Roma Jo Thompson receives plaque in honor of the late R. Jan Thompson at 2015 Annual Conference. Left to right: Roy Winter, Roma Jo Thompson, Stan Noffsinger
Roma Jo Thompson receives plaque in honor of the late R. Jan Thompson at 2015 Annual Conference. Left to right: Roy Winter, Roma Jo Thompson, Stan Noffsinger
Glenn Riegel

Blood drive honors the late R. Jan Thompson 

Jane Yount 
July 17, 2015


The blood drive at the recent Church of the Brethren Annual Conference in Tampa, Fla. was held in honor of the late R. Jan Thompson, who passed away on January 12 of this year. A photo plaque that Brethren Disaster Ministries (BDM) had made in his memory was on display during the 2-day drive and then presented to his wife, Roma Jo Thompson by Roy Winter, associate executive director of Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries.

Being an “idea guy” with a can-do attitude, Jan organized the first blood drive at Annual Conference in 1984 after hearing on the radio that there was a blood shortage. He recalled in an interview last year that the Red Cross Blood Services director in St. Louis was skeptical. “She did not know me nor did she think the Church of the Brethren was serious about the Blood Drive,” he said. “I had to get Bob Vessey, director of the national ARC Disaster Program, to call the Blood Services director in St. Louis...and in 5 minutes she did return my calls that I had left for her.”

That first drive was supposed to be for just one day, but Jan said “we had so many donors that the Red Cross workers volunteered for a 2nd day.” The total for both days was 306 units. The blood drive this year in Tampa netted 181 units, and each unit will save 3 lives.

Thompson was the first full-time director for Brethren Disaster Ministries (formerly the Refugee/Disaster Program) from 1978 until 1987. He also envisioned and spearheaded what is now Children's Disaster Services (CDS).

In retirement, Jan remained committed to helping others. He served as a CDS volunteer project manager, and he and his wife Roma Jo served together as BDM project leaders. Jan served the Church of the Brethren in many other capacities throughout his life, including Brethren Volunteer Service (1954-1956); mission work in Nigeria (1967-1970); member of the General Board (1998-2003); and interim executive director of Global Mission and Service (2008).

Together, the Thompsons wrote a detailed history of the Brethren Service Center, located in New Windsor, Md., titled “Beyond Our Means: How the Brethren Service Center Dared to Embrace the World,” published by Brethren Press in 2009.