I don’t know many churches that will fight to protect a forest. Until now, I don’t think I knew even one.
But loving God compels us to love the stuff he made. And loving our neighbors demands that we love the natural world they depend on. In the small Kenyan town of Kijabe, Christians seem to have figured this out, and in the West, we’d do well to take heed.
Kijabe is home of one of the most important mission hospitals in Africa, perched on the rim of the Great Rift Valley, halfway up the steep escarpment that rises thousands of feet from the valley floor into the East African mists. For thousands of years, thick forests have protected the escarpment from washing into the valley during the rainy season, regulating water flows and sustaining the microclimate upon which the community relies for food.
At first glance, Kijabe’s forests still appear lush and green. But a closer look reveals a shocking reality: 80 percent of its forest cover has been destroyed by firewood poachers in the last 30 years. And in 2012, Kijabe’s church leaders began sounding the alarm. They warned of the threat of catastrophic mudslides and the loss of fertile soils. They warned of crop failures due to a microclimate no longer protected by the felled trees. And they warned of malaria outbreaks in the hotter local weather.
But they were dealing with armed forest poachers, and the entire community feared them. It’s hard to picture pastors and elders rolling up their sleeves to fight for the creation, but Kijabe’s Christian leaders took up the challenge.