Nov 08

Reflections on Veteran’s Day 2017

As we remember those who have served in our armed forces this Veteran’s Day, Intermountain and the Chaplain’s Department wants all our supporters–but especially veterans–to know that we recognize ALL the sacrifices you have made to make a better future for the children and families we serve! Beyond just those who served, we are grateful for those who “served too” through keeping the family going despite deployments, drill weekends, multiple moves, and much more. We are grateful for the example of hard work and sacrifice that the veterans in our midst provide for all of us.

flag

“Old Glory” drawn by one of the children

Hard work and sacrifice are key ingredients in the healing work that goes on through Intermountain’s many services. Our children in residential care, as well as the many children Intermountain serves through its community based services, are working hard for freedom from shame, negative self-image, substance abuse, and darkness in their past.

It’s a difficult work, but they are doing it with God’s help and the care of parents, foster parents, case workers, therapists, counselors, and more. We are free to do this work because we live in a country that values and fights for all its citizens to experience “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

 

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13

 

Just as our veterans have been willing to lay down their lives and sacrifice their comforts in order to fight for the freedoms all Americans enjoy, we at Intermountain endeavor to sacrifice what we must in order to redeem the hearts, minds, and souls of children. As God has blessed us and blessed America, we are working together to make that blessing a reality for EVERY child in our midst.

Thank you,

Chaplain Chris Haughee

Nov 02

Revisiting a theme: the masks we hide behind, 2017

People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart”

–1 Samuel 16:7

Every October, I have an excellent opportunity to talk with the kids in chapel about the masks we wear and how God sees through it all and sees who we are underneath the façade. The lesson usually goes something like this…

“One night every year in America, people encourage each other to put on masks and costumes and go around looking for candy by knocking on doors! Do you know what this night is called? Right…

Halloween!mask2

These costumes and masks are a lot of fun. Maybe a little mischief gets thrown in… something gets ‘egged’ or a house is adorned with toilet paper. But, for the most part, these ‘tricks’ are accepted as part of the tradition associated with October 31st every year.

Now, take those same behaviors and those same masks and costumes and try wearing them around town a month later, you will receive a VERY different reaction. In fact, some people have gotten in trouble this fall for wearing clown costumes and trying to scare people. It usually ends up badly for everyone when a mask is worn at a time that is not appropriate. Here are some examples…

Besides Halloween, there are many reasons people wear masks:

  • So they can ‘get away with’ doing something they wouldn’t normally do
  • To hide who they really are
  • To be a part of the crowd… if everyone else is wearing a mask
  • For protection… from the cold, from germs, and other things

Okay… now that your imagination is engaged, it is time to switch gears a bit. Think about your heart rather than your face! How do we put ‘masks’ on our hearts? I am convinced that we wear masks on our hearts for the same reasons we wear masks on our faces!

What can start out as something we wear for protection, or to blend in with others, or to hide who we really are… well, those masks can become so comfortable that we never want to take them off.”

Then, we break from our discussion and the children take some time to draw out the masks that they see themselves wearing. This year, a number of the students gave me their masks, wanting to share how their sad, scared and lonely feelings were being covered up by angry, happy, or even feelings of needing to be perfect (that last one, I must admit to putting on more than a few times!)

These are the "masks" some of our children in residence shared with me

These are the “masks” some of our children in residence shared with me (click on picture for larger/clearer image)

Part of the work we do in chapel every week is to address the truths of God and God’s Word and how they can give our children the courage to step out from behind the masks and into who God says they are: wonderful, amazing, and capable children of God—with the right to be loved and to love in appropriate and affirming ways. Thankfully, the young people who created the collage of masks in this post could understand–God sees past the masks we hide behind and sees our hearts. He knows our fear, our hurt, our sadness, our shame…

AND GOD LOVES US. HE LOVES US. NO MATTER WHAT. ALWAYS. FOREVER.

GOD…. LOVES…. YOU!masks-2017-verse

Oct 23

Helping Samantha this holiday season

Samantha came through her trauma with Intermountain's help... but what of so many others threatened by cuts to services?

Samantha came through her trauma with Intermountain’s help… but what of so many others threatened by cuts to services?

The holidays are almost upon us again! This time of year can be wonderful for children – filled with magical moments, time with loved ones, and treasured traditions. But the holidays can also be a difficult time, especially for children like Samantha. At seven, she was sexually molested by someone close to her. Taken from her birthparents, she bounced around from foster home to foster home. Her basic needs were often neglected, and she was exposed to cycle after cycle of domestic violence.

When Samantha was first placed in one of our residential treatment cottages, she was weighed down with guilt, depression, and a profound sense of failure. Day by day, our highly trained professional staff helped her to heal and to trust. At chapel times and through special school activities, she learned of God’s unconditional love and the amazing talents and gifts she had to share with others.

At Intermountain, Samantha learned how to have a friend, ride a bike, say I’m sorry, and believe in tomorrow.

           And, earlier this fall, Samantha started college!

Because of the support of generous individuals and congregations like yours, Intermountain is able care for children like Samantha during the holidays and beyond.

You are probably already aware from recent headlines that our efforts to continue this level of life- saving work just got more difficult. Government cuts to support kids like Samantha widens the funding gap between what it costs to provide the specialized care those like Samantha need and what we receive from her state-provided health insurance plan.

Samantha made it out of her dark valley of despair and self-loathing. She is a trauma survivor. There are many children in our care right now whose path to healing and wholeness is being jeopardized by the cuts to their programs.

Will you stand with Samantha, Intermountain, and the hundreds of children who need our help? Pray for funding to be restored to these life-saving efforts, pray for the children and families, and ask God what you and your faith community might be able to do to help us fill the gap.

If you’d like to talk to someone about how you can help, reach out to our development team at 406-457-4804. You can also reach out to me by email at chrish@intermountain.org

Sep 28

Would you consider Change for Children? FREE object lessons for Advent!

Once again, I would like to make available to you and your church free Advent children’s object lessons! While written primarily for a Children’s Sermon format, these object lessons could be used in a Sunday school setting, youth group, or even as sermon illustrations! None of the lessons are dependent on Change for Children (CFC) CFC-logoparticipation, because we would like them to simply be a gift to you. If you choose to dovetail CFC into these lessons, it’s as simple as contacting us and requesting our prayer cards or setting a goal of numbers of cans returned by Christmas!

Click here for: CFC 2017 Children’s Sermons

In over twenty years in children and youth ministry, the object lessons I have used for children’s sermon times have been a very effective way of communicating the truth of God’s Word.  Many of the adults in the congregation would tell me they preferred my children’s sermons to my “regular” sermons!  Jesus taught in object lessons and word pictures, too, so it should be no surprise to us that this method is highly effective—surely Jesus knew what he was doing and set an example for us to follow!

I hope this resource blesses you, saves you time in preparation, and makes your workload a little lighter. It is my hope that our relationship will truly be a partnership of mutual benefit. As Intermountain’s Chaplain, I want to be a resource to you and an encouragement in your work with children and families. The children’s sermons can be found on the “Resource” page, as well as examples from previous years, should those object lessons fit better with what you are planning.

So, enjoy these lessons, and let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you and build a stronger relationship between the chaplain’s ministry at Intermountain and the good work you are doing in your church and community.

Chaplain Chris Haughee

Sep 13

What’s next for Intermountain?

By the time she was 16, “Alyssa” had been kicked out of her house several times by her drug-addicted mother. She bounced between her home and a few different group homes. Her mom told her she was worthless.

Alyssa was referred to Intermountain by her school’s counseling staff. She was a kid who was trying, but not succeeding. She was showing up for school, but she wasn’t thriving.

Watch the video below to find out “What’s next for Intermountain,” and how we have positioned our ministry for greater impact in Montana and beyond.

 

Sep 04

My Tears in His Bottle: prayers from the heart of a special needs’ mom

Pat Hays has written a devotional book that gives wonderful insight into the joys and struggles that parenting a child with emotional special needs presents. Her book, My Tears in His Bottle: prayers from the heart of a special needs’ mom, contains excerpts from her personal prayer journal as she worked through the last fifteen years of

My Tears in His Bottle, by Pat Hays

My Tears in His Bottle, by Pat Hays

balancing her calling to be an adoptive parent with the roadblocks she encountered in her neighborhood, friendships, school district, marriage, and church as she sought understanding, acceptance, and peace for her and her family.

As a chaplain at a residential facility working with children with special needs (kids on the spectrum, emotional disturbance, trauma recovery, etc.), Pat Hays’ story feel very familiar. Nearly every family I meet at intake says, “We were going to church until…” and then proceeds to tell a story about how they looked for comfort and healing in the church and they had a hard time making connections and feeling understood. Worn out from advocating for their children at school, in the neighborhood, with doctors and nurses, therapists, and many others that come into the lives of a special needs family, Pat Hays holds out hope that some pastors and some churches really to “get it” and want to support and uplift families of special needs children.

That’s why I am so enthusiastically supportive of this book! Honestly, it does what coaching and training in trauma-informed principles can’t do… it expresses the heart of a mother seeking to make sense of the parenting challenge God has given her. Only when that empathy is built can a community of faith make the leap from seeing special needs children as a challenge to endure to a blessing for the church.

I would love for churches, small groups, and individuals who have a “Pat Hays” in their life to read this book and meditate on the scriptures she pairs with her prayers. Pat masterfully walks the line between holding out the hope we have in Jesus Christ while embracing the reality that discipleship often means suffering, difficulty and the loss of what we envisioned for ourselves and our families.

There are no Hallmark card pithy platitudes within the pages of this book, and in embracing the grittiness needed for true Christian discipleship, it has the ability to provide the “comfort with which we ourselves have been comforted” (2 Cor. 1:3-5). It’s an amazing book and I couldn’t recommend it more highly!

If you are interested in My Tears in His Bottle, you can order the book through Amazon.com by clicking this LINK.

Aug 23

“Let the Little Children Come” – a message shared at Trailhead Christian Fellowship Church; Townsend, MT

The following message was delivered at Trailhead Christian Fellowship Church on 8/13/17.

I could tell I had settled into the role of Chaplain at Intermountain when the following diagnoses no longer startled me:

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder; Reactive Attachment Disorder of early childhood or infancy; Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder-Combined Type; Anxiety Disorder; Major Depressive Disorder, Recurrent; Neglect of Child; Sexual Abuse of Child; Asperger’s; Mood Disorder; Problem with Primary Support Group; Bipolar; and, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Quite a list, isn’t it? But, behind each of these labels is a child. Just as each of us would not desire to be known as any of the labels that apply to us and our “problems,” these children deserve to be known for something other than their present difficulties or their troubled past.

This is something I am mindful of as I work with the children on a weekly basis at Intermountain’s Residential Services in Helena. There is a unique balance that that I seek to achieve when communicating the truths of God’s Word through chapel services and activities. That balance is between my knowledge of our children’s past and present difficulties and the hope you want to cast for their future.

Emphasize the pain of the past too much, and you risk losing the beauty of the gospel to overcome every obstacle this world sets in our way.

Emphasize the promises of God and the “good news” too much and a traumatized child who is trapped in her shame is likely to either stuff their grief and loss and pretend everything is OK, or act out in a way so as to reject Jesus as someone that couldn’t possibly love her. The good news seems simply TOO good to believe.

In Montana, where 17% of our children have experienced three or more ACEs—adverse childhood experiences like the incarceration of a family member, a caregiver with a substance abuse problem or a mental health diagnosis, neglect, and so on—this is NOT an issue only for me, a chaplain at a residential treatment facility for severely emotionally disturbed children. We have around 220,000 children in Montana. 17% of 220,000 is 37,400. That’s roughly the size of Helena… 37,400 children that before age 18 have had to deal with multiple significant and major stressors in their lives, robbing them of their childhood innocence and wonder and thrusting them face first into the worst this world can conjure up. At any one time, I have 32 children I minister to. That’s our limit. Less than 1/10th of one percent of the children in Montana deeply affected by adversity. Let me ask you… where are the rest of these children?

That’s right… some might be in other facilities. But, the vast majority are just simply all around us… in our schools, in our neighborhood… in our churches. And… guess what!? All of these children grow up and become adults. And, they are still carrying the burdens of their childhood demons with them…

No, I suspect this dynamic is more at play in our churches with children and adults than we might realize. We have a significant population of children experiencing adversity, and adults trying to overcome past trauma and abuse. The cycle continues, and we’ve all been called to do something about it… and we can start with our children.

This Sunday, I want to focus our attention the gift children are to us. Children are close to the heart of God and a treasure to us in the church. The opportunity a church has to make a lasting impression on a child is profound.

Indeed, for most of us, our favorite memories of church can be associated with children, or are perhaps from our own childhood? The energy that children bring, while sometimes overwhelming, is also joyful and life-giving.

Children remind us of our legacy that we are leaving as a church, of the great privilege entrusted to us to lead and guide them in the faith. Children fill our imaginations with color and light and hope. Children embody the dreams we have for a better future.

My childhood, though far from ideal, was radically shaped by the positive influence of being a part of a faith community. A favorite image of mine from childhood is that of the children gathered around Jesus that was in the children’s Bible I received at my baptism in 1980. It’s a pretty popular image of Jesus and the children, and I am guessing you have seen it, or one very much like it. There is something very tender about the way Jesus cradles the face of the little girl in his hands as well as the nearness of the other children to the Savior. Children with Jesus

A large print of this picture still hangs outside the pastor’s office in the church of my youth… Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Puyallup, Washington. I know, because I was there a few months ago. It’s a beautiful picture and one that takes me back to my childhood.

There is, however, something amiss in this picture… at least for me and for what I know both about Jesus… AND the children he loves so dearly. Can you guess what I find troubling about the picture today?

In the picture everyone looks so clean… not just physically, but spiritually and emotionally as well. They don’t look like the sad, shameful, frightened, and angry children I see in my work. Nope. These kids are the cream of the crop… selected by some Heavenly talent agency for a special photo op with the Savior.

Certainly, Jesus would have no problem interacting with these children—they are so well behaved and attentive! Perhaps this is the scene you envision when you read from Luke’s gospel the following:

“People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’” (Luke 18:15-17, NIV)

How odd that the disciples would have rebuked the lovely children depicted in most pictures and rendering of this encounter… NO… there must have been some reason for the disciple’s rebuke beyond a miscalculation of their leader’s care for children! They had been with Jesus long enough to know that he often spent time and lavished attention on those who others overlooked.

Could it be that the children coming to Jesus were not in their “Sunday best,” but were perhaps a little disheveled and poorly behaved? Could you envision them pushing their way through to see Jesus, as eager to wrestle with him as they were to sit attentively and soak in his wisdom?
But there is something else that rubs me the wrong way about this story and how it is often portrayed in art…

In my twenty years of working with and speaking to children, I have yet to replicate this scene of Jesus with the children. I consider myself a pretty effective communicator with little ones, and still they squirm, would rather talk about their pet dog than the Bible lesson, pick their nose, lift up their pretty dresses… and all manner of things to embarrass their parents sitting in the pews.

And as I alluded to earlier, the children I have worked with rarely came as “clean” as these children in the picture appear. The children I have worked with in various church settings, and work with now at Intermountain, may have looked like children on the outside, but had dealt with some very “big person”-type and adult-like problems. Depression, ADHD, reactive-attachment disorder, mistrust as a result of physical or sexual abuse… all these are not uncommon.

Children who have been hurt in this way show it by their behaviors—behaviors that would disqualify them from that pristine photo op with the Savior. Can we blame the disciples from wanting to shield the Messiah from the messiness such children bring? Perhaps we can, because our hearts are full of compassion and longing to see all children come to know the One who can ultimately bring them peace, healing, and rest?!

However, I wonder if our attitude towards the big problems these little people face is not dissimilar to that of the disciples in the gospel account?

Maybe we don’t verbally rebuke these children, but what in our attitudes, expectations and ministry structure make it clear that ALL children may find a place on Jesus’ lap? Does the kingdom of God belong only to the well-behaved, easy to manage child? Are we trying to recreate the false images of the artists, where the clean and healthy children are greeted by Jesus, and those who don’t fit the mold find it difficult to fit in with us? I wonder…

This is a hard teaching, but one worth challenging ourselves with: What does it say of our understanding of God’s kingdom if we’d rather work with the well-groomed, well-adjusted, well-behaved child and turn away those that have been hurt by the darkness of this world and are struggling to overcome it?

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them…” Jesus said.
But what of their hurt, their anger, their aggression, their sadness? It’s all so… messy. Not to mention, difficult.

“The kingdom of God belongs to such as these…” Jesus said.

Indeed. If not this child—any of the children I work with each day at Intermountain, and those children hurting and in the shadows of your own community—if not these children, than who among us may come?

Aug 10

First Presbyterian Church – Butte, Montana comes to campus to provide VBS Day Camp

This week, Intermountain hosted a dozen volunteers from First Presbyterian Church in Butte, Montana and ministry interns from Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. Missy Henry, although “great with child,” did a great job organizing the volunteers and setting up the week to be successful.

The group came and shared a modified version of the VBS curriculum by Group called “Cave Quest,” complete with games, music, special art projects and engaging Bible lessons. An action grant from Thrivent Financial enabled Chaplain Chris to purchase t-shirts for the kids that carried a major theme for the week: “Plug into God!”

The t-shirts for VBS Day Camp 2017: "Plug into God!"

The t-shirts for VBS Day Camp 2017: “Plug into God!”

In addition to the VBS Day Camp, other helpers made themselves useful around campus. Under the leadership and direction of Toni Robison, another group of amazing volunteers did a remarkable job sorting donations in Intermountain’s “Treasure Chest.” Shelves were organized and piles of donated clothing was sorted through and put on hangers to be displayed for the children that come to the Treasure Chest to “shop” for clothing and shoes as needed.

Volunteer Maddy Hash said the best part of volunteering was “Being able to spend time with the kids and teach them about God… I wish it had been a whole week, not just 3 days!”

Sheryl Mayo, who led the “Imagination Station” part of the activity rotation, shared that while it was hard “having an understanding of the difficulties faced by the children,” she was encouraged by “their faith and understanding.”

There were plenty of opportunities to learn about how to do ministry with a group of children who have significant trauma-related issues. For instance, Whitworth student Luke Ekstrom reflected that it was hard to discern on day one what games would be appropriate to play and that by day three he had a much better sense of what may or may not be appropriate. Luke stated, “I feel like this VBS was successful over all and I loved being a part of it!”

Butte First Presbyterian pastor Lanny Rounds kept his comments at the end of the week brief and to the point, asking: “Can we come back?”

Every year around the second week of August, we invite a guest group from one of our many ministry partners to come to campus and host our VBS Day Camp program. Perhaps your church or youth group would like to consider bringing the program in 2018? If so, it’s never too early to let Chaplain Chris know!

Here are a few pictures from the week:

IMG_0642 IMG_0640 IMG_0646 IMG_0647 IMG_0649

Aug 01

Prayer requests from our children

3-birds-with scripture

some artwork from our children

For our last chapel gathering in July, we covered the BIG question: “How do I communicate with God?” The children were engrossed in the retelling of the story of Gideon, and how God called and worked with the reluctant hero of faith. God called Gideon a “Mighty Warrior” while he was still a meek and timid guy hiding from the bullies of his day, the Midianites. We talked about how Jesus taught us to pray by calling God our father, and that as God’s children, he wants to give us what is best. We even reviewed the Intermountain Children’s version of the Lord’s Prayer from our lessons last fall.

At the conclusion of our time together, I solicited prayer requests from the children. Without breaking confidences, here are some of the requests I received. Would you pray for our children and join them as they lift these requests to God?

  • I would like more books, and more happiness and to feel more special.
  • Pray for me to get done with treatment and to have a family.
  • I would like a toy car.
  • Pray for a family member who had surgery, and pray for me. Thank you.
  • I want to go home.
  • Pray for my brother’s asthma and for my grandma to stay alive.
  • Pray that I will someday see my birthparents.

sunflower-butterflyIMG_0585

 

Jul 16

Building something of worth: work on Van Orsdel Commons has begun!

It’s an exciting time in ministry at Intermountain. It’s been fifty years since there was a dedicated chapel space for the children in residential care at Helena’s Lamborn campus. In fact, the last place dedicated for worship and learning about God was the Helen Piper memorial chapel in Mills Hall, which once stood on 11th Avenue across from the Capital Mall. The Lamborn campus, in use since the early 1970s, has not made provision for this important aspect of

Intermountain children receive communion in Helen Piper Memorial chapel, Mills Hall (undated)

Intermountain children receive communion in Helen Piper Memorial chapel, Mills Hall (undated)

the children’s care until now.

Coupled with hundreds of donor gifts both large and small, grants from local and statewide agencies have made it possible for construction to begin this month on Van Orsdel Commons. Named for Intermountain’s founder, Brother William Wesley Van Orsdel, and incorporating design elements that will honor the historical contribution of the Methodist Deaconesses, the Commons will serve as a place of worship, rest, and spiritual comfort for children, families and staff.

It’s my hope that it will be like a student commons on a university campus or the living room space in a family home. It is important to all of us at Intermountain that the design of this new space on campus be welcoming to all and perfect for everything from tea parties and movie gatherings to cultural education and much more. We envision the Van Orsdel Commons to serve many more purposes than to simply provide a space for worship and chapel activities and we hope to welcome our community supporters into the space very soon.

“The design process has been uplifting as we have been able to see the unbounded passion and desire of the Chaplain and staff,” Tim Meldrum, of SMA Architects, reflected. “The spaces need to be flexible, durable and inspirational all at the same time.  Renovations always add an extra challenge to the ultimate success of the final design, however, design solutions for a gathering and learning place like this are especially realized when occupied by such special staff, focused administration and imaginative youth.”

Adam Senechal and Golden Eagle Construction will be responsible for executing this vision and building Van Orsdel Commons throughout the summer. “This project is special to us as we help bring the vision to life that many people have worked so hard to create. The opportunity to construct the Van Orsdel Commons is greatly rewarding and we know this building will serve the children and families of Intermountain for generations to come.” This concept of building something of worth and lasting is a theme familiar to many religious traditions.

Perhaps it is because the founder of Christianity was the son of a carpenter as well as the Son of God that we are left with a number of lessons from Jesus about building something that lasts. For instance, Jesus once told a story about two builders—one wise and the other foolish. The foolish builder built on the sand, on something shifting and changing day-to-day. The wise builder made sure what was built by his crew was firmly founded on the rock. When the rains and storms came, Jesus said, it is the house built on the rock that will stand while the one built on the sand will come crashing down.

The spiritual meaning is as true as the practical application. Van Orsdel Commons will be built on a very firm foundation—in fact, making sure this was so was part of what has delayed the project to this point! Moreover, the foundation Intermountain and its donors will provide for families and children by ensuring there is a place for sharing the unconditional love of God and God’s guidance for right relationships through love of God, self, and others—this firm foundation will continue to set the work of Intermountain apart from others called to address the needs of hurting children and their complex psychological, emotional, and relational needs. Making this investment in our children is certainly building something of worth that will stand the metaphorical rain and storms that will come.

So today, would you lift a prayer of thanksgiving for this new and exciting time in Intermountain’s ministry? Pray for a safe and efficient building process as SMA, Golden Eagle, and Intermountain work toward a finished project. Finally, pray for all the children, families, and staff that will be blessed by the ministry that occurs within Van Orsdel Commons for years to come.

Blessings,

Chaplain Chris Haughee

 

Here are pictures of where constructions stands as of early July, 2017:

new footings and supports have gone up in the basement

new footings and supports have gone up in the basement

view looking north

view looking north

view looking south

view looking south

view from interior of chaplain's office

view from interior of chaplain’s office

view looking north in café/study lounge area (half-framed wall depicts where the "soda counter" will be)

view looking north in café/study lounge area (half-framed wall depicts where the “soda counter” will be)

initial rendering of exterior redesign

initial rendering of exterior redesign

"building on a firm foundation!" detail for the support needed for the main floor, new footings in basement

“building on a firm foundation!” detail for the support needed for the main floor, new footings in basement

blueprint of main floor

blueprint of main floor

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