For creation's sake
BMS worker Mark Greenwood explains how Baptist Christians are beginning to take creation care seriously in the north east Brazilian state of Ceara.
With our seasonal droughts and high levels of poverty, sustainable local development is an important local issue - and one in which a network of Baptist churches have been working towards during the past year in Ceara.
In 2008 Geter Borges of Evangelicals for Justice spoke at the Baptist Convention's Social Action conference about Agenda 21, a United Nations' programme which encourages local organisations to set up sustainable development forums in their towns, together with local government.
At the same time we began having contact with A Rocha, the Christian environmental organisation (and BMS partner), who are becoming active in Brazil.
Believing creation care to be an important aspect of Christian social action, we grasped the opportunity for the churches to begin working with these two organisations for the good of their local communities.
During the course of 2009, leaders of churches from 17 towns met with representatives of local councils, teachers and social workers whom they had invited, for a two-day conference, which included training in Agenda 21 and A Rocha's environmental education programme.
It was especially exciting to see a wide range of non-church folk participate.The involvement of local town leadership broadens the scope of local impact, whilst building a wide organisational partnership increases the potential for providing useful training and resources.
This month, A Rocha's representative Gania Bontempo returns to Fortaleza. We look forward to good news of progress in the local programmes the churches are setting up, although perhaps not quite so agonisingly as creation awaits, "as with pains of childbirth, for the children of God to come into their own" (Romans 8: 19-22).
How many chapters mention creation?
Suzana Greenwood writes about how a biblical approach to the environment is helping people to see God and the earth differently.
We started with a colourless, pencil outline of a landscape scene.
With the aim of raising people's awareness, delegates at Ceara's United Baptist Assembly were challenged to find Bible passages which speak about creation: God's care for it and our relationship to it.
For every new passage found, a delegate could stick a piece of the collage, made from recycled card, onto the outline drawing. When told that it was made up of more than 130 pieces many doubted: "The Bible doesn't talk that much about creation, does it?"
By the time the collage was half-full, observers were fascinated and felt challenged to search for even more passages.
Everyone who got involved was surprised by their discovery as to how important the creation is, and revelled in adding new pieces to the landscape.
At the end of the assembly the collage was finished - and beautiful! (See image above) Receiving her prize of James Jones's book Jesus and the Earth (in Portuguese), the lady who found most verses enthused, "Despite being a lifelong evangelical I had never thought about this issue... It was like receiving new light!"