Two years ago at about this time I was sitting in a New Zealand coffee shop accessing coveted WiFi when I noticed an email from a professor about an organization called Y.E.C.A. The email stated that applications were closing soon for a fellowship opportunity. My friend wasn’t done with her work yet, so I decided to apply as I waited. As I filled out the application questions, I found myself excited to share why I care so deeply about Christians caring for the environment. The short essay questions ran quickly from my keyboard. I hoped that my answers weren’t given in too much of a rush but was surprised at how natural it felt to be talking about the topic.
Now in Indiana August sun, I found myself at the summer retreat and training for fellows. It was incredibly encouraging, in fact exhilarating, to be surrounded by others who cared so deeply for both their faith and the environment. I was passionate about how the two intersect, but up until that point hadn’t found others who were so vocally committed to the same cause. I have found that I often confuse both Christians and environmentalists by being in both camps. While that may provide good fodder for conversation, it can feel isolating to be an object of confusion. But here I found others, who, like me, saw the two as parts of a whole.
As our projects progressed, we were able to encourage and support one another to accomplish great things on our campuses. One fellow started an environmental club on her campus, another fought hard—and succeeded—in getting recycling on her campus. Here were other young people of faith, caring about their neighbors through caring for the environment.
The fellowship taught me so much—that I’m not alone in this effort, that we each can make a difference in our own communities, that is more important to be faithful than successful*. I’ve learned many life skills from Y.E.C.A., from calling my congresspeople, to financial accounting, to collaboration across a campus to achieve large goals. It has surrounded me with people who challenge me to refine my skills for the common good. Above all, it has connected me with a group of passionate individuals who desire to see a faithful response to one of the biggest challenges our generation will face. I’m so thankful that two years ago God had me waiting in that New Zealand coffee house, with just enough time to fill out an application.
*Attributed to Mother Teresa