Rwanda (MNN) — Earth Day is on Sunday, April 22nd. When you hear about earth care and sustainability, you may not automatically think about missions. However, at Food for the Hungry (FH), pairing missions with earth sustainability and care is what they do.
FH’s Beth Allen shares, “Over the more than 20 years that I’ve been with Food for the Hungry, I’ve seen so many examples of how caring for the environment is really very key to helping children grow up into the children that God intends them to be and into the adults that God intends them to be.”
This concept hit home for Allen when she visited Rwanda with Food for the Hungry last year. She spent time with several families in mountain communities. Because of the genocide and political upheaval in Rwanda several years ago, people fled the country in droves. Then years later, many Rwandans returned.
Allen says, “That turned Rwanda into one of the most densely populated countries in the world with families carving out farms on hillsides, little postage stamp farms, and trying to make a living on it and trying to feed their children, trying to nourish their children.”
Over the years, the land and water in many Rwandan communities became degraded and sick from poor farming practices and lacked necessary nutrients for healthy crops. This had a harsh impact on community and child health.
Allen shares the story of a Rwandan mother named Venantie and her 8-year-old daughter Vestine.
“As we talked, she brought up that Vestine had been so malnourished when she was about 9-months-old, they had to take her into what’s called the therapeutic feeding center which is a hospital or a clinic that specifically deals with severely malnourished children. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say this child’s life was in danger at that point.”
Today, Vestine is a healthy 8-year-old child. Venantie told Allen that her daughter is well fed and excelling in school. Food for the Hungry had given this family a milk cow and taught the father sustainable farming practices.
When the father had first tried to grow coffee as a cash crop, the soil had so little nutrients that the harvest was sparse. The coffee that did grow had sickly yellow leaves and was very unhealthy.
Now, Allen shares, “The father said, ‘With the manure, I am able to fertilize my field, I’m able to take care of the soil.’… The father is able to do coffee as a cash crop. They are using the manure also in a vegetable garden, which helps to make sure that the children get their complete complement of vitamins and minerals in their daily diet…. All in all, it was a really great example of creation care.”
Caring for the earth and animals that our Heavenly Father created is important. However, Food for the Hungry recognizes it is a balancing act.
“One of the things we do fight against sometimes is this idea that…creation care, Earth Day, it comes dangerously close to idolatry. We do know that is the case, there are people who are worshipping the creation rather than the Creator and we definitely don’t want to go that direction. But I think it’s getting the word out there that there is nothing unchristian about caring for the environment,” says Allen.
“The command to care for the earth comes in I believe it’s the second chapter of Genesis. It’s pretty darned early in the Bible where it shows up. So it’s our response to Scripture to be able to help people do these things to get them over the barriers they have so they can be responding to Scripture.”
The sustainable earth care training FH does with families in Rwanda and around the world is very biblically based.
“We have to show that you live in response to God’s love for us and the response of that is taking care of the creation that God made.”
So how can you actively value earth care and sustainability this Earth Day? Click here to sponsor a child with Food for the Hungry!
Allen explains, “With Food for the Hungry, all of the programs that I was seeing were funded by child sponsors — people who were sponsoring a child each month with Food for the Hungry. That allowed us to be able to send staff and do the training we had to do with these families and to do the regular check-ups we need to do with these families.”
FH’s child sponsorships cost just $38 a month and enact holistic change for the child and their family physically, relationally, and most importantly, spiritually.
“By sponsoring a child and giving us an opportunity to go and work in that community, we’re already helping the next generation.”