I am happy to introduce Karah Thompson as the new APF Secretary. We thank Livvy Ruiz-Knott for her leadership while in this role, and now that she has moved on to other projects, we are blessed to have Karah stepping into this position.
Here is a short interview so you can get to know Karah a bit better.
Jeff Boyd: You recently went to Greece. Why did you go, what did you do, and what stands out to you about the experience?
Karah Thompson: In early 2016, a billboard for a local gun store showed up in downtown (small, southern red-state, Appalachian town) saying "Give us your tired, your poor, . . . but you can keep your Syrian refugees." It caused me so much angst and turmoil that I felt like I HAD to use my actions to speak for the America I believe we once were: a place for refugees and dreamers.
Eventually, I found an organization with a wonderful reputation that was serving the medical needs of a medium-sized refugee camp on the coast of Greece. AdventistHelp was funded through ASI Europe, and had been working at this camp for almost 2 years, serving their medical needs 24/7, staffed entirely by volunteers. They provided medical, dental, and psychological services.
The day we landed for our 3-week stint, the Greek government announced to the camp and NGOs working there that the camp would close in 3 weeks and that starting the next day, families would periodically be relocated OUT of the camp. It was a super stressful way to start a humanitarian trip. Within about 12 days, we realized that the need for the clinic to stay open was redundant and so after two weeks, we packed up all the supplies and equipment into the isopod clinic and spent the next week just hanging out, getting to know the refugees, and interviewing families while they await settlement somewhere.
The process of interviewing was the most meaningful thing I've experienced on a humanitarian trip. Through a translator, I was able to chat openly with families about their personal experiences and what brought them to a camp in Greece. Each one I spoke to had harrowing stories. Every single one had experienced what we would consider intense trauma. Each person was a beautiful story of survival and perseverance tinged with despair.
The two things that most surprised me: (1) The ONLY thing everyone really wanted was WORK. Their only wish was to "be able to give my family a safe home and take care of them." Universally. Everyone. (2) When they set out on the journey to "freedom," none of them had a particular country or location in mind. They were only seeking safety and freedom. Most would be happy staying in Greece IF they could find work.
The experience has been difficult for me to process since returning home. I am nothing in the whole gigantic mess that is the global refugee situation. I have so little power, knowledge, or ability to change outcomes, but I feel that the relationships I made there may be a tiny opportunity to make a tiny difference in someone's life.
Jeff: What about the APF stands out to you as especially important or helpful or meaningful? Which of the areas of focus is most meaningful to you personally?
Karah: I am so proud to know that Adventists are being represented in values and action by the APF. While ALL the issues are already important to me, I find my heart especially resonates with the concept of Care for Creation an Sabbath Economics. One involves how I care for the earth that was made and gifted to us. The other involves how I rest and give others rest, and is an especially beautiful picture of allowing financial rest. In our lives, we have attempted (it's a lifelong process, by the way) to develop both of these areas. It's challenging in this time to keep focused on living more simply, caring more deeply, and offering more mercy when I find myself surrounded by opportunities to do the opposite.
Thankfully, the Model I have is Jesus. He creates the most challenge in my life because the way He lived then was just as radical as how I can live now. I've become more convinced lately that living more like Jesus and stretching myself more actually looks different to others, and allows me a more natural way to articulate my faith by answering their questions. There are lots of areas of growth in my heart and mind, and living more mindful of what He made with His own hands for me is one way, and the second attempting to live in a way that keeps others free and out of bondage.
Jeff: Are there any books or films that have been important to you on your path of becoming a more just, compassionate, and peaceful person?
Karah: The God's Must Be Crazy. Every time I watch it, I'm challenged to see the world through the eyes of the main character. His gentle spirit, perseverance, and heart of goodness are a treasure.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipeligo was so heavy, but after reading it in high school I developed a deep distrust in the effectiveness of war and torture.
Among many, many podcasts, sermons, and books, I would credit the Facebook page HONY (humans of New York) for giving me a tenderness towards the incredible stories and experiences that shape us all and how we are involuntarily formed and built by life circumstances.
The Planet Earth BBC series (I think a new one is coming out soon) made a powerful impact on our family years ago as we sat awestruck at the unfathomable beauty of our earth, and the unthinkable things we are doing to it. That series shaped us into being more cautious and aware of purchases we make and how we care for our land.
Hmmm. . . what's important to me? I feel really strongly that Christianity is becoming obsolete unless we start living like Jesus did. I've interpreted how to be a Christian pretty wrong for a long time, and I'm working hard on trying to actually LIVE like Jesus did. I want to be together with people, and share LIFE with them. All people. This has meant opening up our calendar a bit, making more conscious choices about what we do and how available we are to others. It's also meant purposefully building friendships with people who are not like us. It's a bit harder sometimes. And it has required more prayers like "God, what am I supposed to do in this situation?" But it's been super rewarding, and I really hope our family is learning to share Jesus in a tangible and approachable way.