Scott Sabin is the author of the new book ‘Tending To Eden: Environmental Stewardship For GOD’s People‘. He is also the executive director of Plant With Purpose, a non-profit Christian humanitarian organization pioneering holistic sustainable development to help the rural poor worldwide. Their three-part approach includes environmental, economic, and spiritual revitalization from a Biblical framework of reconciling broken relationships between GOD and people, people with each other, and people with the land.
In Scott’s new book he sounds the call for a broader vision of both mission and environmental renewal – one that empowers struggling communities. He weaves the narrative of his personal journey along with theological foundations for environmental stewardship, practical strategies and case studies, and chapter study guides – all from a global perspective spanning from Haiti to Thailand to Mexico and Tanzania. We asked Scott a few questions based on his new book and are grateful for his timely perspective on the link between environmental degradation and poverty, the future and mission of the church at large, and what it means to humbly merge JESUS’ Great Commandment with His Great Commission.
ST: Tell us a little about who you are and what role you play at Plant With Purpose.
Scott: As the Executive Director of Plant With Purpose I am responsible for advancing our vision, ensuring that the international programs are adequately resourced and achieving the desired results. I have worked with Plant With Purpose for 17 years, beginning as a volunteer. Prior to that, I served for seven years as a Surface Warfare Officer in the Navy. While working on an MA in International Relations at University of San Diego I spent a summer in Guatemala and had my eyes opened up to both the needs of the poor and the courageous work of both Guatemalan and expat Christians who served them in the name of Jesus.
My wife, Nancy, is a Nurse Practitioner who has served with World Vision in Somalia and Romania, and with Food for the Hungry in Peru. We have a daughter, Amanda, who is nine and a son, Daniel, who is six. My daughter makes a cameo in chapter 10 when she tells me she wants to help me save the rainforests…by being a butterfly or a fairy.
ST: What is the main message of your new book and why did you write it?
Scott: My hope is that after reading this book people will have a better understanding of the connection between the environment and poverty, and also our Biblical calling as Christians to care for the earth. This book includes a lot of my own experiences about my journey of walking with the poor, and I want people to get as excited and as passionate about this issue as I am.
ST: Based on the title, I didn’t expect your new book to focus so much on social justice issues and caring for those struggling with poverty. Now I see that environmental stewardship and creation care are integral to breaking the cycle of poverty in a community. How do these two issues connect?
Scott: All of us are dependent on the earth – it is our life support system. When it starts to malfunction, the poor feel it first. They have much less insulation from things like polluted water, drought, soil erosion, etc. Also, the very poor have very few options. Survival often mandates choices that are not healthy in the long run, such as selling charcoal or farming unsustainably. Thus, there is a very real vicious cycle between poverty and environmental degradation.
ST: Sometimes it seems that we as American Christians approach global evangelism, mission and community development from a place of superiority. How do we as outsiders coming into a community in need sow JESUS’ seeds of redemption in a humble way that respects the local people, culture and place?
Scott: Just like Jesus spent much more time in relationship with the disciples and people of Galilee than he spent fixing things for them, we need to be with the poor, understanding their reality and listening to them, rather than thinking that we are the ones to fix things for them. As Bryant Myers says in his book Walking with the Poor, the people had their story long before we arrived, and their story will continue long after we have left. God has been at work in the community long before us and will be at work long after we are gone. We should not overestimate the importance of our role in the whole process. It was not the little boy or the disciples who fed the 5000, it was Jesus. Humility is key.
ST: Is it possible to focus too much on social justice and creation care? Are we leaving behind the call to ‘make disciples’ of JESUS for these other tasks? Or are these all integral to the mission of the church? Are we seeing the merging of The Great Commandment to love GOD and our neighbors – and The Great Commission to make disciples of JESUS?
Scott: I don’t think it is possible to focus too much on social justice and creation care, but I do think it is possible to not focus enough on proclaiming the good news of the kingdom. However, an important part of the call to “make disciples” includes “teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you” including love of neighbor, care for the poor etc. In other words, I believe social justice and creation care are part of the Great Commandment and the Great Commandment is implicit in the Great Commission.
ST: Just briefly, what are your hopes and dreams for the future of the church at large in both America and worldwide?
Scott: That we would live as citizens of the kingdom, modeling kingdom relationships in our dealings with God, neighbors and the earth, and in the process sharing the fact that Jesus is good news for all of creation.
Thank you Scott!
You can purchase the book and find out more about Plant With Purpose and Tending to Eden at: http://www.plantwithpurpose.org/page/64/tending-to-eden.html. (Note: for every book purchased on amazon.com through this link, Plant With Purpose will receive a portion of the proceeds to directly benefit the rural poor.)
A video from Scott’s organization Plant with Purpose:
(Disclosure: Sustainable Traditions received a free review copy of the book Tending To Eden from Judson Press)
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