On Sunday, September 18th, 2022, Pastor Kara Johnsson was voted in as the Vice President for Administration of the Oregon Conference at the 59th regular constituency session. Formerly pastor at Oasis Christian Center, a Seventh-day Adventist church in Vancouver, Washington and the Sunnyside Seventh-day Adventist Church in Portland, Oregon, Dr. Johnsson spent some time reflecting on her journey so far. She shared that God’s calling on her life has always required her to look higher. “A resounding theme in my life has been God calling me to areas of service that seem far bigger than me - but He has always carried me through. Moving countries to come serve at Sunnyside in the first place was a big thing to move into, but God went before me and it went well. Over and over throughout my life He’s done that. I think about the challenges our conference has faced in that respect over the past couple of years. It’s been so hard and the challenges were bigger than any of us thought they would be. Who knew in January of 2020 what we would be doing in March? But we came through it all. Maybe not perfectly, maybe not always feeling amazing, but we’re still here. And now we’re shaking off the dust. Our church is coming back together to build new territory. We’ve faced what felt like the end in many ways, but we’re here. For me, that’s a real piece of assurance. The presence of God continues to carry us through so much that we’re often unprepared for.”
Pastor Kara’s time as a local pastor is a vital piece of her approach to her new area of service in administration. “There’s often a real separation, a distance, between church members and the conference,” she says, “Because in many ways conferences exist to support leadership on the ground which, in turn, exist to support the church members. So there’s this layering of separation in many ways. I always want to look for ways to better support that leadership on the ground. Communication is a huge part of that. I’m seeing a real need for connection between people in general. They need to feel heard and known again, and we need to find ways to communicate well with people wherever they are. We’ve been so polarized and socially stunted for the past couple of years that we need opportunities to facilitate and grow healthy relationships again.”
When it comes to her leadership philosophy, Pastor Kara said, “I’ve always worked best when I felt valued. If I feel loved and valued, I will go above and beyond and love every minute of my work - and I have felt valued here. I would love to build on that concept - finding ways to make our pastors, teachers, and leaders feel valued by their conference. I want to look for ways to remind them that they’re doing an amazing job. I’ve moved a lot in my life, and I know what it feels like to be on the outside. I have a passion for bringing in those who feel like they’re on the edges and building bridges with them. Building those bridges is a core piece of who I am. We have a lot of different groups in our conference, even just culturally. And I hope we can go out and help build better relationships between each of them - and I want to find ways to empower leaders that may not have been as well known.”
Pastor Kara didn’t just share what she hoped to see in the future of the Oregon Conference - she also shared ideas on how to make those ideas a reality. “Something I’d like to bring to the table is finding ways for people to do their work more efficiently. It’s important to me that we look for systems that work even better and make people’s jobs easier to do. Even little things can go a long way toward making life a little bit more connected and easier.”
Pastor Kara succeeds David Schwinghammer as the Oregon Conference Vice President for Administration, and is the first female leader in Oregon Conference history to serve in that role. During the most recent pastoral retreat at Twin Rocks near Rockaway Beach, Oregon, pastors and leaders gathered around Kara to pray for wisdom, encouragement, and assurance as she takes on this new role. We are grateful for her leadership and look forward to seeing how God leads the Oregon Conference through her and the rest of the leadership team!