Reflections On My Amazon Journey

[Adapted from a message given at churches on Earth Day, 2013]

A powerful transformation began within me last spring when a friend sent me an announcement of a program being offered by the Sisters of Mercy. The words describing its purpose really touched my heart – “to help create an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, and socially just human presence on this planet.” I thought: “This is the world I want to leave to my children and grandchildren!”

18 Years ago the Achuar people, an indigenous tribe deep in Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest, put out a request for partners in the industrialized world who would work with them to protect their ancient home and culture. This was the birth of the Pachamama Alliance, an organization that eventually developed the “Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream” Symposium.

After experiencing this symposium, something within me shifted and I felt intensely God’s compassion for all her creation, and her call to me to be part of its healing.

Every time I went to get gas for my car I couldn’t forget the image of a woman in Nigeria whose way of life was destroyed and whose food supply (plants, fish) was contaminated by oil companies. She and 8 other women in her community had miscarriages.

It’s easy to blame the oil companies and the greed of corporations for our global crises, but we need to be honest and see how OUR lifestyles of consumption and acquisition are affecting the world! We live in a country that represents 5% of the world population and uses 30% of the world resources and creates 30% of the world’s waste.

We are part of the oppressive global economic systems that are destroying our environment and lives of people all over the world.

After the symposium experience I was led to make a Journey into the Amazon, sponsored by the Pachamama Alliance.

The Achuar people see all living things as connected and sacred, so they live simply and use only what their community needs. And they care for Pachamama (their word for Mother Earth) for the good of all species and for future generations. For them the earth is a living body that we are all part of.

Being with them really challenged my assumptions about life and my own way of living.  Can you imagine how you would feel if someone was threatening to take away your home and family and land?  Wouldn’t you be passionate to protect them?

That was the passion I experienced in one of the elders who told us he would take a stand and do whatever they had to do to stop the oil companies from taking over their land.  He threatened to close their simple dirt air strips and even fight and die if necessary to protect his people.  I have a picture of that elder on my desk and he inspires me in my own call to take a stand to protect all life on our planet.  To live out the commandment to LOVE!

So many times on that trip my heart ached – e.g. flying over or walking through acres and acres of pristine rainforest and imagining it being destroyed by roads, and bulldozers and oilrigs – and displacing the simple and beautiful indigenous people who lived on that land for generations, with their ways that honor the earth and the interconnectedness of all life.

So what do we do with all of this information? What can we do, in our part of the world, in our own hearts and lives, to make a difference?  How are we, as followers of Christ, called to respond?

As we look at the state of our world – with its violence, injustice and environmental devastation, where is our hope?

Our hope is in God’s promise of making all things new and the vision we receive in our readings today of a new earth.  God is close and moving to bring new life to all her creation! – in this world, not just when we die!  WE are the body of Christ that is called to transform the world – and the Holy Spirit is leading the way!  Are we awake and committed enough to follow Jesus’ commandment of radical love?  “Love one another” speaks of love for ALL forms of life that God created!

The task may be daunting, but miracles are happening!  Whoever would have thought in our lifetimes that the oppressive system of apartheid would end, or that the Berlin wall and all it represented would fall, or that an African American man would be elected president in our country?  It was the collective action of visionary people that opened those doors to freedom and new life!  WE are the change we were waiting for as we stay awake to world needs and open our hearts to follow the Divine voice of Love.