Saturday, February 14, 2009

We Just Can't Do As We Please!

Selected excerpts from From Vantagepoint
by Melissa Ong, a filmmaker engaged in conservation work zooms in on the need for creation restoration and encourages all to get involved!

A Rocha (Portuguese for "the rock") is an international Christian conservation NGO working to show God's love for all creation. When I first found A Rocha through Google on the Internet, it was like finding my long lost family and I just had to work for them. The other search results were disappointing. Basically, a whole lot of Christians condemned the movement as unbiblical, a form of new age spirituality, and connected to worship of Gaia. A Rocha turned out to be very biblical, totally legit, and they didn't just talk about creation care, but actually did practical conservation work. I was so happy (my husband, Dan, said I was jumping up and down). I didn't feel alone anymore!

That was 2003. I had been in the local television industry for about eight years writing and directing TV programs and documentaries. I loved making shows about Singapore's natural heritage and the environment. A turning point came when I was in Japan for another environmental series for youths. I felt really moved by the Japanese activists who were doing amazing work and I couldn't help but ask myself, "Why aren't Christians doing something about the environment? We are supposed to be stewards, right? What does the Bible really say about the new creation?"

Immediately, A Rocha (AR) got an email from me: "Do you have a media department? I would like to make films for AR." At that time, I had just resigned from my job as an Executive Producer at a production house and I wanted to give more time to missions and conservation. Well, they didn't have a media department, but Peter Harris, the founder of AR wrote to encourage me and also sent his book Under The Bright Wings. It's the story of how AR started in Southern Portugal. This book changed my life because it articulated something I felt for deeply, but didn't have the theology or language to express. A year later, Peter and his wife Miranda invited Dan and I to join the AR International team as volunteer filmmakers for one year. By then, we had met in Singapore, organized a little AR conference at the Singapore Bible College and gone to Bangkok together to run an AR booth at the Third IUCN World Conservation Congress in 2004. We had become dear friends.

So Dan and I raised our financial support through friends, bought camera equipment, and a souped-up laptop for video editing. In March 2005, our church sent us off on an itinerant life which has led us to France, Portugal, UK, Kenya, and Canada to film what God was doing to restore His creation. It's a dream come true to serve God in this way.

If you'd like to know how you can support or partner with us in our work (communications and creating Chinese resources), we'd love to hear from you. It would be wonderful to see an AR community group start in Singapore.

We need to ask ourselves: How can we be better stewards of God's creation? How can we love our neighbor? Who is our neighbor? In the environmental crisis, the poorest people are most at risk. It can be quite overwhelming. Where do we start? Shopping and eating are a big part of Singaporean culture. I'd like Singaporeans to be more connected to where their food comes from and for Christians to eat responsibly as a spiritual discipline. Can we ask the Holy Spirit to show us how we can shop and eat in ways that honor communities and places? It's important to ask where does this come from? How was it grown, produced or reared? Do I need to buy this new thing or can I borrow it, fix the old item or stick with what I already have?

You don't have to be a field biologist to volunteer in A Rocha although we do need them! When Dan and I were in Canada, there was a colorful mix of volunteers: those who helped in the Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) project and worked in the organic vegetable garden, businessmen who gave good advice, people who fixed the lawn-mower, carpenters, helpers in environmental education with the kids, children who weeded, and environmental studies students doing surveys.

Like all charities, A Rocha also needs people who can give or know of others who can. I would be happy to exchange emails, meet with people, go to home groups, and to show the A Rocha films.

"If God is really at the center of things and God's good future is the most certain reality, then the truly realistic course of action is to buck the dominant consequentialist ethic of our age - which says that one should act only if one's action will mostly likely bring about good consequences - and simply, because we are people who embody the virtue of hope, do the right thing... Our vocation is not contingent on results or the state of the planet. It is simply dependent on our character as God's response-able human image-bearers." - Steven Bouma-Prediger

Melissa Ong and her husband Dan Tay are a filmmaking team based with A Rocha in Singapore. Melissa produces video tools for A Rocha teams (find them on our Creation Care video resources page). They are also making A Rocha's work known amongst Chinese-speaking audiences. You can contact her at

Monday, February 09, 2009

Christians In Conservation

Husband and wife team Daniel and Melissa were in CDPC recently to introduce their work in A Rocha, a conservation organisation with a Christian ethos. It is presently (2008) in 18 countries worldwide, where it undertakes scientific studies, and engages communities in conservation work and environmental education. I'm happy that some church member(s) who have read Total Truth were inspired to explore this ministry.

Why Christians in conservation?
There are at least four good reasons for Christians to be involved in conservation.

Christians believe that God made the world. When we make something, whether it be as life-changing as giving birth, or as quick as sketching a picture, we care about what happens to our creation. So it's easy for us to understand that God cares deeply about all his creation. The Bible makes this clear in many passages, e.g. Psalm 50, verses 10 & 11, where God says "every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine." Studying, thankfully enjoying and caring for the world that God has so wonderfully made is an obvious way for us to show our love for him.

Christians are called to obey God in every part of their lives. In the Bible, we find that the first wish expressed by God, concerning men and women, was that they would rule over "the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground" in a way that reflects his own image. Not just his power, but his unselfish love, mercy and tender compassion. Tragically, because we are human, and sinful, our rule has often been characterised by cruelty, greed and short-sightedness, but this was clearly not God's intention. If we desire to obey God, then we must look for ways in which we can be good and responsible stewards of the natural world.

The environment is an issue of justice. Often it is the poor who suffer first when the environment is damaged.

Those who care about the environment can easily become depressed. The news is so often profoundly disturbing: the destruction of forests, the disintegration of coral reefs, the extinction of species, over-fishing, global warming and a multitude of other disasters and gloomy forecasts can cause us to wonder if there is any point in even trying to take action. But the Bible provides much-needed grounds for hope. The Old Testament prophets Isaiah and Hosea foretell a time of human and environmental harmony. In the New Testament, Jesus is described not just as the Saviour of fallen mankind, but as the one for whom all creation was made - and as the one through whom all creation will one day "be liberated from its bondage to decay" (Colossians 1, verses 15-17; Romans 8, verses 19-23). We do not know how all this will be accomplished, but we are given motivation and hope. We can be sure that the Almighty God who created and sustains his world wants all his people to be actively involved in his great plan to redeem the whole of creation.

This is just a brief introduction to the biblical basis of A Rocha's work.