Creation Care in Mission
Over the last few years, Bible Societies across the globe have been asking how we can deliver relevant and resilient Bible ministry in a rapidly changing world. One of the biggest issues facing our generation, and those who will come after us, is the issue of Creation Care, and how this impacts us as a mission organisation.
In Genesis 2, God gives us clear instruction of how we should look after his creation – we are to work and take care of it (Genesis 2:15). We are created to “rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground” (Genesis 1:26b). It is God’s command for us to tend the earth and all living creatures on it.
Colossians 1 further emphasises why it is important that we take responsibility for our earth: “For in him all things were created… all things have been created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:16). By honouring the commandment to steward the earth given to us in Genesis, we are also honouring the Creator who made it.
In recent years, it seems it has become harder to follow this command. Our newspapers and TVs tell us about over-deforestation, excessive fossil fuel consumption and single-use plastics. Our modern, disposable culture is far from the world in which Adam and Eve were first given the job of looking after our planet, and scientists warn us an impending Climate Crisis is just around the corner.
Thankfully, we believe in an all-powerful God (Psalm 147:5), who holds the whole of creation in his hands (Psalm 24:1-2) and, therefore, we need not fear the future. However, this does not negate the need for Creation Care as we must still follow the commandment of stewardship as best as we can.
While the core mission of Bible Societies may not be to eradicate pollution or solve the Climate Crisis, we can still bring the Bible into the conversation and show people that it can and does speak into these issues. As a mission organisation, we as Bible Society Northern Ireland want to ensure that our work is sustainable and contribute to the stewardship of our planet.
Sustainable Mission Projects in Malawi
Recently, a fine example of Creation Care within the United Bible Societies Fellowship has been happening in Malawi, where a group of young Christians are helping to restore their local ecology by planting indigenous trees.
Jabez, 27 years old, recalls the precise moment three years ago when he realised the importance of Creation Care. It was a beautiful Saturday morning when he set out to pray at Zomba Mountain, located in the southern part of Malawi. But as he walked along the mountain paths, he lost count of the number of tree stumps he came across due to reckless tree-cutting by community members.
Immediately, the words of Genesis 2:15, “The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and guard it”, resounded strongly in his mind. “At that moment, I knew I could either step up and do something positive to conserve nature or step out and watch the nature around us disappear,” he says. “Since then, I have embraced caring for the environment as a life goal.”
Jabez, who is studying social work and computer engineering, grew up in a Christian home. However, it was only when he got involved in the Bible Society of Malawi’s youth Bible engagement project a few years ago that his interest in Scripture grew. The project brings young people together in various Bible Youth Clubs, provides them with Bibles and organises activities that encourage them to engage with Scripture.
He then co-founded ‘Goal for Life’ – one of the four Bible Youth Clubs that were set up in 2019 in Zomba, a city in southern Malawi. Genesis was one of the first books that the group studied together.
In November 2020, Jabez rallied 49 youth club members and formed a partnership with the Wildlife and Environmental Society of Malawi (WESM). WESM asked the young people to tackle the most acute environmental problem in the area: the erosion of the banks of the Likangala river caused by deforestation. The erosion had led to the water becoming polluted and unsafe for the local community who rely on it for domestic use and fishing.
Together, the young people planted 320 indigenous and fruit trees along the riverbanks. The ‘Goal for Life’ club members have formed a special environmental care task force, which is responsible for looking after the trees and undertaking other conservation activities.
Additional stock photos used as designer sees fit.