Day 40: Byron Sandford

On this last day of this year’s 40 Days with Peacemakers, we celebrate the person who has made this series and much of what continues at William Penn House possible.

Byron Sandford was born in Cleburne, Texas, October 16, 1946 to Thaddeus Sandford and Mildred “Sammie” Howes Sandford, a couple who began their married life together in Alaska, trapping and gold mining.  Byron attended the University of Texas at El Paso (Texas Western at the time) and was a student there when its all-black basketball team beat all-white Kentucky for the national championship, a milestone in college athletics. He went on to earn a Master’s degrees in psychology and political science. Though Byron grew up a Methodist and his first wife Franci was brought up Catholic, they were seekers who wanted a spiritual life that spoke to their heart and spirit and reflected their values.  In 1974 their exploration let them to El Paso Worship Group and their spiritual home with Quakers.

ByronByron became fully committed to Quaker testimonies and service–Friends Meeting of Austin: treasurer; South Central Yearly Meeting: nominating, yearly meeting program, and ministry committees;  Friends General Conference: clerk of finance and development committees, treasurer, and various ad hoc committees; Quakerland, an intentional community in west Texas: trustee and builder; Pendle Hill’s nominating committee and acting presiding clerk; Friends Meeting of Washington:  clerk of property and finance and stewardship committees; and Baltimore Yearly Meeting:  nominating committee and clerk of trustees.

When Byron met his wife Susan, he spoke eloquently about the role of his Quaker faith in his life. It has been a strong thread in their lives together from that meeting on.  During his tenure at the William Penn House as executive director, Byron has been a leader and a follower.  He recognized the significant gifts of his colleagues and celebrated and facilitated their leadings, making the significance of Quaker faith and service visible to the community. His gentle nurturing has left a lasting imprint on William Penn House and the broader community. Even the way he handled Parkinsons – never shying away the challenges, but looking forward with optimism and a spirit that all is well, not necessarily good, but well – have been an inspiration. And, in recognition of how it all got started, here it is as only Byron can put it: My kids grew up and left home, my wife grew up and left home, the dog died, and I got the hell out of Texas. 

This brings the series to a close for another year. If you have enjoyed this 40 Days with Peacemakers, we invite you to take a moment to make a contribution to William Penn House so that the spirit of Byron’s work and all that we do can continue. Donations can be made here. We will also be raising a glass to Byron on Sunday, April 17 from 3-7PM at Biegarten Haus, 1335 H St NE. Click here to see more and RSVP.


Day 37: Neil Snarr

Neil Snarr grew up in New York and Indiana in a conservative household. After a stint in the Army and obtaining advanced degrees in Theology and Sociology, Neil took a teNeil Snarraching job at Wilmington College. WC is a small Quaker liberal arts college in Southwest Ohio. Not long after arriving at WC, Neil began attending Quaker meeting and has been deeply involved with Friends ever since.

At WC he taught a variety of courses in Sociology and Global Issues. He also taught frequently in Wilmington’s prison program, which was a central aspect of WC’s social justice-oriented mission. In the 1960s, Neil began taking students to Central America and Mexico to learn Spanish and about the realities of the region. This was the beginning of his decades-long interest in taking students abroad and concern for native people throughout the world.

In the 1990s Neil began taking a handful of students to Spring Lobby Weekend, organized by FCNL in Washington, DC. At Spring Lobby Weekend, students learn about an issue of concern to Quakers, learn how to lobby, and then apply this knowledge on Capitol Hill. What began as a few students in a van has evolved into a charter bus loaded with 50-plus students, faculty, staff, and community members from Wilmington, Ohio.

In the academic realm, Neil has done research on post-disaster housing in Central America, edited a book on Nicaragua, and co-edited a book on global issues (now in its 6th edition). Additionally, he has served on various Quaker committees including Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) and Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO).

Upon retiring, Neil has remained active. At WC he raises money for student travel to Quaker-related issues and has researched the history of local desegregation efforts. Most recently, Neil received recognition for selling $10,000 worth of Palestinian fair trade olive oil. His support of Palestinian olive farmers fits well with Neil’s long-held mantra that “if you want to help disadvantaged people, you should buy their products.” Neil has also been instrumental in enabling WC students to join William Penn Quaker Workcamps as participants and leaders in DC, West Virginia and Pine Ridge.

In alignment with his dedication to education as peacemaking, there are these words from Maria Montessori: “Establishing lasting peace is the work of education. All politics can do is keep us out of war.”

Day 36: Boyan Slat

Ocean CleanupBoyan Slat , born 27 July 1994, is a Dutch inventor, entrepreneur and aerospace engineering student who works on methods of cleaning plastic waste from the oceans. He designed a passive system for concentrating and catching plastic debris driven by ocean currents. He established The Ocean Cleanup, a foundation to further develop and eventually implement the technology that would drastically reduce the amount of time it would take to clean up all the plastic in the ocean. Initially, there was little interest but now he has attracted thousands of volunteers and $2M of funding for pilot installations. In November 2014, he won the Champions of the Earth award of the United Nations Environment Programme.

The goal is to fuel the world’s fight against oceanic plastic pollution by initiating the largest cleanup in history. The Ocean Cleanup develops technologies to extract, prevent and intercept plastic pollution. Instead of going after the plastic, Boyan devised a system though which, driven by the ocean currents, the plastic would concentrate itself, reducing the theoretical cleanup time from a millennia to mere years.  This innovation has received notice from Fast Company, and was named one of the top 25 inventions of 2015 by Time Magazine.

Take a moment today to reflect on these wise words from this remarkable young man:

“Fix this planet, before we fix another one”

You can see Boyan’s Ted Talk about The Ocean Cleanup here.


Day 26: Our Daily Bread

It all started with a pot of coffee.

Rob Farley had volunteered to run by the church every morning to wake CHUMC2the people who were sleeping on the steps of the church before the police came by.  One snowy, cold morning, one of the men asked Rob if there was any coffee. Rob’s first inclination was to say he did not have time, but then he recalled, from the Book of Matthew, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” That first pot of coffee became a daily ritual with a few people until, one day, another man spent a portion of his disability check on cereal and milk. 7 years later, this coming together to share a meal is a vibrant part of the Capitol Hill Community that brings people from all walks of life together.

CHUMC1“Our Daily Bread” is organized by Rob who, along with Margot Eyring and David Kennedy, using whatever food has been purchased and/or donated and put together a filling breakfast, while also taking a few minutes to read a daily reflection (or on Wednesdays, participate in Bible Study), and having good fellowship with whoever shows up. Faces become names, and a community of strangers becomes of a community of friends. It becomes a transformative experience for those who regularly participate, including some of the staff and interns at William Penn House. Hundreds of volunteer groups, including many of our Quaker Workcamp groups, also go. It becomes a part of the fabric of our lives.

For Rob, there is also the deeper transformation. The former corporate lawyer and Capitol Hill resident now leads an inspiring life that many people might admire, but few would actually have the courage to live. He lives in an intentional community in a house he purchased near Marvin Gaye Park in NE DC. All of his housemates at one time lived on the streets. He works as he has to to keep the roof over his head, but otherwise lives life in the service of the community. His story, alone, touches the lives of the hundreds of people every year who join in for breakfast as neighbors from the area or as visitors to DC to do service work.

IMG_1652This evening at William Penn House, we are honoring “Our Daily Bread” at our annual “Creating the Peaceable Kingdom” event. What happens here every day is a living model for what it is to live in community and fellowship. We hope you can join us tonight at 6PM, or perhaps can make your way some morning to Capitol Hill Methodist Church for breakfast.

And for today, take a few moments to reflect on Matthew 25: 31-40, the verses that have been at the root of this wonderful example of what it is to live in faith:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Day 22: Tom Keefer – Building Bridges, not Walls

I first met Tom when I was working at Canticle Ministries, an HIV/AIDS ministry in DuPage and Kane County, IL. Tom was on the ministry staff of a large evangelical church and had been asked to help develop a response to HIV. DuPage County’s conservative faith community had only recently gotten involved in HIV/AIDS work thanks to the appearance of Bono at Wheaton College. The energy and focus, however, was almost exclusively on Africa, allowing for many to think they could address the HIV/AIDS pandemic and avoid talking about homosexuality and drug use.  Many people, including Rep. Henry Hyde, only wanted to talk about Africa. As one church representative told me, in Africa “we don’t have to deal with homosexuality.” Tom Keefer knew otherwise. Growing up in the south, his church led African missions but did not allow people of color in the pews so, before delving into far-away AIDS work, Tom wanted to make sure his church was a place of welcome for people with HIV. TomKeefer

What unfolded was transformational. Tom opened my eyes to an evangelical community that was not a monolithic group of Bible-thumpers, but made up of a broad range of thinkers and doers; people of deep faith, deep compassion and deep thought. This led to getting to know or be acquainted with such people as Ruth Bell-Olsson (Rob Bell’s sister), Andrew Marin, Jennifer Grant, Suzie Goering, and Cathleen Falsani. He got me to see the amazing goodness where I had assumed it did not exist, and to seeing people not just living in the tension, but embracing it. He did this more with his actions than words, including helping lead local HIV testing efforts with openness and humility, confronting stigma with love. This has been fundamental to what we do at William Penn House and William Penn Quaker Workcamps.

In addition, Tom challenged me – ever so gently – to more deeply explore my own faith. By asking “so what do Quakers believe?” I realized that I could list the “not’s” (war, violence, greed, etc.), but to state affirmations was less simple. Because of his simple question, I can now state with certainty that I believe that there is that of God in All, and mine is to joyfully seek it. Sharing his faith, and encouraging me to explore mine, deepened my Quaker faith while more deeply appreciating his. This now guides the Quaker Workcamps engagement with places like the Southeast White House and Our Daily Bread, as we create opportunities for groups to become comfortable with religious talk so they can see the good works. We also ask Workcamp participants to develop a greater comfort in affirming one’s own faith.

background-bridge-winter-picIn 2006, an election year when gay marriage was again a hot-button issue, Tom and I were working with Chip Huber from Wheaton Academy to hold a workshop exploring global and local issues related to HIV. As the date neared, Tom called me to say we had to talk. My first thought was he had to back out because of church pressure about doing this with an openly-gay, HIV+ person at a religious school. Instead, Tom wanted me to know that if the question of gay marriage came up and he was asked his opinion, he had to speak his truth – that he believed marriage is for one man and one woman. More importantly, Tom did not want this to hurt our friendship. I was deeply moved by his trust and his faith, and realized then that when his “t”ruth and my “t”ruth come together, a greater “T”ruth” emerges – that we can live together.

In honor of Tom’s gentleness and spirit, take a moment to reflect on these simple words from Isaac Newton: “We build too many walls and not enough bridges.”

Submitted by Brad Ogilvie

2016: 40 More Days with Peacemakers

For the second year, we are running a “40 Days with Peacemakers” series, starting on February 10 and running until March 20 (Ash Wednesday to Palm Sunday). While roughly following the Lenten calendar, this exercise is less about Lent and more about the value of engaging mindfully in a ritual for an extended period until it becomes a regular practice. By telling the stories of peacemakers, and taking a few minutes to reflect on their work, impact and/or message for 40 days, the wisdom of peacemaking becomes more a fabric of our own lives. PEACEMAKERS_std_t

This is a random, often organic, list of people. Much of the biographical information comes from wikipedia and other public sources, as do the quotes.

These postings will be shared on the facebook pages of William Penn House, William Penn Quaker Workcamps, and WPQW Community Gardens, as well as on our twitter. You can also sign up on this site to get them automatically in your inbox. We hope you join along and enjoy the ride.

Day 40: You

Today we recognize YOU. Aristotle said “We are what we repeatedly do.”  For the past 40 days, many of you have taken time to repeatedly reflect on peacemakers past and present and their words. May that repetition nurture peacemaking within you. Philosopher Robert Pirsig (author of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”) wrote “You look at where you are going and where you are, and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you’ve been and a pattern seems to emerge.  And if you can project from that pattern, then sometimes you can come up with something.” We hope that, as you look back over the past 40 days, you see a pattern emerging that propels you forward with hope, options and love.


There are also patterns that have emerged with these Peacemakers. Some suffered great loss in their lives that inspired them to take action with wisdom, courage and strength; some committed their lives to the cause and paid the dearest price for it; and some were following their leadings and their faith. Many experienced great discomfort and sacrifice, but were led by grace, compassion, kindness, humility, seeking, reconciliation and forgiveness. They impacted the world through hospitality, storytelling, music, bearing witness, speaking out and getting directly involved. They challenged the status quo – often within their own community. It is something we can and, as many of these Peacemakers remind us, must do.

As we bring this exercise to a close, we welcome you to join us at William Penn House to continue the journey. Through William Penn Quaker Workcamps, you can meet some of these people, see new things, or see familiar things from a new perspective, and perhaps find inspiration to continue or try new ways to work for peace. Find out more at

Peace, and thank you for being a part of this journey.

William Penn House

Day 39: Marsha Timpson

When you first arrive at Big Creek People in Action (BCPIA), Marsha greets you with a hug as if you have known her your whole life. It is her way of reminding us that we are all connected, and while you are with Marsha, she is sharing her own connectedness to the place she grew up and is a part of her. McDowell County is where the Pocahantas coal fields are. It is a place that has suffered great exploitation from outsiders – first, the coal industry and robber barons, and in the 1990’s, the banking institutions. Largely what has been left after outsiders took what they could are poor people, many who cannot leave, shattered dreams, oxycontin addiction (“soul-killing”, as Marsha calls it) and other environmental and social challenges. But there is also love, compassion, and connectedness to the place while also being aware that it is disconnected from much of the country it has fueled. As Marsha’s colleague Kem Short says, “America no longer believes they have poor. They don’t want to admit we are here. It’s like we are an embarrassment.”


Marsha did not always live in McDowell County. She left to get married when she was 17, but it was a bad marriage, and she never felt at home in the new surroundings. So she returned to McDowell a single mother with 2 children, including a now-adult son with severe autism who needs a lot of support services in a county with few available. These days she runs BCPIA, a community-based organization that provides a range of supports for the dwindling and poor people in this Appalachian county. Services include after-school programs, community education and social events, and home renovations and repairs. Housed in the old middle school in Caretta, groups come from around the country to help with the latter part of these services, and we leave with a greater connection not just with Marsha, but with ourselves and an appreciation of our own surroundings and responsibilities to each other.

In an interview, Marsha explained her connectedness to McDowell like this: “These roots hold these trees in these mountains. Somehow these roots get embedded in our souls and we’re very connected, very connected to these mountains. And it doesn’t if they never come back…this will always be home and they will always have roots in them.”

Where are your own roots deeply grounded, and how do these roots help you weather challenges while stay true to your convictions?

Day 33: Mike Gray

Mike Gray is a Quaker who is a steadfast ally to many Native American, immigrant and indigenous communities groups in the US and Mexico. Like so many people in the 1960’s and early 70’s, Mike’s life was heavily influenced by the turmoil of the times, but in his late twenties his life took on deeper meaning and purpose when he found Quakerism. Initially, Mike got involved in the anti-nuclear weapons movement. Even more fundamental to Mike was the position he took with the American Friends Service Committee leading Quaker Workcamps and becoming an advocate for Native and indigenous communities.

Mike Gray                    Mike

After the corporate Quaker Workcamp support ended, Mike continued and continues to this day to stay deeply committed to the Lakota community of Pine Ridge and the Seri Indians along the US/Mexico borders. From building projects to helping to transport wares to festivals, Mike is a deeply trusted F/friend to many. There is not a place on Pine Ridge where Mike has not left his mark. For us at William Penn House, it has been and continues to be an honor to spend a few weeks on Pine Ridge every summer, continuing to learn from him that “service” is not fixing things, but being in fellowship and going as way opens. His quiet, sometimes gruff nature and commitment to the world and to Quakerism is inspiring. In the best of Quaker Workcamp fashion, he reminds us of the importance of deep commitment to people, not causes, as a vital part of breaking the cycles of violence, and shows us one way to do this. Thanks to Mike, hundreds of people have deepened their own commitments from having spent time with him.

For today, in the spirit of Mike, take a moment to reflect on these words by Malcolm Fraser that invoke thoughts of Mike’s life work:

“Solutions will not be found while Indigenous people are treated as victims for whom someone else must find solutions.”

Day 27: David Richie

David Richie (1908-2005) came from a long line of Quaker families in the Philadelphia/southern NJ area. He was a graduate of Moorestown Friends School and Haverford College. He returned to Moorestown Friends in as a social studies teacher until 1939 before becoming executive secretary of Friends Social Order Committee of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, a position he stayed in for 34 years. It was here that he founded Quaker Workcamps that took place in Philadelphia, around the US and in Europe. In 1946, AFSC asked him to bring this work to war-torn Poland, Finland, Germany, Italy and England. With the aid of British Friends, he helped distribute clothing, food and medical supplies. Back in Philadelphia, he established weekend Quaker Workcamps that brought thousands of volunteers to underserved communities and, as importantly, inspired many of these volunteers to a deeper life of service as well as to Quakerism. His spirit lives on in our William Penn Quaker Workcamps.


David Richie in Finland, 1947

For today, consider these words from his memoirs: “For many years I have been encouraged by the thought: ‘You can count the seed in an apple, but you cannot count the apples in a seed.’”