor.
On Sunday, at Balboa Park we celebrated (along with 50,000+ others) the 41st anniversary of Earth Day. There are a couple of key reasons that I look forward to this event every year. One of those is the incredible exposure that Plant With Purpose receives, while another is the great diversity of people that it draws. Every race and religion coming together excited to be in the company of thousands of others who want to take better care of the planet we live on. Plant With Purpose is most always greeted with enthusiasm because there are so many people who want to learn about organizations and companies that are loving on ‘mother earth.’
Which brings me to why I really love Earth Day so much. It gives representatives of Plant With Purpose a perfect reason to be an incredible Christian witness to people who may have no idea who Jesus Christ is. He is the Lord that we serve who has called each of us to love our neighbors and to serve the poor and the needy. It makes me so grateful to work for an organization that seeks to do that humbly in everything we do.
I had a couple of great opportunities on Sunday to describe all of the components of sustainable agriculture techniques and economic opportunities that Plant With Purpose uses to help rural subsistence farmers provide better for their families. And in those conversations, while I saw people’s eyes lighting up as they resonated with the best practices of our international poverty alleviation practices, I was able to let people know that we are a Christian organization that partners with local churches to empower pastors and leaders to reach out in their communities.
–Enter squeamish and uncomfortable gazes from the atheist/non-believer/religious-skeptics that I happened upon conversation with.
I can’t express the joy it brings me to see people who hold different religious beliefs, have been hurt by religion in their past, or are just plain skeptical that God should have a part in any of this poverty alleviation talk, open up to the idea of a Christian organization that just wants to serve others.
We seek to see rural farmers realize a restored view of themselves as they are empowered and treated with dignity. We want to come alongside families and communities as they reconstruct the relationship between their families, their land, and their neighbors. And we want to be to be there in service to them, sharing the invitation that Christ has given to all of us to be a part of a renewed relationship with God.
The reason we do what we do is because we as Christians have been called to pour ourselves out on behalf of the poor (Isaiah 56:10), and God has invited us into a relationship with Him and His people as he reconciles himself to all things, both on Heaven and on Earth. Making all things new in Him.
So in addition to sharing the story of Plant With Purpose with hundreds of people and raising over $1,300 (planting 300+ trees) at Balboa Park on Sunday, I celebrate another Earth Day (shouldn’t it be every day?) that we had the chance to give an explanation for the Hope that we have! We serve and love others because Christ first loved us.