Last One Standing: A More Thorough Update on My Life

A picture my [former] roommate, Carson, took at the end of the year QVS retreat

A picture of my house’s altar that my [former] roommate, Carson, took at the end of the year QVS retreat

Two days ago, QVS ended, and today I am leaving the QVS House. I’m the last one to move out and I already have seen all five of my roommates pack up and leave. My heart has been broken five times, as each roommate left the house, taking more and more of our house’s spirit with them. I have a lot of things on my mind and I am currently feeling a lot. But I feel satisfied. I am at peace. A lot happened this year, and it was difficult, and it was confusing, and often I’ve come to more questions than answers, but I’ve received a lot of wisdom, support, and love, and can say I have learned a lot. I would even say I feel more fully me.

Through my internship with AFSC, I have been able to learn from experienced organizers and activists. I have been primarily assisting AFSC’s Peace Program, which is focused on community peace-building and empowerment, as well as Project Voice, an immigrant rights program. I have been given opportunities to be on committees, planning for city-wide events like the May Day march, as well as speak at conferences and write grant proposals. More importantly, though, I was able to help with a program at Jefferson High School where I got to witness youth seeing the need for non-violent action and living it out in their communities.

In Portland, a Convergent stronghold, I’ve seen cross-branch cooperation unlike I’ve ever encountered before. The willingness for Liberal and Evangelical Friends to fellowship and learn from one another is a beautiful gift that the QVS house has been able to benefit from. The diversity of theology and spiritual practice among the supporting meetings has been the perfect space to explore what Quakerism means to me.

And, of course, I lived with five others I am proud to call my housemates—Ally, Carson, Rachel, Emily, and Kathleen—all of whom are brilliant, hard-working, compassionate human beings. These people are my community. I will not pretend that living in community has been easy. We have had to work towards being a community, and it remained a work in progress till the end. I will say that it has been worth it. I’ve had a ton to learn about communication, especially as somebody who avoids confrontation at all costs. Quaker values have undoubtedly held our community together, as we sought to not just co-exist in a house but dealt with hurts and misunderstandings with sincere intentions of peace-building.

We ended our year together on a retreat near Hood River, deep in the country. All around us were orchards, the forest, and a beautiful view of Mt. Hood. The time we spent together was meaningful, to say the least, and one of the deepest experiences I’ve had of “feeling seen”. I can confidently say that our retreat was beautifully crafted by both our local coordinator Sarah Klatt-Dickerson and the Spirit. Those moments will undoubtedly be defining for my experience in QVS.

I need to say thank you to everybody who has held me in the Light, prayed for me, encouraged me, and donated to me. You made this experience of QVS what it was. I still need to raise about $1,500, for the sake of paying off loans (which was included in my fundraising goal) and finishing my QVS payments. Any and every donation counts. You can donate on my GoFundMe or on paypal (sungis@gmail.com). That said, I cannot deny that I have been blessed immensely and I know I will look back to this year in the future and see it as formative and vital to my story.

As much as this transition hurts, I am ready for my next chapter. Hold me in the Light as I settle in Philadelphia and figure out my next steps. Also, I have a special prayer request for my family as there have been some painful repercussions from my post a few weeks back, “My Strange Relationship with the Mooniverse.” I do not want to go into details, but I know my actions, namely coming out as the founder and administrator of How Well Do You Know Your Moon, has put pressure on them. It does not help that last week I posted a video of one of Moon’s concubine’s sons telling his mother’s story, as well as sharing some of his own. It has been reaching the Unification community, reaching 3,000 hits in five days. Pray for me as I discern what my role in this work should look like and figure out how to be prophetic and in line with the Spirit.  Thank you, Friends. 

A Brief Update: Ending My Year With QVS

This is an extremely brief update (if the title didn’t give that away) and I could go into more detail about the work I have done with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and the work QVS Portland has done together, but that is not where my mind or heart is, so excuse me.

My year with the Quaker Voluntary Service is coming to an end. And it is starting to hurt.

House dinner on my birthday.

House dinner on my birthday.

During meeting this past Sunday, I couldn’t help but feel emotional as I sat next to three of my housemates. The realization that our year is coming to an end has been trickling in slowly but surely, but as I sat beside them and worshiped in silence, the mourning process accelerated quite a bit. I am going to miss these people. A lot. Even though I wasn’t always the kindest person, and conflict had a very real presence in the house, I love my housemates. We worked through a lot and we shared many sweet and even powerful moments and simply put, they’re great. All five of them.

Since that moment in meeting, I’ve been hit pretty hard with this realization over and over again. Though I have complained a lot about this year and every so often feel like I somehow failed my QVS year, the truth is that this year has been incredible. I did good work with AFSC, I met many brilliant F/friends, lived with five earnest and passionate individuals, experienced both the Liberal and Evangelical branches of Quakerism, discovered what Quakerism means to me, received some insight into my future and calling, and lived in Portland, Oregon—which is a glorious thing in so many ways. I’ve been very blessed and I cannot deny it.

July 29th, my last day of QVS, is approaching, and I have to clean and pack and figure out some logistics for my next step, which is moving to Philadelphia. Other than the moving part, I have little idea of what is next. I am glad that I will be near my family (who keep reproducing) and many of my friends, and I’m ecstatic that I will have a Friends of Jesus worship group nearby. Also, being in the heart of American Quakerism is pretty cool. I will miss Mt. Hood, Burgerville, kombucha on tap, my office, and all the children of God I have encountered here, but I’ve received a lot of confirmation and clearness that it is to move on.

As much as it hurts, I think I am ready.

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An October Update

Since this blog is not only a place for me to rant about Quakerism and Jesus, but also an invitation into my QVS journey, I thought I would give you an update on my time so far as a volunteer with the Quaker Voluntary Service.

The past five weeks have been incredible, and I really mean it when I say that. I feel like I have been given the perfect space to digest and sort through some major life-things, discover Quakerism, deepen my faith, and prepare for my next step and life beyond QVS. I cannot help but sense the preciousness of this time and carry an immense amount of gratitude for the gift that QVS is.

Portland Orientation with Wes Daniels

Portland Orientation with Wes Daniels

One major thing I have to express thanks for are the Friends in Portland who have been extravagantly kind and generous. The churches and meetings have been supportive in every way possible, providing us with hikes, trips to the beach, homemade jam, pizza, hugs, and a whole lot of everything.

I saw this love and support most come alive right after the Portland QVS house was broken into in the middle of the night and a few of us had personal belongings stolen. Friends immediately came together to make sure we were secure and feeling safe, with food, new locks and doors, an alarm system, cards and letters, emails, etc. I am confident that these things played a large part in how quickly our house emotionally recovered from this traumatic experience. And thanks to QVS, my laptop and my housemates’ stolen belongings are being replaced (which you can help with by donating to QVS).

I came to my internship with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) during a major transition of theirs, as the Peace Program was (and is) being reformatted and the office was moving. I have been as much of a help as I can be in the moving process, which has been lengthier than all of us expected, and I have been helping with the research needed for the new program. The AFSC Portland staff has been incredibly welcoming, and I could tell from the beginning that the work they had for me this year would be rewarding. This week I am attending a retreat in Northern California for regional AFSC offices. I look forward to connecting to other AFSC staff and receiving more vision for my work this year.

Wandering around Barnesville, Ohio during the FoJF Fall Gathering.

Wandering around Barnesville, Ohio during the FoJF Fall Gathering.

This past weekend I attended the Friends of Jesus Fellowship‘s (FoJF) Fall Gathering. FoJF is a network of Quaker churches and ministries that I have had the privilege of developing a friendship with the past year. I had the opportunity to intern with them in Detroit, volunteering 4 days a week at the Ruth Ellis Center, “a youth social services agency that serves the needs of runaway, homeless and at-risk youth,” in addition to serving the Friends meeting. Being able to attend this retreat meant a sweet reunion with so many friends I love and powerful worship and fellowship that was packed with the Spirit’s presence.

This eleven-month experience has had a wonderful start, and I know this time will fly by. I am grateful for everyone who has supported me in prayer, in financial support, and in all other ways. Consider donating, if you would; more importantly, hold me in the light as I continue on this adventure in both service to God and to others and in personal growth.

So Far on the Pendle Hill Hike

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You may or may not know this about me but I am currently a part of the Quaker Voluntary Service. (If you know me, you know this, especially since I have blasted every outlet of communication with obnoxious fundraising tactics—sorry, not sorry.) That means I am spending the next 11-months living in an intentional community, where I am practicing Quaker disciplines and living out the Quaker way with 5 other volunteers, as well as serving as an intern with a nonprofit in town.

So basically I am having some good, clean Quaker fun for about a year.

I know, I know: I am blessed. This really is a rare and special opportunity, and I am beyond thankful for the Quaker communities in the area, as well as the nonprofits cooperating with QVS and those who personally helped fund me, making this opportunity possible. And I love the work I am called to with the American Friends Service Committee, and I am really thankful for all the Quakerism I will get to experience this upcoming year. But as I am being immersed in Quakerism in a city that has Quaker meetings and churches, programmed and unprogrammed, Liberal and Evangelical, I have been confronted by something that I am coming to see as a goal. This so far unspoken ‘goal’ of mine has been sitting in me for awhile now but I have not known exactly how to approach it. This goal being me figuring out how the hell I fit into the Religious Society of Friends—or if I even do!

It is no secret that I have been interested in Quaker history and spirituality for a few years now. How George Fox, Margaret Fell, and Robert Barclay articulated the gospel of Jesus Christ does not just resonate with me but inspires me—and the same goes with their, and other Quakers’, stories. How Quakerism has historically valued contemplation, simplicity, community, and peace is glorious. I love that! I love “holding people in the Light”! I love the sacramental nature of… life itself! I love how the Quaker testimonies have driven so many people to be radical! And yes, no branch perfectly expresses my own convictions, but still something in me is… convinced. Is that the right word? Have I become convinced that Quakerism is true? I think I have. Maybe the form of Quakerism I have found to be true is some idealized version that only exists in my head and maybe this is me romanticizing a culture and community so that I can finally have a home, but I cannot deny that I am inspired by the vision of Quakerism—even if that may be just my vision. It looks too much like Jesus and reeks so much of the gospel that I cannot help but pursue whatever this is.

No matter what happens, I intend on being faithful to Jesus wherever he leads me. How the the Religious Society of Friends fits into it all is beyond me, but I am thankful for this year of immersion with Friends. Perhaps I will get some hints throughout the year on how to go about this whole Quaker-thing. I hope I do. More than that, though, I hope I can see Christ more fully for who he is, in his love and glory, and realize his gospel more powerfully in my own life. I think the impact of Quakerism in my life probably cannot be undone at this point, and I am at least thankful for that.

Hold me in the Light as I serve with my house, my meeting, and the American Friends Service Committee–and as I pursue Christ among Friends. This is a fascinating, beautiful, and wildly different season of my life where much discernment is needed. Trust God for me, for I am unable to claim that my faith is perfect. I know how this whole following Jesus, God, the Light, Love, etc., can be–it’s not easy, but I am glad we can lean on each other. And may you be blessed wherever you are on your own journey.