This year, two holidays share the date of June 5. One is secular, the other spiritual, but both should hold great importance to followers of Christ: Pentecost, the celebration of the Holy Spirit coming upon the disciples, and the whole world; and World Environment Day, a day when activists and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) remind us that we only have one Earth and that we must take better care of it.
On the surface, to some, these two observances remain quite separate in our public consciousness, but upon digging deeper, you might find common threads that tell a larger story.
In the beginning, God created with words. God spoke a beautiful creation — an intricately-connected web of animals, plants, microorganisms that rely on each other by design — into being. The animals — and humans! — breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. The plants use that carbon dioxide themselves, "breathing" it in and "breathing out" the oxygen that the animals, in turn, can breathe in.
Even in death, there is interconnectedness. When something dies — it could be an animal, a person or even a plant — the earthly body becomes part of the earth again. We become fuel for the plants that produce beauty, food and oxygen for those still here on earth. To borrow from a popular 1994 Disney classic, it's the "circle of life." When God spoke creation into being, it was designed to be interconnected, reliant on all parts to make the whole work.
Pentecost was much the same. When the Holy Spirit descended upon on the apostles, God spoke through them in many languages, creating the diverse body of Christ that was (and is) the church — another beautiful and interconnected work of creation.
Throughout the act of creation, God said that what had been created was good. God is delighted by creation — in this case, both the world and the church — and compels us to share the joy of re-creation, restoration and redemption with our neighbors (Matthew 28:16-20), across the street and around the world. This is the work of Mennonite Mission Network. Each member of the church, which was created on that day of Pentecost, empowered by the Holy Spirit, brings God's joy in creation, restoration and redemption to the world. Every place that two or three people gather in God's name serves as a place of God's grace, joy and peace. Every person has a part to play in that sharing, and Mission Network serves to empower those that feel called to share.
Caring for the world we live in is a natural part of mission. So many of Mission Network's partners have expanded into creation care ministries. Bethesda Hospital started out as a ministry of healing, and when they realized that the environment has a big impact on people's health, they started a garbage and recycling collection project and a farm. La Casa Grande children's home started out as home for children who had nowhere else to live, and now, it also has a garbage and recycling collection project and a farm. Benin Bible Institute started out as church leadership training program, and now, it has a farm that strives for creation care. These are just a few examples, all within the country of Benin. There are many more instances in which mission partners have adopted creation care as a core tenant of their mission.
In Genesis, God spoke, and a beautiful creation came into being. At Pentecost, God spoke through people, and the beautiful church came into being. At Mission Network, we hold both of these acts of dabar (Hebrew for "spoken word") as greatly important to our mission and calling.
On June 5, when Pentecost shares a day with World Environment Day, let us remember that, just as God calls us to care for each other, so too are we called to care for creation.
Marlène Dako Houessou, accountant of Bethesda Hospital's community development department, explains the recycling program to a Mennonite Mission Network-sponsored fellowship group in 2016. Photo by Karla Minter.
Bienvenu Kadja, in the vest, the administrator and financial officer for la Casa Grande-Benin, is collecting garbage in the city center with his colleagues. Photo by Paulin Bossou.
Benin Bible Institute's farm at Oumako, Benin. Photo by Lynda Hollinger-Janzen.