During the 2016 Rio Olympic Games ceremonies, a unique cause—one close to WorldVenture missionaries Jamie and Alissa Shattenberg—shared the global stage with athletes from around the world.
Footage from Eden Projects, the reforestation nonprofit partnered with the Shattenbergs in Madagascar, was used in three pieces during a video in the opening ceremonies, which aimed at raising awareness for climate control and reforestation.
The opening ceremony at Rio kicked off the Olympics hoping to inspire and inform the world about climate change and reforestation. Delegations from the 207 countries represented at the Games carried seedlings and soil that will eventually become the Olympic forest in Rio.
“We were so honored to have footage of our work featured in the Olympics opening ceremony and were excited to hear that many of you recognized that the footage was ours when you were watching,” wrote Debbie Crawford in an Eden blog. “Brazil did a great job of sharing the need for all of us to focus on caring for our planet.”
WorldVenture featured the work of Eden and the Shattenbergs in a cover story last year. Their work in Madagascar has resulted in planting more than 115 million trees and the full-time employment of more than 300 local Malagasy workers. (In comparison, Rio promised to plant 24 million trees to make up for the carbon emissions produced from hosting the Games.)
“Without Jamie, I can’t imagine Eden being functional in Madagascar,” said Eden’s President Steve Fitch in WorldVenture’s cover story. “We first met in 2006 and processed the wild idea of planting mangrove propagules at Mahabana estuary. At the time the idea was just that—an idea. Now, nearly nine years later, we have tens of millions of trees in the ground, hundreds of people being lifted out of extreme poverty, agreements with National Parks and Universities, and a much brighter looking future for the forests and people of Madagascar.”
Through creation care, the Malagasy people are also experiencing the love of a Creator.
“Most of them didn’t care much about protecting the forests before—they figured it would just always be there,” said Jamie. “But as they’ve been learning how to collect the seeds, how to plant them and care for them, they’ve fallen in love with creation. And as they’ve fallen in love with it, they don’t want to see it destroyed but protected.”
WorldVenture also celebrated the 70th anniversary of Brazil’s Baptist churches just ahead of Rio’s Olympic Games.
(Photo credit: Flickr/philippryke