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‘The fierce urgency of now’


Confronting climate change together

by Sara Pottschmidt Lisherness | Mission Crossroads

In the central Andes, many of the 30,000 trees planted in the Villa El Sol community by 84-year-old Mama Toya are suffering due to either extended dry seasons or rains too hard to retain the soil. World Mission and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance are using PDA grant funds to implement water-efficient pre-Incan strategies of canalization, reservoirs and gradually sloping terraces, while also introducing more diverse native plants to generate quicker growth, remediate toxins, prevent erosion and return nutrients to the soils.
(Photo by Jed Hawkes Koball)

LOUISVILLE — As stewards of God’s Creation, we are challenged to care for planet Earth and all its inhabitants.

This is an awesome responsibility, but also an incredible opportunity. There are many concerns facing our planet, with climate change and its impact on the most vulnerable at the top of the list. Related concerns include privatization of the Earth’s precious resources, threats to the safety of our world’s water supply and the effects of toxic emissions.

In 2020, most Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations will commemorate Earth Day the Sunday before or after April 22. This 50th anniversary of Earth Day will focus on the theme “The fierce urgency of now,” a phrase used by many people in many contexts to emphasize the dwindling time remaining for change. As we reflect on the many global environmental issues that face us, we will be working together in the most diverse and passionate global movement since Earth Day was established in 1970:

Every country is facing a myriad of environmental concerns. There is also a growing movement churchwide to strengthen our witness and efforts to care for God’s Creation holistically. This ministry is being done collaboratively by all Presbyterian Mission Agency ministry areas and global partners, including Presbyterian World Mission and Compassion, Peace & Justice. One of the primary goals of Presbyterian Mission Agency offices addressing environmental ministries is to equip congregations and mid councils as they engage in healing and restoration of God’s creation.

Mama Toya stands on the hillside above her community of Villa El Sol in the central Andes, where the 84-year-old has planted 30,000 trees over the past two decades. (Photo by Jed Hawkes Koball)

The work of the Rev. Jed Koball, who serves with the Presbyterian Hunger Program’s partner Red Uniendo Manos Peru (Peru Joining Hands Network), supports a partnership with Joining Hands that is greatly enhanced by 84-year-old Victoria Trujillo, better known as Mama Toya. In the past two decades, Mama Toya has worked with the Conservation Committee of her beloved Villa El Sol community and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance to plant more than 30,000 trees on the community’s contaminated lands.

If you wonder what kind of impact one person can have on climate change, consider Mama Toya and give thanks for her inspiring witness. On a visit to Villa El Sol, Jed asked for Mama Toya. Her daughter told him, “She has been out working in the hills since sunrise. That’s where she is every day, all day.”

“It was there that we found her,” Jed said. “Lifting rocks, moving soil, watering trees, never stopping. ‘These hills give me life,’ she said. ‘I thought I was going to die, and these lands healed me. God healed me. And you walking with me gives me the strength to keep going.’”

Consider supporting the work of Jed and Jenny Koball, mission co-workers in Peru.


Sara Pottschmidt Lisherness

Sara Pottschmidt Lisherness is director of the Compassion, Peace & Justice Ministry and interim director of Presbyterian World Mission.




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