In 1970 Finnish engineer Tapio Saarenketo created a manual tree planting tool called a Pottiputki. Fundamentally, it is a tube with a pointed scissor-like beak at the bottom. Once the beak is pushed into the soil, a foot pedal on the side opens the beak, allowing you to drop a seedling down the tube straight into the ground. It’s brilliantly simple and so easy to use that an experienced tree planter working at walking pace can plant several thousand trees in one day. In Finland, most of the 150 million trees planted each year are done this way.
The paper version of this journal, first started as one of those seedlings (likely a spruce or pine), which has been turned into sustainable paper that these words are printed on. I’m not sure I’ve ever really stopped to think about the fact that they were once part of a tree from a forest in Finland. In fact, I think I often have a disconnected and unthankful heart for the created world that God has made and the many ways he sustains and cares for me through it.
God’s sustaining gift of trees
Obviously, trees are just one part of God’s good creation, but without them, we would not only be unable to produce this journal, our entire lives on earth would be unsustainable. God’s provision of trees gives us food to eat and oxygen to breathe, while also removing carbon from the air. God’s gift of trees also means that soil is stabilised, medicinal properties are gained and sustainable material for homes and supplies is provided. As well as helping to sustain life for humans, trees also harbour most of the Earth’s terrestrial biodiversity, including 75% of bird species and 68% of the world’s mammal species. If we were to unsustainably deforest the world of all trees, we would be dismantling a large part of the sustaining, life-giving work of creation that Jesus has wonderfully shared to care and provide for his people.
“You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it.” Psalm 65:9
God’s redeeming gift through trees
In an increasingly urbanised, screen-based world, it is easy to see that we have forgotten to really give thanks to God for all that he has made. Apparently, almost a third of UK primary pupils now think cheese is made from plants1, the average time spent on our phones is over three hours a day2 and 75% of UK children spend less time outside than prison inmates3. Also, in a recent study, there has been a notable decline since the 1950s of themes of nature featuring in works of popular culture4. The Bible however stands in stark contrast. After God and people, trees are the most mentioned living thing in the Bible. They feature in the first chapters of Genesis, the first Psalm and the last page of Revelation. Trees are also used to enrich our understanding of joy (1 Chronicles 16:33), righteousness (Isaiah 61:3), beauty and provision (Genesis 2:9), abundance (Ezekiel 36:30), protection (Job 40:22), hope (Job 14:7) and the healing of nations (Revelation 22:2). It’s perhaps no surprise that when Luke talks about the work of the cross, he says, ‘They put him to death by hanging him on a tree’ (Acts 10:39). For on this tree we see the most beautiful, life-giving, abundant act of love. On this tree Jesus gives us death defeating hope, protection and healing for us and all the nations.
“For there is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease.” Job 14:7
Caring for creation
In this issue of Connect, we will be spending some more time in God’s good creation, reflecting on how we exercise the role God originally gave us to care for creation while also living out the gospel in anticipation of the restoration of creation. We will consider how the transforming power of the gospel through conservation agriculture is literally transforming not just people’s lives but also the landscape itself in Kenya and Lesotho. We will see that the areas worst affected by climate change are often some of the world’s poorest countries such as Mozambique, and how the peoples of South Sudan view and make sense of the world through what they see in creation. I pray it will encourage you to see what God is doing and has done among Africa’s peoples through your support, and also help you pray, reflect and grow on your own journey and involvement in mission.
“…blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.” Jeremiah 17:7-8