I recently returned from a vacation trip to Alaska with my husband, where we visited our son who has been living in Anchorage this past year, participating in Service Adventure with Mennonite Mission Network. We enjoyed seeing his work site, meeting his host family and other Service Adventure housemates, hiking in Kincaid Park on the Cook Inlet, and attending worship at Prince of Peace Mennonite Church.
Beyond Anchorage, we visited several glaciers, rode a ferry in the Prince William Sound, watched salmon fishing in the Copper River, canoed on Byers Lake, camped in the rain and beside a waterfall, and spent the longest day of the year – June 21- at Denali National Park. I was enthralled with the stunning beauty and variety of of the landscapes and natural life we saw and experienced around us:
Mountains, oceans, and fjords…brilliant flowers and lush ferns…snow, glaciers, and icebergs…flat silty “braided” rivers, rushing streams and crystal-clear lakes…rain, clouds, hail, and blue skies…moose, fox, caribou, dall sheep, grouse, eagles…and more.
At the same time, it was sobering to observe how far the glaciers have receded in recent decades due to global warming; and to visit the site of the 1989 Exxon-Valdez oil spill in the Prince William Sound.
These examples of human environmental impact reminded me that the faraway beauty of Alaska is closely tied to the rest of us who live here in the “lower 48” and elsewhere around the globe.
How does our lifestyle and consumption of resources hinder or help environmental health? How can we advocate for sustainable stewardship of earth’s resources? What responsibility do we have to care for the whole earth – not just our private lawns and gardens?
As I ponder these questions, and cherish the beauty I have experienced, I am humbled. I think of God’s admonishing words to the Biblical character, Job. Here is just an excerpt (see Job 38-39 for the full sweep of this magnificant poetry):
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? …Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place so that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it? …Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep?…Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail…? What is the way to the place where the light is distributed, or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth?… Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, so that a flood of waters may cover you?…Do you know when the mountain goats give birth? Do you observe the calving of the deer?… Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up and makes its nest on high?
To which I can only respond, “No, of course not…” And then say “Thank you!” for the incredible creation in which God has placed us.
– Heidi Regier Kreider