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Ash and Oil: February 23

Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:9)

In the month of April 2013, the community of Kijabe, Kenya received rainfall levels equal to their total average annual rainfall. This extreme rain event reached a climax at the end of the month, when the saturated land could hold no longer, and a massive mudslide ripped through the village, killing three children in its wake.

This level of destruction likely would not have happened without the effects of years of deforestation on the surrounding hillsides. Fewer trees in a given area means the land is less able to absorb water, and cleared hillsides means there are no plants to slow water rushing downhill. The water piles up and up, and mudslides from the hills with greater ease.

It is a vicious cycle: Poor Kenyans are clearing the trees, cutting down forests to make pasture land for cattle, collecting firewood to cook and keep warm, or getting involved in illegal logging enterprises. Without other opportunities available to them, the poor take from the natural resources around them, which then destabilizes the land and leaves them even more vulnerable when the rains and storms come again--and with the realities of climate disruption manifesting in places like Kenya, the storms always come back, and they are usually stronger and more damaging than before.

World Renew is working to turn the tide of environmental degradation in Kenya by partnering with organizations seeking to implement agriculture and training programs that provide healthy, effective alternatives for poor families previously clearing the forests for farming and fuel. One such organizations is Care of Creation Kenya (CCK). Based in Kijabe, CCK is working with local farmers to farm more sustainably and with local villagers to learn to value and protect their surrounding forests.

Bringing lasting change to Kenya and other nations in similar circumstances will require more than relief, and more than workshops. It requires addressing the extreme poverty of the country. If we are concerned for those who struggle in poverty, we must be concerned about a degraded creation that deepens and perpetuates poverty. Similarly, if we are concerned about creation, we must also address issues of poverty. It is impossible to address one without the other.

Pray: Lord, help us see connections – between our actions, and our inactions, and the lives of others. Open our eyes to the connections between the well-being of the non-human creation and the well-being of your people. May we not become overwhelmed or complacent, but energized for the work ahead.

Take the next step: Go to and check out the new Climate Conversation: Kenya videos series. Learn more about Kijabe and hear more stories about how the impacts of climate change are being felt by our brothers and sisters in Kenya. Watch the videos, look through the discussion guide, and consider organizing a group to go through the 4-part series together during Lent.

[Image: Flickr user Ethan R]

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