Our little house sits on an intersection in Santa Barbara’s Westside neighborhood. As I crouch in our garden to weed, I imagine the monks who prayed and labored in this posture centuries ago. Working the earth lends itself to spiritual reflection; it’s no wonder monks did it for more than practical reasons. Gardening, for example, creates space for thoughtful observation and prayer, and some monks made profound early scientific and spiritual insights as a result. Even with cars buzzing past, I feel a more profound sense of wonder at God’s wisdom on display in the basic resources of dirt, roots, and even worms.
These moments allow me to reflect on the faith journey my family, including me, Jill, Taylor (11) and Alyssa (8), have been on ever since we moved into this house. Several years ago, Jill and I felt the Spirit tugging at us with regard to the poor. We began venturing out weekly with friends to offer meals to the homeless, along with encouragement in Christ. Family trips to Mexico and Costa Rica helped us to cultivate a deeper appreciation for our Spanish-speaking neighbors here at home and for their unique challenges. We also felt God moving us to actively reduce our household consumption. Our growing conviction about caring for the marginalized, and caring for creation, pointed our attention back to God’s power and mercy.
Through this process, we have felt God prompting us to depend on Him more by satisfying our conveniences less – and reaching out to others more. We marveled at God’s timing when we learned of A Rocha from Marty and Megan Robertson. A Rocha is a 25 year-old non- profit organization that seeks to mobilize the worldwide church to steward what God has asked us to tend (Genesis 2:15) – His creation. Headquartered in England, this evangelical Christian organization is developing community-based, conservation projects around the world. With chapters operating in 18 countries on six continents, each chapter cares for God’s creation with projects that make sense in their local context, with attention to improving conditions for the poor. My imagination was immediately captured by what this would look like for Santa Barbara.
As we developed relationships with the A Rocha global network and began to make connections within the Santa Barbara community, we prayed and dreamed about what we could help to foster for believers in Santa Barbara. Remarkably, community gardens are the means God has selected for A Rocha to establish a presence in our community. When I first planted our family garden, I never imagined that one day I would coordinate A Rocha volunteers, along with Karis Anderson, to plant community gardens at churches across Santa Barbara. Today neighbors who might not have contact with a church or otherwise afford healthy organic produce can better care for their families. It’s a practical expression of Christ’s love – and we are not done yet! We have more gardens to plant, including one in October. If you are interested I hope you will join us.
If you are interested in learning more about A Rocha or creation care, please talk to me, or Marty, or read a great book called Caring For Creation (written by Sarah Tillet, published by Bible Reading Fellowship) with a forward by A Rocha supporter John Stott. Visit us online at http://arochasb.org.