Chris Young was feeling desperate for relief. He had been suffering from sciatic nerve pain for about a decade and traditional western medicine wasn’t much help. He decided to attend a retreat in the mountains of Spain and was amazed by the relief he felt from consuming ayahuasca, an ancient Amazonian sacred medicine. During the retreat, he witnessed the healing of others who suffered from physical pain and mental trauma. Chris was immediately drawn to the healing abilities of Ayahuasca, and knew he had to bring it to his home country, the United States.
Upon he and his wife moving to the U.S., Chris attended many Ayahuasca ceremonies and started an apprenticeship, learning to perform sacred ceremonies true to Amazonian tradition. Ayahuasca is illegal in the U.S., but Chris was determined to show others the healing powers of Ayahuasca. Chris’ dream manifested itself to become Soul Quest Ayahuasca Church of Mother Earth in Orlando, Florida. The retreat center, which has over 4,000 members, has been a legal church organization for the past four years.
What is the mission of Soul Quest Ayahuasca Church of Mother Earth?
It is our mission to give people the opportunity to find relief from their struggles in life – for example, treatment-resistant PTSD, addiction, childhood trauma, anxiety, or depression and reconnect with their true selves. We are a spiritual learning and healing center focused on providing the community with service, education, spiritual fellowship, healing practices, and guidance. We believe in the rights of Mother Earth and in protecting the practice of Mother Earth-based South Native American spiritual traditions. We want to bring alternative methods of healing, especially for people where traditional western medicine has reached its limits and help them to find a new purpose in life.
We believe that the plant life products of Mother Earth are of the highest value and are to be used as natural healing treatments and therefore we proclaim them to be sacred plants and materials to be treated with dignity, protected from threat or violation and defended as a holy sacrament.
What kind of people seek healing at Soul Quest?
We have an extremely heterogenous group of members that come to our retreats to seek healing from the plant medicine. The age of our members varies from approximately 18 to 78; we get people from different backgrounds, professions, and belief systems. We also have a very significant number of veterans suffering from PTSD who attend our retreats to find relief from their suffering.
What are the legal challenges Soul Quest Ayahuasca Church of Mother Earth had to overcome?
From the very beginning of our work with the plant medicine, our highest goal was to operate as a legal entity to secure the protection of our members and our organization.
We started this mission as an independent branch of the Oklevueha Native American Church (ONAC), a United States federally-recognized indigenous American Native earth-based healing and empowerment church, in 2015.
We became an independent church in August 2016 after finding out that ONAC could not provide that umbrella of protection that the law required, and formed the Soul Quest Ayahuasca Church of Mother Earth. The practice is protected by the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. We also filed a 157-page exemption application to the DEA to officially become a church with Ayahuasca as its sacrament. The United States, per a unanimous 2006 U.S. Supreme Court decision, called Gonzales v O Centro Espirata Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal, ruled that a church could legally use Ayahuasca as a religious sacrament served in a protected, sacred spiritual ritual, and ideally, closely associated with card-carrying members of those churches.
Soul Quest Ayahuasca Church of Mother Earth has been an active legal church organization for four years with over 4,000 members.
What does the future hold for Soul Quest Ayahuasca Church of Mother Earth? What are you most excited about?
We are constantly growing in every way possible. Soul Quest Ayahuasca Church of Mother Earth is very excited about teaming up with “Being True to You” — a transformational addiction recovery coaching program — to offer a revolutionary approach using sacred plant medicine to help our members face addiction that is based on “transformational recovery.” This model focuses on the opportunity of recovery more than the “disease” and problem of addiction. Our program is designed to be activating, motivating, life-changing, practical, and customizable. Through personal transformation, a person can naturally mature out of their addiction and achieve success far beyond sobriety, on their own terms.
We also have the award-winning movie “From Shock to Awe” — that was filmed at Soul Quest in 2016 — coming into the theaters on Nov 12th. The film shares the story how two Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans, devastated by their experiences in war, found relief from anxiety, depression, and PTSD at Soul Quest Ayahuasca Church of Mother Earth after the traditional medical system reached its limits to support them. It also raises awareness of the fact that an average of 22 veterans die every day in their homes by their own hands – that’s a higher death rate than occurs abroad in war. This is a true and also devastating reality in the United States that is destroying family lives. This documentary shows that Ayahuasca could be an answer to relieve these veterans, who are broken from the burdens of war and start a journey of hope and transformation.
What would Soul Quest Church of Mother Earth like share about their work?
No matter how stuck or hopeless you feel, how deep you’ve fallen or how big the mountain you have to climb, or how grand your passion and vision to turn things around is, we believe the sacred Amazonian medicine we offer at Soul Quest can help you get your life back on track quickly, effectively, and with the greatest outcomes possible.