Climate Change in East Africa

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by Alice Ng Bouwma

I serve at World Renew, a Christian international development and disaster response organization that is compelled by God’s deep passion for justice and mercy, and that joins communities around the world to renew hope, reconcile lives, and restore creation. It was this conviction that moved me to join the East Africa Climate Witness Project trip to understand firsthand the impacts of climate change. In May, our group of seven traveled together for two weeks across Kenya and Uganda to visit the rural communities that World Renew and our local partners, Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) and Pentecostal Assemblies of God (PAG) in Uganda, serve. We met subsistence farmers who grow food for survival and who are dependent on rainfall to irrigate their lands. Over and over again we heard stories of how extreme weather patterns of increased intensity and frequency of droughts and floods are having devastating effects on the 80% of Kenyans and Ugandans living in rural areas as subsistence farmers. Like many others, Samuel from Solai, Naruku, Kenya told us that: “In the past, we had two rain/planting seasons – with the long rains from March to July and the short rains from October to December. My wife and I would always start preparing the land and plant in April and have a good harvest in June. But over the past five years, the rains have not been good and we can’t farm like we did in the past. We’re adapting by practicing conservation agriculture; using these practices last year we experienced a four-fold increase in our yields. But this year the rains are less; it hasn’t rained much since December. Last year at this time my maize was up to my knees. I’m worried since we will not be able to harvest this June.”

 
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World Renew and ACK are partnering with Samuel and other armers in his cluster group to explore how different techniques of conservation agriculture can improve food production and also increase marketability so surplus harvest can be sold at a profit. We will encourage Samuel to maintain permanent soil cover by leaving his crop residue and growing live cover crops like beans. This will help capture the little rain that does fall, improve soil fertility, and eventually lead to healthier harvest. 

Leaving Naruku, Kenya we traveled to North Teso, Uganda. There I learned that climate change is adding another layer of complexity to people who are already dealing with traumatized youth who were once child soldiers in the country’s cruelest rebel force, being affected by violent Karamojong cattle raiding, and losing their fishing livelihoods to depletion of fish in lakes. But I also witnessed and heard stories of joy, resilience, strength, and hope that can only come from God. We heard testimonies of self-empowered groups working together and advocating their local district government, and now have drilled wells to access clean water, and roads that provide safer access to markets and schools. There are also aspirations of so much more, including having a ferry that will connect them to the capital of Kampala. With World Renew’s and PAG’s facilitation groups now have community action plans and are registering with the government to access even more resources and build collateral. Lives are being transformed as community members are diversifying their livelihoods with small livestock rearing and fish ponds, planting pest and drought resistant seeds, and progress in gender transformation is happening!

 
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At the community of Akampala I had the privilege to close our meeting with the 200 people who welcomed us so warmly with dancing and singing; they were so grateful for the food aid provided in 2017 and the continued agriculture and health training they receive. I offered them a Bible verse that God used to encourage me when our youngest son was hospitalized last year – Isaiah 41:10: So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Now being home for almost a month from my visit, I’m challenged by how I can change my personal lifestyle choices to reduce my carbon footprint and promote stewardship in my communities, to teach my own children about how better to live sustainably with our God-given resources, and to continue seeking justice for those impacted the most by the changing climate.

An Invitation to Memorization

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by Greg Kay

This summer, beginning July 21st, we are going through the letter of Colossians together on Sunday mornings and we wanted to invite you to join us to memorize a portion of the letter with us. Please know that this is an invitation, not an obligation; only join in if you would like to!

Memorizing Scripture can be useful for helping us to internalize and integrate the words on the page deeper into our minds and into our hearts. I myself have found at many times, when I’ve needed a word of encouragement or resolve, God has brought to mind a scripture passage I’ve memorized (even sometimes passages I forgot that I had memorized!), and it has been a wonderful way I feel the Spirit has spoken to me. 

We also feel it would be a blessing to do this as a community, perhaps with a partner, a friend, your family, life group, or the person who shares the pew with you! Partnering with another/others can offer both encouragement and accountability. Perhaps simply touching base on a Sunday morning before or after worship to see how it’s going with one another. If you are interested in doing this with someone but do not know someone, please let us know (email gregkay@springgardenchurch.ca or approach a pastor on a Sunday morning) and we’ll do our best to connect you with someone.

The passage we (Sam Lee and I, Greg Kay) are recommending is Colossians 1:15-20, which is a beautiful passage on the centrality and supremacy of Christ, the one who reconciles all things in heaven and on earth. However, this is just a recommendation so if there is another passage in the letter to the Colossians you would like to memorize, or perhaps this passage is too long and you would rather memorize a portion of it, feel free to do that instead!

As there are numerous English translations of Scripture, we are leaving it to you to decide which you would like to memorize. I’ve included the passage below in the NIV as it is a translation that I know a lot of Spring Gardeners use.

We are the Yeast

We are the Yeast

My heart is full of gratitude for the way our church body hosted guests and families from the neighbourhood for Easter Brunch and the way in which our volunteer teams served at the We Love Willowdale Community Dinner on the one year anniversary of the Toronto Van Attack. My prayer is that we would be the yeast described in Matthew 13:33…

Not Just a Colouring Page

Not Just a Colouring Page

“Why don’t you give out a colouring page to keep the children busy?” This is the first question that comes to mind when we think about how to keep our children involved in worship. “At least, it keeps them busy right?” Although we have been tempted to fill the morning worship gathering with colouring pages, we have intentionally stayed away from it because we believe that children and youth are important in worship…