Each April we celebrate “Earth Day.” Our planet is an amazing place, but it needs our help and TLC to thrive. I do try my best to do my part in cherishing, protecting, and treasuring the beautiful world God has given to us.
As a born and raised country girl, my family always taught me how important it was to preserve the environment. We would compost and plant a garden full of crops every year to provide our family with fresh, homegrown produce. I came from a family of farmers and spent countless childhood days and nights with my relatives learning the proper ways to tend to our land. Farming is very hard work and as a child I never imagined that I would grow up to utilize these skills, let alone put those skills to use in Africa. Then again, God has a plan for all of us and for me this was part of His plan.
Throughout my many years working in Eastern Africa with my dear friend Father Paul Gaggawala and the Apostles of Jesus, I encountered numerous local farms/farmers. On one trip in particular, Father Paul felt it would be good for me to experience a “different side of mission work,” as he called it. After spending multiple weeks working in the slums, he felt that it was time for a change in scenery. Thus, we headed to the farm for what I thought was going to be some down time to enjoy the fresh air, but in all actuality, I was going to experience a completely different level of poverty.
With more than 60 percent of sub-Saharan Africa being populated by local farmers, it is no surprise that I have encountered numerous farms on my adventures. One of my favorites was in Uganda, called “Lima Farm.” Unlike some of the other farms, this farm was made for guests to stay. As an American woman that had just spent weeks working in the slums, I was so eager to channel my childhood love for being on the farm and relax. Well, that relaxation certainly turned out to be short lived. Yes, I know that I was naïve for thinking that there would be time for “R&R” on a mission trip! Thus, Father felt that it was time to get “back to my roots” and by the next morning I was assigned a work schedule of chores to complete on the farm.
Many farms throughout Africa are built on harsh land, almost desert-like. However, after hundreds of years of developing the best farming techniques, these local farmers can produce enough food to aid in the survival of the villagers. Many of these farming techniques are built around bare-hand labor and the use of simple farming tools, as machines and modern farming equipment is not affordable. I developed an even stronger respect for these local farmers after spending a week working with the Sisters in the hot grueling sun. I also developed a newfound understanding for the almost spiritual harmony that exists between the land and its farmers.
My time spent working on the farm in Uganda allowed me to reflect on God's creations. I often thought about how plants are much like us: sensitive to all stimuli that surround them. When neglected, plants will die. When paid attention to and nurtured, plants with thrive and survive.
And that made a connection for me with the Missionary Childhood Association, where your contributions enable Religious Sisters to nurture and care for little ones in need throughout the Pope's missions. As we cherish the land, so too we cherish the gift of children in our lives ~ and children in the Missions.
A Prayer for Our Earth
All-powerful God, You are present in the whole universe and
in the smallest of Your creatures.
You embrace with Your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of Your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace,
that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor, help us to rescue
the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in Your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature
as we journey towards Your infinite light.
We thank You for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace.
“Hol(l)y Headlines!” ~ a bit of a play on words ~ is an "Extra! Extra! Read All About It" call to build missionary momentum as part of our ongoing effort to educate and motivate the next generation of the Catholic Church's missionaries.
With "Hol(l)y Headlines!" it's all about the "news from the Missions you can use in your life" and "how you can be a part of it through the Missionary Childhood Association (MCA)."
The blog's author, Holly Benner, is National Coordinator for the Missionary Childhood Association. She's also the mission education coordinator in her home Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania. She has a passion for the missions and experience in making mission real at the diocesan level. For 10 years, Holly traveled frequently to Africa as president of a faith-based non-profit that she founded, one focused on developing sustainable water resources among poor communities.