France forum 22_whole family

A family Forum in France

For the first time in four years, the A Rocha family gathered for the 2022 Global Leader’s Forum. The Forum is a chance for A Rocha leaders to come together in community for fellowship, prayer, and advancing the mission of the A Rocha worldwide family. Over 80 delegates convened in the French hills above the Côte d’Azur at Les Courmettes, with over 20 countries represented.

It was inspiring to reunite around our common vision and faith, across diverse cultures, and languages. We are grateful for the hospitality of the A Rocha France team who shared their beautiful centre at Les Courmettes. Special thank you to Canadian cook and farmer, Shelley Spruit, who made sure our bellies and souls were abundantly nourished with daily ground grain, freshly baked bread and other delights.

It was a time of celebration with answered prayers and good news, including updates that the Atewa forest in Ghana remains protected and undeveloped, growth of the African Forest Programme and the new Friends of A Rocha Network. It was a privilege to witness the A Rocha Worldwide Covenant being acted out over the week as thoughtful and prayerful work was done to review and update A Rocha’s mission and vision statements and A Rocha’s commitments, all of which were approved at the first ever Decision-making Meeting held on the last day of the Forum. God’s grace was tangible as the gathered leaders worked together on articulating our Christian commitment to conservation.

It was also a time for reflection and remembrance amidst the grief of losing our dear colleagues, Miranda Harris, Chris Naylor, and Susanna Naylor, at the end of 2019. We thank God for this time to mourn together, and the strength brought through community and fellowship in Christ. Thank you for your continued prayers for the A Rocha worldwide family as we surrender and partner with God through this season of renewal, like new wine in new wine skins (Mark 2:22).

Guillaume de Vaulx, Atif al-Mays, Colin Gibson and Damien Boustani

How God provided in Lebanon (once again!)

When it came time for Colin and Audrey Gibson to retire from their posts at A Rocha Lebanon, they launched the search for a new national director. Guillaume de Vaulx and Damien Kasper both received a message from a common friend encouraging them to go for the role. One position, two friends. Was this a case of letting the best man win? Or was there another way? They decided to apply as joint directors, two heads in one body. The Gibsons and the Board agreed to this creative plan, and the good Hydra of Lebanon was born!

Even for two, the tasks were many and at the Nature Park project in the Bekaa Valley, there was pressure from the local mayor to open the site as soon as possible. Damien and Guillaume immediately set out to ensure the ongoing building works were completed and to make much needed improvements to the irrigation system as, already, some of the recently planted trees and shrubs were dying. A board member – an architect by profession – had volunteered to supervise the building works, but what to do about the irrigation system? In the face of a collapsing economy and the regular delays of life in Lebanon, the situation felt hopeless…

That is, until the surprising and wonderful arrival of Noha.

At 5pm, Guillaume received a text from an Egyptian phone number: ‘Hi Guillaume, I am Noha. I was your student in the philosophy class in 2013. I’ve heard you are doing something connected to the land in Lebanon. It sounds exciting. I am in Beirut now – can we meet?’ They met at 10pm the same day and it turned out Noha was now working on environmental policy and water issues. She asked a friend in London to produce some maps and she and Guillaume got to work.

Noha and Ibrahim (our Syrian volunteer) digging out the old irrigation network

By 6am the next day, Guillaume and Noha were on their way to Mekse with a presentation to explain the solution to the municipal authorities. And now the reservoir is full and the roses are blooming! Two other new volunteers, Philip and Sylvie, plan to make an inventory of the wild flowers present in the park and use the data to update the WildLebanon site. Give thanks with us for these arrivals and please continue to pray for A Rocha Lebanon in this exciting new chapter.

Pictured: Guillaume de Vaulx, present joint-director of A Rocha Lebanon; Atif al-Mays, chief of Mekse municipality; Colin Gibson, the previous director of A Rocha Lebanon; Damien Kasper, present joint-director of A Rocha Lebanon

Photo 2 – Noha and Ibrahim (our Syrian volunteer) digging out the old irrigation network

An outing from the Czech anniversary conference to Sumava national park

A Rocha Czech Republic celebrates 20 years

45 people gathered over the weekend of 17-19 June near the Šumava National Park in Husinec for a COVID-delayed celebration of 20 years since the establishment of A Rocha Czech Republic. Dave Bookless spoke to questions of hope in a time of climate change – very topical as temperatures soared unseasonably high during the conference – and A Rocha co-founder Peter Harris was there to join the celebrations.

Pavel and Radka Svetlik looked back over the early effort to establish their field study centre, Krupárna, which has welcomed thousands of schoolchildren since it opened in 2005. The gardens, and surrounding hillsides and valleys have new ponds and hundreds of new trees and bushes, significantly improving local biodiversity.

Pavel said, ‘It has been moving to gather and reflect on God’s faithfulness to us over more than two decades. The task of caring for his world becomes ever more challenging but we know even the smallest of our efforts are significant and worthwhile.’

Looking ahead they are urgently seeking match funding of €240K to apply for a forthcoming renovation grant of €1.2 million from the EU to increase the residential capacity of the centre. Please get in touch if you or anyone you know might be able to help them towards this daunting goal.

Pavel Svetlik setting up a net to catch Kingfishers