Rebuilding Eden

We live in the Evergreen state. Chances are, if you look out the window, you will see trees all around. In general, people in the Pacific Northwest love to get outside and spend time in nature.

Can you imagine looking out that same window in 30 years and seeing desert where those trees used to be? That is what is happening in much of the world. In the last 60 years over half the world’s forest have been cleared.

Roger Hoesterey, a 20+ year BelPres attendee, thinks about this issue daily as the CEO of Eden Reforestation Projects, an international non-profit organization that works to combat deforestation in third world countries by hiring locals to plant trees.

Roger grew up traveling across the country by car as his family moved from the east coast to west coast to east coast and back to the west coast again. On each of these cross-country trips, his family would visit national parks and he decided he wanted to become a National Park Service Ranger.

He attended UW where he received a degree in Forestry and then he became a Park Ranger right after college. Roger has “always had a passion for God’s creation and the outdoors, and vocationally I’ve been lucky to do that.”

After leaving the National Parks Service, he worked for Bellevue Parks and Community Services for 20 years, and then for 15 years worked for The Trust for Public Land (TPL) as the Senior Vice President and Western Division Director. During his time at TPL, Roger also volunteered his time as a board member on a couple of non-profits and he was given the chance to travel internationally. These opportunities allowed him to see how ‘the bottom billion’, the billion poorest and most vulnerable people, are suffering when their environment is destroyed because they wake up every day and they cannot go to QFC. “When their environment is trashed, their life quality is super low.” Additionally, unemployment in third world countries is incredibly high.

Witnessing the struggle people in these countries face daily, Roger had an idea of how to bring change to the environment. Around 2010, he spoke on “Conservation, Faith, and Social Justice” at a conference and was approached by a board member of Eden Projects International who told him, “I know a guy who is already doing this and he needs help.” Eden Projects works in areas affected by deforestation to reduce poverty and restore forests. He describes Eden as “a small, but highly effective non-profit with the mission of poverty reduction through environmental stewardship. [Eden] employs local villagers to run native plant nurseries, plant trees, and restore their surrounding environment.” Roger joined the board of Eden after the conference and about two years ago he was asked to be the organization’s CEO.

To move into the position of CEO was an act of trust in God’s plan for Roger and his wife, Cathy. “To leave a pretty secure, really good job [at TPL] and see if I could help out this way was a huge leap of faith.” Eden Projects is a much smaller organization than TPL and his salary would reflect that shift. But he felt the Holy Spirit nudging him to use his knowledge and talents as a manager in an international, charitable direction and in November 2014, Roger moved into the CEO position.   

This decision did not come easily, but Roger credits hearing a song on the radio, “I Refuse” by Josh Wilson, as the final push from God. These particular lyrics stood out to him: “But I refuse cause I don’t wanna live like I don’t care. I don’t wanna say another empty prayer. Oh I refuse, to sit around and wait for someone else to do what God has called me to do myself. Oh I could choose not to move, but I refuse. I can hear the least of these cryin’ out so desperately.” After hearing these words, his yearlong struggle to decide ended. 

Roger says, “I’ve always had a heart for the poor and I’ve always know a lot and cared a lot about creation. So the whole concept of creation care and working with the poor has been there, but I hadn’t put the two together; they had always been separate.”

He sees a commonality among all world religions in “the moral imperative to care for the poor and respect all fullness of life. While he can point to examples in Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, he draws from Genesis 1:31, “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good,” Genesis 9, and Psalm 24, as reasons why Christians should address the problems of poverty and environmental issues.

Christians have a “greater calling to experience salvation as creation healed” and through Eden Projects Roger works toward this goal every day.

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