Serving with CMS (SAMS) in Salta, Northern Argentina
Andrew and Maria work in the same region where Andrew’s father and grandfather were missionaries among the Indian peoples.
Andrew has set up a conservation initiative called Land for Life in the Chaco (South America´s second largest eco-region after Amazonia) where there are many churches of different denominations existing in a context of severe poverty because of deforestation and neglect of the land. He also acts as a consultant for Compassion International, assessing the impact of their work with sponsored children in South America and beyond.
In 1998 the Leakes joined SAMS and headed out to Argentina to lead work on indigenous land rights. Between 1999 and 2005 Andrew worked alongside ASOCIANA, the Anglican social programme serving the indigenous people, especially in issues of land rights and deforestation. He has done research and writing for them, and used his skill as a pilot to fly over the Chaco, monitoring and filming the advancing deforestation. He resigned from their board because there were good new members from the local people to take over. He will continue to provide technical assistance to the team.
During 2010 there was less deforestation because of the 2009 ruling of the Supreme Court. Unfortunately the government is now re-classifying land so that it can be deforested and exploited despite this ruling. This led Andrew to embark on his new initiative – Land for Life (L4L) – which aims to acquire land for conservation to avoid the disastrous consequences of deforestation. Andrew and his colleagues set up the conservation project independently of ASOCIANA, but they work together. Land for Life takes a leading role in challenging government policy and action concerning deforestation. They do so trusting that the Lord will use their best efforts.
As a researcher Andrew is keen to encourage people, especially local Christians, to understand what is happening to God’s creation and take action to protect it. They have established a land trust, known as Fundacion Refugio, through which they will be conducting their future work in Argentina.
He is the Anglican Communion Environmental Network (ACEN) representative for the Anglican Churches of the Southern Cone, ACEN has recently published Crisis and Commitment, a global report on environmental issues and responses being given by the Anglican Communion. This includes a brief summary of their work in Argentina.
Andrew also helps in leading Bible studies and has been writing a chapter for a Christian book on Climate Change and its effects on society.
Maria does translation for agencies like Compassion International and World Vision. She also runs a Saturday “Sunday school”. On a good day they have around 50 to 60 children from the shanty area aged from 4 to 14. Quite a lot of the children come from very sad backgrounds (parents are drug addicts, drink too much and you often find that a 12 year old has to look after two or three younger brothers and sisters). They don’t have their own base, which at times makes things difficult especially if the hall is rented out to other people at the same time, in which case they have to meet outside, or even in someone’s van if it’s too cold!
Fundación Refugio (their local charity) was recently selected to represent non-governmental organizations on the Provincial Commission for the Environment. The commission includes reps from government ministries and business. Its function is to serve as a reference point for the provincial government and a means of consultation with civil society on environmental matters. They feel this is an important (and unexpected) opportunity to engage more effectively with the authorities .
Give thanks for:
- Opportunities to challenge government policy concerning de-forestation
- Continued safety on the roads
- For Ceci ,Tomas and Carolina at University in Cordoba.
- That God would continue to provide adequate funding to enable them to continue their work and ministry in Argentina
- Their ongoing work, for clarity in knowing where to focus their energies to be most effective in terms of encouraging Churches and individuals to care for God’s creation.