Read this encouragement of the value of our lives to God and to others, no matter who we are or the kind of season we may be in. This article appeared in the March 2013 issue of testimony, and won an award from The Word Guild in the “Single Column” category in June 2014.
Let Nothing Be Wasted
by Stephen Kennedy
Canadians do many things well, but one thing we top the list at doing is not something we should be proud of. According to the Conference Board of Canada, we generate more garbage per person each year than any other country in the world. In 2008, Canadians generated 777 kilograms (that’s 1,713 lb.) of municipal waste per person. We led the way among developed countries in throwing stuff away. In fact, in 2008 the average Canadian generated twice the amount of garbage as the average Japanese.
Not only do we throw a lot of things away, we also waste unconscionable amounts of food. Canadians are not the only ones doing so, but we are among the worst offenders here as well. According to a report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), “Roughly one-third of the edible parts of food produced for human consumption gets lost or wasted globally, which is about 1.3 billion ton per year.”  Unlike low-income countries, where most food loss happens during the production and transportation of food, a large part of food waste in Canada happens at the consumer level. In other words, we throw food away when it is still suitable for human consumption. The FAO report discovered that “Food waste at consumer level in industrialized countries (222 million ton) is almost as high as the total net food production in sub-Saharan Africa (230 million ton).”
We truly have become a “throw away” society.
Juan Manuel Chavez and Ada Maribel Rios Bordados are well acquainted with the things people throw away. Juan is a 19-year-old cellist living in Cateura, Paraguay. The body of his cello is a recycled oilcan. Ada is a 13-year-old violinist. She, too, lives in Cateura. The tailpiece of her recycled violin is a dinner fork. Cateura, Paraguay, is a community of around 2,500 families. It is also a landfill site for the capital city of Asunción. Each day, 1,500 tons of waste is dumped in the Cateura landfill. Most of the community’s families depend on the meagre income earned by selling material scavenged from the waste. But there is an amazing story being written in the midst of Cateura’s poverty and pollution. Juan and Ada are two members of what is known as the Recycled Orchestra. Favio Chavez, a landfill worker, musician and founder of the orchestra says, “The world sends us garbage. We send back music.” If you haven’t seen it yet, you need to watch the trailer for the soon to be released documentary called Landfill Harmonic. It’s a captivating story, on so many levels, of redemption and transformation.
The news of how wasteful we have become and the story of the Recycled Orchestra coincided with my reading of a familiar story in the Gospel of John. All four gospels give us the account of the feeding of the 5,000. All of the accounts tell us that at the end
of the day, the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of leftover pieces of bread and fish. But only John tells us that they picked up the leftovers because Jesus instructed them to. “Gather the pieces that are left over,” He told them. “Let nothing be wasted” (John 6:12b). I’ve always figured that Jesus was just teaching His disciples a lesson in light of their lack of faith. They only saw how little they had. Jesus wanted them to know that their little in His hands would always be enough. That preaches!But when I read the story this time, these words of Jesus lodged themselves in my brain: “Let nothing be wasted.” Two thoughts have surfaced from my meditation on these words. First, I’ve come to the conclusion that Jesus told the disciples to pick up the leftovers because, simply put, that was how Jesus lived. And if that is so, then my allegiance to Christ must affect my lifestyle. Specifically, as a Christian, I need to take control of what and how much I throw away. It goes beyond being environmentally responsible; it is a reflection of my heart on matters of respect, gratitude
The second thought relates to experiences in my life that I think were—or are—a waste. Periods of time when I question, “What was that all about?” or “Why am I going through this?” I think most people have them. You may be in one now. As I chewed on the words of Jesus, this thought came to me: even the pieces were part of the miracle. The times when I cannot see worth in what I am doing, or in where I am, or in what is happening to me, even these pieces are part of the miracle. The things I want to throw away—experiences I feel were totally unnecessary, counterproductive or even destructive—even these are part of what Christ is doing in me.
Nothing is wasted.
Stephen Kennedy is the editor of testimony, a monthly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2013 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Subscribe today! Email firstname.lastname@example.org or click here for details.
. “How Canada Performs: Municipal Waste Generation,” The Conference Board of Canada, accessed February 8, 2013, http://www.conferenceboard.ca/hcp/details/environment/municipal-waste-generation.aspx.
. “Save Food! Global Food Losses and Food Waste—Extent, Causes and Prevention,” Study published in 2011, Rome, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, accessed February 8, 2013, http://www.fao.org/docrep/014/mb060e/mb060e00.pdf.
. A preview of the film Landfill Harmonic can be viewed at http://vimeo.com/52129103.