Going green plants thousands of trees around the globe 4/1 Earth
Written by Connie Larkman
May 23, 2013

Young foresters in Peru. Provided photo by Gina Low, APECA Inc.

The world is a little greener than it was more than 55 days ago, thanks to scores of United Church of Christ congregations and Mission 4/1 Earth. The evidence can be found growing in backyards, church gardens, neighborhood parks, national forests, and global communities — thousands of new trees planted as part of the one-church environmental initiative.

"We have a lot to celebrate, because Mission 4/1 Earth has more than fulfilled and accomplished its big intent and purpose, which was to unite our entire denomination — all of our churches and members — behind one clear, important mission at the same moment in time," said the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, one of the UCC's national officers. "This clearly happened, and happened in big ways."

How big? Collectively, the people of the denomination planted or are covering the cost of planting 91,023 trees around the globe as part of the 50 days of earth care from Easter Monday through Pentecost Sunday. And as churches continue to report their efforts, that number grows, inching toward the Mission 4/1 Earth goal of 100,000 trees planted somewhere on the planet.

In more than 1,800 reports, UCC churches have been sharing stories detailing their tree planting efforts, some planting trees by the hundreds, others listing just one. On Pentecost Sunday, the congregation of St. Paul UCC in Nashville, Ill., came together around the children as they dug the hole to plant a 10-foot silver maple tree. Pastor Sue Artt said the tree was planted in the church's backyard play area, so it can one day provide play shade for those children -- and for their children. Artt said, "As one of our senior members — and the nursery owner who supplied the tree — said, 'These kids will watch this tree grow, and they will be rooted to it because they helped to plant it.'  What a wonderful way to 'plant' our children in the care of their church, and their planet. Thank you for your inspiration around 4/1 Earth!"

Healthy children in the Peruvian rainforest. Provided photo by Gina Low, APECA Inc.

As of Thursday May 23, the 76,062 trees that have been or will be planted in the United States by UCC congregations in their communities, blanket the Mission 4/1 Earth tree map. Many of those were purchased through a partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation, which provided trees for sale and pledge cards for trees the organization will plant in one of the U.S. national forests. Jo McElwain, of the Arbor Day Foundation says it's been a very fruitful partnership. 

"It has been our distinct pleasure to work with United Church of Christ," McElwain said. "By engaging congregations and members everywhere and sharing the Arbor Day Foundation's mission of inspiring people to plant, nurture and celebrate trees, the Church's Mission 4/1 Earth campaign has led to nearly 6,000 [Arbor Day] trees planted in our nation's forests and backyards across the nation."

Trees are also being celebrated in global communities as a result of Mission 4/1 Earth. The campaign has currently gathered pledges to plant trees in 13 countries around the world. The Rhode Island Conference Haiti Task Force, with the help of several churches, exceeded its goal to assist a Haitian agronomy student plant 500 trees in that country. 235 trees will come from money raised by Seekonk UCC. When asked, "Why Haiti?" Linda Sable, the Chair of Mission and Social Action of the Seekonk (Mass.) UCC, had a simple direct answer. "The people in Haiti, because they are so poor, cut down their trees to use for fuel," Sable said. "So when it rains there is nothing to hold back the water, and everything floods. In addition to 200 regular trees we will be adding to the landscape to help with flooding problem, we will be planting 300 fruit trees, so people can eat – it's a twofold thing."

Provided photo by Gina Low, APECA Inc.

It's a twofold thing for APECA in Peru, which is the recipient of more than 2,500 trees. The organization, founded by UCC member Gina Low, educates young people in the villages of the Peruvian rainforest, teaching them to be Young Foresters who plant and nuture the trees as they care for the planet. Low said of Mission 4/1 Earth, "The support APECA has received is educating children and planting more than trees. Inspired by the actions of Mission 4/1 Earth, the Youth Foresters are well represented by one of them, Carlos, who recently explained to his buddies, 'We can do this; it's for all of us here and everybody everywhere.' When Carlos plants his trees, he connects to hope, understanding that he is not alone and that he can make a difference for the world that really matters. This project has given APECA the opportunity to impact lives for generations and they'll be planting trees too!"

With more reports still coming in, here is the Mission 4/1 Earth tree count as of today, May 23: Afghanistan, 46; China, 525; Democratic Republic of Congo, 10; Ecuador, 45; Ghana, 271; Haiti, 285; India, 37; Kenya, 8,397; Nicaragua, 261; Palestine, 1,336; South Sudan, 1,200; Uganda, 4,831 and Peru, 2,548.

"We all are grateful for the opportunity to be part of Mission: 4/1 Earth," Low said after hearing about the support for APECA in Peru. "We all — the Youth Foresters, the village leaders, Pablo Guerra [program director in Peru] — have grown more than the trees ever will! There's a new way of thinking that is taking hold in the villages. Pablo said, 'Tell them [the UCC] it is like watching hope be born.'"

To count your efforts on the Mission 4/1 Earth tally board, report your earth care hours, trees planting and letters written here.
For more information on Mission 4/1 Earth: 50 Great Days, visit ucc.org/earth, or read the stories of UCC congregations showing their faith in planet Earth here.


Ms. Connie N. Larkman
Managing Editor & News Director
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland,Ohio 44115