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Benefit speakers discuss theme: ‘Including Everyone’

Hershel Zellman - Temple Beth Shalom’s Yom HaShoah Committee

In 1995, Temple Beth Shalom turned Yom HaShoah, the Holocaust Memorial Day, into a community observance. The Fig Tree has given regular coverage.
In keeping with the theme, “Including Everyone: We Need Each Other,” we need to work with each other if we are ever going to eliminate genocide from our world.

When I think of The Fig Tree, the words breadth and depth come to mind. In the recent issue, I saw articles about two Muslim leaders urging support for resettling refugees locally, a United Church of Christ minister telling how our values compel us to act, a local group launching the Poor People’s Campaign in Spokane, a Spokane Valley high school English teacher motivating students to study the Holocaust and participate in Yom HaShoah art and essay contests. There was also a story on classical and funk concerts—pretty diverse subjects.

I’m on the two-year-old Spokane County Human Rights Task Force. Early on, we wanted to catalogue all the human rights groups in the county.   We thought it would be an onerous task, until a member suggested looking at the Resource Directory.  It listed every human rights organization.  Mission accomplished!  Thanks Fig Tree! 

I also appreciate the breadth and depth of the articles from the human rights perspective and the extent to which they present the region’s diverse ethnicities and religions.

Shonna Bartlett - The Ministry Institute

The Ministry Institute works with Gonzaga University to bring international students, primarily priests and nuns, to Gonzaga to learn English, earn advanced degrees or have a sabbatical to renew their theology and learn skills to go back to their countries with a new sense of vocation.
We advertise in the Fig Tree to let people know about our retreats, seminars, workshops and prayer services.  A couple who moved to Post Falls learned about our Thursday Taizé prayer services.  Others come because of ads and stories.
I know of no other newspaper in the U.S. that connects to so many faith communities over a large geographic area.  It’s an important source of communication in our region.
I read it cover to cover when I get it and am inspired by people who not only read their sacred texts and pray, but also take their faith into the world and serve people in need, the basic call of any religion.
We give it to our students.  Many are from areas where there is conflict over religion. For them, it’s important to see how people work together, and different religions combine efforts to solve problems and serve people in need.  The Fig Tree, an alternative way to look at the world, shows by lives lived what is possible.

James Casper - Habitat for Humanity of North Idaho

Habitat for Humanity is an outlet for the action that many love to do but don’t have skills to do on their own.
When we advertise in the directory and newspaper, people respond. We can tell people how they can be involved and we can make it easy for them to use their interests, skills and time.  We can be the place people can put faith in action.
We try to include everyone.  We work with families who have challenges to overcome.  We see safe, secure housing as a way to provide a start for them, but it’s not the end of their journey.
We’re not the solution for a lifelong list of problems.  We hope we start people on the path of taking care of themselves and motivate them to better themselves after they have built a home with help. Families need help with other issues.  We give a Resource Directory to help them connect with other people and programs that can help them with needs beyond our sphere. 
We also encourage people to use the resource directory to find a place to volunteer to put their skills and faith into action.

Christina Kamkosi - Empire Health Foundation

Last year Empire Health Foundation, (EHF) partnered with The Fig Tree to help distribute the Resource Directory through a Responsive Grant. Our mission at EHF is to make Eastern Washington healthy. This is a bold goal, and we cannot do it by ourselves. We rely on community partners, who connect the community to resources. We heard testimonials from our rural partners on how the directory is helpful in their day-to-day work.  It’s amazing how vast the reach is.
I also had the opportunity to share my personal story through The Fig Tree.  Sometimes reality is complex, but stories give it form.  That was true in my life.  I came to this country in 2010 to go to grad school at Whitworth University.  I came into a community with few people who looked like me.  I did not feel I belonged, but The Fig Tree gave me an opportunity to share my story.  In many cases in history, people like me are dehumanized in this country. Sharing my story in The Fig Tree helped me to be humanized and feel a sense of belonging, so I can contribute.
There are so many stories in The Fig Tree—stories of hope, stories of justice, stories of faith and stories of love.  So many stories and that is what sharing our stories did for me and has done for so many others.

Mark Kinney - Thrivent - Fig Tree advertiser, sponsor and writer

The Fig Tree makes a tremendous impact on the community by sharing faith stories of individuals and of organizations serving those in need.  Soon after I became director at Mission Community Outreach Center, Mary did a story on me in 2012.  It was a simple story about how I came to be director and what the center did, but our profile was raised significantly by it. 

The Resource Directory helped us connect people with resources they needed.  Mission Community Outreach Center serves the very lowest of the low-income people in Spokane meeting basic needs for clothing, household goods, and hygiene items.  That was often just the beginning of their needs.  By using the directory, we connected them with further resources.

I have written two stories recently about people sharing their faith in action and what brought them to do the work they are doing.  One was on Charles Brondos about his recurring involvement with the Feed My Starving Children program, and one on Lew and Gloria Hinshaw, who are volunteer ombudsmen in a long-term care facility in North Idaho.  It’s a privilege to highlight the work of people like these and I feel it will inspire others to action.

I continue to support the Fig Tree as a volunteer, an advertiser and a sponsor, because I value the work it does by spreading the messages of faith in action, and of diversity and inclusion in our community.

Kristine Hoover - Gonzaga University Institute for Hate Studies

Gonzaga is an important place to gather in community and become who we aspire to be.  We have faculty who do research on mysogyny, racism, xenophobia, sexism or other things that are divisive. Students will become our leaders for tomorrow and their engagement, reflection and action are so important in their formation and development to combat hate.
How do we include everyone?  What does it mean to include everyone?  Mary and The Fig Tree set a bar high, so we might shift the needle a little bit in overcoming hate.  What can each of us do? There is power in this room because of the networks, relationships and our everyday interactions.  We have an opportunity when we come together to include everyone, one person at a time, even at a gas station, grocery store or the library, at coffee or at work—or maybe while reading a copy of The Fig Tree.

Including everyone means to invite everyone to respond to listen and learn from one another. Today, how will each of us intentionally include everyone respectfully in dialogue as The Fig Tree mission calls us to do?

Lisa Simpson - Catholic Charities Eastern Washington

Catholic Charities supports The Fig Tree on three different levels:

1) We are a regular advertiser because we value the audience. It is important for people of all faiths and opinions to see what we are doing and join with us in celebrating our programs and events in the community.
2) We appreciate The Fig Tree for its journalism.  In this time when every article in newspapers seems to be divisive, it is amazing to read articles that show people of diversity of opinion and faith, and to show people working together for solutions.
3) I learned the value of the resource directories this year, when we distributed more than 1,500.  We planned to hand out 300 copies at the Homeless Connect, but I forgot to clearly label the boxes to be set aside for it. I had to call different programs to ask if any had extra copies.  In call after call, they said they had no copies left, because they “are like gold in our programs.  Clients love them.  We love them.”  I begged for extra copies to come back to the office and asked Mary for more copies. 

It speaks volumes of how important the directory is.  We are proud to be a community partner and will be one again this year.

Bishop Emeritus William Skylstad - Catholic Diocese of Spokane

“That they may be one,” the Gospel mandate remains.  It must continue to unfold in our lives, our community and our world. Isn’t it fascinating to see what has happened in the last 50 years.  I grew up in the Methow Valley.  There were few Catholics. Our language and the language of the various religious groups was a bit negative toward each other, but God has a sense of humor. 
My closest friend was in the Evangelical Methodist Church.  One day we were playing, and his father invited me into the church.  I hesitated. I wondered if the roof was going to fall on me.  What will my parents and pastor think?  Times have changed, wonderfully. 

As we think about that change over the years, many stories have unfolded. As we look at the history of The Fig Tree over the 35 years, many stories have come forth from this publication.  These stories have become our stories, my story. It’s a rich treasure for us, connecting us better than ever before.  We live in a polarized world. That has to change. 

The Fig Tree helps us connect and share our stories to give us a sense of vision and outreach to those who are vulnerable. 

We live in a dramatically, rapidly evolutionary time and we need to continue to have the Spirit move in our hearts and lives to make us more and more one.  That’s our vision, our hope and our dream. 

Where were we in the last 50 years and what will the next 50 years bring?  I’m excited.  The journey is not quick, but it is dramatic, deep and profound.

The Fig Tree Benefit Video 2018 - by Austriauna Brooks, Fig Tree Intern

Copyright © April 2018 - The Fig Tree