Wild Wonder: Embodying Faith through Creation Care Camp

This post originally appeared in Art House America.

By Flo Paris Oakes


All your works are good,
All your works are good.
From everlasting to everlasting,
All your works are good.

—“All Your Works are Good” by Sandra McCracken, Julie Lee, and Jill Phillips


We are in the Easter season of the Church year. During this season especially, Christians celebrate the bodily resurrection of our Lord and Savior. Not a symbolic resurrection. Not a resurrection of ideals. A resurrection of the body.

Growing up, I didn’t think about this body business too much. I understood the concept that “Jesus died for my sins,” but for me, the gospel stopped there. In my Christian circle, the resurrection was only about Jesus going to heaven and taking us with him someday. Because heaven was waiting for us, the physical world was not worthy compared to the more pure and holy heavenly realm. The earth and our bodies were just obstacles to overcome rather than gifts to celebrate.

At the same time, my experience growing up on a thousand acres of California scrubland pushed against that idea. The smell of the oak trees and the dusty ground, the sound of the sparrows, the feeling of the blazing sun on my skin, the sea-salt taste of the Pacific—all of these things ministered to my soul. And at a time when I was experiencing profound and personal grief, these were not only good gifts from God—they were foundational to my faith.

That deep affection for nature stayed with me, and as I grew up, I felt a rising frustration with my Christian community’s lack of care for creation. But I still did not make the connection between Jesus’s resurrection—especially a bodily one—and creation care. Rather, I heaped creation care onto my already full Christian to-do list. One more legalism. Reduce, reuse, and recycle. For Jesus!

I had gone back to school as an adult (studying sustainability) and was writing papers about environmental justice and feeling pretty lousy with the state of the earth and the state of our Christian apathy towards it, when I was introduced to A Rocha—a Christian organization whose message is “conservation and hope.”  I was both inspired and relieved, stirred by the message that creation care springs up as a worshipful and grateful response to God, rather than another “right” thing to cross off a list.

In the U.S., A Rocha’s cornerstone is its Creation Care Camp—a VBS-like day camp for kids. And one of the first things I ever did as a volunteer with A Rocha was to help teach Creation Care Camp at my church in Nashville.

On a very hot and humid Tennessee morning, the kids grasped hands and held their palms up as we poured water through their fingers—mimicking a watershed—the creases in their palms forming tiny streams and rivulets. They giggled as water trickled down their arms and dripped onto their little sandaled feet.

Yes! I thought. They get it! This is it. We are teaching them to take care of the rivers. We are teaching them to care!

But I was missing the larger point. You can’t teach someone to care, but you can give them space and opportunity to get there themselves. These campers were simply enjoying creation. The first step to caring. The first step to action. The step that is not only good because it leads to action, but because it is a good and right action in itself—to marvel and delight in the physical world that God made.

It’s been five years since that first year of camp, and now I work for A Rocha, developing their creation care curricula. Experiencing firsthand the kids’ natural delight in creation has informed the way I write. Giving space to marvel, wonder, and delight are not just peripheral ideas—things we do if we have time at the end of the day—but are now foundational moments for camp.

Our curriculum, “Wild Wonder,” is based on Psalm 104:24, which in the language of Eugene Peterson says, “What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.”

We want our kids to be moved to gratitude and praise of the One who created the whole wild and wonderful world. But if we are going to ask our kids to thank God for the gifts he’s given, we need to let them feel those gifts. Fully. Bodily. Just as I did as a child among the California hills getting to know a God who is joyful, imaginative, wise, and near.

We can teach these things all day long. But what I learned from our campers is that sometimes (most of the time), we need to get out of our Sunday School classes to go play in the dirt, to splash in the water, and to break homemade bread to literally taste and see that the Lord is good.

And in this way, instead of another legalism, another duty, we say: GO! Enjoy. God’s earth overflows with his creations—love what God loves! Care for what God cares for. He cared enough that he sacrificed and raised his own physical body for the reconciliation of the world—for our broken ground and broken systems as well as our broken souls.

At camp, we sing, “All your works are good. From everlasting to everlasting, all your works are good.” We live in that in-between-time, where all things are not yet made right. But when we plant a seed in the ground or prepare a feast for thirty campers or delight at the soft touch of a newborn lamb, we are partaking in the heavenly Kingdom. The plant, the bread, the created life of the little lamb—from everlasting to everlasting, ALL of these things are good.

Jesus’s bodily resurrection promises us that these are not small things. That there will be a day when our bodies are glorified—not overcome or cast aside, but glorified, as we continue to live, work, and partake in a physical reality.

I wonder what the bread will taste like then?

A California native, Flo has made Nashville home with her husband, two daughters, and a rescued Newfoundland named Perdie. She has a passion for good food (both eating and making), storytelling, conservation, and especially the convergence of all three. Flo is the curriculum manager for A Rocha USA as well as a singer/songwriter and a founding member of the children’s band Rain for Roots.

Tags: No tags

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *