Footprints daily reflection: 6 April
Author: Jonny Hanson
Jesus therefore no longer walked about openly among the Jews, but went from there to a town called Ephraim in the region near the wilderness; and he remained there with the disciples.
In John 11, after a plot to kill him was uncovered, we find Jesus retiring to the town of Ephraim, in ‘the region near the wilderness’ (v54). Doubtless this was a practical step to avoid his enemies by retreating to a sparsely-populated area. But it may also have been because time spent in the beauty of this wild place was the necessary balm for a tired and strained soul. Elsewhere in the Gospels, we see Jesus seeking out places in nature where he could be alone, ministered to by God amidst the majesty of the world around him and by the healing power of beauty.
This story conveys the intricate interconnection between human and environmental flourishing that we see our world today. At Jubilee Farm, the first community-owned farm in Northern Ireland with more than 140 member-owners, we recognise and celebrate this connection. Not only do we seek to farm in a way that encourages wildlife, and, via agroecology, that bases our food production on soil rather than oil, but we also make space for people to benefit from time spent working in and with nature.
Our Care farming for Asylum seekers, Refugees and the Environment (CARE) project, for instance, has welcomed refugees and asylum seekers from Ivory Coast, Iran and Syria to engage in a programme of structured volunteering. For these individuals, some of whom were farmers in their home countries, it is a welcome opportunity to get out of the city and into the great Northern Irish countryside. And for everyone who comes to Jubilee Farm, it is a chance to be reminded that we are all made for and benefit from interaction with the rest of creation. Like Jesus, we all need to spend time in the region near the wilderness; it has a special way of drawing us near to the one who formed it.
we praise you for the beauty of your world.
Covenant God, we acknowledge that you have asked us to look after it.
Just God, we affirm that creation can sustain us all if shared fairly.
Relational God, we thank you for wild places and wild things.
Redeemer God, we believe that you rose again to renew all creation.
Conservationist, farmer and entrepreneur, Dr Jonny Hanson is the Managing Director of Jubilee, a Christian creation care organisation based at Jubilee Farm, Larne, Co Antrim. Raised in Monaghan and Malawi, Jonny is interested in reconciling nature conservation with sustainable agriculture and human wellbeing. He used to work for Christian Aid.