A Tanzanian farmer displays a hand full of coffee

There’s a reason God placed us right where we are.

Our homes are no mere coincidence.

How often do you think about the reasons God has placed us in the physical locations where we live? Some of us might think about this quite a bit, especially if we’ve undergone a major transition or if we felt led to our current homes to work with the surrounding community.

Others of us, however, might be a little more tempted to think of where we live as more of a coincidence. Maybe it’s simply a place where we grew up and never felt a desire to leave. Maybe some time ago, we moved to a new town after starting school or getting married, put down roots, and haven’t looked back since.

Throughout the story of scripture, however, place is a very important concept. The land of Canaan isn’t just a settlement. It’s the Promised land. The Kingdom of Babylon isn’t just the one that happened to capture Israel. It’s a land of exile and God’s people were instructed to seek its peace and prosperity. (Jeremiah 29:7) There are countless times when Jesus is introduced as Jesus of Nazareth.

Place matters.

An improved home in Tanzania
An improved home in Tanzania

Our location matters.

One point where this becomes especially clear is in the Book of Acts, as Paul addresses an audience in Athens.

“…[God] marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us.”

Acts 17:27

Paul paints a very broad picture of the boundaries and lifespans of nations and civilizations throughout history. He concludes that these things lead us closer and closer to God. We are given our moment in history and our place upon the earth because this is the setting where we can draw closer to God, if we seek. That raises the question- what does it look like to seek?

That will look different for different people, but ultimately, we are meant to engage with our place on earth rather than to try to escape it. God placed us where we are to draw us near.

Burundian participants experience God through their work
Burundian participants experience God through their work

Our moment in history matters. Our environment matters.

One way to engage our current location is by thinking about our current moment in the context of God’s plan. Our great command is to love God and love our neighbors, and our opportunity is to discover what that looks like in the present.

We live in a moment where 800 million people live in poverty. We also live in a moment where environmental concerns exacerbate those conditions. How can engaging in these problems draw us closer to God?

What about the physical places that we inhabit? How does God interact with the culture that surrounds us? How does God interact with the physical environment? Most of Scripture directly addresses a society very familiar with agriculture; there are numerous examples of how God interacts with people through farming and the conditions of land.

A house is in the background of a farmer's nursery.
A house is in the background of a farmer’s nursery.

We have an opportunity to find God through our interaction with our surroundings.

Our changing world gives us more opportunities to detach from our physical environment. We can accomplish greater and greater tasks on fewer and fewer screens. Opportunities to work remotely and live nomadically are on the rise. These aren’t necessarily bad changes, but they can cause us to overlook the importance of place.

Land is an important theme all throughout God’s word, and that hasn’t changed in spite of technological shifts and industrial revolutions. The earth is not a passive actor in God’s story. Our physical places are more than just background elements in our own stories.

Opportunities to engage the places God has chosen for us are numerous, and they won’t look the same for everyone. Some of us might be called to address particular issues that affect the area where we live. Others will be called to form more personal relationships with our immediate neighbors. Others of us still, will be blessed with the task of taking care of a place we hope to pass on to future generations.

Plant With Purpose empowers people all around the world to invest in the places where God has set them, through spiritual renewal and environmental restoration. We have worked with communities in the Dominican Republic, Tanzania, and beyond to discover God’s goodness through participating in Creation Care. To join us in bringing this opportunity to even more communities, learn about becoming a Purpose Partner.

 

Philippe Lazaro

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Every $10 invested in our program brings $30-$100 of opportunities to a rural village.