One of the defining times of my life was the year I spent living in a Zambian village. I was just out of university with little interest in using my journalism degree, so I signed up for Mennonite Central Committee’s Serving and Learning Together (SALT) program. I lived with a Zambian family and taught English at a local secondary school. I made wonderful memories that year. But I also spent a lot of time feeling deeply lonely, battling malaria and intestinal bugs, and ruminating about how we live together globally. I left Zambia with a much larger sense of the world, and a growing concern for fairness and justice in our local and global communities
Over the years I’ve also become increasingly aware of how happy I am in nature—whether I’m walking along the wooded river trails near our house in Riverview, or kayaking off Salt Spring Island as I did this summer, or listening to the haunting call of loons drifting over a lake. These are places of renewal for me, for invigorating personal challenge, and closeness to God.
I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to draw these strands together in my daily work as a senior policy advisor for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, a Christian humanitarian agency that St Ben’s supports. My job is to influence Canadian policy as it relates to climate change and hunger in the world. I also volunteer on the board of another non-profit agency, Citizens for Public Justice, which also works to shape government policy on justice issues here in Canada—poverty, inequality, and ecological issues, in particular.
I think a lot about love in my work—although I probably haven’t talked about love in any government meetings! We protect what we love; we work to better that which we love. Love for God, love for others, love for creation—this is what can help shape a better world for all of us.
I’m often disheartened by the nature of political discourse today. So often we are reduced to consumers and taxpayers, with narrow self-interests that guide our decisions and demands on government. We can be—and are—so much more, as citizens and members of communities small and large. We can be called to think beyond ourselves and work towards the common good, whether it be caring for creation in our own back yards or advocating for justice for those whose voices often aren’t heard. To do so in love is my hope for myself and for the St Ben’s community.
Carol Thiessen has been attending St Ben’s for approximately seven years with her husband Russ Schmidt, and son Kai. She will be speaking at a book launch for Living Ecological Justice, a book published by Citizens for Public Justice on September 26, 2013. Check here for more details.