Thursday, 5 August 2010

Prairie restoration and God's healing -- by Jim and Kathy Kessler

Published with the permission of the authors, who are members of Grinnell First Friends Church, Iowa. This article originally appeared in Quaker Life (Mar/Apr 2008).

1 Corinthians 10:26 (NIV) The earth is the Lord's and everything in it. About 35 years ago I experienced a pivotal event. Our county naturalist took me to a steep hillside virgin prairie. I was deeply moved by the beauty of orange butterfly milkweeds, pale yellow coneflowers, pale purple coneflowers, big blue stem grass and a dazzling array of tall grass prairie plants.

During the next year the prairie was plowed so that the land would be available for the Conservation Reserve Program. We passed that spot on our way to Grinnell First Friends and deeply grieved the loss of a remarkable bit of God's creation to economic gain. Tall grass prairies and oak savannas covered most of the landscape in 1850 when my ancestors came to Iowa. Their acreage has been reduced to less than 1/1000 of the original amount today, since they formed some of the most fertile land on the planet.

Over time, Kathy and I decided that prairie restoration was a way that we could respond and demonstrate our care for creation. Genesis 2:15 (NIV) The Lord God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to work it and to care for it. This verse places equal emphasis on using the land for our needs and caring for it as faithful stewards. A Christian movement called Creation Care is gathering momentum as followers of Jesus increasingly see caring for the natural world as a normal expression of faith.

Isaiah 55:12 (NIV) You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you, and all of the trees will clap their hands. Care of God's creation has been one of our family passions. In 1997 we purchased 30 acres near Grinnell and our church family. Immediately we began elimination of weeds and invasive species and sowed seeds of prairie plants native to the Grinnell area. Kathy began feeding birds, developing a bluebird house trail and growing prairie plants from seed in our greenhouse. Our oldest son Paul collected seeds from native plants in prairie remnants in our area. Today over 200 species of native plants flourish and burst forth in bloom, hawks and turkey vultures glide overhead, deer munch on vegetation, wild turkeys gobble, many species of birds feed at our birdfeeders and young bluebirds leave their nests. I daily watch in amazement and and praise God for the beauty of his creation on the property that he has given us. When I gaze at these things, my relationship to my heavenly Father grows. During the process of reconstructing prairies, oak savannas and wetlands, God has done a work of healing and spiritual growth that continues in our family.

Romans 12:13 (NIV) Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. About four years ago, we had a Christian builder construct our home in the middle of the prairie. We included passive solar heating (many large windows), a ground source heat pump, an energy efficient fireplace, energy efficient appliances and other environmentally friendly features in our home design. Little did we know what following God's leading would mean and the healing that would result. We opened our home and our prairies to people in our church and our community, to our children and our grandchildren,
to a family member in need of physical healing and to pastors and missionaries in Iowa Yearly Meeting of Friends. Some have come to us in times of deep despair and crisis for healing, others during important life transitions; some simply needed a place to stay and others came for a time of spiritual retreat and renewal. God has transformed our home into a place of healing for the land, for the people who came and continue to come, and for us. We stand humbly in awe of our Lord and the way he works.

Hebrews 1:2 (NIV) In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, and through whom he has made the universe. We have searched in times of silence to discover where all of the above fits into the big picture of our lives as Christian evangelical Friends. The Friends testimonies of peace, simplicity, equality and integrity guide us. Our passion for the environment is a sanctity of life issue. Our personal concerns about such issues as global climate change, prevention and peaceful resolution of personal and international conflicts, and justice for the poor and powerless, are born out of a deep concern for the sacredness of all life that God has created. We are restoring a piece of God's earth as an act of caring for his creation. We work to do God's Kingdom work as we seek to change the world through Christ-centered action.

We invite others into the joyful, life-giving adventure of searching the scriptures, asking the Lord for direction, seeking the counsel of mature believers, waiting for God's answers and acting daily according to God's leading.

No comments: