The Death of a Young Activist

At midnight on May 21, I fell to the floor screaming when I learned that Krista Hunt Ausland, my best friend for 24 years, had plunged to her death in a bus accident in Bolivia. Her husband, Aaron, searched through the black of night to find her broken body in a mountain ravine. Six months earlier, the young couple had com-

mitted to a three-year volunteer project with the Mennonite Central Committee in a Bolivian village.

At 25, Krista had just begun her stewardship with the Mennonites, but her lifelong servanthood was exemplified in many unusual and creative ways. She was a high school student body president, honors student, and Save the Whales activist. Nominated as Spokane's Lilac Princess, she took the opportunity to deliver an untraditional pageant speech on justice for the people of Guatemala.

Krista defined the term "social justice"for me while standing in line at McDonald's in the ninth grade. She sounded like a cheerleader for the rainforests of Haiti. At 17, Krista and I cofounded Youth for World Awareness, and at 20 we traveled together on a Central America study-service tour. In college, she participated in the Christian Environmental Association.

But Krista's compassion was not limited to far-away lands. As our childhood friend Heather Koller battled years of cancer, Krista enthusiastically escorted her to summer cancer camp to ride horses and forget about the nightmarish bouts with chemotherapy. When Heather died at 21, Krista reminded us that Heather's life was not a tragedy, but a testimony to keep on living when things were at their worst.

As an inner-city high school teacher in Tacoma, Washington, Krista was honored for creating a peer-mentoring program. Struggling to save her students from delinquency, she valued the expressive energy of the kid who tried to break the world record for the largest afro. "He's just so creative!"she exclaimed.

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 1998
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