How did A Rocha start? In England in the early 1980’s everyone was talking about the environmental crisis. Well, almost everyone… It seemed that those of us who are Christians weren’t really aware of the problem. We live in such an incredible world! Such wonderful mountains & forests, oceans, beaches, creatures of all shapes, colours & sizes – people too! Sunrises, sunsets, predictable seasons (if not always quite enough sunshine for the summer holidays, or quite enough snow at Christmas). Crisis? What crisis?
At the time, Peter was working as a curate near Birkenhead, we had three small children, & we had been accepted by an Anglican Missionary society to work somewhere, maybe Tanzania, where we could help with theological education & building a church. The trouble was, nothing was really coming up in lights. Then Peter (who some say was born with binoculars around his neck…) led a student expedition to Sweden to study the migration of birds of prey and the Psalms. During that trip the idea for a Christian field study centre and bird observatory was born, not as a sort of excuse for explaining the gospel to people who aren’t Christians, but because caring for God’s creation has always been part of what Christians do, simply out of love for him. The bible speaks of God’s plan to restore ALL things, not just people, but places & birds & animals & everything else that he made & loves. So off we went…
A lot of people thought we were crazy! It was all going quite well in the church on Merseyside…. why would you go off & start counting birds? But as we began the hard work of learning Portuguese, training as a bird ringer (Peter) & searching for a site for the centre, everything slowly fell into place. You can read our book ‘Under the Bright Wings’ if you want to find out more about those heady days. Countless people joined the Cruzinha ‘family’ for longer or shorter periods of time. Some of the people we met as students then, are the centre directors you know now Marcial & Paula! But by the early nineties the secret was out, & people from other countries began asking for help. Soon there were five A Rocha organisations, in France, Kenya, Lebanon & U.K. as well as in Portugal, & not many years later, the work was growing exponentially, so that when the leaders meet for the Annual Forum, twenty countries are represented. This is clearly something that God is doing around the world, & we have the privilege of joining in wherever we are.
A Rocha has changed our lives completely – in a good way! The truth is, it’s not really what we do, and it’s who we are. And honestly, if I wasn’t already involved, I would join!
What is your favourite bird? Peter: My favourite bird is the Bee-eater and the Hoopoe (the symbol of A Rocha Portugal for some time). Miranda: My favourite is the Peregrine Falcon, I saw one during my last visit to Cruzinha!