Haystacks & Hope: Mutual Aid and Other Announcements

Bonus Episode
April 29, 2023
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Episode Notes

Support the Dunk Family: hell.bio/dunkfamily
Check out the new Resources Page

Santiago announces updates to the resources linked on the Haystacks & Hell website, a new mutual aid project, and a call-to-action to help fellow listeners of the podcast.

Have a story to share? Write to us, send a DM or voice message on Instagram, or leave a voicemail at (301) 750-8648‬. We take your privacy seriously: Privacy Policy


Credits: Music: Hall of the Mountain King Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) • Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

Episode Transcript

Haystacks & Hell Intro

[00:00:00] Santiago: Welcome to Haystacks and Hell, an ex-Adventist podcast where we tell stories about growing up Seventh-day Adventist, leaving faith behind, and building new, fulfilling lives.

Project Updates

[00:00:16] Santiago: Hey everyone, welcome back to Haystacks and Hell. Today is going to be a bit of a different episode. I'm excited to share several updates to the Haystacks and Hell website, a brand new mutual aid project, and an opportunity to help out fellow listeners of the show.

[00:00:33] And stick around until the end for a preview of the next episode, an interview with Matthew Vollmer. Matthew is a fellow ex-Adventist, writer, and professor of English at Virginia Tech. He recently released a memoir and just so happens to be the nephew of Ted Wilson, the President of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. So, more on that later.

[00:00:58] If you've been on the website or if you've listened to the podcast for some time, you've probably heard me talk about the resources page with links to books, films, and more. Well now, that single page has grown into multiple pages with one for each category of resources.

[00:01:16] So now there's a page for books, one for films, shows and documentaries, another for mental health resources and professionals that are licensed and trauma informed, another for sex education for adults and also for parents to use with their kids, links to ex-Adventist communities, another for research articles, and one for other podcasts that you might find interesting. Make sure to go check that out at hell.bio/resources. That link will also be in the show notes.

[00:01:50] Last but not least, the newest page and the one I'm most excited about, is labeled Mutual Aid. First of all, what is mutual aid? If you haven't heard of this term before, mutual aid is a voluntary reciprocal exchange of resources and services for mutual benefit. In other words, mutual aid is people choosing to help each other out, without strings attached.

[00:02:17] Some examples of mutual aid can include community gardens, online crowdfunding, the free food programs started by the Black Panthers in the late sixties, Little Free Libraries or public book exchanges where anyone can take a book to read or leave a book for others to find, and things like couchsurfing, temporarily staying in someone else's home for free.

[00:02:42] There's actually websites dedicated to couchsurfing with millions of members in hundreds of thousands of cities worldwide. I like to think of mutual aid as neighbors simply helping out neighbors. And this isn't a new concept. For those of us who grew up hearing Bible stories, we can probably remember the parable of the Good Samaritan.

[00:03:04] Even as someone who's left religion behind, this is one of the stories in the Bible that I can get behind. As the story goes, Jesus is talking to a lawyer and tells him to love your neighbor as yourself. And like a good lawyer, the guy asks for a definition. He says, 'And who is my neighbor?' One takeaway from that story is that we show we're good neighbors by meeting the needs of those around us.

[00:03:32] But I want to make an important distinction: mutual aid is not charity or community service for the sake of doing community service. There's a common phrase about mutual aid that says, "Solidarity, not charity." It's not about centrally planned non-profits that decide how, when, and who to help.

[00:03:54] In fact, some of the principles of mutual aid include self-organization and self-determination, where the people in the community determine their own needs and methods for organizing and cooperating. Egalitarianism, where everyone in the community has a say and is equal, direct action, where instead of organizing slow moving committees, or simply sending thoughts and prayers, the needs of the community members are quickly and directly addressed.

[00:04:26] And last, but definitely not least, the desire for social transformation. Recognizing that the status quo is not okay, and using our community to effect positive change. As of this recording, there are over six and a half thousand people on the ex-Adventist subreddit and over 600 people on the ex-Adventist Discord.

[00:04:49] We all have resources and skills that can be used to help each other out during and after deconstruction. We've talked before about how isolating deconstruction can be, and if you no longer identify as an Adventist, how that can be extremely alienating. Sometimes people fear getting kicked out of their home, and others might wonder how to prepare for a complete career change after only having worked for Adventist institutions.

[00:05:20] So my goal is to create a community of people who are willing to participate in mutual aid, exchanging our resources and knowledge to help each other out. This could look like crowdfunding for specific needs, using our education or professional experience to provide support like legal advice, career coaching and networking, or even just a couch to sleep on for a few nights.

[00:05:46] To start, I personally don't want to limit participation exclusively to ex-Adventists. If there are any people that are currently questioning or in general, stand in solidarity with us, I think the more people we can get, the better. I understand that could get messy with concerns around privacy, so this is definitely open for discussion and I welcome any ideas you might have.

[00:06:12] But first, I want to introduce you to the Dunk family, a loving family of five in St Lucia. David and Davea Dunk grew up Adventist, are fellow listeners of the podcast, and they need our help. They've been at risk of being homeless due to unfair labor practices and a difficult labor market.

[00:06:35] When you hear "St Lucia," you might immediately think of gorgeous beaches and resorts. But for many of the people who call it home, reality can look quite different. David and Davea have provided for their three kids over the years, but things are especially tough right now.

[00:06:53] David's temporary job pays below minimum wage and isn't enough to cover their expenses. He was unfairly laid off from his last job, and is tirelessly searching for a new one. And after submitting over a hundred job applications, Davea has also not landed a new job, but she's still looking.

[00:07:14] As you can imagine, this has been rough on mom, dad, and the kids. Their eight year old son has ADHD and the lack of finances has increased his challenges in school. Their five year old daughter has also had her own struggles in school, and their two year old baby requires constant care and attention. So we're reaching out to all of you, listening right now, for help.

[00:07:41] The Dunk family plans to emigrate to another country where David can find a good paying job in his field of study, Davea can access a wider range of better job opportunities, and their kids can access better schools and medical care.

[00:07:56] We know times are tough for everyone, but any amount you can give can make a difference and together, we can reach their goal. All funds are going to be transferred to Davea's bank account, which I've already personally verified, and successfully sent the first donation.

[00:08:13] We originally hoped to use GoFundMe, but St Lucia is not one of the supported countries. So instead, I've signed up for a platform called Donorbox, which can securely process donations made by credit card or bank transfer. Our goal is to reach $5,500 US dollars and as of the recording of this episode, we've already raised a thousand dollars.

[00:08:39] Priority number one is paying for rent and groceries, followed by medical expenses, and setting them up for success with their plans for emigration. To be clear, none of this money goes to me or to cover expenses for the podcast. All proceeds will go to the family.

[00:08:59] I want to thank you in advance for hearing us out and being willing to support the Dunk family. To give, you can visit hell.bio/dunkfamily. That's H E L L dot B I O forward slash D U N K family, all together. The link is also in the show notes. Please give whatever you can and share the link with anyone you know who would be willing to help.

[00:09:29] Also, if you know of any companies that are hiring remote workers for roles in customer service, data entry, sales, or related roles, please get in touch. Both David and Davea have experience in these areas as well as using Salesforce, Slack, Microsoft 365, Google Workspace, and other standard business applications. And if you're hiring, I can provide their resumes and put you in touch with them. When donating, you'll also have the opportunity to send details of any relevant job openings. Once again, the link for that is hell.bio/dunkfamily.

[00:10:12] And if you personally are in need of help, or if you have skills or resources you'd like to contribute in the future as part of this mutual aid project, we want to hear from you. This could be related to finding a job, sharing your own GoFundMe page, or anything else you think we might be able to help with.

[00:10:33] You can get in touch by emailing haystacksnhell@gmail.com. That's haystacks, the letter N, hell, @gmail.com. Or you can send a direct message on social media. Links to those accounts are in the show notes. And if you're listening to this episode sometime in the future, there should be a link to an online form in the show notes and on the website, where you can request help and offer help.

[00:11:03] Once again, please help out the Dunk family and get in touch if you yourself need any help, or have any ideas for how to contribute to this mutual aid project. Thanks again for hearing us out and as promised, here's a preview of my conversation with Matthew Vollmer.

Meet Matthew Vollmer

[00:11:25] Santiago: Matthew is a writer and professor of English at Virginia Tech, where he's also director of the school's MFA in Creative Writing Program. His sixth and newest book, All of Us Together in the End, explores loss and transformation after the passing of his mother in 2019, followed by strange lights in the woods near his father's rural home.

[00:11:49] Matthew grew up in the mountains of southwestern North Carolina with deep Seventh-day Adventist roots. His grandparents met at boarding school and so did his parents, his great-grandfather's medical diploma was signed by John Harvey Kellogg, and OD McKee, the Adventist man behind the Little Debbie snacks brand, proposed to his grandma, but she turned him down.

[00:12:12] Even today, Matthew's family ties lead straight to the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists as Ted Wilson, the current GC President, is his uncle by marriage. As a kid, Matthew attended Sabbath school, loved Jesus, and got baptized on his 11th birthday in the cold waters of a mountain stream with friends and family singing Shall We Gather at the River?

[00:12:36] He later attended Georgia Cumberland Academy, an SDA boarding school, and somewhere along the way, he stopped believing in the teachings of the Adventist church. Today, Matthew lives in Blacksburg, Virginia with his wife and son, and as his latest book describes with vivid imagery, he's been on a journey to understand the mysterious lights that seemingly arrived just as his mother left this world.

[00:13:01] He's consulted with a retired geology professor, shamanic psychotherapist, Episcopalian clergy, and virtually anyone else who's been willing to listen. So with that background, let's jump into our conversation. Matthew, welcome, thank you for your work, and thank you for coming on the show.

[00:13:19] Matthew: Thank you Santiago, that was like, probably the best bio that I've ever heard. [Laughing] So, so great job with that. Um, very, very thorough and very accurate.

[00:13:31] Santiago: Glad to hear it. I, I did a lot of reading of your work, [laughing] the book, some of your essays. No, I, I really appreciate it because you paint, at least in my mind, such vivid pictures of what your experiences were like with your family, with the environment you grew up in. And it's really almost like kind of a time capsule where I can, I can picture some of these things that you're describing.

[00:13:56] You mentioned Shall We Gather at the River? That's one of the songs that we loved to sing in the youth Sabbath school that I taught. So that brought back some memories right there. And yeah, I really enjoyed your book. And the first question I wanted to start out with is, what made you decide to write this book, and had you been planning to write a family memoir for some time?

[00:14:17] Matthew: Yeah, actually, I had been writing it in some form or other, I mean, I had a, I have a journal that's completely filled with stuff about boarding school. And I called it Academy Days, because Academy Days was actually the, um, the phrase that was used when you went to visit in your, when you were an eighth grader.

[00:14:42] Like you would, you would go and you would visit, you know, the school that you intended to go to for a weekend and stay. You know, you'd, you'd bring your, um, sleeping bag and, you know, your, your suitcase and clothes and stuff. And [laughing] the one thing I remember, like, literally, the only thing I remember about Academy Days was that I stayed in a kid's room.

[00:15:07] And this is at Georgia Cumberland Academy, and one of the first things he said to me was, 'Don't jack off in the sink,' because every room had a sink. And I was like, mortified. I, and I, I had never even, nobody had ever said that phrase to me in, in real life. And I was like, 'That's the last thing I'm gonna do to here, man!'

[00:15:29] Santiago: Oh man, what?

[00:15:32] Matthew: And it was just like, so, I mean, I, and that was just the, I mean, that was the tip of the iceberg of, of the kind of fucked up shit that happened there. But anyway, um, [laughing] yeah, like, so, so, you know, I've been, I have been trying to write about what it's been like to grow up Seventh-day Adventist, to be in a Seventh-day Adventist school.

[00:15:52] Like back in, when I was doing my MFA at the University of Iowa, I got this idea that I was gonna write a novel about a demon who, uh, was residing at a, at a Seventh-day Adventist boarding school [laughing]. Because he, he both longed to go back to heaven. But he also loved nothing more than to possess the bodies of Christian teenagers because they were so, you know, like, like whenever they transgressed they were like, they got off so much.

[00:16:33] Santiago: Mmm.

[00:16:34] Matthew: And, um, as an insensate being, he loved to be in the bodies of these, of these, uh, kids as they were performing whatever transgressions they were performing, whether it was, you know, eating beef jerky, drinking a Coke, or, you know, um, engaging in physical intimacy. I mean, every person I've ever told about that, that novel idea says, 'Oh, that's so great, such a wonderful idea.'

[00:17:02] I just couldn't pull it off. It was just, it was just like, I don't know what it was about it. Like just the, like trying, like, it just screwed with my head, like having a, having an entity who had been alive since before human time and then, you know, whatever. So, so, so I, I, I shelved that and I put my first book out, which is a collection of stories and has at least three stories where people are, characters are encountering Seventh-day Adventists for the first time, um, or, non Seventh-day Adventists interacting with Adventists.

[00:17:41] And I thought that was a, a way for me to like, kind of create empathy and, and curiosity. Like if I'm writing from an Adventist perspective, then eh, that's a little bit burdensome. But if I'm, if I'm writing about someone who just like goes to Atlantic Union College on a whim, but they're, they don't know anything about Adventism, then they have all these things to negotiate and figure out.

[00:18:06] And so, you know, I've, I've written stories about Adventists, I've written essays about being an a Adventist, and then I was like, 'You know what? I wanna write a memoir about my time growing up, growing up and out of the church.'

[00:18:19] Santiago: Mm-hmm.

[00:18:20] Matthew: And I, I wrote that memoir and I delivered it to my agent in 2019, like two days before my mom died. And of course, I didn't know she was gonna die. I, I knew she was about to die. I had no idea that, you know, within two days she was, you know, so, um... But after I had sent it to my agent, I'd also sent it to my colleague, Evan Lavender Smith, who's a, a professor here, or assistant professor here at Virginia Tech.

[00:18:51] And he said, 'You know what, I think you need, you know, I think you, this book really needs some revision.' And my agent was like, 'Do people really wanna read about personal grief?' Because it was also about my mom, you know, like, getting Alzheimer's.

[00:19:04] And I was like, 'Dude, have you, have you not read literature?'

[00:19:08] Everyone: [Laughing]

[00:19:11] Matthew: But then the lights happened like three months later. And investigating the lights and having everything move towards Covid and then my dad remarrying, like that, like that three act structure was exactly the structure I needed to kind of upload parts of the memoir into the storytelling of what, of what was happening in real time. So that's a very long-winded answer [laughing] to, to your question.

[00:19:39] Santiago: No, I appreciate the backstory there. I have to say, if and when you can get this novel of a demon possessing Adventist kids at boarding school, I'm sure virtually everybody listening right now would love to read that, I know I would. [Laughing] So do with that what you will.

Check Back Next Week

[00:19:59] Santiago: And on that note, we're going to pause there. Make sure to tune in next week for the first half of my roughly three hour conversation with Matthew. I had an absolute blast speaking with him and I can't wait to share our entire conversation with you. We talked about his memoir, we talked about his memories growing up Adventist, and yes, of course, we talked about his uncle, Ted Wilson.

[00:20:32] Once again, please, please remember to support the Dunk family, hell.bio/dunkfamily, and get in touch if you have any ideas or any requests related to the mutual aid project. We'll see on the next one.

Haystacks & Hell Outro

[00:20:50] Santiago: Thanks for listening. If you have a story to share about your Adventist or fundamentalist experience, we'd love to hear it. You can submit stories on our website at hell.bio (that's H E L L dot B I O) or leave us a voicemail at 301-750-8648 and we might feature it in a future episode. Thanks again for listening. We'll see you on the next one!

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