Latin Link members Juliana and Ian Horne are passionate about creation care, and have been helping local communities to combat the effects of climate change in the Andean highlands of Peru. They have worked alongside churches and people in three separate projects, planting thousands of trees on mountainsides.
The first project involved 350 people from Quechua communities of the Sacred Valley, dressed in bright red traditional clothing and joined by a number of volunteers, planting 32,000 trees at 13,800 feet above sea level. This is part of a large, 14-year-old project run by a local NGO called Asociación Ecosistemas Andinos (ECOAN) to form a forest of one million trees that will cover the bare mountains and replenish the watersheds below. Many of the Quechua families involved are evangelical Christians. They were so surprised and appreciative that other Christians were supporting them in this initiative: not just in the actual planting, but also in the cost – 715 of the trees were paid for by supporters of Juliana and Ian.
The second initiative saw 1,500 trees planted in the highland community of Chilchicaya (a couple of hours south of Cusco City). Inspired by a local church worker called Marcelina, 35 people from the small church and their surrounding community, plus some church volunteers, worked from 9 to 5 preparing the ground and planting the trees. Marcelina says: ‘I think that planting trees is a wonderful way to show that Christians care about others in their community, and about the environment.’
The third project involved helping a church in its reforestation of a local mountain. Forty volunteers from different church denominations, including youth groups, joined forces under the scorching sun to plant 1,000 donated trees. Cesar Ramirez, youth pastor at the Grau evangelical church, comments: ‘I was excited to be able to bring a group of 13 young people from our church youth group, because such practical opportunities are so significant and formative for the young people taking part!’
The highlands of Cusco, Peru, are among the regions on the planet most affected by climate change. ‘Before, we knew when rains were to start and to end during the year,’ says one Cusco rural farmer. ‘This helped us in our farming. But that’s no longer so. Crops don’t produce well. The climate has changed.’ Trees provide one multi-faceted way of countering climate change and mitigating its effects. They remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, capture water, and help protect and restore moisture and fertility to soils, improving agricultural conditions. They also serve as barriers to protect high Andean crops (as well as livestock) from potentially harmful frosts, hail and strong winds.
Juliana comments: ‘I am passionate about helping churches to understand their biblical call to appreciate and care for God’s wonderful and diverse creation. As well as teaching, I also seek to get churches, and especially Christian youth, involved in practical environmental initiatives that can help them grow in understanding and commitment and be a witness in their local communities. So these projects have been perfect.’