Transforming people and places has been the mission of A Rocha Canada, and this mission can be perfectly exemplified in the story of Lyndia Hendry and Cedar Haven. Recently, I sat down with Lyndia, and we discussed her story, the story of Cedar Haven and her hopes for others and the future. From a city girl, to a leader in environmental stewardship, Lyndia is working to foster a green oasis and a culture of connection in Southern Ontario for all to enjoy. To Lyndia and to many of us who have had the opportunity to visit, Cedar Haven is a natural haven of peace and diverse life. “It’s a thin place,” Lyndia told me, “an area where there is not such a heavy curtain between us and God.”
Cedar Haven, or the Cedar Haven Eco-Centre, is the hub for A Rocha Ontario. Planted in the heart of Southern Ontario and tucked into the woods of the Beverly Swamp, Cedar Haven is made-up of a beautiful diversity of ecological features. This includes alvar grasslands and meadows, hemlock cathedrals, Carolinian forests and cedar swamp wetlands, all of which allow Cedar Haven to teem with various flora and fauna. This is where we run our summer day camps, Wild Things, where we have Nature Academy, and where we like to host different groups to come and learn about the beauty of the natural world. Cedar Haven is also the site of many of our conservation projects, like nest box monitoring, pond restoration, invasive species removal and more. But before all of this, Cedar Haven was an answered prayer for a country life for Lyndia and her late husband, Bill.
The loving couple took a leap of faith on the run-down farming property that would become Cedar Haven. The house needed to be completely gutted, as there was no insulation or proper plumbing. Lyndia and Bill’s friends wondered if they had lost their minds, buying a property like this. Little did any of them know that purchasing this property was guided by God’s plan. God’s hand in this was affirmed by the hired contractors who helped transform the house with their handiwork and their singing. “It gave me chills when the workmen were singing hymns while working on the house,” Lyndia told me.
From here, Cedar Haven developed into a shared farm, an area for neighbours to enjoy, a space for local hunters and community members to explore and hunt, sanctuary for abused animals, and later the hub for A Rocha Ontario. Read more about the story of how Cedar Haven came to be here.
The faith that God had placed Lyndia and Bill at Cedar Haven to be stewards of creation also allowed them to weather pressure to sell or develop the property. Lyndia spoke to me about offers they received to sell the property to develop a golf course. To many, this offer would be a huge financial benefit and an opportunity to create a recreational space for the community. But Lyndia and Bill recognized what development would do: abuse and destroy God’s creation at Cedar Haven. Lyndia explained, “this would be a lot of abuse, from introducing invasive species and paving over the Beverly Swamp.” Fearing the ways that the natural beauty and biodiversity of Cedar Haven could be abused, Lyndia and Bill refused this offer, and they were determined to keep Cedar Haven the way God created it. Lyndia, who had once wanted to become a missionary in Africa, adopted a different mission: to help people use and not abuse God’s creation.
In our conversation together, Lyndia shared her unofficial motto that informs how she promotes and engages with creation care or the A Rocha lifestyle: the two E’s – Education and Example. Stressing how important it is to consider what we are doing and how it affects creation, Lyndia expressed how this message can be shared through education. In particular, she advocates for experiential environmental education. Lyndia explained, “we need to get people into nature because if you can’t recognize creation, you can’t care for it.” By getting people involved in workshops, citizen science and things like that, we open them up to recognizing and caring for creation. The impact of this can be shown in gardening as many people do not consider or know the impact of their flower beds. With education, people can make informed choices to plant native species instead of invasive ones. Similarly, teaching by example is a priority to Lyndia. Making efforts to actively care for creation provides an example to others that can inspire their own actions as well. Whether that is by using solar power for her fences, or connecting with people outdoors, these examples and experiences touch people and spread care for creation in small and big ways.
“It all comes down to recognizing the effect you are having on the earth; good or bad,” Lyndia told me. Sometimes, it is easier than other times to notice the impact you are having. Some changes to creation are smaller or more gradual, but they build up to something significant. For instance, in 2019, Lyndia received the Watershed Stewardship Award from Conservation Halton for conservation work at Cedar Haven. This award came about from stewardship efforts at Cedar Haven to remove invasive species, do monitoring and water testing etc. The funny thing about winning the award was Lyndia did not see it coming; she did not necessarily see the big impact of her stewardship yet. But the award affirmed and recognized the difference these projects were making for the watershed, and it served as a reminder of how important it is to recognize the effect we have on the earth.
“If you want to become involved in creation care, you have to start small,” Lyndia explained to me. By doing small actions and building from there, you get to enjoy little successes and gain the confidence and knowledge to do more. Lyndia recommends starting with actions like recycling and composting. She also recommends mindfulness and learning by becoming aware of your surroundings, asking questions and trying to identify the plants and animals you see in your daily life. From there, maybe you move into gardening, planting native plants, growing your own vegetables or volunteering at Cedar Haven and sharing your passion for the environment with others. Eventually, you become more and more involved and your impact on the environment and your community grows.
Lyndia shared with me that as urbanization continues to intensify, especially in Southern Ontario, she hopes that Cedar Haven can act as a beacon of hope for creation and a green oasis within a growing concrete jungle. Lyndia hopes that Cedar Haven can remain a “thin place” where people can connect with God and each other. Lyndia emphasized, “A Rocha and Cedar Haven are accepting and welcoming to everyone, and one of my favourite things is connecting with people here, in nature.” She explains, “Cedar Haven is a place for building connections and learning from others and their experiences.” Lyndia also spoke of the joy and gratitude she feels when she sees people enjoying and taking care of Cedar Haven. In particular, she describes how amazing it is to see young people caring for God’s creation, getting their parents involved and laying the groundwork for future generations to love and care for nature.
From all the many lessons I learned from my conversation with Lyndia, one that sticks out the most is the openness and welcoming of all within creation care. Inspired by the peaceful coexistence that occurs naturally in creation, it is our shared hope that Cedar Haven is able to foster the transformation of all people for the care of the natural world!