Tuesday, August 17, 2010

We're moving!

Well, just our blog :)

As we're launching a new, user-friendly phase of our Plant With Purpose website, we're also transferring and integrating our blog into the new website - which can be found at www.plantwithpurpose.org/blog. With our new blog, we are also updating the feedburner service for those who are receiving our blogs via email. For our email subscribers, you will soon be receiving a notification in your email inbox asking you to re-confirm your subscription to the new Plant With Purpose blog. To keep up to date on Plant With Purpose, news from the field, or our occasional ramblings please be sure to confirm your subscription!

Also, for those who have not subscribed to the email updates of our blog yet and would like to, you can do so at the box below or at the link here.

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Did Someone Say Avocado?

by Aly Lewis
I love avocados. I mean, what self-respecting Southern Californian doesn’t? From chips and guac to turkey-bacon-avocado sandwiches to even avocado shakes, my taste buds delight in the creamy green goodness of a fresh avocado.
Understandably, when I saw the term Avocado Consultation looming on the office Google Calendar a couple of months ago, my interest was piqued and my avocado alert in full effect. I soon learned that the cryptic Avocado Consultation entry referred to a scheduled meeting of the avocado minds in our Trans Border Project along the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Avocado is a major commodity in the mountainous border region, and many of the farmers Plant With Purpose partners with earn much of their income from selling avocados. Early in the year, many farmers complained of low yields and difficulty with their avocado crops. Our staff was worried that technical issues were preventing farmers from maximizing this valuable market. So what did we do? We called in the big guns, of course. We brought in an experienced avocado consultant, an avocado aficionado if you will, to meet with farmers, conduct soil studies, and identify and solve many of the technical issues. The consultation included our technical staff from Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the avocado specialist, and Plant With Purpose beneficiaries.

Avocado Specialist (how’s that for a job title!), Bill Hahlbohm, and three of our technical staff members examine an avocado leaf for signs of pests.

I learned from Armando, our Dominican Republic program officer who participated in the consultation, that it was incredibly inspiring to see Haitian and Dominican farmers join together to solve a common problem, offer their indigenous knowledge, and learn from and collaborate with technical experts. Farmers and staff were able to solve many of the problems and our staff was able to make a lot of technical advancements in this area.
Although the consultation did not solve all of the technical planting concerns, I was assured that it was an invaluable learning experience for all parties involved. I continue to be impressed by our staff’s commitment to growth, learning, and providing farmers with the most advanced and appropriate technical training as possible. I was also encouraged by this illustration of true empowerment and community development as staff, experts, and Haitian and Dominican beneficiaries alike joined together to share their knowledge and solve common problems. And what excites me most--in addition to the joy that an increase in the world’s supply of avocados gives me--is the effect that this will have on the quality of life of the farmers with whom we partner. An increased and improved avocado crop means that farmers can earn higher prices for their produce, which means they can better feed and support their families, can send their children to school, and can improve their health and living conditions!
A truck full of avocados makes its way to the local market.
This is just one of many examples of how Plant With Purpose empowers communities to use their talents and resources to meet their basic needs, generate stable income, and foster a community spirit that leads to restored relationships and lasting transformation.
Now my taste buds and my heart can delight in the production of this fair-weather fruit!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Starting Tuesday...

Over the last few months, our Development Department has been working hard to update our Plant With Purpose website with new user-friendly features. Starting next Tuesday, when you go to www.plantwithpurpose.org you will see an informative new home page, a chance to sign up for our eSower, a tree counter that updates every couple minutes with how many trees are being planted worldwide, plus a snazzy new blog!

We are excited for this opportunity to provide you with more user-friendly features and more accessible news updates from the field. Stay tuned next week for more information!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tending to Eden Now Available on Kindle!

“I do not feed, clothe, and educate my children so I can share the gospel with them. I feed them, clothe them, educate them, and share the gospel with them because I love them.”

Scott's new book, Tending to Eden: Environmental Stewardship for God's People is now available on Kindle! Click here to download your copy for only $9.99.

To purchase a hard copy, visit our website to order through amazon.com. A portion of the proceeds will go to Plant With Purpose and help empower the lives of the rural poor.

Let us know what you think! And happy reading:)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tanzanian Churches Plant Dignity

This has been a year of exciting growth and new initiatives for our transformational program in Tanzania. We are excited to share with you about a new church partnership that is already producing abundant fruit.

Earlier in the year, the Seventh Day Adventist church in Tanzania invited us to facilitate Entrepreneurship and Stewardship seminars at four of their camp meetings. The Entrepreneurship and Stewardship program is designed to equip participants with entrepreneurship skills and knowledge on how to think creatively and become good stewards of God’s creation. Approximately 2,700 people participated in these seminars and learned about God’s love for His creation and the steps they can take to restore, replenish, and protect their land. Participants organized a follow up meeting to further plan and facilitate creation care activities, brainstorm innovative business ideas, and set goals to become better environmental stewards in their own lives. The program has spurred striking attitude changes especially in regard to the way farmers view their own role in caring for creation. As a result of the trainings, community groups joined together to plant a record number of trees, install hundreds of wood-saving stoves, and establish their own teams to monitor and protect local water sources. It has been inspiring to watch community members take greater initiative and ownership of Plant With Purpose's projects as they seek to serve God and take an active role in overcoming poverty.

We desire to help the rural poor discover their true identity as children of God and recover their true vocation as faithful and productive stewards of gifts from God for the well being of all. As a result of this new partnership, we have been encouraged to watch as men, women, and children begin to develop self-confidence, restore their identity and vocation, and work to create and sustain just and peaceful relationships. Individuals and communities are discovering and releasing their God-given talents, utilizing their unique gifts to take hold of their problems, develop their own solutions, and ultimately build a better future. We witnessed this transformation in the hearts and minds of those who participated in our Entrepreneurship and Stewardship program this year. Believing God has given them the talents and resources to work toward a better future, participants took the initiative to create their own committees to meet and address many of the spiritual, economic, and environmental issues plaguing their area. This restoration of people’s dignity has been one of the most encouraging and rewarding aspects of the project.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Our Wonderful Interns- Summer 2010

We are halfway through summer (even though it doesn’t feel like it), and we have have a new group of interns and volunteers who are joining us in the office! Combined, these students are contributing more than 500 hours of their time over the course of three months to Plant With Purpose! Thanks so much to each of you for giving your time and talent to support Plant With Purpose this summer! Your work is invaluable and we are so grateful to have you here!
Plant With Purpose Summer Interns 2010
Annie Fikes- Public Relations and Events Intern My name is Annie Fikes. I’m nineteen and I will be a sophomore at Seattle University next year. I am considering majoring in Political Science or Public Affairs, and want to minor in French and Non-Profit Leadership. I’m interested public relations, community development and government structures. At Plant With Purpose, I hope learn about working in a non-profit and build a better understanding of public relations. I would like to work for non-profit in the future and am excited for the chance to gain experience working at one. I love spending my free time with friends, going to the beach, playing volleyball and soccer, eating Asian food, and teaching Sunday school.
James Ellet- Grant Writing Intern James is a first-year MBA student at Chapman University in Orange, CA, hoping to bring his business training into the nonprofit world. For his undergraduate work, he received his BS in Mathematics from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. In between Cal Poly and Chapman, he lived in the Sierra Nevada mountains near Yosemite managing the maintenance team at a Christian conference center. Over the past 2 years, James has felt a constant call to use his gifts to help the marginalized and oppressed of the world, and sees this internship with Plant With Purpose as a great way to start. He has been helping Aly Lewis research various foundations and apply to any and every grant that she can.
James is originally from Merced, CA, and thinks Southern California residents don't know real heat. Lately he's been listening to a lot of folk music and watching Parks and Recreation on Hulu. He has a dog, Casey, who has just come down with fleas. He hopes they go away soon.
Danielle Slomka- Volunteer My name is Danielle Slomka. I am sixteen years old and I will be a senior at the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts. I am blessed to spend time at Plant with Purpose this summer and get the feel for the non-profit work I hope to be part of in the future. In my free time I enjoy playing the guitar, singing, spending time with my friends and family, listening to music of every type, and watching movies.
Katy Dhanens- Community Advocacy and Awareness Volunteer Katy has been involved with Plant With Purpose through her family and church over the years and is spending time in our office learning about our programs and helping the development department raise awareness. Katy is studying diplomacy, world affairs and Spanish at Occidental College. Read Katy’s blog post about Oaxaca here http://bit.ly/9z1jVk
Nathan Lack- Volunteer Nathan is a veteran here at Plant With Purpose, this is his third summer to be involved as a volunteer here in the office. He entered community college last year not knowing what he wanted to study and over the last year he has decided that he wants to pursue studies related to what he has learned in his time here at Plant With Purpose. We are excited to see him pursuing an environmental science related degree at a UC school in Sacramento!
Keep your eye out on our blog for articles from each of these students over the summer! http://www.plantwithpurpose.blogspot.com
If you are interested in internships or volunteering please email corbyn@plantwithpurpose.org

Monday, August 9, 2010

Meet Claudette Zepeda

Meet Claudette Zepeda, Plant With Purpose’s new Bookkeeper! Claudette first heard about Plant With Purpose when she met our HR Manager, Rachel Castillero, at the Flood Church. The two kept in touch, and in May she heard from Rachel that an Admin / Finance position was opening up in the new fiscal year. Claudette says she jumped at the chance!

While the majority of Claudette’s resume is predominantly administrative, she is also a trained pastry chef. Through school and her food career she says she always made it a point to learn about sustainability and to help the local farmers as much as she could.

Plant With Purpose’s work struck a chord with Claudette after she read how we help empower the people and farmers to regain control of their land.

“I realized that I’m not only responsible for doing my part locally, but within other countries that need it,” said Claudette. “Having two young kids myself I know it’s my responsibility to teach them to be conscious of the world we live in, and inform them that the children of the villages we help will one day run the family farm.”

At Plant With Purpose, Claudette is responsible for recording the donations and allocating funds to ensure the appropriate countries receive monetary support.

Claudette says, “I’m excited to grow and be a part of the Plant With Purpose team!”

We’re excited to have you here, Claudette. Welcome to the team! :)

Friday, August 6, 2010

August Prayer Letter

Dear Friends and Prayer Partners:

Today is Plant With Purpose's International day of prayer and fasting. If you would like to subscribe to receive the prayer letter please email corbyn@plantwithpurpose.org Please join us in praying for our programs around the world:

Haiti

Praise for:

Our Technical Director Bob's safe travel in Haiti in July.

Good results from the Haiti relief project financed by the United Nations.

Safe distribution of seeds and tools in the communities with Plant With Purpose members and non-members in partnership with Food and Agriculture Organization.

Pray for:

Serge, our technician in Haiti, who lost his wife and child in the earthquake as he lives with this difficult loss.

The many thousands who are still living in tents or under plastic tarps and may be there for years to come.

The Episcopal parish in Grand Colline as they tear down the old church, school and guesthouse and begin rebuilding.

Better crops for the summer agriculture season.

Delcius, a member of the staff, who has his son suffering with meningitis.

Continuity in the relationship between Haitian farmers and Plant With Purpose staff. The

staff received a large number of tree seedlings from the Dominicans to be used for reforestation on the Haitian side of the border.

Tanzania

Praise for:

The first crop of beans that the Miwaleni farmers group from the low land have started harvesting as part of the USAID funded project.

The Rural and Agricultural Finance and Food Security Learning Program which is finally coming together and is ready for use.

Good health for all the staff.

Prayer for:

Tanzanian Technical Director, Mama Banzi's father's health and recovery.

A safe and successful trip to India for Richard and Samson which will take place during second week of August.

Ideal weather conditions, motivation and determination for the coming harvest for farmers under the Plant With Purpose / USAID project.

A stable political situation for the International meeting since this is an election year in Tanzania.

Thailand

Prayer for:

A favorable outcome for the hill tribe communities as the forestry authorities decide whether or not to move forward on establishing a national park in the region.

The recently established network of churches to respond to the needs of the communities.

Churches to respond to the growing drug abuse problem in the communities.

Wisdom in moving forward on a joint program with Mercy Ministries Foundation, Micro Economic Development Foundation, Compassion International, and our partner organization, UHDP.

Plant With Purpose staff as they seek God's wisdom in improving their work.

Mexico

Praise for:

The Solana Beach Presbyterian Church visit to Oaxaca, which was a great blessing to the community of Nuxiño.

The progress made in the construction of the Community Center (CECIC) in Nuxiño.

Prayer for:

The reforestation activities that are being carried out in the different communities where we work.

Our sister Claudia Camacho, the Plant With Purpose Mexico assistant, who is taking an exam to begin her MBA studies.

A healthy pregnancy and birth without complications for Claudia's sister Veronica.

Dominican Republic

Prayer for:

Wisdom in working with the new savings and loans groups in the central border region.

Increased awareness for farmers from the border about protecting the soil and caring for their seedlings so that they can see an improvement.

Farmer associations to remain united and obtain financing for their agriculture plots from various sources.

Wisdom for the new spiritual development promoters from the central and border regions who have just begun their work.

Churches to be more involved with the groups that Plant With Purpose partners with.

More discipline in credit repayment from farmers and small business owners.

The savings and loan groups to be a success.

Burundi

Praise for:

The positive recognition Plant With Purpose Burundi is receiving from local authorities and other Non-governmental organizations.

God's grace that took people through the difficult election situation. After weeks of political tension around elections, situation is settling down. All elections (Local, Presidential, Legislative and Senatorial) are complete. The new government is likely to be formed in near future.

Prayer for:

Continued growth of the communities where we work and the organization as a whole.

The electoral process in Burundi, which has thus far been tumultuous. Please pray for God's intervention, and that the elections would be free, fair, and peaceful.

The nomination of the new government to be peaceful.

The right person to be recruited to join the staff as the new accountant.

USA

Praise for:

Jimmy, our new Development Department Assistant, and Claudette, our new Bookkeeper.

Our wonderful summer interns who generously donated their time and talents.

A great trip for Solana Beach Presbyterian Church to our program in Oaxaca, Mexico.

A strong beginning to the new fiscal year.

Prayer for:

Our annual Planting Hope Gala on October 9th to have a high attendance, raise much needed funds for Haiti and the other countries we partner with, and for God's spirit to be present as people learn about Plant With Purpose's vital mission.

Preparations for the upcoming trip to Haiti for St. Clement's Episcopal Church and La Jolla Presbyterian Church.

Orientation and training of new staff.

The right person to fill the open Program Officer position.

A smooth audit process.

Increased exposure for Plant With Purpose.

Thank you so much for your prayers and support! We are deeply grateful for your partnership.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Toughest Job in the World?

Haitian Presidential Race Update

By Annie Fikes

Last week I blogged about the possibility of hip-hop star Wyclef Jean running for President in Haiti. I’m sure that everyone is on the edge of their seats, waiting to find out if this rapping philanthropist will make a bid for the presidency.

Wyclef Jean confirmed today that he will be running for president.

Jean is running as a candidate from the party Ansanm Nou Fo, a reformist party. Ansanm Nou Fo is a Creole name that comes from the French phrase “ensemble nous faut”, which means “we must (do it) together”. His campaign slogan is “Face à Face” (Face to Face), expressing his goal to create a more transparent system for Haiti’s government. Jean challenges the deep-seated corruption that plagues Port-au-Prince, claiming that “the old school will have to fall in line with the new model” and that government will be “conducted out in the open”. This will probably make him unpopular with existing Haitian leadership, but may help his credibility with the Haitian people, many of whom are disenchanted with the government.

Last week I couldn’t fathom what kind of political platform Jean would present. I wondered if he would rely on vague, idealist promises of rebuilding and reforming. However, Jean seems to have a more specific plan than I expected. He claims to draw much of his political philosophy from Bill Clinton. He wants to encourage cooperation between businesses, government, and civil society, an alliance that was beginning to see success before the earthquake. He wants to break up the power as well as the huge residential population in Port-au-Prince and spread it across the country. Jean also has mentioned a desire to rejuvenate rural communities and the agricultural sector through schools, clinics, and business.

Even before the earthquake ravaged the nation, Haitian presidencies were volatile at best. Haitian governments are habitually corrupted, inept, illegitimate, and unstable. Out of the past 53 Haitian leaders, only 9 completed their full term. 4 of those that did acted under U.S. occupation. 23 of the 53 were overthrown, 7 died in office, 7 only lasted a year or two, 2 were assassinated, 1 was executed, and 1 committed suicide. None of those presidents had to face a nation ravaged by an earthquake that killed a government estimated 300,000 people.

I wouldn’t expect people to be lining up for the job, but Jean faces dozens of competitors including his uncle, Raymond Joseph, the Haitian ambassador in Washington, and fellow Haitian musician Michel “Sweet Mickey” Martelly. Current president René Garcia Préval has not announced his endorsement yet, but it is unlikely to be Jean. All candidates must announce their bid to run by August 7th, and the election will take place on November 28th.

To read more about Jean’s presidency, follow this link: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/08/05/1762628/its-official-wyclef-jean-to-run.html

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sustained Success in Haiti

by Aly Lewis

Since the terrible earthquake shook Haiti over six months ago, we’ve written a lot about Plant With Purpose’s relief and recovery efforts. We’ve been grateful to provide thousands of earthquake victims with jobs, food, tools, and seeds. As I look back over our accomplishments in Haiti over the last year, I am impressed with our tremendous relief efforts and achievements—employing over 2,100 people to plant over 170,000 trees and construct over 150 miles of soil erosion barriers—but I’m also struck by the success and achievements of our ongoing development efforts. In spite of the earthquake and the ensuing challenges, we were able to accomplish—and even surpass—most of our projected goals for the year alongside our relief program

For example, we have had an influx of farmers and community members who want to join in our reforestation efforts. New participants are asking to join our community groups because they have seen their friends and neighbors benefit from tree planting and soil conservation activities. Planting trees is one of the best ways for Haitian farmers to restore and replenish the degraded hillsides on which they live and farm. Between July 2009 and June 2010 we planned to plant 50,000 trees on deforested hillsides. Greatly exceeding our goal, we planted 88,196 trees, in addition to the 170,000 trees planted as a part of our “Cash for Work” emergency relief project!

Iloma Jean Baptiste, a member of our Cheridant group since 1998, said he has seen lots of benefits from planting trees in his own community. He said, “Trees we planted, for example these trees you see behind you, we now use to build our houses and make charcoal, and have made a good profit. We have done soil conservation to control erosion. The soil conservation work gives us a guarantee that we will not lose too much soil.”

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I love baseball.

posted by James Ellett

I realize that it’s not for everyone, but I think that it is a fascinating game. Most people I talk to say “I like going to baseball games, but watching it on TV is just too boring.”

False.

Ok, it doesn’t have the flash and finesse of basketball, the brute strength and strategy of football, or the daily brawls of hockey. Yes, I realize that the players are standing around 99.9% of the time, chewing various things and scratching various body parts. True, it has been officially dropped from the Olympic Games, while sports like badminton, handball, and table tennis remain.

But baseball has numbers. Lots of them.

BA, SLG, WHIP, BABIP, ERA, OPS, OBP, and a host of other acronyms make up the mathematical heart of America’s pastime. The statistics range from simple, such as batting average (hits divided by at bats), to borderline ridiculous, like fielding independent pitching (FIP = (HR*13+(BB+HBP-IBB)*3-K*2)/IP, plus a league-specific factor around 3.2).

As offensive as this plethora of numbers is to many people, it really is incredible the knowledge that can be attained after an examination of the relevant numbers. Statistics, while at times arduous and confusing, serve as important indicators of what is going on, what will likely happen, and what actions need to be taken.

An interesting statistic (not baseball-related) that I have stumbled upon recently is the East Africa Bribery Index. Basically, the EABI measures the percentage of citizens that are expected to pay bribes when dealing with public institutions. In the most recent publication of the numbers, Rwanda was ranked the least corrupt country, with 6.6% of citizens expected to pay bribes. Just south of Rwanda, however, 36.7% of citizens in Burundi are expected to bribe public officials.

Burundi is no stranger to hardships. Since gaining independence in 1961, the nation has been plagued by ethnic tensions between the Hutu majority and Tutsi minority. It is just now seeing the rewards of a peace process following a 12-year civil war based on these tensions. Half of the population of Burundi lives below the poverty line, with an average annual income of $140, according to the World Bank.

While there has been considerable international effort to help Burundi rebuild their war-torn country and reestablish some sense of national unity, much remains to be accomplished. Standing in the way of these accomplishments is, among other things, the most corrupt government in East Africa. According to the East Africa Bribery Index, a citizen of Burundi is expected to pay a bribe nearly 4 times out of 10 visits to a public institution. How is a country to fix its obvious problems (poverty, illness, hunger), when under the surface is this poison of corruption, crippling the people who so desperately need to be healed?

Hope, however, springs eternal.

Plant With Purpose has seen incredible transformations take place in Burundi in the past year. The work that we do in rural communities empowers people to help themselves and to help their neighbors. The knowledge that we give to communities spreads throughout the country like yeast spreads through dough--to borrow an image from our Lord. We believe that through the healing of small communities, much greater transformation takes place. Plant With Purpose as a non-profit organization has a blanket policy of never paying bribes to accomplish our work, and we have been able to build relationships with local municipalities and leaders, which has allowed us to steer clear of payoffs and kickbacks.

The issue of government corruption in Burundi is indeed daunting, and the statistics are intimidating, but the power of loving, compassionate, and educated citizens shall overcome.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Dreaming Together on the Border

by Aly Lewis

"When we are dreaming alone it is only a dream. When we are dreaming with others, it is the beginning of reality." ~Dom Helder Camara

Last week, Annie Fikes, our PR and Marketing Intern, blogged about the renewed hope and reconciliation that is taking place between Haitians and Dominicans as a result of Plant With Purpose's program on the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. This week I'd like to share a story about a Dominican farmer from the border region who is working--and dreaming--with Plant With Purpose to overcome poverty and build a better future for his family.

Antonio Guarionex Soto, a farmer from the village of Angel Feliz, is quite the innovator. With Plant With Purpose's encouragement, he continues to add new components to his agroforestry farm. He currently grows bananas, two types of avocados, zapote, oranges and beans. As a result of his agroforestry efforts, he has seen his soil quality and his crop yields improve. Avocado is by far his most successful crop because of the high demand for avocados in the region, and his farm is lush with the valuable fruit.

Antonio and his son, Jendis, show off one of their avocado trees.

Building on his success, Antonio would like to acquire more land in order to plant more fruit trees and see his business grow and thrive. His greatest dream is to provide better opportunities for his son so that he will not have to migrate to another region. As Antonio continues to improve and invest in his land, enabling him to enhance the quality of life of his entire family, we believe that he is well on his way to turning his dream into a reality.

Our innovative Trans Border Project has given hundreds of dedicated, hardworking farmers like Antonio the skills and resources needed to improve their farms, provide for their families, and realize their dreams for themselves and their children. Through Plant With Purpose's Sponsor A Village program, you too can dream together with rural farmers from around the globe and partner with them as they work to turn their dreams into a reality. To learn more, Click Here.

Above: a truck full of avocados makes its way to the local market. An abundant crop means farmers like Antonio can feed their families, improve their living conditions, and send their children to school.

Friday, July 30, 2010

A Taste of Tending to Eden

The following excerpt is from pages 112 to 115 in Tending to Eden: Environmental Stewardship for God's People by our Executive Director, Scott Sabin.

This book connects the dots between poverty and the environment, and makes the biblical case for how as Christians it is our job to care for the earth. Tending to Eden also comes with a creation care Bible study, so you and your congregation or Bible study can more deeply explore and apply this concept.

You can purchase the book through our website here: http://www.plantwithpurpose.org/page/64/tending-to-eden.html.

For every purchase that is made through our website, amazon.com will donate a portion of the proceeds to Plant With Purpose, which will go toward directly benefiting the rural poor. Thank you, faithful readers, for your support! And stay tuned for more "tastes" of Tending to Eden.

“Daddy, when I grow up, I want to help you save the rainforest.” My daughter, Amanda, then five, looked at me with an expression that made me melt. For a fraction of a second I thought we were completely in tune. Then she added, “I could be a butterfly or a fairy and fly around pollinating the trees.”

It wasn’t quite the kind of help I was looking for, but it does serve to underline

an important problem. Once we understand the state of the world and our call to be stewards, what can we do? Where do we start? The problems are vast and often seem so far away.

As each of us considers how to respond to the groaning of creation, there is much that can be learned from Plant With Purpose’s story. The entire world faces vicious cycles similar to the one we recognized involving deforestation and poverty. And the

re are undoubtedly other virtuous cycles that can address two problems with one solution. Each vicious cycle we confront presents an opportunity for a corresponding virtuous cycle.

Two of the biggest problems in the world are environmental degradation and widespread poverty. There are 3.14 billion people living on less than $2.50 a day. If the poor are recognized as a resource rather than an obstacle, can a virtuous cycle be discovered

in the midst of this? Is it possible that the poor could become leaders in solving the enormous environmental problems the planet faces?

Van Jones, in his book The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems, makes the case that this is possible in the United States. He advocates putting the unemployed and underemployed to work to create a healthier, more sustainable country. Jobs can be created weatherizing homes, installing solar panels, and improving energy efficiency. As Jo

nes says, we need to do everything we can to aid and encourage business and eco-entrepreneurs to develop market-based solutions to solve environmental problems. This is similar to what Plant With Purpose is doing internationally.

We must also look for opportunities to create

smaller virtuous cycles in our environmental and economic solutions. Nature is designed to function as a series of virtuous cycles. But most often, our attempts to address the problems are linear and finite. Recycling is one step toward closing the loop to sustainability—but it is only the beginning.

Solutions must be empowering. Everyone, from the church member in Michigan to the farmer in Haiti, has a role to play. The rural poor must have a role in the stewardship and restoration of the land, and the urban poor must have a role in greening and redeeming their neighborhoods and cities.

Any real solution must take into account both environmental and economic considerations. I once walked miles into a protected national park in Indonesia that was filled with illegal cinnamon plantations and crisscrossed by paths used by illegal loggers to get deeper into the park. The national park was set aside with the best of intentions. But without corresponding changes in the incentives for the people who rely on the land, nothing will change.

The same applies to solutions in the United States. Economic incentives must be aligned with environmental outcomes. At a national level this means changing the way farm subsidies are applied. It means incentives and standards for improved fuel efficiency for cars. It means investment in alternative energies. It also means finding creative ways for local communities to participate in and benefit economically from the health of their surrounding environment.

Finally, any viable solution must have a spiritual dimension, because ultimately the problem is a spiritual one. The church must lead the way, offering the hope we have and setting an example with our own stewardship. We must forsake the wanton consumerism that has overwhelmed our culture and which is ultimately suicidal. And we must offer a healthy alternative based on biblical values of worship, contentment, community, and Sabbath.

How then should we respond as individuals? First, we as evangelicals need to get over our suspicion of science and learn what we can from it. Unless we understand our environment and how it works, how can we protect it? And we must learn not only from the scientists but also from our brothers and sisters on the front lines: the farmer in Tanzania who can no longer count on the rain, the Gabra elder who can no longer graze his animals, the Haitian family who has seen firsthand the devastation that comes when life-support systems are wiped out.

Second, we in the church should realize how much we have in common with the wider environmental community. They value creation, in part, because they hunger for the Creator. We should engage in dialogue with them, but we must begin with an attitude of humility. We have been absent from the conversation for too long to be brash.

Nonetheless, we have something important to offer: hope in a place where there is a dearth of good news. A former colleague at Plant With Purpose told me he became a Christian partly because of the despair he felt as an environmental-studies major. The problems were too vast. The solutions proposed by science and government were draconian or came up short. As far as he could see, there was no hope for the world, except in Christ. Of course, that is what we believe: that Jesus is the hope for the world.

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