A Starting Place
Creation care looks different at different stages of our lives. College is a transitional time for many of us. We are in the process of figuring out our independent adult lives outside of the family we grew up in. This means not only determining what values and ideas to prioritize, but also figuring out what resources we have to put towards those priorities. It can also be hard to figure out what that looks like.
Making A Change
When I (Sandra) first started at UMD in 2017, I became involved in the Humble Walk, UMD’s Lutheran Campus Ministry, because my faith was important to me. Being part of this community opened my eyes to a number of topics that I became more passionate about as I learned more. I’ll admit, when I was in high school, the environment wasn’t too high on my priority list. My freshman year at UMD, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico.
That year for spring break, the Humble Walk led a trip to Puerto Rico to work with Lutheran Disaster Response and the Caribbean Synod to help with disaster relief. It was being in Puerto Rico and seeing the destructive effects of climate change that opened my eyes to taking creation care more seriously, and it was being in community with other students that helped me recognize that caring for creation is something we are called to do in faith.
Taking the Next Step
Understanding that call was only the first step though. The next part, I am continually working on. What does creation care look like given my current circumstances? Sometimes, it looks like having discussions in my German classes about Germany’s policies towards sustainability, and the impact of refugees, specifically climate refugees, in Europe. Other times it’s something that seems small, like making sure a plastic bottle goes in recycling rather than the trash. It’s the ways to do creation care in community with others that excite me the most though, which is why I got involved in the Friends of Guilford Run.
Friends of Guilford Run
The Friends of Guilford Run began with a stream clean up led by student leaders Laura Tiffany (’19) and Dan LeKites (’19) in 2016. As members of the Humble Walk, UMD’s Lutheran Campus Ministry, these students felt called to take care of the stream that runs in front of their worship space. The Friends of Guilford Run has since adopted the stream and hosts at least four stream clean-ups a year in addition to removing invasive species and replacing them with native plants.
Once a semester, Friends of Guilford Run also does stream clean ups and educational sessions about caring for the environment with the CARing Kids program, a mentoring program between college students and elementary and middle school students from Langley Park. Sandra Roper (‘21) and Jordan Kreh (‘24) are the current student leaders, working with their talents and faith community to take care of the stream. More recently, Jordan and Sandra have been able to connect with others in College Park who care about the stream, including a freshwater biology graduate studies lab and local community members.
Called Forward into the Future
God has called us to care for the environment, but more than that, He has provided us with plants and animals, habitats and ecosystems to learn from.
Job 12: 7-11 reads “But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.”
Growing up, I (Jordan) participated in many activities to help the environment, but still felt a disconnect between myself and creation. Reading these verses helped me realize that I had settled into a reactionary role, believing humans knew what was best for the environment and we just had to convince enough people to recycle and save water. In the past few years, I have sought out opportunities to learn from the world around me.
I visited farms to understand the relationship between crops and soil health, read about the ways nature works to maintain balance, and marveled at the hand of God present through it all. I joined the Friends of Guilford Run because I believe the stretch of stream we sponsor has something to teach me. Already in my first semester I have learned how much life teems in the small spaces between roads, and realized I don’t have to go to a forest or ocean to find an ecosystem worth protecting.
Job 12:7 starts with ‘ask,’ so I will continue to ask questions and practice being still to listen for the answers.
- Many parables from the bible use creation to teach us how God wants us to live our lives. Jesus often sought out nature (gardens, lakes, mountain tops) to teach and pray. In what ways can you challenge yourself to learn from the environment?
- Thinking about how the global health crisis intersects with environmental issues, and ways that accommodating for public health safety have affected initiatives to care for the environment, within your circumstances, what are ways you can advocate for the environment in community with others?
- How can you continue to support essential workers and show up for your community now and as we transition into a post pandemic normal?
- In what ways invite people into conversation with you about environmental justice? What do those conversations look like given your current circumstances and resources?
Sandra Roper is a senior at the University of Maryland, originally from Massachusetts. She expects to graduate in May with degrees in English Literature and Germanic Studies. She has been an active member in the Humble Walk, UMD’s Lutheran Campus ministry, since her freshman year and has worked on a number of projects motivated by her faith focusing on environmental justice, queer justice, and racial justice.
Jordan Kreh is a freshman at the University of Maryland, College Park studying aerospace engineering. Intersecting her major, faith, and care for the environment, she is a student leader of Friends of Guilford run, Engineers Without Borders, and the Humble Walk, UMD’s Lutheran campus ministry. Her hope is to push for environmentally sustainable practices in the aerospace industry and continue to utilize her engineering skills with creativity and compassion.