Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Thinking of worms

These days have me thinking of worms. Yes, worms. Not the kind my kids want me to dig up and use for fishing, but the smaller kind, red wigglers, aka Eisenia fetida. They were actually brought to the US in the 17th century by European settlers, and are considered an invasive species. However, we are not likely to get rid of them--they are here to stay!

These little guys are very useful actually, as they feed quickly on decaying organic materials. I like them because of their superior work ethic and amazing gardening benefits. In fact, if you come visit us, I'll show you my "worm farm". It's in the laundry room downstairs, but you wouldn't know it if I didn't tell you. You see, they don't stink (if you do it right), and they eat half of their weight a day. So any scraps of food we need to throw away (well, non-processed foods, like carrot and potato skins, banana peels, strawberry tops, etc.), I just take downstairs and throw into my home-made "worm bin", made from two storage bins. Vermicomposting, as it's called, is similar to regular composting, except that worms help the microbes and bacteria to turn the waste into "black gold", much quicker too. Now, I do vermicomposting for a few reasons:

Reason #1: When we toss organic waste into the trash it eventually ends up at the landfill, and eventually breaks down. One of the by-products of this process is methane gas...ever notice those white PVC pipes sticking out of the ground and landfills? That's to prevent the methane from causing an explosion at the dump as it builds up. However, it IS a greenhouse gas...so...instead of purposefully creating a greenhouse gas by sending some of our raw foods (no meat) to the landfill, I choose to compost (vermicompost is what it's called) any organic matter I can.

Reason #2: the compost these worms create, aka worm castings, are the richest natural fertilizer in the world! I have never used any man-made chemical fertilizers in my garden. In fact, the plot of soil that we chose for our garden had been used before by the previous home-owners. They had let the garden revert to it's natural state (WEEDS), but even the weeds weren't growing well there. There's something to say about giving the land a "Sabbath rest"... However, I planted sunflowers, zucchini, squash, strawberries, blackberries, and many herbs in that garden, straight into that overused, unhealthy soil. I knew they wouldn't grow well, nor produce anything significant if I didn't improve the soil fertility. So, around each plant I put about 1/2 a cup of the worm castings. That's it! It has all the nutrients a plant could need, reduces soil acidity, and lasts for up to two months! It's a natural "slow release" fertilizer because the castings have a natural oil coating that slowly deteriorates and releases the nutrients. Wow! You should see the plants take off once I put the worm castings on, and the color of the foliage is rich green!

Reason #3: as I work with folks overseas who are dirt poor, I'd much rather the little resources they have go to buying food for their family, or paying for their children's education, than spending it on chemical fertilizers that give a quick shot to their crops but don't amend the soil over time. If I encourage them to simplify and use what resources they have, why can't I do the same?

Reason #4: it's fun to have my own "livestock" living in my own house! They ARE useful animals raised for a purpose. However, they don't complain, they can go for a few weeks with no food if needed (when we travel), and they don't stink. They also don't take up much space! People can do it in their own apartment if they want, under the kitchen sink! Then you can use the castings for your house plants! Forget "Miracle Gro", this stuff is free and won't stain your hands or clothes blue!

Reason #5: I love teaching our kids about creation; I want them to be curious and not fearful of what they don't know. I'm always trying to teach them to be aware of what's around them and how it all works. I want them to be in awe of how good God is and how creative He is to make things the way He has.

There are a myriad of reasons to add to this list...what's yours?

If you are a little bit interested in these little wiggly guys, I'd suggest you try it yourself! Just make sure to get the right red wigglers...earthworms won't do the job!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

All truth is God's truth

Flowers in the desert. View of Espiritu Santo Island, opposite Playa El Tecolote, La Paz, Mexico
Have you ever read the book titled "I don't have enough faith to be an atheist", by Norm Geisler? A few weeks ago I was painting for some friends of ours (he hates painting, and I don't mind it--I use it as time for me to think). During this time I've been listening to the audiobook version of the above mentioned book. One of the things that repeatedly strikes me is that biblical faith is based upon truth and reason, just as Paul clearly states in Acts 26:25. On the other hand, atheists demonstrate a failure to assess the evidence correctly and come to the proper conclusions. This got me thinking how so often we Christians fall into this trap and do not assess information logically, with reason, as we are called to do in Scripture (see Isaiah 1:18), but instead fall back on traditions or false assumptions.

However, our faith in our Creator is based upon infallible truths that are only proven stronger each passing day by all fields of study such as archaeology, science, history! We know that all truth is God's truth because He created this universe and holds it together in his hand (Isaiah 40:12, Hebrews 1:10, Job 38:5, and especially Colossians 1:17). As a result, we need not fear the truth as it is revealed.

So, as a biologist, pastor, and missionary, when I read the scientific data, or experience something that tells me the natural order of things isn't what it used to be, I have to start asking questions--questions that help me find out the facts that will help my reasoning. Things I have seen, experienced, or read about from first-hand accounts are: the rains aren't as consistent as they used to be in Brazil (something I've seen myself having grown up there and lost crops while serving there), when they do come, they are very powerful and they are torrential downpours. The poorest of the poor cannot grow crops on their land anymore (this is commonplace around the world) because it has been overused without a period of rest (fallow). In many places erosion has washed away the rich topsoil in the powerful rainstorms that drench the land in three days versus the ordinary three months. The water table has dropped in Mozambique due to the rampant deforestation going on there (which I also have seen and experienced) causing water shortages and widespread famine.

The results of these questions I'm asking tell me something is wrong! Call it what you want, but as a Christian, I know that we have not been given a spirit of fear! Paul says that we have been given a spirit of power, of love, and self-discipline or sound mind/sound judgment (2 Timothy 1:7). So I know that when I see the environmental realities around me, I'm called to be LOVE, to remember that I have a voice as a Christ follower, and it is a "sound", or disciplined approach I am to take with ANY challenge I face. I don't need to fear what the world says, because I am a STEWARD of creation, or the environment, and I take my responsibility and privilege to steward the environment seriously. Why? Because God created it and told it to flourish, and then He told me, and YOU, to help it flourish (remember that in Genesis?). So, I challenge you to interpret what you read and hear through the lens that all truth is God's truth. Whether it is scientific data about the environment, or different conversations you have at work or school, our faith is based upon the TRUTH that God created this world, holds it in His hands, and we are His stewards responsible for caring for this world He's put us in. Let's start to live like this in the public sphere and take back our voice--the world needs to hear it!

Monday, May 02, 2016

It's in the little things

It's in the little things
Last week I went off a planned day-trip to the mountains to spend some focused time in prayer and worship of our Creator and Savior, along with trying to do some planning for the year of ministry ahead of me. I was excited to go on a long hike to Abram's Falls in the Smoky Mountains, not too far from our house. However, going down into the valley area where the river is, on a one-way narrow road, it was blocked by construction vehicles. "What??" I thought. I talked to the park rangers and workers there, asking if I could even walk through--they said it was closed. A large tree had fallen the night before and broken up half of the paved road that allowed access to the trailhead.
Honestly, I was quite depressed after this. I was really looking forward to this hike and subsequent swim at the cold waters of the falls, then some focused time of planning and prayer. I opted instead to drive back up to the top of the mountains and walk around an old, closed campground. And therein lies the lesson for me, and possibly you too. I was so focused on the big picture of my plan that I wasn't flexible enough to see the little detour God had planned for that day. Instead of a hike where everything passes me by, I was forced to slow down and look for the beauty in an old campground.
Part of my role at TEAM is helping the Church, you and me, remember that it is our responsibility and privilege to care for God’s Creation. There’s no alarmism in this reminder—it is simply something we do for the glory of God. We do it for His name to be clearly proclaimed through His creation (Romans chapter 1) so that men are without excuse. But we also do it because God’s desire is for ALL OF CREATION to flourish! That’s in Genesis 1 and 2, and all throughout the rest of Scripture—God LOVES to see His creation flourish since it brings Him glory, pleasure, and it provides for our well-being—humankind depends on the fruitfulness of Creation. Wouldn’t it make sense that we care for that which God has established to provide for our needs? What a blessing it is for me to work with our cross-cultural missionaries at developing projects that bring the whole of the gospel message to those who have never heard, and to see their lives and the created order around them flourishing! For some amazing videos and photos click on this link to see some of the results of caring for God’s creation in La Paz, Mexico. Thank you for your partnership in giving and praying to make this possible!