By Summer Hyche
Looking out on Baringo Lake, sitting in fellowship on our last night together, my eclectic group of Kutana Kenya participants and I ended our night with a devotion from the birds. We listened together as The Northern Masked Weaver, The Laughing Dove, and The White Browed Robin Chat sang to us proudly, honestly, and humbly the tune to their lives. We did not ask to be invited in to that essential part of their being, yet, they welcomed us. As our leader Sam Harrell stated, “They were living out their calling simply by being.”
I have been a people person for as long as I can remember. My heart is the fullest when I am drinking coffee, listening, and sharing with another one of God’s children. My heart longs to help others, and I have a deep passion for justice when it comes to my sisters and brothers. I firmly believe God has broken my heart and amplified my voice for the marginalized and the oppressed, and I have felt a deep longing to empower those labeled “less than” and “voiceless” to recognize the importance of their voice for a long time. Not because they need my voice to remind them, but because the world desperately needs the truth of theirs.
Little did I know, I was letting my heart for people blind my eyes to other important truths.
Each night in Kenya, we ended our day with presentations of insightful articles regarding our call to creation care, climate change, overpopulation, etc., and a devotion from Laudato si — Care for our Common Home by Pope Francis, led by each of the students on the trip. After, as we sat around with tea and coffee (decaf of course) in hand, we reflected on our day, what we had heard, and what God was stirring in us. I specifically remember one night talking about how God calls us to care for the least of these, and Sam beautifully weaved that scripture into our call to Creation Care. God gifted us with this beautiful Earth, and maybe the least of these means the Dung Beetle, the Red Wigglers that break down compost to better harvest crops, or the rain water that can be collected and filtered to sustain a Masai family for months. As beautiful as this sounded, I was struggling.
How can we sit here and call the dung beetle the least of these with such persistence while in Flint, Michigan, there is a city without clean water who is being neglected because it is primarily African-American? I felt like harping on the beauty and interdependency of the Earth and her creatures was a betrayal to God and her children. I questioned this to which Sam responded, “Summer, what if we cared for the water being contaminated and the people being neglected?”
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship spent it’s 25th year revealing the beauty in the ampersand, and this experience brought that home for me. God calls me to actively fight against injustice, elevate the voices of, and fight for the oppressed — God’s people & God’s Earth. Mother Nature needs a voice listening to, crying with, and yelling out for her, because who else will? How can I hear God in the birds if I am not going to fight for their home in the trees?
The birds live out their calling simply by being, and I long to do the same, by being who God calls me to be — someone who loves God, loves people, and follows Jesus’s commands.
We are an interdependent species. God created us as sisters and brothers, because we need each other to survive. Without the Farmer, the Teacher, the Pastor, or the Friend, we couldn’t make it. Similarly, The Earth’s various ecosystems are interdependent. Without the grass, the Wildebeest cannot survive, and without the Wildebeest, the Lion would die.
I now understand God’s calling and commands are the same. I cannot advocate for the oppressed if I am not also caring for the air they breathe and they water they drink. While I am speaking out about systemic racism, I can also cry out about pollution in our water. Lastly, while I am devoting my life to fighting against injustice, I better be looking in the mirror to see how I am contributing to the downfall of God’s Earth.
On our last day driving in the Mara, Sam pulled our vans over to a plant with thorns. He explained how this certain plant has thorns to protect itself from the giraffe. More than that, though, he flicked it to reveal an outpouring of ants who the bite the giraffe to make it go away. The plant provides a home for the ants, and so, the ants protect it.
God has provided us the most beautiful, awe-filled home, and it’s past time we protect it. How beautiful though, that when we do, we are living out our calling, simply by being.
Summer Hyche is from Birmingham, Alabama, and a first-year student at Duke Divinity School.