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.