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Boonsboro native will open for Kirk Cameron

August 27, 2010|By TIFFANY ARNOLD
  • Boonsboro High School graduate Vaughn Thompson Jr. uses music as a way to spread his message in "Third Culture Worship."
Submitted photo,

Christian music singer Vaughn Thompson Jr. is heading home to continue spreading his message of diversity, only this time he'll be bridging cultural gaps from the Maryland Theatre stage.

Thompson will open for Kirk Cameron, who will be speaking at The Maryland Theatre in downtown Hagerstown on Friday, Sept. 3.

The 34-year-old Boonsboro native said his life's work is to encourage multiculturalism in religion. He has served as a worship pastor in Los Angeles. Today, he and his wife, Irene Thompson, travel the country spreading what they call "Third Culture Worship."

"Ethnicity is something we embrace and celebrate, but our true identity is being children of God," Thompson said.

He uses music as a way to spread the message and sells his 11-track album and five-song EP on his website, http://www.vaughnthompsonjr.com.

Thompson's mother is from South Korea. His father is a Washington County native and is of German decent.

"Growing up here in the 1970s and '80s was hard," Thompson said.

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His parents kept certain aspects of Korean culture from their kids and didn't teach them the language. His mother, Haeng "Jeannie" Thompson, said she wanted them to be Americanized. Her only regret today is not teaching her children to speak Korean.

"I should have taught the language, but not the culture," Jeannie Thompson said. "I wanted my son to be free, not like how it was in Korea."

His parents met in Korea in 1968. His father, Vaughn Thompson Sr., was in the Air Force in Korea. Jeannie worked at a restaurant near the base. They married and moved to back to Washington County, where Vaughn Sr. was born and raised.

By the time his parents were back in Maryland, Jeannie Thompson had converted from Buddhism to Christianity. They had two daughters - Jeannie Best, who's now 38, and Susan Harsh, now 37.

But Jeannie Thompson wanted a boy. Vaughn Jr. explained that in Korean culture some wives view it as important to give their husbands a male child. His mother spent years praying Hannah's Prayer. Hannah was a barren woman in the Old Testament who prayed to God for a son. Like the Biblical story, the Thompsons believe their prayers were answered.

Vaughn Thompson Jr. was born in 1976. Growing up, his parents told him the story of how his mother prayed for a boy.

"They would say you're not ours, your God's," Vaughn Jr. recalled.

But outside the home, things were difficult for Vaughn Jr.

He said he didn't fit in with white kids at his school, where he was teased and was often the only ethnic minority in class. He said he also didn't fit in with other Koreans at the Korean churches he attended. They didn't think he was "Korean" enough, Vaughn Jr. said.

He said he was embarrassed by his identity.

"I felt almost responsible, a little bit," said his father, Vaughn Sr. "It kind of surprised me."

"I felt bad for him," his mother said.

While at Boonsboro High School, Vaughn Jr. said he turned to sports as an outlet. He excelled at baseball and basketball, and ended up heading to Lee University on a baseball scholarship. He graduated with a degree in pastoral ministry and then went on to receive a master's degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif.

This, he said, is where he started pursuing music. He also came to accept and to embrace his identity.

"My identity is to be a child of God - not half Korean and half white," Vaughn Jr. said.

His beliefs evolved into a philosophy he calls a "third culture" mindset.

Today, he and Irene are worship leaders at New Song LA, a multicultural church in Los Angeles. They plan to pursue work as worship leaders at churches in San Jose, Calif.

"As a Christian, it's about the pursuit of identity," Vaughn Jr. said.

Vaughn and Irene have been married for two years. They are hoping to have children soon. Irene is Mexican.

"Our kids are going to be third culture," Vaughn Jr. said.




If you go ...



WHAT: Vaughn Thompson Jr., opens for Kirk Cameron

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 3

WHERE: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., Hagerstown

COST: Tickets cost $20 and do not include fees for ticket purchased online or mailed.

MORE: Call the theater's box office: 301-790-2000 or go to http://www.mdtheatre.org .

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