Learning to be good stewards of our lives and land

Community EmpowermentEnvironment and climate change

Do you ever get angry and then feel embarrassed? I do. I remember driving with four church and community transformation (CCT) facilitators through lush, green countryside in a West African country. It had been an encouraging trip seeing the changes that CCT was bringing - that day we’d witnessed a new health clinic, school and borehole. We stopped for an enjoyable lunch of boiled eggs and bread. So far, so good. As we finished our last mouthfuls the other facilitators threw the Styrofoam containers into the bush. I was horrified and angry. 

Photo: Hannah Swithinbank/Tearfund
Environment is often a blindspot in church and community transformation. Photo: Hannah Swithinbank/Tearfund

I then felt embarrassed for getting angry with such nice people. But the fact is that Styrofoam is not biodegradable and it would still be there in hundreds of years. We picked up the containers and I learned something. 

Environment is often a blindspot in CCT. We work to restore relationship with self, with others and with God. But what about our other key relationship - with his creation. This is often overlooked. And we often neglect to help people think about God’s call to care for the world around us. People’s individual actions can seem small and insignificant but they add up. For instance, we were stood in a country that treats its forests as disposable - 19,300 hectares are lost every year through overharvesting of timber, expansion of cattle grazing and slash-and-burn agriculture. 

CCT is all about caring for people living in poverty, but when we don’t care for the environment it’s those living in poverty who suffer most. It’s time to change our approach. Perhaps we need to reflect on what God says about the Earth in the Bible. This short Bible study refers to verses from Genesis, Psalms, Exodus and Deuteronomy to help us explore our responsibility to care for God’s Earth. Its three key learning points are: 

  • The Earth was created by God and he called it ‘good’. 
  • The Earth belongs to the Lord. 
  • God has blessed us and we are responsible for caring for the Earth. 

And perhaps we need to join a group of people who feel a responsibility to bring about change. Renew our World launched earlier this month and is a global movement of Christians united for a more just and sustainable world for all. 

Richard Lister is Global Church and Development Lead at Tearfund. He writes his own blog - Churches Changing Nations - about his adventures in church and community transformation. Email: richard.lister@tearfund.org

Richard Lister