More than 500 United Methodists joined simultaneously on a recent day to plant 3,044 tree saplings and seedlings across Mindanao, the second largest Filipino island and home to more than 20 million people.
The Oct. 14 event, led by Bishop Rodolfo A. Juan and his district superintendents and clergy, involved plantings in multiple sites across the Davao Episcopal Area with the help of a number of participating conferences, districts and local churches.
"Praise God for the success of our first DEA-wide tree-planting activity. It is our clear and focused support to promote ecological balance and protect Mother Earth. The global warming/climate change phenomenon has worsened,” said Juan.
The bishop — who was joined by clergy and lay members in Hope Valley United Methodist Church, Tumanding, Arakan, Cotabato — said he has been consistently leading tree planting and caring activities the last five years (four of those years in the Manila area).
“It is my vision that every worker and lay leader of Davao area will embrace this program and make it his or her habit and commitment,” Juan said, setting a goal of 400,000 to be planted and cared for in the next four years.
"I believe that the United Methodist Church can make an impact to mitigate climate change,” he said. "We need to be good stewards of God's creation,” he said.
A 2015 Time magazine story on the Paris climate accord talks called the island nation “ground zero for climate disaster” and went on to note that Philippines is “most vulnerable to the weather effects of climate change” because it is in a region of harsh weather patterns.
The Rev. Abelardo N. Guerrero, the director of Connectional Ministries in Mindanao, said, "Our DEA-wide tree planting is the manifestation of our church to care and protect God's creation."
It is part of the episcopal direction, he explained, the 7K program where one K stands for "Kalikasan" (Nature) as a way to uphold climate justice.
"Some planted hardwood varieties of trees, some are coconut, others planted fruit trees that will also enhance the earning capacities of the local churches of Davao area.”
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Dan T. Ela, executive assistant to Juan, said participating conferences included the entire Davao area — East Mindanao Philippines, Mindanao Philippines, Northwest Mindanao Philippines, Visayas Philippines and Bicol Philippines areas.
"This is the urgent need of our Mother Earth," said the Rev. Janeth L. Rufino, the district superintendent of the Northeast District, East Mindanao Philippines. About 40 participated there, planting 200 seedlings.
"Since June 2017, this is our fifth (time) to have tree-planting activity. In our district, we persist to do this to respond to that urgent need,” Rufino said.
Retired Bishop Rev. Leo A Soriano joined the districts of Misamis, Oriental and Lanao del Norte.
"I believe that planting trees is one way of restoring what is lost in God's creation. It also helps in reversing the trend of climate change. I also believe that destroying God's creation is a sin,” Soriano said.
Seventy people — church members and seminarians from the Bishop Han Theological Seminary — also participated in the planting.
"We joined because we clearly understood that the created nature cries out for responsible stewardship of humanity," said Pastor Rogemer Sison, a seminarian.
"We have seen the manifestation of its voiceless agony. The storms, floods, earthquakes, air and water pollutions are the interests that we are reaping from the abuse that humanity have inflicted to the creation for many generations. We are hopeful that our simple gesture of planting trees can inspire people to do the same,” Sison said.
The Rev. Recto Baguio, a district superintendent from Northwest Mindanao who joined the seminarians, said, "If you plant trees, you save life, generation to generation. We had 150 seedlings planted and each local church planted a minimum of 10 fruit trees in its respective area."
Two local churches from General Santos City — Central United Methodist Church and Greenhills United Methodist Church — planted 320 mangrove saplings in Minanga, Buayan, General Santos City. They determined the depth of water at low tide and they went to the shore and trekked the mud and sharp rocks to plant the saplings.
The Rev. Jonathan R. Ulanday, who led the activity in General Santos City and serves as a National in Mission in the church’s Church Labor Solidarity and Advocacy Ministry, talked about the climate breakdown in different parts of the globe today.
"There seems to be a need to reconstruct our theology of redemption and evangelism. We delimit our perception of redemption into the realm of human soul, neglecting the biblical notion that what needs to be saved from evil and wickedness is the whole of God’s creation,” he said.
Ulanday issued a challenge:
"The United Methodist Church needs to awaken itself and rebuke the malevolent scheme of capitalism and neo-liberalism which is wrecking the splendor of God’s creation."
Mangiduyos is a United Methodist News Service correspondent based in the Philippines. News media contact: Vicki Brown, Nashville, Tennessee, (615) 742-5470or email@example.com. To get more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests