I discovered the work of Plant With Purpose (formerly known as Floresta) through The Ecclesia Collective here in San Diego. I was hooked by the question on the flier advertising a seminar they were leading: What is the connection between deforestation and poverty? For me, the question went a step further: What does any of this have to do with loving & serving people, and participating in the mission of God in the world?

Tending to Eden: Environmental Stewardship for God’s People by Scott Sabin, executive director of Plant With Purpose, addresses these questions in a way environmental-laypeople like myself can understand and relate to.  Eden is filled with engaging stories from Plant With Purpose’s work around the world, and from Scott’s own experience. I was happy to receive a review copy of Eden as part of the Plant With Purpose blog tour, which includes many thoughtful perspectives from across the blogosphere.

Although creation care and environmental stewardship have become more common themes for churches in recent years, it can often be difficult to make the connection between wanting to love God & people and environmentalism.  This is where Eden is particularly helpful for readers like myself: Scott tells his own story honestly, and covers topics as diverse as discipleship, evangelism, missional theology, non-governmental organizations, community development and agriculture without relying too heavily on technical jargon.

Here is a powerful excerpt from the introduction:

I have learned that helping the poor in a significant way is considerably more difficult than I originally thought… Poverty stems from much more than a lack of resources. It can’t be fixed just by giving more money or more stuff.  In truth, poverty is a result of broken relationships as much as anything else (emphasis added).

Plant With Purpose seeks to bring lasting change by addressing five key relationships:

  • With God
  • With our neighbors
  • With ourselves
  • With creation
  • The relationship between creation and God

Eden points us in the direction of holistic, lasting change, and helps us understand some of the unintended consequences of our good intentions.  There were several points where I actually wrote, “I did not realize that” in the margins.  For example, Scott tells a story about how, “donated or resold clothes (from well-intentioned Americans) have destroyed local tailoring shops.” Our gifts can be inappropriate to local situations, or create dependency, and tend to be focused on short-term impact rather than long-term transformation.

Plant With Purpose works through indigenous partners, staffed by local personnel. Their work seeks to empower local residents to find long-term solutions to their problems. As Scott writes, “We work to create virtuous cycles where economic development, environmental restoration, and discipleship intersect.”

Throughout Eden, Scott is realistic about the massive scope of global poverty, yet is hopeful about what God is doing to bring redemption even in the most broken situations and how we can join in God’s work in the world:

We have a role in bringing the justice, hope, and peace of Christ to the world.  God has given us an active role in his grand story of the redemption of the universe.

I highly recommend Tending to Eden. The call to environmental stewardship is not a fashionable “add-on” to our faith in Christ, but a vital component of living out the call to love God & our neighbors, both near and far, faithfully.