Excited to share that a new A Rocha community group is starting up not far from me along Florida's Space Coast! The efforts here are being led by Dr. Bob Sluka, the director of A Rocha International's marine program, who recently moved to Titusville, FL. A Rocha founders Peter and Miranda Harris came through recently on their way out of the United States, so I popped down to hang out with them and the other A Rocha folks who came to town. We had a great time together birdwatching on Merritt Island (Peter took lost of terrific photos!) and cooling off along the Cape Canaveral National Seashore. What a gift to spend this time together in such a beautiful place!
It was great to be back at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary's main campus in Massachusetts, to speak with students, staff, and faculty at a lunch forum organized by their student association. The title of the event was "Nature and Grace: Walking Together to Care for Creation", and we talked about how creation care fits into the mission of God and the responsibility of God's people. Gordon-Conwell is a member of the Seminary Stewardship Alliance, but it also has very personal connections for me as my brother was married here and, many years ago, my family spent a year here while my mother completed a master's degree. Hope to be back again soon!
It was a joy to speak alongside Liz Dong at the Q Commons - Gainesville event, which was hosted downtown at City Church.
Liz works for World Relief and the Evangelical Immigration Table, but many years before that she was one of my youth groupers at the Wheaton Chinese Alliance Church in Illinois. For this event, I got to interview Liz about her immigration story, her current work educating and advocating around these issues across the country, and critical role of Christians and churches in loving our immigrant and refugee neighbors. Thanks to Liz for agreeing to come share her story and wisdom with us in Gainesville, and for the Q Commons organizers for prioritizing this urgent and biblical issue. It was encouraging to interact with many of Gainesville's faith and community leaders at this event!
Had a great time at Toccoa Falls College in Georgia this week giving a series of chapel messages and class talks. TFC is one of the C&MA's colleges, so it was especially meaningful to be there and see all the great work they're doing around sustainability, including academically through a creation care theology course and a sustainability major and farm. Thanks to my great hosts and the innovative leaders on this campus!
Grateful for a trip back to the Chicago area, where I spoke in chapel for Olivet Nazarene University and got to hang out with a number of old friends who are now on the faculty there! My task was to cast a biblical vision for creation care that Dr. Chuck Carrigan and others would then expand on later in the new week in a subsequent chapel. It was great interacting with a number of the students after chapel, and then in a class visit where we continued the Q&A. And what a fun surprise to run into Dr. Ryan Himes, my next door neighbor in my freshman dorm at Wheaton, along with the Rosenbergers who are both serving in key roles on campus. Running into old friends is one of my favorite perks of these trips!
From May-July, 2017, I'll be back out on Lake Tanganyika surveying fishing communities to learn how they are adapting to climate-driven declines in fishery productivity. This builds on research I conducted here as an undergraduate student in 2007, as part of an NSF REU site.
One one hand, it's a blessing to return a decade later to continue working with the good folks at the Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute - Kigoma Centre. On the other hand, it's sobering to see all the negative changes that have taken place in this critical inland fishery over the past ten years. Our goal is to understand fisher adaptations to change in order to help inform and improve fishery management practices to protect livelihoods while conserving this unique lake and it's irreplaceable biodiversity.
With thanks to the UF Tropical Conservation and Development Program along with the Program for Studies in Tropical Conservation for their generous funding of this ongoing project!
Glad to share that Behold the Earth, a film I'm featured in along with E. O. Wilson, Katharine Hayhoe, and others, was recently released at the Environmental Film Festival in Washington, DC. It is available for purchase on Vimeo and more information along with a free trailer is found here.
The filming took place at the St. Lucie Inlet in Stuart, Florida, the day after I returned from a monthlong trip to Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. I was very jet-lagged and managed to pick up a bad cold on the plane as well. Not the best conditions under which to be out on the water and trying to be articulate! The film team was very gracious, however, and it was great working with them.
On April 6 we held the first Immigration and the Gospel even in Gainesville, FL. This was a collaboration between the Evangelical Immigration Table, Welcoming Gainesville and Alachua County, and InterVarsity at the University of Florida.
The goal of this event was to bring church leaders together to prayerfully discuss how we can better show love and hospitality to refugees and other immigrants in our communities. Parkview Baptist Church kindly hosted us and over 60 participants came from over 13 local churches. We heard a national update from Rev. Alan Cross at the Evangelical Immigration Table and then had a fruitful discussion about next steps.
This piece was originally published on the A Rocha International Planetwise blog on August 31st, 2016.
This August, over 1,000 young Christian delegates from more than 140 countries convened outside Jakarta, Indonesia, for the 2016 Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering (YLG). My colleague Rachel Lamb and I were there representing Young Evangelicals for Climate Action along with the broader creation care community we’re part of, including A Rocha and the Au Sable Institute.
A once-in-a-generation event, the theme of this YLG was ‘United in the Great Story’, and the program built on the rich heritage of the Lausanne Movement with its stated vision of ‘the whole church, bringing the whole gospel, to the whole world.’ This included an intentional focus on the role of creation care in integral mission today. As Lausanne articulated in its seminal statement arising from the Third Congress on World Evangelization in 2010, The Cape Town Commitment:
‘The Bible declares God’s redemptive purpose for creation itself. Integral mission means discerning, proclaiming, and living out the biblical truth that the gospel is God’s good news, through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, for individual persons, and for society, and for creation. All three are broken and suffering because of sin; all three are included in the redeeming love and mission of God; all three must be part of the comprehensive mission of God’s people.’ (Part 1, Section 7).
In Jakarta, this commitment was further strengthened by a younger generation of leaders who engaged with creation care themes through worship, bible exposition, drama presentations, workshops, and a keynote address given by Marina Silva, a friend of A Rocha and former Senator and Minister of the Environment from Brazil.
A Rocha was well represented and it was great to hear from folks across our international family, including staff, trustees, and numerous friends who have been involved with or blessed by A Rocha in various ways and places. Here are some of their reflections:
‘From the beginning God created us in His own image and commanded us to rule over his creation; such great power in our hands that comes with great responsibility. Personally, I will take this responsibility to the next level by initiating a creation care learning community for children where I live in Sumatra, Indonesia. Having yet another generation to care for creation is a breath of fresh air for my country and also the world. It’s a long, long way to go, but being at YLG I know that I always have God and his global church backing me up!’ – Christine Kaharmen, Delegate from Indonesia
‘The reaction received during the YLG, especially after Marina Silva’s presentation on creation care, confirmed to me that I am doing important work for the Lord that must continue. Prior to this, whenever I introduced myself to people and told them what I do I could almost sense their bewilderment – very few understood the concept of creation care. In Africa, with issues of hunger and poverty, the connection between our livelihood/existence and the state of the earth is often not clearly identified. As such, we – people and the earth – both suffer. Creation care is so important especially when we understand that our existence is based on it. The beauty of the world is astounding – just look around! Why would I not want to do everything and anything I could to protect it? He who I love more than anything else gave it to me as a gift, and the least I can do is to honor and protect this gift and encourage others to do the same.’ – Talitha Takura Pam, Coordinator of Eden Creation Care Initiative, an A Rocha Associated Project in Nigeria
‘YLG 2016 was a life-impacting gathering which I am honored to be part of … My heart is full of expectation of what God will do in the years to come.’ – Rodolpho Simas, Chair of A Rocha Brazil
‘One of the encouraging things was to witness over 1,000 leaders under the age of 35 from every continent, in sober reflection on the state of the world, connecting with each other, and making a fresh, passionate commitment to global mission.’ – Las Newman, Lausanne Associate Director
‘This new generation shows an appreciation for this task and its importance that we don’t usually see in their elders … We look forward to this continuing through YLGen, Lausanne’s 10 year follow-up program, and we’re already working to that end.’ – Ed Brown, Lausanne Creation Care Catalyst
I, too, am deeply grateful for my time at the gathering. I’m moving on from almost a decade of full-time creation care activism and advocacy into graduate studies in tropical conservation and development at the University of Florida. To be honest, I was unsure about whether participating in another conference (and a 7-day one at that!) was a good use of limited time. It was.
Personally, God used YLG to help launch me into this new season of life, re-centered on Christ, refocused on God’s story, and reconnected in the global body.
Collectively, God used YLG to renew and unite us as leaders in the great and global story of redemption, reconciliation, and restoration that we all get to be part of together. It was a rich and transformative time − precious relationships were formed, powerful ideas were discussed, and prayerful commitments were made − but only time will truly show the fruit of all the seeds sown.
For now, I’m grateful for Lausanne’s significant and deepening focus on creation care in the Church around the world. And I am filled with hope that God will continue to use the Lausanne Movement, and all who were at YLG, to share and show his great redemptive love to the very ends of the good but groaning earth.
From the Au Sable Institute's news page (August 19, 2016):
It is bittersweet that Au Sable bid ‘adieu’ to Ben Lowe, Chair of Au Sable’s Board of Trustees in June of this year of 2016. For the past 6 years, Ben has been a valued trustee on Au Sable’s Board, the final five serving as its Chair. During that time, Ben has provided outstanding leadership, Christian example, and personal inspiration to the Trustees and to Au Sable. For this, the Institute is truly grateful.
Born and Raised in Singapore as part of a missionary family, early in life Ben came face to face with the harsh realities of pollution and poverty. Witnessing these things, Ben grew to have a passion for activism and advocacy for the environment, combined with his pastoral concern for God’s people and the care of God’s creation. Co-Founder of Renewal, an organization to organize college students in caring for creation, Ben went on to form Young Evangelicals for Climate Action (YECA), today recognized as one of the most respected and influential Christian voices on the issue of climate change. With these and other experiences, Ben came to Au Sable’s Board of Trustees with a reputation for making a difference, and for making differences that mattered.
Ben earned a B.S. in Environmental Biology from Wheaton College (IL) in 2007, and since then has been involved in various projects of environmental activism. The author of three books, Green Revolution (2009), Doing Good Without Giving Up (2014) and most recently in 2016, The Future of our Faith: An Intergenerational Conversation on Critical Issues Facing the Church which Ben co-authored with Ron Sider, Ben also found time and energy to become ordained as a pastor in the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church. Now Ben is returning to the world of academia, where he will begin this fall, a Masters program at the University of Florida in Interdisciplinary Ecology in their School of Natural Resources and Environment. "I'm delighted that Ben will be joining my research group at the University of Florida. His broad background and expertise will be a great addition, and his research in Africa will make an excellent contibution to conservation," says Ben's advisor Dr. Susan Jacobson, UF Distinguished Teaching Scholar and Professor, Dept. Wildlife Ecology and Conservation.
Dr. Fred Van Dyke, Executive Director of the Au Sable Institute has known Ben since he was a student at Wheaton College where Fred was then the Chair of the Biology Department. Now, as a colleague and friend, Fred said of Ben,
"Ben Lowe has guided the Board through many difficult issues and the Institute through some tough times. His leadership is often so skillful and well planned that you don’t actually notice he’s leading, but you always end up in the right place because he knew where we needed to go. And with these accomplishments, Ben has remained a great encouragement to me, and his personal support has kept me going in solving tough problems which have faced Au Sable in the last five years."
Fellow Au Sable Board Member Dr. Dorothy Boorse of Gordon College says of her time knowing Ben,
"I have so appreciated all of Ben’s work as Board Chair. He has been committed to increasing the Board, moving the Institute forward, and creating a strong, welcoming community of scholars at the Au Sable Institute. I have appreciated his humor, courage and perseverance and am sorry he is leaving us!"
Founding Trustee on Au Sable's Board, Bert Froysland, has been a part of Au Sable since the early 1960s. He came to know Ben well through their shared years on the Board. Bert noted,
"It is impossible to overstate Ben Lowe's contributions to Au Sable as a Board Member and as Board Chair. During his tenure, Au Sable faced many thorny problems and his wisdom was profoundly valuable. As Board Chair his leadership style was marked by patience and deference to all points of view, yet in the end leading the Board to a good decision. As a person, Ben is humble, kind, and committed to serving the Lord."
Through the years, Ben Lowe has embodied the mission and vision of Au Sable through his words and actions. His leadership has been one of endurance and steadfast wisdom, Ben leaves Au Sable as an Institute that is blessed and better off because of his presence and efforts. As Ben begins a new season of life, he leaves Au Sable’s Board with kindness and optimism,
"I'm deeply grateful for these past six years of service at Au Sable. We've made a lot of progress together during this time: our mission, vision, and values have been renewed, enrollment has increased, participating colleges are participating more, finances continue to improve, The Pacific Rim Institute has been successfully launched, strategic new courses are being brought online, the research program is thriving, the Environmental Education Program is being reinvigorated, significant investments are being made to our campus, our community of alumni, friends, and colleagues continues to grow and bear fruit, and so much more (a lot of it behind the scenes but no less valuable!). All of this has surely been a team effort from across the Au Sable family, and I'm particularly grateful for the prayerful and persevering leadership of Dr. Fred Van Dyke and our beloved staff. No one has worked harder or more effectively than they have.
While I look forward to remaining an active part of the Au Sable family, I leave my current role as Trustee and Board Chair with a full and joyful heart. God has truly been gracious to us, and this community has truly been gracious to me. There is much good work left to do, and some of it will be hard. But God is faithful, and I look forward in eager anticipation to how he will continue using Au Sable to transform people and to serve, protect, and restore his creation."
Ben, thank you for your work, your prayers and your time spent in service to the Au Sable Institute. May God bless you abundantly in your graduate school pursuits and all of your future endeavors. You are forever a part of the Au Sable family and we celebrate the opportunities God has brought into your life.
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV