“Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but be an example to the believers in your speech, your conduct, your love, faith, and purity.”
1 Timothy 4:12
As you’re probably aware, today is Earth Day. UIS is celebrating Earth Week this week, and the big presentation for the week was last night. This year, the presentation was given by Chad Pregracke, the founder and president of Living Lands and Waters, a company that cleans up America’s rivers.
I’ll be honest: I was really hesitant to go last night. I really enjoyed last year’s speaker and took lots of notes (which I think I still have around here somewhere), and even though I think it’s great that someone is out there cleaning up the rivers, it’s not my primary interest, and I was afraid I wouldn’t connect with what he was saying.
I was so wrong. Chad has a very interesting story, and he’s damn funny about telling it. There were no slides, no powerpoint, and no lecture. It was just him and his story.
He was raised in the Quad cities and became concerned about the health of the Mississippi River when he was in his teens. While still in college in 1997, he decided that he wanted to clean up the river, so he set out to get funding so he could get another boat and a crew. Only one company was interested, so they gave him money to go out and do it himself, which is exactly what he did. Chad told us that during the first two or three weeks he was cleaning up the beaches, people would pull up to his boat and ask who he was and what he was doing. He’d tell them, and his quest apparently impressed a few people, because a local paper asked him for an interview. He says he hated the interview, and was embarrassed when the AP picked it up the next day. Soon after that, CNN called for an interview. Soon after that, Chad got more funding from companies who saw his dedicated solo venture, and he was able to get another boat and a crew. A barge followed. Yes, a barge. The funny story about the barge is that it came about because he wanted to be more efficient. Instead of spending several days a week unloading, he wanted to only spend a few days a year unloading the garbage for recycling. So he thought it might be a good idea to get a barge. He called a barge company to see if by chance they had any, and the man on the phone said, “Yeah, we’ve got some. Who’d you hear about it from?”
“Well, no one. Why?”
As it turns out, the barge company had four barges they were going to get rid of, the first time they were going to get rid of any if several years. They scrapped three and gave Chad the best one they had. Chad didn’t know anything about it before he called the company. (To me, that’s a God moment)
Chad said two things that struck me not only as being the point to his presentation, but struck me personally. The first is that there are thousands of people who care about our streams, rivers, and environment. He added here that he had created an opportunity for them to do something positive. Second, he said, “Anything you want to do is totally feasible. Think outside the box. Think about what you want to do and do it.”
When I first started this degree program, I was really a rookie and had no idea what people of faith were saying about the environmental movement. I’m still pretty much a rookie, but now that I’m in my second semester of studying stewardship, I have a better idea of what’s being said, and there are a lot of Christians who take environmental stewardship seriously. That’s great news for me personally, but I’ve often been left with the thought, “Well what more could I say that hasn’t already been said?” I’ve found myself in different stages of discouragement, especially lately as I’ve tried to write about stewardship in general and environmental stewardship in particular.
When I was seventeen, I thought God was calling me to be a pastor, but I wasn’t really sure, and I was afraid that I wasn’t hearing God right or at all. Knowing that I was discouraged, a pastor friend of mine wrote me a letter, encouraging me seek God’s will for my life. He quoted the passage from 1 Timothy that I wrote above, knowing that even for people considering full time ministry, I was very young.
What he wanted me to know, and what Chad’s presentation reinforced, was that anyone of any age can make a difference. One person can make a difference. It doesn’t matter that other people might be doing the same thing. What matters is that each of us is doing the thing we’re supposed to be doing, whether it’s cleaning up the rivers, recycling, reducing our consumption, or sharing with others why it’s important to be a good steward of the environment.
For more information on Living Lands and Waters, visit the Living Lands and Waters site. Happy Earth Day! Celebrate Earth Day by remembering the Creator and being a good steward of His creation.
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