Birth of a Ministry: A Rocha Santa Barbara

Guest ColumnistCommunity News

by Marty Robertson

A Rocha Santa Barbara (ARSB) is official. On April 11th Rich Dixon and I presented plans for our ARSB community group to the A Rocha US Board of Directors, A Rocha International Director, A Rocha Canada Director, and A Rocha founder, Peter Harris. On April 12th the entire group reconvened to state their support for the ARSB community project. We became the first A Rocha US project and a “guinea pig” for planting similar projects throughout the US. And because A Rocha is a missional program, it was indeed a commissioning of us as missionaries to our area. Pretty exciting business! But what does this all mean?

First of all, what is A Rocha? A Rocha is an international conservation organization working to show God’s love for all creation. We work out our commitment to environmental action through community-based conservation projects. The name A Rocha is Portuguese, and means The Rock.  A Rocha is currently working in over 20 countries on 6 continents. The work in each country is quite unique and I encourage you to visit the international website at

Last summer, my family and I spent a couple of weeks working and living at the A Rocha UK center in London. It was there we met a British couple, Maurice and Laura, who had recently returned from several years of missionary work in Pakistan. As a scientist and engineer, Maurice had developed low-tech water purification and desalination units that any rural Pakistani could afford and be able to make using materials they already had available to them. He had trained different village leaders to make these units and then pass the technology on. We were amazed by the simplicity and significance of his work in Pakistan. As they brought the people of rural Pakistan clean water, they gave the words living water new meaning. We were surprised then, to hear this couple speak of their intention to possibly stay in London instead of returning to the mission field in Pakistan. They explained that they were sensing a great urgency to address the bigger issues of our environmental crisis and climate change. One evening as we spoke with Maurice, he asked with tears in his eyes, What are we going to do? How are we going to fix this? Their love for the people of Pakistan gave them eyes to see, as they looked across London every day, the damage being done. It’s happening remotely, but it’s happening nonetheless. We began to make the connection between our day-to-day choices and the lives of others around the world.

So what will A Rocha look like here in Santa Barbara? Our plan for ARSB is to focus on working within the church to promote our Christian calling to Conservation, Restoration, and Justice. We have a three-pronged plan to address these themes. First of all, we are committed to Education. Our hope is to bring to light (for believers and non-believers alike) the Christian’s God-given responsibility to care for creation and in so doing both glorify God and bring justice to the lives of people all over the world.

This education will take place in churches, Sunday schools, homegroups, camps, schools, and community meetings.Secondly, we are committed to Conservation. This is where we get scientific and open doors with our community at large. We have been asked by the California Coastal Commission to head up a habitat restoration project along the bluffs between Ledbetter and Arroyo Burro beaches. Part of this project will also entail collecting data on marine deadfall along this same strip of coast.

We have other habitat restoration projects in planning stages. Thirdly, we are committed to Justice. The poor around the world have become the proverbial canaries in the coal mine in regards to environmental degradation. As wealthy members of our community we can buy our way to a healthier lifestyle, but it is often the poor who are restricted to the lowest quality food and living opportunities. We are addressing this need directly through community organic gardens. Our current garden at El Calvario Baptist Church will provide fresh organic produce for the 75+ families that show up twice a month for food distribution at the church. This fresh produce will supplement the packaged foods they are currently receiving and provide opportunities for families to become involved in growing some of their own food. We have been approached with requests to establish several similar garden plans around town. Yeah, we’re busy! And we are excited about getting the word out and getting the church plugged in.

This official commissioning by A Rocha USA means that Rich and I have been called to see this plan though. Here’s what you can do to get involved. Pray. We covet your prayers. We know that someone out there is really praying because so many doors have opened for us along this journey. We need God’s direction. We desire the Holy Spirit to continue to soften people’s hearts to this area of Christian discipleship and stewardship. We desire the active works of our faith to be a witness to our community. Pray for us in regards to finances. Both Rich and I currently work full-time jobs and have been laying the groundwork for ARSB at night when we should have been sleeping. We are seeking full funding to free us up to see this task to fruition. Sign-up. As we become more freed up there will be more opportunities for learning and more needs for workers. We will regularly email you news of upcoming events as well as our ARSB newsletters. Drop us a line and we will add you to our list of friends. Marty Robertson, , or Rich Dixon, . Our web page should be up by the time this article goes to print at