“Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many…If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” 1 Corinthians 12:14 & 26
Too often we don’t recognize something as a problem until it affects us personally. Take climate change, for example. One of the reasons it can be so hard to find common ground on this issue is because it affects each of us in unique and disproportionate ways — some severely and directly, and some, barely and at a distance.
As a boy growing up in the suburbs of Orlando, I was interested in environmental issues from a young age. I loved the outdoors. The thought that people’s actions could damage the environment and squander our resources broke my heart. So, I took action.
I insisted on water conservation in our house. I got my family to start using cloth bags for grocery shopping — and this was the early ‘90s. We were way ahead of the curve! I even organized a recycling program for my neighborhood. This was long before the city would pick up recycling. I would collect bottles, cans and newspapers from other homes and my mom would drive me to drop them off at the local recycling center.
In many ways, I was motivated by a conservation mindset. I loved the idea of protecting what was beautiful about God’s creation — rivers, forests, oceans.
But my view was incomplete. It didn’t include an important part of God’s creation — people. I hadn’t fully realized how protecting, and not protecting, the environment and our climate could affect other people.
Drawing Closer to Climate Change
Twenty years later, in 2007, I moved to Rwanda where almost the entire population relies on agriculture for their livelihood. Farmer after farmer that I met spoke passionately about climate change, highlighting that the rainy season had been predictable for generations.
But in recent years, the rains had changed and crop cycles were ruined. It was becoming harder to live off the land, and many families were suffering. That experience gave me a deeper personal understanding of why this challenge is so great.
Though thousands of miles may separate us from those impacted by climate change right now, Scripture is clear: When one suffers, we all suffer.
At World Relief, we work every day to stand with the vulnerable and equip churches to be agents of change in their communities. This means we’ve had first-hand experience working alongside people facing the most devastating effects of climate change. Our experiences around the world have taught us that if we want to be a catalyst for change that lasts, we have to address the root causes of poverty, which include climate change, and not just bring temporary solutions.
Becoming a Reactive and Proactive People
Over the last several months, World Relief has partnered with the National Association of Evangelicals to update a report on how climate change often affects the world’s poorest the most. It’s called Loving the Least of These, and it’s scheduled to be released on August 15th.
According to our findings, the impact of environmental instability on the poor can be summarized into four main problems:
- Poor people are more affected by disasters, particularly in regards to their health.
- The financial cost of mitigating and adapting to the impacts of climate change are higher for poor people relative to their income.
- They are more likely to be displaced.
- They are more likely to be affected by conflicts that ensue as a result of migration and displacement.
Even if we don’t feel the effects of climate change as dramatically as our sisters and brothers in other parts of the world — people like Akiru in Kenya and Nyawaraga in South Sudan — we share one planet and must acknowledge that our actions have a direct effect on their lives.
None of us is exempt from Jesus’ call to love the least of these, and right now, one of the best ways we can do this is by being both the reactive and the proactive people Jesus calls us to be. We can respond compassionately and practically to the immediate impacts of climate change and work towards lasting solutions that protect and preserve the environment we all depend on for generations to come.
In the coming weeks, as we share more about how World Relief is putting our commitment into policy and action, I hope you’ll also spend some time reflecting on your call as a Christ-follower to care for God’s creation and for all who are created in his image — including those who are suffering as a result of climate change.
There is so much we can do to make a difference, and it starts right here, right now. Let’s be reactive and proactive people who realize that what we do has ripple effects on the most vulnerable of our world. And then let’s change how we live to better care for our environment and for one another.
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Myal Greene has a deep desire to see churches worldwide equipped, empowered, and engaged in meeting the needs of vulnerable families in their communities. In 2021, he became President and CEO after serving for fourteen years with the organization. While living in Rwanda for eight years, he developed World Relief’s innovative church-based programming model that is currently used in nine countries. He also spent six years in leadership roles within the international programs division. He has previous experience working with the U.S. Government. He holds B.S. in Finance from Lehigh University and an M.A. from Fuller Theological Seminary in Global Leadership. He and his wife Sharon and have three children.