Tending to Eden: Chapter Two, A Vicious Cycle

We are continuing to read through Tending to Eden by Scott C. Sabin.

In chapter two, Sabin begins to explain the nature of poverty in Haiti. Of course, the book was written well before the earthquake, and so it’s a remarkable coincidence that Sabin focuses primarily on how to address the needs of this country. Of course, Haiti was likely the poorest nation in the hemisphere before the earthquake.

Now that so many churches and charities have been forced to focus on Haiti, the book is a great resource for those already planning for the long-term needs of that nation. After all, while the immediate needs are the most urgent, many will decide to stay and continue to do good after the emergency is over.

Sabin explains that deforestation is a major cause of poverty in many nations, including Haiti. The lack of trees leads to severe erosion and less feritility in the soil that remains. One major cause of deforestation is the cutting of trees to make charcoal.

For people with no other opportunities or resources, the forest becomes an emergency savings account. Charcoal production is one of the last options open for the poorest and most desperate, even in places where it is illegal. Some of the people we work with in the Dominican Republic have spent time in jail for charcoal production. But a parent will readily risk jail if it means being able to feed his or her children.

And it’s not that the farmers don’t know the value of trees. Rather, they know that it’s better to live a few more weeks without trees than to immediately die of starvation with the trees. Many other practices lead to the destruction of the land and deepen the cycle of poverty.

The key to relieving poverty in such communities, therefore, isn’t a handout or a freshly painted house. It’s breaking the destructive cycle that destroys the land. Help the farmers restore the land and learn methods of sustainable agriculture, and the farmers can provide their own food. They may even begin to prosper.


8 Responses

  1. Jay

    Convert them to Christ first, restore self worth, then educate them as to the value of trees.

    But all this depends to some extent on a government that cares for the people more than a government composed of despots, siphoning off billions so they can exile in France. Most African nations Nigeria, Liberia, Ivory Coast, South Africa and last but not least Uganda and Idi Amin Dada.

    Haiti desperately needs a new government. We did it in Iraq to some extent and could try in Haiti.

    Jesus said the poor will be with us always. He ministered to the poor and the theocracy under Rome was as corrupt as you will ever find.

    I say convert them to Jesus. Teach them about their environment. The land of Haiti is not well bestowed in any thing but poor land and two very large wrench
    faults that cause earthquakes.


  2. The way to bring them to Jesus is to restore their environment. Giving and relationship has always been – and will continue to be – a core part of the gospel. Doing something that makes people say, “Why would you do that for me?” gives us an easy open door to share Jesus. So let’s give them their lives back, by teaching them to grow food!

    I often think of two ideas together: give without expecting anything in return, and: be ready in season and out of season to give a reason for the hope within you. The former causes the assumed question to be asked in the latter.

    Here’s a website addressing this environmental need: http://fastonline.org/ . Download the Mission & Objectives document on the about page. An excellent model.

  3. Jay,

    Does this book use Haiti as an example throughout or just this chapter?

    I plan to visit Haiti in May (scheduled prior to the earthquake) to scout potential long-term engineering based mission projects. I’ve been on many medical mission endeavors in Latin America but am currently focused on the particular cultural and physical issues in Haiti.

    I suppose I could wait and see future posts but I have some reading time coming up next week (in prep for the trip) and was wondering if this should go on the list.

  4. Rich,

    Tell me about engineering-based mission projects. Most mission projects are medical-based.

    Dwayne (an engineer) Phillips

  5. Dwayne – contact Steve Meeks with Good Soil Ministries in Jellico, TN (http://www.goodsoilministries.org/), and ask about his son Caleb. Caleb and his friends have been going on and filming (http://travelerfilms.org/) mission trips with the purpose of determining what infrastructure development projects different cultures need. They believe that living in another culture for the purpose of helping them build their country up is a very Jesus-like lifestyle!

    Steve is an ACU grad that spent many years in Kenya, and is still involved with raising up missionaries, and re-incorporating returning missionaries.

    It’s been awhile since I’ve spoken with Caleb, but that’s what he was doing last time we connected. Tell them Brad Stanford told you about them, and what you’re looking to connect with, and they’ll probably know somebody that knows somebody.

  6. Dwayne

    Me too, petroleum.

    I have been to Many countries like Haiti. Native evangelism works.


  7. Bob,

    While there’s nothing wrong with “Convert them to Christ first,” sometimes we do a better job of converting the lost by first showing that we love them unconditionally — just as Jesus does. And so we start with trees, when they see the love, they are open to Jesus. But both approaches can work. In fact, I’m for doing both at the same time whenever possible.

  8. Rich,

    The book focuses on Haiti, although written pre-earthquake, but it addresses some other mission points as well — Kenya and Mexico come to mind. But this is a good read and the lessons from Kenya and Mexico apply to Haiti, too.

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