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Turning rubbish into artwork

Article by Sarah Parkinson.

Ben Howes
Ben Howes lives in northeast Melbourne on the lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation.

Meet Ben, an environmental scientist and soon-to-be primary school teacher who volunteers with TEAR. Through his role coordinating the children’s program at his church in Melbourne’s north-east, Ben’s vibrant passion for the gospel and environmental stewardship is capturing the attention of the wider community.

Throughout this year, Ben and his team at The Vine Baptist Church, Hurstbridge, have been intentionally and prayerfully considering how to develop links between the children’s program and their local community. This term has seen them focus on the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), exploring the way God can change our lives by taking something broken and transforming it into something brand-new in Christ. You can imagine Ben’s excitement when he heard of a local event promoting the community’s war on waste; not only did he sense the potential to further explore the metaphor of grace through the idea of recycling, but also to deepen the church’s community connection.

“The kids all brought in recyclable materials from home and made recycled art projects. Like God does with our lives, we were turning something like rubbish into artwork, something brand-new. We wanted the opportunity to share this metaphor with community, so we had an art gallery display at the War On Waste community event - sharing the Gospel and supporting waste management and sustainable living.”

Turning Rubbish Into Artwork 1
The kids all brought in recyclable materials from home and made recycled art projects.

Ben’s passion for environmental stewardship is a direct outworking of his faith in our creative God. “I’ve always been fascinated by the way God has created the environment; beautiful and exciting and full of adventure. And I’m part of it, I’m embedded in it - there’s an interdependent thing happening here. We get to glorify God by looking after His creation, partnering with Him in this.

We have this mandate as Christians to look after creation, not only because God made it, but because it’s also about looking after people. Living in an environmentally sustainably way is bigger than stewardship - it’s this idea of social justice. The poorest of the poor are disproportionately affected by environmental changes. Everything is connected; my actions here in Australia can affect the farming practices of someone in the Horn of Africa because they change the way the weather works. As a Christian, I know God cares about people, and the environment is affecting people’s lives in a very real way. Therefore, He must also care about how the environment is affecting them. So living sustainably is a way of showing our love for all of God’s creation.

We’re doing this because it’s just and we have a responsibility as people with abundance to speak up for people suffering injustice. We can't separate our lifestyle from the Gospel. One of the biggest ways we can help is by looking at our own lifestyle and making changes that help people thrive across the world, giving them hope for tomorrow.”

Sarah Parkinson volunteers with TEAR’s Advocacy team.