Karen Turney is a long time volunteer with AMIS and Christmas International House. I spoke with her recently to hear her story.
Karen (right) with Amigo and friends
Before I moved to Atlanta I lived in Kansas City. Rev. Fahed Abu-Akel, the founder of AMIS, was in town for a conference and came to Village Presbyterian where I had attended some but was not a member. I was there as part of the conference. At one point, Fahed had people watch a video about Christmas International House. It was a great video, and many of us who watched said, “Okay. Let’s see if we can do this.”
That was in August sometime in the early 2000s. We got some money from churches and signed up. We had nine students that first year and host families from a variety of denominations including Presbyterian, Methodist, and Quaker. It went well, so we refined for the next year. When I moved to Atlanta several years later, others took over. They have been a thriving site ever since.
When I moved to Atlanta, I knew Fahed, and began to get involved with AMIS. I have had Amigos from all over the world including: Czechoslovakia, India, France, China, and Singapore. I have met lots of great students. Two are still in the US, so we keep up some. One at Georgetown Law school and the other in a technical design field in the Northwest. All of them are wonderful young people who will make a difference wherever they go.
One story I want to share is an example of how Christmas International House can impact students. Early on, we had students from two countries with friction between them, something I had no idea about. At the end of the two weeks, we had a time during out international night when we asked students what they had learned. One of the students took the hand of the other and said, “I was always taught to hate you, but now I know you are a friend.” There was not a dry eye. It was honest, sincere, and a surprise to us Americans who didn’t know the frictions.
Many times, we will never know the impact we have on the people who come into our lives, but sometimes there are glimpses.