Planting Churches and Trees – in Tel Aviv

Some years ago Lowell Bliss published a book on environmental missions with the subtitle “Planting Churches AND Trees”. Now it appears that a church planting effort in Tel Aviv, Israel, has taken that advice seriously. Well, not actually trees, but still.

Here’s the story: Eli Birnbaum, a church planter with Jews for Jesus, reports that an effort to discover what was lacking in their urban neighborhood led them to try to do something about the problem of air conditioners dripping onto sidewalks. (As Eli says, if you live in a city, you know what we’re talking about here!). This led to research and creative thinking and… Let’s just let Eli tell the story:

We posted a picture of the board on our neighborhood’s Facebook group and asked people how we could solve the problem. We got over a hundred responses, and with some researching my wife did, we gathered people who were interested in helping and began brainstorming. We got to meet all kinds of people, including activists who were all about environmental and behavioral change. They wanted to teach the rest of the neighborhood how they could help the environment. (Funnily enough, my fellow church member and I were the only ones who weren’t preaching). With everyone’s help, we began to experiment. We created a pipe with holes, dirt, plants, and a bucket, extended the drains from the air conditioners, and watched the plants flourish.

The city got wind of it and funded the project. We gave out twenty of these kits in December, and then another twenty in May. Two major news websites wrote an article about the project, and I even got invited to a morning talk show, which, unfortunately, I couldn’t attend. We regularly get stopped on the street and are known as the “drip plant people.” The community center manager bragged on us in a citywide official meeting, asserting that “citizens like these are what make a difference in the city, and we need more of them.”

Discussing this on a Lausanne chat group, Dave Bookless reminded us that “When Christians take the earth seriously, people take the Gospel seriously.”