It might be too early to tell what God is doing in and through the hearts and minds of over 16,000 college students who participated in the Urbana Missions Conference in St. Louis last week. However, I left the conference hopeful for the ChurchΓÇÖs participation in the restoration of creation, specifically in addressing climate change. I had the opportunity to exhibit at the conference through my work with Care of Creation and was able to support a range of conversations on creation care and climate action among conference participants.
About 400 students packed a seminar titled Making Sense of Climate Change: Questions, Solutions, and the Church's Role, led by YECA Senior Advisor Ben Lowe. He encouraged participants to consider that ΓÇ£God invites us not to simply be recipients of the Gospel, but participants in it as well,ΓÇ¥ in expanding our understanding of what it means to love God fully and love our neighbors as ourselves. We Christians cannot claim to love God while degrading what He pronounced ΓÇ£good,ΓÇ¥ and we cannot love our neighbors as ourselves if we condone the pollution of drinking water, the atmosphere that regulates rainfall, and the soil of croplands.
Ben Lowe's other seminar, New Frontiers in Missions: The Gospel Amidst Global Environmental Crisis, highlighted how organizations are utilizing the model of medical missions for environmental work. Lowe reasoned that if highly skilled doctors and nurses can use their expertise to meet physical needs while sharing the Gospel, there is no reason why we should not be able to follow the same formula while addressing environmental needs. In this seminar, about one hundred students participated and considered how their studies of the environment or agriculture might uniquely prepare them to restore GodΓÇÖs creation and share the Good News in a missional context. Students also had the chance to talk with several representatives from exhibiting organizations at this seminar including myself with Care of Creation/the Lausanne Creation Care Network, Ben Bacheller with TEAM, and Phil Murphy with the H.E.A.R.T Village.
Through discussions with students in the exhibit hall, we were able to faciliate much-needed conversations on the importance of environmental missions and help students connect with missions agencies offering creation care opportunities, like TEAM, OMF, WorldVenture, and Lasting Harvest International, to name a few. As the only creation care specific organization present, Care of Creation also spread the word on other like-minded organizations such as YECA, Climate Caretakers, A Rocha, the Au Sable Institute, and the Lausanne Creation Care Network. I was able to personally connect with over 150 participants, many of whom expressed interest and passion for getting more of their peers involved in the creation care movement.
Urbana 2009 changed my life when God called me to a vocation of creation care, and I have faith that God will use Urbana 2015 for his Kingdom purposes in powerful ways. The students we interacted with are well aware of the environmental crises taking place, and are eager to connect their passion for justice and the Gospel with the needs of their neighbors both local and global.
Those of us at Urbana were blessed and encouraged greatly by the chance to support and pray for so many Christ followers who are faithfully engaging the gospel issues of creation care and climate change in their own contexts. YECA is invested in mobilizing and equipping our generation to act on climate and we are hopeful that many of the individuals who heard Ben Lowe speak or who conversed with me in the exhibit hall will consider joining us in this critical work.
Take action: Invite your friends and peers to connect with us and sign the Call to Action to get started. Also, watch our Climate Testimonies on Youtube and learn how young evangelicals from across the nation have come to care about the climate crisis, and how we hope the church will step up to this great challenge.
Our work is not over. Many in this country are still unsure if climate change is real and human-caused, or if creation care is actually part of faithful Christian discipleship. I believe that the momentum is shifting, and that more and more people are understanding how creation care and climate change action are connected to the Gospel. I pray God continues to open the eyes and hearts of all of us, myself included.