“If I knew I should die tomorrow, I would plant a tree today.”
— Martin Luther
As we near completion of Volume 1 of the World’s Worst Books, some gesture seems in order.
Ideally, we would have a party. I’m imagining some kind of Come as Your Favorite Character costume affair (I call dibs on The Drunk Executive) and maybe a Rocky Horror-style audience participation viewing of Left Behind: The Movie (with optional LB drinking game). Good times.
Sadly, though, the geographical distribution of our virtual L.B. Friday community would make such a physical gathering impossible.
So instead I thought I might just plant some trees and invite you to join me.
I’m a big fan of Floresta, a mission and development agency that fosters economic development and reforestation in some of the world’s poorest and most ecologically distressed countries. The bottom line is they plant trees. Trees are rather important:
Deforestation is a problem of growing significance all over the world. It is especially acute in tropical countries. All of us are affected by this problem, but no one more than the rural poor who make their living in and around the forest.
There are nearly a half-a-billion subsistence farmers worldwide. Constantly fighting starvation and utterly dependent on their environment for survival, they are often trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty and deforestation.
Threatened by land that no longer produces, rains that no longer come, and springs that are dry, they clear the forest for agriculture or sell charcoal to survive, further degrading their land.
And here’s Floresta’s own description of their work in Haiti:
Despite the seemingly endless bad news that comes out of Haiti, Floresta has been able to create an indigenously managed program that addresses the vicious cycle that has so many Haitians locked in poverty and despair.
In 1995, Floresta was invited by Episcopal priest Jean-Wilfrid Albert to provide agricultural and economic assistance to the communities in the region in which he worked, approximately 50 kilometers south of Port-au-Prince. Floresta responded and began working in Haiti in 1997.
Since then, Floresta Haiti has grown to an active local staff of 20, and has established a program that includes training in innovative agriculture techniques, reforestation, micro-credit, discipleship and marketing assistance for a growing number of rural Haitian communities.
Floresta has empowered local communities to plant over 200,000 trees and create over 2,000 compost piles, resulting in a dramatic increase in crop yields. In addition, under the supervision of Floresta, farmers have established village banking cooperatives with credit and savings systems in 35 villages with nearly 1000 participants.
You can read more about Floresta here.
Floresta’s tree-planting investment in Haiti and its people is just about the perfect opposite of the the triumphalistic gospel of despair embodied in the Left Behind books.
Left Behind is based on the idea of spiritual self-preservation in a world that’s going to end any day now. Floresta is based on the idea of serving others and investing, tangibly and incarnationally, in the future of this world.
LB alternately ignores or rejoices in the suffering of the anonymous millions; Floresta seeks to help them, one by one, community by community.
In LB, Jesus is a weapon of mass destruction; Floresta’s Jesus says that the reign of God is like a seed.
LB revels in its prophesied calamities and its apocalyptic nightmare world where the Wormwood-poisoned water is undrinkable and the trees of the fields all perish. Floresta looks at Haiti, a place where such calamities seem already to have occurred, and they roll up their sleeves and set to work trying to rebuild and restore.
So anyway I’m looking into setting up some kind of click-to-donate sidebar button thingy, maybe via Yahoo for Good, as a way of passing the virtual collection plate for Floresta’s tree-planting programs in Haiti. (I may also set up a parallel option for Global Releaf, for those who prefer their tree-planting not to be entangled with church planting). I hope to have this ready to go before we finish the remaining 30-or-so pages of Volume 1.
Please let me know if you think this is a good idea.
P.S.: Just to clarify, finishing Vol. 1 is a milestone — something we started all the way back in 2003 — but not the conclusion of LB Fridays. The authors have, unfortunately, written more than a dozen sequels, prequels and spin-offs. Plus there are the movies. After Vol. 1, my plan is to turn to the movie version of the first book, and then, if the Lord tarries, back to print for Vol. 2, etc.
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The illustration above is a wood carving by Michael McCurdy, the cover illustration from Jean Giono’s The Man Who Planted Trees, which is one of my Favorite Things.