Tag Archives: Jennifer Jansons

The making of a killer breadmaker: Dave Killer Bread

By Laura Moulton, Contributing Writer

At first glance, Varinthorn Christopher and Dave Dahl appear to have nothing in common. She is a Thai artist born in Bangkok, and he is a 6-foot-tall ex-con with a rap sheet that could paper a trail to the moon and back. But a closer look at their unlikely partnership reveals what they have in common: a collaborative project in the form of a book containing stories from prison, bread recipes and advice to drug addicts. They also share a belief in the possibility of redemption in life and in the power of second chances.

Varinthorn Christopher was born in Bangkok, Thailand during a coup de’etat, in 1977. Because of a strictly enforced curfew at sundown, no one dared venture out, for fear of being shot or killed by the military. During all this, Varinthorn’s mother went into labor, and her father loaded her in the car and went out into the city. Soon they were pulled over by Thai soldiers, but instead of being shot on sight, the soldiers saw that her mother was in labor and formed a cavalcade of tanks and cars around her family’s car, escorting them to the hospital. Her father saw this procession as a very auspicious beginning to a life and assumed she would be a boy.

Meanwhile, in the United States that same year, Dave Dahl was an awkward pre-teenager, working in the family bread business, but already beginning to struggle with the depression that would plague him into his 20s and 30s.

When Varinthorn was three years old in Bangkok, Dave was dropping out of high school in Gresham, Oregon. As a 12-year-old in her hometown of Pathum Thani with extended family, one of Varinthorn’s favorite rituals was to gather at sunrise to offer cooked jasmine rice to monks clad in saffron robes. By now, Dave had married and divorced, fathered a daughter, and gotten good and hooked on methamphetamine, a habit he financed by committing armed robberies and break-ins. Continue reading

Foot care program at Downtown Chapel brings dignity and relief for people sleeping outside

by Cassandra Koslen, Contributing Writer (Photos by Jennifer Jansons)

The custom of washing another’s feet was embedded in the cultures of ancient civilizations as an act of hospitality and necessary cleanliness. For obvious reasons, the health of one’s feet can judge the wellbeing of the body.

For those who live outside, disease and fungus are a constant threat in the Northwest winter. Calluses erupt from always walking and wearing shoes. Sores develop and nails may become ingrown.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus washes the feet of his disciples before the Last Supper, as an act of humility and gesture of service.  Every Wednesday morning from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., volunteers emulate this act by caring for the feet of those in need in the basement of Portland’s Downtown Chapel.

Pink towels form a pathway between two rows of facing chairs where the soaking takes place and three nurses’ stations where the real work happens. The room smells fresh and clean, everyone seems happy, relaxed.

“Washing a person’s feet puts you truly below them, it is an act of kindness with much human symbolism,” says Andrew Noethe, pastoral associate at Downtown Chapel. “Your perspective of a person changes.”

The foot care program began with a parishioner and his wife who asked church staff if they could wash people’s feet as Jesus did. Because they were not health care providers, only a washing was offered.  Today, a team of registered nurses volunteer medical care while others handle filling sterilized tubs with fresh soapy water for the initial soak.

Sharon Christenson has been volunteering her time and services as an RN for almost six years. She originally came with an interest in foot care to keep busy after her retirement. In the beginning she traded weeks with the program’s founding couple. When they could no longer volunteer, she says, she began coming every week.

Sharon is a small, older woman with glasses and a big smile. Pretty blue earrings bob as she talks, simultaneously grating the calluses off an elderly diabetic man’s left foot.“I feel blessed to provide a service you can’t get anywhere else with RN expertise,” she says. Continue reading