Sitting across the table from me, Dennis Tan wears a shirt on which two trees are engaged in a lightsaber battle.
Underneath the duelling trees is the phrase “May the forest be with you”, a pun on the popular Star Wars quote. It’s an apt shirt for someone so passionate about the environment, and I tell him as much.
He laughs and explains that he’s always been really into trees.
“I remember watching this documentary about a huge tree that fell in the forest a few years back. It made me really sad. That really got me thinking about the environment, and I began to consider it as a possible path for my future.”
And so began the love affair with nature that would drive him to study environmental science at university.
Along with five other friends, Vinnie Chua, Liaw Ann Shin, Rachel Tan, Allison Mak and Rebecca Goh, he started an Instagram account aimed at rectifying the dearth of resources on creation care tailored to a Singaporean context.
The group hopes to raise awareness for creation care as an integral aspect of Christianity and equip Christians to adopt more sustainable lifestyles.
I met up with Dennis, Vinnie, Shin and Rachel to learn more about their initiative.
Like Dennis, Rachel credits her steady diet of environment-centric documentaries and movies for her interest in creation care.
She was intrigued by the notion of creation care because it offered her a chance to reconcile her two passions in life: God and the environment.
“I’m a relatively new Christian so creation care has been a way for me to learn more about the Bible and also to pursue my passion for the environment,” she explains.
Vinnie, too, has had a lifelong passion for nature.
“As a kid I wanted to save marine life,” she tells me. “When I went to university, I was exposed to more facets of it like sustainability, and that’s when I really started to care about the environment.”
That interest subsequently led to a journey of exploring how Christianity and creation care match up. So when Vinnie was starting a creation care ministry in her church, a mutual friend introduced her to Dennis, who was starting a similar ministry in his own church.
When Dennis approached her with the idea of launching Creation Care SG, Vinnie immediately knew that it was a cause she wanted to get behind.
On the other hand, Shin says she became especially convicted of the importance of creation care after reading an article which argued that climate change is a gospel issue (the whole earth suffers because of man’s sinful nature).
That was what spurred her on in the fight against climate change, and made her want to encourage Christians to be more environmentally friendly.
For Shin, caring for the environment is another way to love God and His people.
For these four university students, caring for the environment isn’t just a side concern — it’s become a way of life. As environmental science undergraduates, they also desire to pursue careers in environmental preservation.
Vinnie, who graduates next year, hopes that her work will revolve around sustainability.
Rachel, inspired by her recently concluded internship with NGO People’s Movement to Stop Haze, wants to work in consultancy and sustainability reporting.
Shin’s interest lies in green urban planning, and she wants to help plan cities that are more environmentally friendly.
But Dennis’ ambitions are a little more niche. He hopes to begin a career in conservation research – specifically that of spiders.
Since God is the Creator of all things and we are made in His image, we have a duty to redeem and reconcile the whole of creation, not just its people.
They joke that their career prospects depend on the death of the planet. But that hasn’t stopped them from doing all they can to salvage what’s left of our beloved Earth.
After all, as National Director of the Singapore Centre for Global Missions Lawrence Ko expressed, creation care is integral to a theocentric view of God.
He explains that since God is the Creator of all things and we are made in His image, we have a duty to redeem and reconcile the whole of creation, not just its people.
WHAT THEY AIM TO DO
These six young adults behind Creation Care SG are far from being all talk and no action. On their Instagram page, they plan to share practical steps people can take to reduce their carbon footprint.
For instance, Dennis, a member of Sengkang Methodist Church, put up a recycling box in his church. It was a simple idea: a recycled A4 paper box into which members could drop their bulletins after service ended.
Nevertheless, it was a step in the right direction. In the fight against climate change, every small effort counts.
“We want to remind our fellow Christians that creation care is a God-given duty,” Dennis explains. “By getting the conversation going, we hope to encourage churches to speak out more on environmental issues and help to make Singapore more sustainable.”
Shin adds: “Climate change is seen as a secular issue, but I’ve realised that it is actually not separate from our faith — just like every other social issue on this earth.
“Human neglect of the earth is a reflection of our sinful nature, especially if you compare the current state of the earth with the Garden of Eden.”
BUILDING A COMMUNITY
The team is encouraged by God’s faithfulness, which has sustained them throughout this campaign. Dennis shares that he was initially afraid that no one would want to join him in spreading the word about creation care.
“Thankfully, God proved me wrong and I was able to form a team after asking around,” he says, gesturing to his friends around the table.
“God really provided by bringing us together. And the fact that we’re all from different denominations shows that creation care transcends denominational differences!”
Shin is also grateful that this project has given her the chance to have honest conversations with the people around her.
“The topic of the environment can actually bridge the secular and religious divide!” she chimes, noting that friends of all faiths have approached her to ask about this campaign.
“Many non-Christians are passionate about the environment. But if you believe in God, the basis for your concern about the environment will be quite different.”
For Shin, this is thus a great conversation starter on how Christians view the world a little differently and a segue into sharing more about Christianity and the gospel.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
You can also share your own stories. The team is aware that many people are doing what they can for the environment in their own churches, but such efforts often go unnoticed.
In sharing your stories, you’ll be able to encourage and affirm fellow Christians in their efforts to preserve God’s creation.
Alternatively, simply download this Season of Creation devotional.
Dennis, together with writers from three other churches, has put together a devotional for the Season of Creation, a global Christian celebration of prayer and action for the planet that will last from 1 September to 4 October.
It is intended to be a time for believers to renew their relationship with the Creator and His creation through repenting, repairing and rejoicing together.
After all, as Genesis 2:15 tells us: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”
Man has since ventured far beyond the Garden of Eden, but our responsibility still remains.
- What does creation care mean to you?
- What did God say about the earth He created?
- What are God’s commands to humanity?
- How can you obey these commands through your talents and time?