Former Meat and dairy farmers became vegan activists:
Former Meat and dairy farmers became vegan activists:
Sarah Withrow King, co-director of the Christian animal welfare organization CreatureKind , organized and facilitated this wonderful retreat which helped a group go deeper into our connection with each other, with Jesus, and our animal welfare missions. I was really happy to have attended this event for many reasons which I want to share in this blog post.
I decided to attend the retreat because I had gotten to know Sarah when we worked on a project together. When I heard about the retreat, I was excited and signed up immediately. Connecting with other women who were Christian vegans seemed like a place that would be kind of like heaven on earth! And in many ways, it was.
Sara designed the retreat based on the needs of the participants. She thoughtfully sent out a questionnaire to get a sense of where we were all at in our lives, and I think she did a great job of making the retreat a memorable and satisfying experience, including writing each of us a personal note of encouragement.
Of course, the nine other ladies who were there for the whole weekend made the retreat beautiful as well.
I really learned a lot from every participant. I was glad to reconnect with Kathy Dunn of Shepherding All God’s Creatures. Kathy was the first Christian vegan I met when I first realized I wanted to be an activist. Because of her letting me know about the Creature Conference in London, I was able to get funding to attend this amazing event with her.
I also was very happy to get to know Deann Thomson better in person. She is Humane Society Of the United States Faith Outreach Manager, and I had numerous fulfilling communications with her via email. I enjoyed so much getting to spend time with her both during large group time, small group, and one on one.
Meeting Sarah was also a wonderful experience. I met her through Darryl booth,, director of Sarx, and we had only met via phone and email.
There is something about face to face interactions that really help deepen and cement relationships. This is so essential as we build a movement–to create relationships where we trust each other, encourage each other and support each other in our endeavors.
I believe the seeds were planted with each of the women who attended where we have the potential to build lasting relationships.
Each one of us offers something unique to the table of spreading the animal welfare message to the church and to all of humanity. I pray each day that our time together will yield beautiful fruit.
Arriving at the Crainaleith Spiritual Center located on the outskirts of Philadelphia, I was greeted by a kind resident who showed me to my room. In those brief moments, she shared the fascinating history of this beautiful place, including how they ministered to the homeless, veterans, and activists who need some respite from their intense lives.
We gathered for dinner in the lovely dining hall where the roundtables were the perfect size that was conducive to lively conversations, and the vegan food was scrumptious! What a treat–to be able to eat everything on the serving table!
After dinner, we gathered in the cozy living room. A resident nun from the Sisters of Mercy which owns and runs the retreat center told us the history of the retreat center. We were all excited to know that Susan B. Anthony, a social reformer, Quaker and women’s rights activist who played a pivotal role in the women’s suffrage movement, had met with other suffragettes in this very room to talk about how to get women the right to vote.
Some women voiced excitement about how we were gathering for a different cause, yet an important social movement none-the-less. We felt hope that our cause could also be successful and a sense of destiny as well.
Sarah asked people to share a story about a special animal. As each of the women shared their story, evening session I was touched by how deeply they loved animals.
I was glad to get to know people better, for I was eager to develop deeper relationships with people with whom I shared so much in common.
We started each session and most of the meals with a prayer that Sarah read from a book that Sarah used throughout the retreat. The prayers were unique and included a focus on our relationship with all of life, especially animals. I was glad to hear such prayers from someone else because when I do my spiritual practices live on Facebook, my prayers usually include all sentient beings. This is a bit unusual in our Christian circles.
Being around people with similar values was and talking about the topics relating to caring for animals extensively was inspiring and motivating.
After our evening session, there was plenty of time to hang out and talk to people in the variety of sitting rooms. Vegan snacks, tea and coffee were made the atmosphere hospitable.
The next morning, I was eager to take a walk around the grounds to get exercise and fresh air. I have become rather addicted to both ever since I had my “dark night of the soul” experience four months ago. Taking care of myself has become more important to me as I saw that one of the reasons I spiraled into a kind of depression and separation from God was because I was not attending to my personal needs but rather focusing on projects and getting things done. I was glad to be in a retreat setting where we were encouraged to take care of ourselves.
The acreage was lovely. There were lots of trees, a big garden, beehives, flowers, a pond and wide expanses of lawn. I didn’t even want to venture out to the neighborhood because I enjoyed the sense of peace and protection that the retreat grounds afforded me, much like the country life I experience every day in the Ozarks at our Jesus Vegans Event Center.
With a very clear schedule of meals and events provided by Sarah, it was easy to make it to breakfast and all of the activities on time. Once again, the plant-based food was delicious, with lots of raw options including a delicious green smoothie! What a delightful surprise for me because I thought I would have to do without my favorite breakfast for a few days.
Our conversations were lively and intimate. We all bonded so quickly and shared details of our lives that showed trust was being built in the short amount of time we had been together. I was really grateful to be present with these women who encouraged me and listened to me as I shared some difficult times in my past.
We reconvened in the living room for our morning session. I was so eager to just be with these lovely women so much that I didn’t even take a break to get a breath of fresh air! We each had about two minutes to share about an object that was meaningful to us, and I felt inspired by each expression as people shared their hearts. Soon, Sarah had us divide up into groups of two, except for my group–which was three.
Sarah had thought a lot about how best we could connect with each other, and she paired up people with similar interests and/or circumstances. I was with my dear friend Kathy Dunn, of Shepherding All God’s Creatures, and Leslie, an animal rights activist from Washington DC. I liked the way that even though we were a small group, we agreed to time our sharing so that we could make sure we had equal time. Our conversation was vibrant and left me feeling energized and uplifted.
Sarah’s questions really helped to spark interactions between us that helped us build trust with each other as well as discover aspects of ourselves that we hadn’t experienced before.
I appreciated how Sarah worked hard to design a retreat with varying degrees of connection to others. She scheduled some alone time so that we could by ourselves focus on a spiritual practice called Lectio Devina which is a meditation on the scriptures. I think this was great since being with people all day, even for extroverts like myself, can sometimes be overwhelming.
After a delicious whole-foods vegan lunch, Our small groups met again in the afternoon. We decided to add two more people to our group to shake things up–and Sarah was not rigid about what we decided.
The five of us once again decided to time our sharing, and the questions Sarah asked helped us to get to know each other on a deeper level–something I am always up for! I loved hearing the enthusiasm these ladies had about helping animals, and I felt profoundly inspired.
After dinner, we came together as the whole group–our second night together. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by the group sharing. Even though I love being around people so much, I had not allowed myself sufficient space to reconnect with myself, and with Jesus. I decided to leave the group before the session was over. I was so torn, because I had wanted to be part of every single activity.
Sarah had said from the beginning that if at any point we didn’t want to participate, that was fine. When she said that, I couldn’t imagine wanting to do anything but be with these new friends I had made. But I am glad that I could tune into my feelings and needs and disengage from the group. I sensed that my inability to be totally present was not going to be beneficial to me or the group.
I retreated to my room and did some deep processing of feelings that had come up during the retreat. I sensed that this alone time actually was really what I needed more than anything. I had been praying for breakthrough about some issues I knew needed addressing, and I believe I got that breakthrough and am now free from destructive behaviors which have been limiting my ability to fully connect with Jesus and to truly love people.
The issue? The need to please people and compromising my needs and goals so people would not be upset with me, and would approve of me.
I felt touched that two of the retreatants came in later to check on me. Their willingness to comfort me and listen to my feelings deepened the already blossoming friendships.
In our last session together, we shared prayers and encouragement in various ways which were very meaningful. We were together in the large group as well as our smaller groups, and Sarah artfully helped us to make the transition from the sacred space of the retreat to going out to the world again. We gave each other hugs and goodbyes, knowing that we had done something very meaningful, and that some of us would be furthering our friendships.
We all signed a card to tell Sarah our appreciation for her wonderful facilitation and organizational abilities.
One of the women started a Facebook page so we could stay connected. Another created a group email thread which will also help us to continue to cooperate.
We were a diverse group from many walks of life, different racial backgrounds, and socio-economic statuses, but our common threads of being Christian women who passionately want to raise awareness about animal welfare within the church and with everyone, wove a beautiful tapestry of love.
Already we are enriching each other with posts on our Facebook page, and encouraging each other. I believe our ongoing collaboration will yield productive fruits of helping to spread a message of veganism and caring for animals in a way that is truly effective.
I hope that Sarah can fulfill her desire to organize and facilitate many more retreats like this which can help our movement grow stronger. If you are interested in contacting her about hosting a retreat in your area, you can contact her here.
I would love to hear from you about experiences you have had at retreats that are meaningful. I would also enjoy hearing your story of being involved in veganism and standing up for animals rights.
I was inspired to write this post because I mentioned on the Pro-life Christian Facebook page that I shared my veganism boldly but lovingly in our little church. Someone asked me how I do this.
In a few sentences, this is how I do it: I genuinely love people and don’t judge them for their meat-eating. I take every chance I get to state that I am a vegan and to inspire conversations about veganism where I can listen empathically to other people’s views and inspire them to ask me questions.
This was a journey for me. I had made a commitment when I was around some pretty hardcore animal rights activists not to even sit at a table where people were eating meat so people so I could make a statement and hopefully inspire people to think deeply about the issue. I didn’t want to be around meat-eating, and almost didn’t attend some very meaningful events which would have only estranged me from my friends and family.
But I came to the realization that if I am going to talk to Christians about veganism, the best time is to do it when everyone is hanging around eating animal products.
First, I will say that I have come to the conclusion that if every person who is vegan chose to share their lifestyle with others in a way that we as Christians are called to share our faith, I think that veganism really could spread to a critical mass point. At that point, non-vegans will be the ones who are in the minority and will thus need to defend their diets.
Since I have studied Nonviolent Communication as taught by Marshall Rosenberg for three decades, I have a fair amount of experience and knowledge about how to effectively communicate. I am also taking a course from the Equal Rights Institute about how to have great conversations about abortion–probably the most difficult conversation to have in a peaceable manner.
Yet Josh Brahm and his cohorts are so effective in helping people to see how their views on abortion are not logical. I am going to adapt their techniques so that vegans can talk to non-vegan Christian pro-lifers as well as anyone else who they want to talk to in order to help them make a decision for veganism. (That sounds kind of funny–but I think that helping people convert to veganism is in many ways like helping people make a decision to follow Jesus.)
I want to learn from every source possible–how do we most effectively communicate with people who even admit to having cognitive dissonance about their meat-eating. Having this skill will help us as vegans learn to communicate more effectively with each other as well. We need unity!
So how do I speak boldly about veganism at my church and in Christian circles in a way that has inspired people to be more compassionate towards me and even move more towards being vegan?
First off, I started a community which has a name which shows people immediately what I am about. Jesus Vegans was a name that my former husband, and member of our community, came up with. I believe this name was Holy Spirit inspired because the name itself inspires conversation about Jesus and veganism.
So the people in the rural neighborhood I live in, many of whom attend Resurrection Church where I also attend, know that I am passionate about veganism. Some of them even came to a photo shoot so we could have pictures of what we envision for our community, and their images are on our website–even though they are not vegan!
We are fortunate to have a testimonial time where anyone can share for a brief time. I almost always find something to do with veganism to share about. For example, recently I went to a Christian Vegan Retreat and so I talked about that. I also shared about how I miraculously met the husband of a Christian vegan woman in the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport.
I rarely try to inspire people to be vegan–I just talk about it effortlessly whenever I get a chance. I don’t put anyone down or act like I’m disgusted by the meat dishes at the potluck, where many of the conversations transpire.
I very lovingly ask people if there is some animal product in the dishes that are not obviously meat dishes, and, usually, they will practically apologize if there is because they know I won’t partake.
Often I will wear some kind of low key vegan Tshirt.
I will ask people about their diet sometimes and just be curious. I haven’t done this yet, but I think I will ask new people before they eat–“are you a vegan by any chance?” If they say no, I will say, “Oh, that’s fine–I just wanted to know because I am a vegan, and I try to scout out what foods I can eat and I wanted to help you out if you were a vegan.”
I am finding more and more that people are actually trying to tell me things like:
“I am 99% vegan.”
“Can you eat cheese? No? Okay, I won’t sprinkle this parmesan on the tomatoes. I’ll put it on the side.”
“I love animals. I felt really bad when I accidentally killed a lizard. Do you think I am going to hell because I eat meat?”
“Look, I brought something you can eat for the Thanksgiving meal–cranberry relish.”
“I was thinking of you when I put out the fruits and veggies for the Thanksgiving meal.”
“Oh, I am so sorry–I didn’t think about how you can’t eat gelatin when I made that dish. What can I substitute next time?”
“Here are the mashed potatoes without the butter I made especially for you, Mom. Josh (her husband) reminded me to leave some out cause I almost forgot.”
Whenever I talk about veganism, I don’t trot out Bible verses. Most people in my church know the Bible much better than I do. All that will happen is a battle of the scriptures. I do talk about how much I love Jesus and what He is doing in my life. People respect me, I think, because they know how committed I am to sharing Jesus with others.
I post vegan things on my Facebook page quite often (I want to do so more) and many of the people at my church are on Facebook.
At a support group that I attend, they have a potluck meal at the end of the 12-week session. I boldly requested via our chat group on messenger–that we make the meal all vegan so that I could partake of everything. I shared how so often I feel left out because so many things contain things I could not eat. I made it clear–this is a request, not a demand.
The facilitator quickly said, “Well, let’s maintain unity,” or something like that. But then one man, who was getting a bit defensive, immediately asked me what he could bring. I suggested guacamole and he was so proud that he was able to bring something that I could eat–and most of the food was vegan!
Because veganism is so important to me–it is easy to bring up the topic during small group discussions. This lead to a young woman saying, “You are an older version of myself–a tree hugger and an animal lover.” She was not vegan, but she really identified with me.
I find that by being bold, then people who want to be vegan, are vegan, or have questions about veganism–will approach me and share where they are at in their diet and their treatment of animals.
This really gives me an opportunity to listen to them empathically and draw them out. I never criticize anyone on their dietary journey. Often they admit they are addicted to meat or have cognitive dissonance about the topic. Also, I can offer resources to help them.
When I share my vegan path with Christians, I do so with great confidence and love–never apologetically. And I am genuinely curious about how they eat and how they justify their eating. I never point out how illogical they are.
I know so many facts about how, for example, egg production and chicken production leads to rooster chicks getting ground up alive. I mentioned this to someone rather casually in a text–and she said she never knew that and might need to rethink her diet.
It is true that I am a very outgoing person and I have spent my entire life learning to be free of fear of what people will think. I find that the more I am my authentic self, the more true friends I have. And even people who don’t agree with me respect me.
When I identify as a vegan Christian with non-Christian vegans–I have the perfect opportunity to share my faith, and tell people the hopeful news of how a growing number of Christians are embracing veganism.
Being willing to listen empathically to someone after I share my views is essential. I am astonished at how many people are changing their views, and actually seem to please me with the steps they are taking towards veganism.
I want to write another article about how I boldly share my Jesus walk with atheist and agnostic vegans.
Thanks for reading this! I hope you will share your thoughts about what you read and suggestions for boldly sharing your veganism.
Making the decision to take a side trip to New York City when I was visiting Philadelphia was a rather hard one to make. I came to Philly to attend the CreatureKind Christian Vegan Retreat. I couldn’t fathom flying in and out of Philadelphia just for the retreat.
I had visited this amazing city about 5 years previous when I visited the Simple Way Community while I was visiting Christian intentional communities, and I sensed that God was encouraging me to take the risk and discover the divine appointments He had arranged for me.
I really don’t understand how this all works, except for that if I can really trust in God and be able to hear His guidance, miraculous encounters take place.
During my week in Philly five years ago, I found out that I could go to New York City on the Megabus For a very low rate, and just stay a day. I was so tight on money then and although I really wanted to take this trip, I was unable to do so.
This time, my focus was on doing things that would help me promote Jesus Vegans community and to make connections with the vegan community on the east coast.
So when I decided to go to New York City, I only had one connection. Jamie Gioe, a woman who I met at the Ozark Area Community Congress, spends the cold weather months living in the Big Apple–a stark contrast to the super simple life she lives on her land where she lives off the grid in a tent. We hadn’t had a lot of time to connect at the weekend gathering, and I wanted to learn more about her and her lifestyle.
I really respect how Jamie is restoring the land and able to live very much in alignment with nature. When I told her I was thinking about visiting NYC, she invited me to eat lunch with her, and thus I felt encouraged to take the plunge and spend the amazingly small amount–$25 round trip–to take the five hour (there and back) journey.
When I finally decided to go, there was only one day available in my schedule. I had made 3 appointments with very inspiring people on Wednesday. Monday I did my work exchange trade–making vegan food all day so my housemates would have a week’s worth of food. Tuesday was the day.
Jamie was not available to meet me on that day, and even though I was disappointed not to have anything scheduled, I decided that maybe sightseeing was okay. People gave me advice for things to do, including Central Park, Metropoltan Museum of Art, the High Line.
I met a microbiologist from Colombia who had been attending a conference in Philadelphia. We struck up a friendly conversation while waiting for the Megabus at 8am. While on the bus, I put out the word through Facebook, “I need a recommendation for a place to go where I might meet some vegan animal rights activists. I really didn’t expect that someone would be able to help me. I had put out some feelers for connections in Philly on a few Facebook pages with only one result. And this was really last minute.
The woman from Columbia seemed to want some company on her sightseeing experience. I was reluctant to join her, because for the most part, traveling alone lets me be flexible and more open to divine appointments. Not wanting to hurt her feelings, and also thinking, “Maybe I can be of service. After all, I don’t have any specific plans,” I agreed to join her and explore the city together.
When we got to Time Square, I noticed 4 large steps leading nowhere. I asked a man who had just descended the stairs, “Do you think that is a kind of soapbox where you can make speeches?” With a very charming Irish accent, he said, “I don’t know–what would you give a speech about?”
“Veganism,” I quickly said.
“Oh, my girlfriend, who is in the shop over there, wants to be vegan. She is vegetarian. I eat the food she makes–but I still eat meat,” he said.
He seemed curious and willing to talk. Soon, his girlfriend joined us. I really enjoyed all aspects of our conversation, which actually went pretty deep very quickly. We even talked about their spiritual walk–they had left the Catholic Church because of their corruption, and yet still wanted to follow Jesus.
After talking about 20 minutes, it seemed like it was time for us to depart. I love how the conversation flowed–and we all became Facebook friends. They had no idea that there might be some support for them in Ireland, where they did not know any vegans or vegetarians, so when I did a google search and found the Vegan Society of Ireland, they were delighted.
My new friend who wanted to tour New York City with me had now disappeared. I was rather relieved, because I knew that these kinds of encounters were not ones she would be excited about. But I also felt disappointed, because I would have liked to have told her honestly that I realized I just needed to be free to have these kinds of conversations and going to varoius tourist destination would not really work for me.
Next I saw a man who had a big sign that said, “Need money for weed. Why lie.” I was so intrigued, and I took a picture. I realized that I wanted to reward him for his honesty, and he did seem like an interesting character. So I gave him some coins, and we had a rather uplifting conversation. I broached the topic of veganism, and he wanted to talk about how children on the average eat 85 pounds of sugar a year. I enjoyed our connection, and felt inspired to empty my change purse of change and give it to him.
Next I saw a policeman standing on the sidewalk talking to someone.
“Can you tell me where the nearest vegan restaurant is,” I asked gaily.
Although the cop did not know of any vegan restaurants, we had an interesting talk about how he commutes 2 1/2 hours each way from his ranch where he raises cows and other animals. “But I don’t eat any of the animals I raise,” he said. “They are my friends.”
I didn’t push the issue of how animals that were not his friends were suffering because he did eat meat, although I encouraged him to rethink his thinking! He was very friendly and I really enjoyed our 5 minute connection.
I decided to do a search for a vegan restaurant, and the nearest one was called the Little Beet. As is often the case, I could not find it and needed to ask directions. I was standing on the sidewalk, looking confused, and a security guard standing in front of an impressive looking building said,
“Can I help you find something, miss?”
I was very touched by his offer of help. He told me where the restaurant was and he asked me where I was from. When I said the Arkansas Ozarks, he said, “Ah, Clinton country.” He proceeded to tell me that he sees Bill Clinton every day because he works in the office building that he works for.
He was very supportive of me being vegan, and said that he wished he could stay on a vegan diet–and that he had done a long fast which gave him a lot of energy. He was interested in living in the country and being self-sufficient, and was intrigued by Jesus Vegans Community which I told him about.
I gave him my card and told him to connect with me if he felt drawn to do so.
The Little Beet was just a few shops down. I really liked the vibe, and was glad to see a giant map on the wall of urban farms and all the local places that they got their food. I was disappointed that they served various meat dishes. This was NOT a vegan restaurant. But hey, google can’t always be right, and they had a large selection of vegan food.
I ordered some butternut squash soup and found one of the few tables that had an electric outlet. I was disappointed that already my battery was low on my phone, but happy to find an outlet!
I found it rather entertaining just to watch people and soak in the atmosphere of a busy self-serve restaurant during lunch. I felt happy to be there.
I looked at my phone while waiting for it to charge, and found that someone had answered my request for a recommendation! Deborah Prost was a Facebook friend who I had never connected with, and I found out later she was home sick from work and thus had the time to share some great vegan places to go to, including the Orchard Grocers on the East side of Manhattan.
Hopping on a subway and finding the vegan deli was extremely easy. As is my usual habit, I needed to talk to about 10 people in order to get there. One person actually lead me astray and I went on the wrong subway train. But everything worked out, and I arrived at my destination happy to be finding vegan connections.
After chatting with the cashier at the Orchard Grocers, I went next door to the Moo Shoes, a vegan shoe store. “The first cruelty-free store of its kind in NYC, MooShoes was founded in 2001 by sisters and Queens natives, Erica and Sara Kubersky,” is how it is described on their website.
I enjoyed a friendly talk with the shoe sales woman. I’m not interested in being fashionable, but I was glad that there was a vegan option for those who are. When I asked if I could take her picture, the sales woman demurred, but said I could take a picture of the very large cat who contently lay on the counter. This cat had been hanging out in the store for 17 years!
I went back into the grocery store, thinking I might buy a sandwich. I’m not eating much bread these days, and even though the sandwiches all looked delicous. I decided to buy a green juice.
I noticed a man sitting at the 3 person counter, and decided to strike up a conversation. He was friendly and willing to talk. I immediately asked if he was a vegan, and the answer was “yes.”
Jeremy was a very inspiring and interesting person, having been a vegan for 19 years and having some connection with the Animal Liberation Front. He shared some stories of how he engaged in some activism and we really connected on a deep level in many ways, including talking about spirituality. He was glad to hear that there was progress being made in Christian circles around the issue of raising awareness about animal rights from a Biblical perspective.
He told me about his neighborhood where many people from the Carribean live–people who were very low income. Many of them were vegan, and able to be vegan even though they had little money. He said that he was really glad to experience this first hand because he didn’t want veganism to be seen as something that only rich people could afford.
I really liked how our conversation flowed with both of us being good listeners. I wish I had taken notes immediately afterwards because I just learned so much from him. But the fact that my heart’s desire of meeting a vegan activist had been fulfilled. He happily gave me his email address–he has never been on Facebook–and I am sure we will stay connected.
Jeremy recommended that I visit the Buddha Bodhi Vegetarian Restaurant, which was conveniently within about twenty minute’s walking distance. Our conversation came to an ende because of a business appointment he needed to get to, and after exchanging hugs, I headed for the next adventure.
I want to pause right here and say that even if what happened up until now was all that transpired, I would have been happy! But there were more treats to come forth.
Looking at the menu, which was actually all vegan, was an interesting experience because such dishes as jellyfish and tripe (vegan, of course) were offered. I was able to chat with the owner’s son, who was proud that they had been in existence for thirteen years! He said that all the food was made with traditional spices and tasted very much like something that you would eat in a regular restaurant where the dishes contained meat.
I ordered a few items, and actually was not all that inspired. But then, I am really going in the direction of eating more raw and fresh. But it was an interesting experience–and the coconut pudding was delicious. The server and the owner’s son were quite friendly.
I saw 3 guys eating at a booth, and I asked them if I could take a picture. They willingly agreed. We struck up a conversation about veganism, and I found out that one of the fellows was a strong vegan, and he was attempting to inspire his friends to go vegan. We had a great connection, and I became Facebook friends with Derryl, a young man who is raising his daughter vegan. He even joined my group, Free Thinking Jesus Followers–he is a Christian. One rarely finds Christian vegans while wandering around! But I think Jesus might have somehow arranged this divine appointment.
I wanted to make sure I got to the Megabus stop on time, and even though I had a few more hours left in the city, I decided to try to find a chocolate shop which seemed to be in the direction of my bus stop.
I got totally lost trying to find the chocolate shop, and decided to charge my phone and go to the bathroom at a coffeeshop. I have learned the hard way that if I am in a big city, bathrooms are hard to find and coffee shops usually have them. As I stood in line at the bathroom, I asked the guy who was waiting behind me if I could take an informal poll.
He agreed, and was very pleasant. I asked him if he loved animals. Yes. Did he eat meat. Yes. He admitted that he had to experience cognitive disonance in order to eat meat. He was not defensive at all, and since I know I have cognitive disonance in some areas, I was not about to judge him. I hoped I planted some seeds. I just love to talk about veganism, and find that most people are very receptive.
As I continued walking down the busy street, I was pleasantly surprised to see a chocolate shop–and it was vegan! It was the one I had given up on finding. I went in and checked out the offerings. Very pricey! So I merely bought a rather small sweet which cost $3 and I savored it slowly when I got on the bus. Yummy! I took a picture of the cashier and talked to the person who was sipping on hot chocolate in the very tiny dining area.
I found the Megabus station right on time, and boarded the top level of the double decker bus which was at maximum capacity. I think it might have been like a commuter bus–leaving at 7PM. I had arrived at 10:30 and was leaving 8 1/2 hours later. That doesn’t seem like a huge amount of time to spend for a 5 hour round trip–but it was worth it to me!
The bus ride flew by, as did the one when I came to New York. I caught up on emails, Facebook, texted, read, and meditated. How can two and a half hours go so fast?!
I arrived at the bus stop at 9:30, and easily caught the high speed rail train to my home stay in the Kensington neighborhood. I was able to do my prayer time and spiritual practices via texting with my friend Kim, and was happy to be soon sleeping soundly.
What a beautiful and rewarding day. I felt grateful as I drifted off to sleep, thinking about how kind Jesus was to me, and how much had happened without any plans at all. I really believe that I was able to tune into guidance and that He helped me to find my way in NYC, where even my mistakes turned out to be something beneficial.
Miracle after miracle occurred to make my stay in Philadelphia a very satisfying, productive, faith-building, and fun event. I want to share!
The first miracle was getting a place to stay for 8 days. I didn’t know where I was going to stay until the day before I left! I went to Philadelphia to attend the CreatureKind Christian vegan retreat over the weekend of Dec. 1-3. Going all that way just for a weekend didn’t make sense–so I took a chance and booked my flights so I would stay before and after the retreat–which I will describe in another article. It was wonderful!
I am so grateful to Sarah Withrow-King co-director of CreatureKind, who facilitated the retreat. She asked some of her friends if I could stay with them, and they said yes! Coe, one of my hosts, just happened to be the person who I met when I visited the Simple Way Community, founded by Shane Claiborne when I toured Christian communities about 5 years ago. I feel so grateful to Coe and Sue for opening up their home to me.
Coe became vegan recently. He and Sue, his roommate, were really happy to accept my vegan cooking and some cleaning as an exchange for their hospitality. I am pleased to say they really liked my food, and I was so happy to serve them. I loved staying in Kensington, which is one of the most poverty-stricken neighborhoods in Philadelphia. But Christians like Coe and Sue have moved there in order to shine some light in the dark places.
More about my experience with the Simple Way and living with Coe and Sue will be written about later.
The biggest miracle of all was that I hurt my back a few days before I left on the trip. Oops–that wasn’t the miracle. It seemed more like some kind of opposition. I actually considered cancelling my trip.
Having back pain is a rare, practically non-existent experience for me, and the timing was terrible. I went to the chiropractor the day before I left, but early the next morning, I was still suffering intensely. When I woke up the morning after arriving in Philly, the pain was worse than ever.
I felt so discouraged because I had a week ahead of me where I wanted to relax at the retreat, and be walking and having adventures–and I was afraid I would not be so uncomfortable at the retreat that I couldn’t concentrate, and physically unable to do walk as I just love to do.
But instead of giving in to discouragement, I did some intense laughter prayer, and lamenting prayer (weeping loudly) and crying out to God for healing. I also did a live Facebook spiritual practice session and people prayed for me right then and there. I asked for prayers on Facebook as well. After the session, I noticed some relief, and from then on I quickly improved so that by the evening I was practically back to normal. What a joy that I could recover so quickly, and I appreciate the prayers and the healing so much!
Taking cheap flights usually involves long layovers, which I actually enjoy. I find airports to be fascinating in many ways. On my layover in Dallas-Fort Worth airport, waiting for the flight to Philadelphia, I met an American Airlines employee whose wife is Christian and vegan. He was shocked that there would be such a thing as a retreat for vegan Christians, and he arranged for me to meet his wife who worked at the Philadelphia Airport. The timing that had to take place in order for these connections appeared to be supernatural. More about that will be shared later.
I wanted to have appointments set up to meet with people and figure out my schedule before I left. I was concerned that the extra 5 days I was staying in Philadelphia would not be productive. I could always focus on writing and networking online, but I wanted to have some meaningful, face to face interactions. One person, Mary Kate of Liberation Philadelphia, who I had met at the Animal Rights Forum in Berkeley last summer, did agree to meet with me a few days before I left. But would our schedules line up? I confess, I was feeling nervous about how I could justify taking this longer trip. If I was going to do writing, I could have just stayed home.
But within days of my arrival, I made two more appointments to meet with two other really wonderful activists and leaders–Josh Vincent of the Center for Study of Economics and Paul Glover who started the successful Ithaca Dollars. I was able to make appointments all in one day which enabled me to take my trip to New York City. One of them got pushed to the next day, which ended up being even better than the initial appointed time.
God is sure good at helping me make a schedule even though I might blow it. I am eager to share how all that transpired, and divine connections that were made in spite of my poor planning.
Each one of these leaders in their fields–community health care, helping to empower poor people by changing land use tactics, and animal rights- taught me many valuable lessons which helped me see how veganism fits into the bigger picture of helping all of creation to thrive.
I visited New York City for a whirlwind, one day trip. For twenty-five dollars, I bought a round-trip ticket on the Megabus. I am proud to say that I only spent $30, and my keepsakes were some wonderful pictures, a wrapper from my $3 confection from a vegan chocolate shop, and menus from the vegan deli and vegan restaurant.
On the two and a half hour ride to NYC, I posted on Facebook asking for an unusual recommendation: “Where can I find a place in NYC where I might meet some animal rights activists?” A Facebook friend (one of the many vegan friends who I don’t know) told me about a vegan deli and shoe store where she thought there was a good chance I might get my needs met.
I did not get the recommendation until I was in NYC for about 2 hours. So I did what I usually do–I wandered. Praying for guidance as to where I should go, I was led to Times Square where I met an Irish couple who were on a journey towards veganism. Our conversation was very unusual and vulnerable. We talked about veganism, ethics, and Christianity. This will take a whole post to explain!
While eating some vegan butternut squash soup at the Little Beet Restaurant (which was recommended online as a vegan restaurant-but also had fish and steak!) I looked at my FB updat and found the recommendation for the Orchard Deli and Moo Shoes store. I felt excited to have a bit more direction.
I was easily able to find the places using Mapquest, and asking the friendly NYC residents for directions. People were SO friendly both in Philly and NYC. I believe that people naturally love to be able to serve. I even helped people out with a few directions myself!
I was glad to get to ride the subway and then walk to my destination. After chatting with the friendly workers at the deli and shoe store, I sensed that I needed to talk to a man who was sitting at the three seat counter. I asked him if I could talk to him and he said yes. I asked him if he was vegan (natural question to ask at a vegan deli!) and he said yes.
We had a long, inspiring, heartfelt talk. We vegans often have an instant rapport. I love that! I found out that he was an animal rights activist who had been vegan for 19 years. We had many stories to swap about our involvement in the movement. I was even able to tell him about Liberation Philly. I can’t wait to share more about that conversation in another post.
When I traveled alone for 13 months at age 19 in such places as India and Afghanistan, I learned to ask other travelers for recommendations as to where I should go next. I asked my vegan activist friend where I should go next. “Buddha Bodhi Restaurant,” he said.
I took his advice and walked the mile or so to Chinatown. At Buddha Bodhi, where they serve traditional oriental food vegan style, I met a young man who is now my friend on Facebook–and he is a Christian vegan!
I have lots more stories to tell about my eight hours in New York City. God sure does know how to help me schedule my time!
When I travel in a city, I have to ask people for directions because reading maps on Mapquest (or, before Mapquest–any map!) has always been a big weakness of mine. I asked so many people for directions–maybe 50 people–during my travels. I found 99% of the people were super helpful and many really went out of their way to make sure I found my destination.
Whenever I travel, there are so many opportunities for miracles to happen, and the opportunities to surrender, be guided by, and to trust in Jesus are even more abundant than when I stay home. I think this eight-day trip held more miracles than any other trip I have been on, considering the shortness of the trip. Maybe it is because by finding and doing spiritual practices that really help me to connect with God I can be more receptive to his blessings which I believe he is showering on us all the time. We just need to learn how to clear away the blocks that keep us from receiving them.
I am eager to share all that I experienced and learned on my trip. Pray for me that I will be disciplined enough to capture it all through writing!
I would love to hear how you feel when you hear my testimony, and if you find traveling to be an opportunity to experience miracles and thus increase your faith and deepen your relationship with Jesus.
Even though it is winter, there is lots of work to do and many wonderful experiences to be had here at Jesus Vegans Event Center and Community.
I am the main person who is focusing on community, and I will facilitate the daily spiritual practices and the daily work of making meals other work. Robert and Cliff will be involved in some of the work that goes on.
At this point, we have no work exchange partners–and that is partly because I have not focused on reaching out to find people. I have needed the past year to get really clear on achievable goals for the Jesus Vegans. I also needed to come to a place where I could focus on spiritual practices and cultivate my relationship with Jesus.
I believe I have finally arrived at a place where I can work with people who share my values. If you are interested in joining us for a week, a month, or longer–please check out our website http://www.jesusvegans.com and the work exchange program at http://www.jesusvegans.com/work_exchange
I am going to be in the Philadelphia from Nov. 29 to Dec. 7. My main purpose, besides attending a Christian Vegan Retreat is to meet people who are passionate about animal rights, and who are interested in living in our intentional community, Jesus Vegans Community. We have a work exchange program which can lead to living long-term in our rural, Christ-centered community in the Ozarks.
I would love to meet people who want to dedicate their lives to spreading the message of veganism, live a simple, loving and sustainable lifestyle and cultivating a constant connection with Jesus in an emotionally healthy way.
I may travel to New York City and Washington, DC if opportunities arise for networking.
I would love to meet people who are interested in the following:
I want to attend activities and help people with their projects relating to veganism and animal rights. I can in the following ways:
If you have any ideas, please contact me at email@example.com
I hope to see you in Philadelphia! Or New York. Or Washington D.C. I want to be of service.