by Vickie Machado (Montana ’11, Boston ’12, Portland ’13)
I found Eco-Stewards Portland to be a breath of fresh air in a world that tends to place faith and environmental issues in two separate categories. During the week, I experienced first hand these two aspects of life break away from their boxes and amalgamate into the realm of the Columbia River Watershed. We packed a LOT into our week: meeting with a coffee roaster who delivers all of his beans on bike, a visit to Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) to talk about sustainability, weeding garden beds at Zenger Farms, talks on gentrification and issues of race, pulling invasive ivy inside the country’s largest urban, forested park, a full day of biking, dinner with our hosts, the Earth Care congregates of First Presbyterian Church of Portland, chats with co-housing groups and a meditating labyrinth walk at Menucha Camp & Conference Center, just to name a few. It was through these adventures (which took us all over Portland) that I recognized how individuals and the groups we met manifested their respect for the earth and our Creator in distinct ways. They fulfilled their own ecological niche, acting as stewards of their area and care-givers to the people around them.
Two months after Portland, I reunited with fellow Eco-Steward Daniel Loya and 2011 Montana Eco-Steward Dave Grace to table at the Wild Goose Festival, which took place near Hot Springs, NC. Our table focused on building connections with other young adults and trying to grow the Eco-Stewards family so more young adults might benefit from our place-based programs. Our presence as Eco-Stewards provided us the opportunity to build community while connecting faith to environmental stewardship. We sold recycled art including peace cranes made from recycled magazines and repurposed beads, tooth brush bracelets, and bags made crocheted from t-shirt yarn. Additionally, our banner was handmade from extra paint, canvas and fabric materials.
Bordered by the Appalachian Trail and the French Broad River, Hot Springs and the people it attracted offered another amazing place in which I saw the confluence of Christianity and the environment come to life. I suppose this over lap of faith and ecology is best explained through the festival’s name, “wild goose,” the Celtic metaphor for Holy Spirit. Though each day brought scattered thunderstorms, blue skies always followed. Again echoing the wild, unexpectedness, peace, and beauty of the Spirit. The Wild Goose allowed us to listen to others experiences while sharing our own Eco-Steward stories. These talks broadened our connections and promoted friendships rooted within life and nature.