A few weeks ago we published a blog titled “The Self Murdering Church” by Suzanne Ocsai. While the first part of the article was originally written in 2011 it’s relevance has not waned. In fact, people are still sharing it and talking about it. However, interesting as “The Self-Murdering Church” may be it was not written in a vacuum. Suzanne herself says “I wrote this… after I finished writing my manuscript on the first 10 years of GYC history. I was trying to sort through everything I’d learned about the behind the scenes workings of GYC, my Church Youth Department, and the Church as a whole.”
Many who read this immediately asked the question, “Where is this manuscript?” or, “When will it be published?” And after a long process the manuscript has finally been published as a Kindle e-Book in December, 2014 titled, “Somethings Happening: The Behind the Scenes Story of GYC”. Excited to see that the manuscript had finally been published I caught up with Suzanne for a short interview focusing mostly on the contribution “Somethings Happening” makes to the Adventist conversation. Below is the interview followed by details on how to purchase the book.
Suzanne, before we talk about your book I’d like to get to know you as a person a little bit more. Tell us about yourself, what you are currently doing, and how God has blessed you?
I’m the graphic designer for the North American Division. I like Ricola and plan to vacation in Iceland one day. God has blessed me through having a supportive family and friend group.
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Besides writing, is there anything else you enjoy doing?
Photographing men with beards for my Beards with Stories project!
Breads with Stories project? That sounds epic. Tell me more!
Beards with Stories is a social media project that I started about 1.5 years ago. If I see a guy with a cool-looking beard I’ll often stop and ask him if I can photograph his beard and interview him about the story behind why he decided to grow a beard or what beards mean to him. Then I post the photo and story on Instagram (@beardswithstories), Facebook, Twitter (beardsWstories), and Tumblr (beardswithstories.com). It’s a little bit like Humans of New York but just men with beards.
Walk us through how God led you to college and ultimately where you are today. Has it been an easy journey?
No it has not been an easy journey. I didn’t think I was going to be able to attend college especially not a private one. There were many semesters when I didn’t know if I would be returning either because of finance issues. But God made sure I was able to graduate and that was a huge blessing! I remember when my status as a student moved from Freshman to Sophomore, it was probably one of the happiest moments because I’d accomplished something I thought would never happen.
Your book “Something’s Happening: The Behind the Scenes Story of GYC” has been in the Adventist spotlight recently. How long did it take you to write the book? What were some of the challenges you faced?
I wrote the first draft in eight months but it took a total of four years from start to publication. Some of big challenges were that I was working with a controversial subject within the church. I faced the initial judgment while trying to contact certain people from both “sides” for interviews. They didn’t know what I was doing or what I was trying to accomplish and if they wanted to be part of it. Most everyone was willing to at least give me one interview though. Some refused, but it was only a handful.
Other challenges came when GYC decided not to purchase the books if printed for their conference and I got a letter from the acquisitions editor I was working with at Pacific Press letting me know that they were no longer interested in publishing the book.
I believed that the story needed to be told and was planning on trying to self-publish before Adventist Today offered me a contract.
Those were just some of the challenges faced.
Talk to us a bit about the journey the book takes the reader on. Is it simply a historical report or is there a deeper place it seeks to take us to?
I wanted to tell the story of how GYC started and what was the driving force behind the organization. I didn’t seek out to come to any conclusions. I had a lot of questions about the organization that I knew other people also had and I wanted to answer those questions.
How about the journey the book took you on? Where were you – in a spiritual sense – when you started? Where are you now that the book is over?
In a spiritual sense? Honestly, I don’t like questions like this because they seem to want to denote some waiver in faith that is strengthened through trial and all ends well and we are now more committed than ever. My faith in God during the process and afterward never waivered. I’ve always loved and trusted Jesus and that never changed. Did my relationship with my church change? Yes. But overall I’m still in the church and still a contributing member. Did I go through challenges? Of course. Did a get angry. Definitely. Did I want to leave the Church? Yes. Did I doubt God? No. I think if this did anything spiritually for me was show me that my faith does not have to be connected to a denomination, church, or religious entity. My faith is my faith, and no one can take it from me.
I think all of us, as Christians and Adventists, sense that there is a lot we can and must do to lead the church toward the community God desires it to be. Do you see yourself and “Something’s Happening” as a part of that movement?
I think that understanding something is key to breaking down prejudices. I hope that my book helps people understand where both sides were coming from. In that sense I believe that it is helping.
If there was one thing you wished your book accomplished in the lives of those who read it and in the church as a whole what would it be?
There are a lot of stuff that’s said about GYC (and the Church youth department). A lot of speculations without foundation. Like I said earlier, I want readers to understand that these were real people with real passion who made something happen despite the odds. I also want the reader to come to an understanding of what that caused others in the church to feel and what really happened behind the scenes. I believe that when we better understand where each other are coming from we can better work together. Hopefully once the political steam dissipates people will be left with something they can use to understand each other.
What message do you have for the young and spiritually strong or struggling Adventists out there?
Know your personal convictions and live boldly according to them.
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Y. Suzanne Ócsai is a full-time graphic designer, writer, and speaker. She graduated from Southern Adventist University before moving to Maryland to work for the Office of Communication in the North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Recently, she founded Beards with Stories, a social media project that features men with beards and the stories behind why they grow them.