“The local church is the best way to restore people and their places.”
So begins You Are There: Restoring Churches, People and Places, the recent release by pastor and A Rocha board member, Robert Campbell. In it, Campbell examines local conservation work from the vantage of one particular place – Santa Margarita, California – with its people, its history, and its own particular way of doing things. You Are There is a conversation and invitation for the local church to be a part of the good work of connecting to and restoring both their people and place.
The book is a call to individuals and churches to embrace a local approach to conservation, motivated by a humble faith. This includes acknowledging our brokenness, the world’s need of restoration, and the power of God to make it happen through our very own communities. This is, of course, the message of A Rocha as well. For those looking for a more in-depth discussion of the values and commitments behind A Rocha’s work, this book delivers thought-provoking and heartening stories of what this work looks like on the ground, for Robert Campbell and his Santa Margarita church.
The Importance of Place
The idea of place is central to You Are There. Place is how we connect to God, and our place is what connects us to each other. As we grow more connected to the rest of the world and receive information about world events in real time, it is easy to start thinking in the abstract, both in terms of problems and solutions. When that happens, it is also easy to get discouraged, to feel small. To re-focus ourselves and our work in the context of where we live, we can see more easily what our communities are capable of, and what God can do through each and every person. By putting the church back in its place – literally – to paraphrase Campbell in his introduction, we start the work of restoration from a place of hope.
The Five C’s
A Rocha’s principles are summed up in the 5 C’s: Christian, Conservation, Cross-Cultural, Community, and Cooperation. Each of these principles could fill up five (very interesting) books, but here we will focus on just one: community. It is central to You Are There and a driving force in A Rocha’s work. It is why A Rocha USA is a national organization that operates in pockets: places like Santa Margarita, California, Nashville, Tennessee, Lynden, Washington, and Leakey, Texas – just to name a few.
Not all of these places have undertaken the same projects, although they all fall within A Rocha USA’s core values. Each project draws from the local context, taking into consideration local needs and priorities. Organic gardening in Wheaton, Illinois or water quality and wildlife monitoring in northwest Washington looks a lot different than Big Springs Ranch in Texas or resources for musicians in Nashville. Yet they all play an important role in their communities, and they are all doing work in their own way to restore creation.
Where are you? Start there!
Where is your community? Who is part of it? What is its history? Chances are, it is a perfect place to start a new chapter, specifically tailored to your unique community. Campbell offers some important questions to ask when thinking about what your work might look like in your particular community:
• What is the greatest need that you see?
• What would get you from here to there?
• How are you going to measure your work, the “real, practical results of your actions?”
Inspired yet? Let’s restore creation together!
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