By Karin Taylor, Missions Outreach Coordinator, Santa Margarita Community Church
We know that God created the world and everything in it. We know that he appointed us stewards of his creation. We know that he determined the times and exact places for people to live. How do we communicate this to others so that they, too, will long to see “the transformation of people and places into healthy communities where all of God’s creation can flourish?”
At Santa Margarita Community Church we are partnering with A Rocha to design four weeklong day camps for elementary school children that will promote transformational engagement. The first year of Creation Care Camp, our campers and volunteers explore and discover their place. They learn that God put us here at this time and ask, “What else did He put here with us?” Year two, we discover how everything in our place is integrated. Everything, including us, was intentionally designed by God to both depend on and benefit the rest of creation. Year three we look at our choices asking, “What we can do to live in a manner that enhances our place?” Finally in year four, our campers consider some of our local ecological problems themselves.
Last summer about 30 children attended Creation Care Camp. Exploring our place gave shape to our week. Every day we hiked with local experts and made a myriad of discoveries. To name only a few: Our community is defined by our particular watershed; coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) grow quite nicely here, in spite of the fact that we are not located on the coast; and millipedes leave incredible zipper-like tracks in the dirt. We explored our place with our tongues; drinking a lot of water from our own watershed, tasting produce from a volunteer’s garden, enjoying honey made by a neighbor’s bees, and crunching trail mix made from seeds and berries that local birds like. We got our hands dirty making bark and track castings, painting with feathers, creating “Litter Bugs”, building and operating our own model well, and painting entries for an international watershed art contest. We played games. In short, we used all of our senses and as many of the multiple intelligences as possible to become aware of our place and all God put here.
One of our junior staff members said, “I didn’t think anything could beat the VBS we had last year, but this beats it hands down!” Why? I think that while we had a lot of fun, something deeper happened. Our volunteers and campers started to see their place with different eyes. They no longer saw trees. They saw redwoods and gray pines (Pinus sabiniana). They no longer saw a creek. They saw Trout Creek giving shape to their community and water for them to drink. They no longer saw birds. They saw Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) and Great Horned Owls (Bubo virginianus). By naming things, we gave them value. In turn, we planted seeds in the hearts of our campers and volunteers to care for their place. Once something is no longer generic, but is named and valued, we begin to want to care for it. A desire to care feeds a desire to know more about the thing we have named, so we can care for it well. Next summer at Creation Care Camp, we’ll water that seed by teaching the campers how all the things they discovered last summer are integrated intentionally by God. When we learn to care for our place well, both it and we will flourish and give glory to God.
For some, reading books or watching documentaries challenge them to respond by living differently. For many, though, I think that going, listening, looking, touching, tasting, creating, learning, naming, and simply enjoying – active engagement – provides the fertile soil for transformation. That is the aim of our Creation Care Camp.