Mar 18

Following in Brother Van’s footsteps by building trauma-informed ministries

Chris Haughee, Intermountain ChaplainAs the chaplain at Intermountain’s residential program, I often hear the stories of families parenting children who have experienced trauma and how hard it is for them to find a church that “gets them.” One mother shared with me, “The hard thing was, just as my daughter’s behaviors were getting worse and I needed a supportive community, my fears of being judged or misunderstood caused me to withdraw even more.” Another family attended church regularly until their son’s behavior made it almost impossible to worship with their congregation. “We use to go, until I got tired of the looks I’d get on Sunday morning. The other parents complained to the pastor about my son.” Trauma comes in many forms, but for the children struggling to make sense of their past and find hope in the future, the process of healing requires those that can see passed their behaviors to the hurting child underneath.

Childhood trauma and adversity are both common-place in Montana. The results of a 2014 nationwide survey into the prevalence of toxic stress in childhood revealed that Montana is among the hardest places in the country to be a child. reports that 28% of Montana’s children are growing up with economic hardship, 26% of these households have experienced divorce, and 14% are living with someone who is mentally ill, suicidal, or has been ChildTrends-logodepressed for more than a couple of weeks. Clearly, there are some very difficult issues facing a large number of Montana’s children and their caregivers. My passion is to see faith communities across Montana be part of addressing the negative impacts of these stressors in the lives of our children. I’d love for those families I work with to find dozens of churches to choose from that would all greet their children with compassion and understanding!

My hope is that a Sunday school curriculum I have authored, with a companion DVD that shares the insights of my colleagues at Intermountain, will start to address the need for practical application of trauma-informed principles within local ministries. I hope to connect the expertise of Intermountain’s excellent direct care workers, clinicians, and teachers to the wonderful churches throughout Montana. The curriculum just takes a look at the “slice” of trauma-informed ministry that I am most familiar with: interventions for children. I do hope, though, that it serves as a springboard for congregations to enter the larger trauma-informed ministry conversation.

I feel passionate about this work, because children’s mental health is an issue not just for Intermountain and similar organizations. The prevalence of adversity in childhood, now firmly established through the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Study and subsequent research, should elicit the same response today that was expressed by Intermountain’s founder in 1909. Brother William Wesley Van Orsdel advocated for the care of vulnerable children in Montana, asking,

“How could we possibly not do such a thing? Under God, brethren, we cannot continue to let the suffering of children go unchallenged.”

That statement launched the ministry that I serve as a chaplain, and that passion for the well-being of children is what fuels the ministry and mission of Intermountain today. Those families mentioned earlier want to connect to a faith community and our churches want to love those families well. Tension arises when there is a gap between intention and ability in ministry. I have lived within this tension most of my life, and I hope to bridge the gap between the needs of children and youth from hard places and the desire of the Church to meet those needs.

The curriculum will serve as my first attempt to frame an understanding of the brain and human development, trauma’s effect on children, and the teachings of the Christian church and its founder, Jesus Christ. While not exhaustive in its treatment of these fields, I am hoping that by raising the topic within faith communities, those with personal experience and expertise in mental health, medicine and education will be emboldened to add their voices to the discussion.

Will you join me and many of Intermountain’s supporting churches in a much needed discussion of the Church’s approaches to trauma, the affected children in our communities, and the role each of us might play in facilitating healing and wholeness? If you are interested, please contact me! Thank you and God bless you.



NOTE: This article originally appeared in the Helena Independent Record, March 18, 2017

Mar 01

Trusting God would use us to bless others! Bishop Eliudi visit 2017

In February, our children assembled hygiene kits as a service project. These hygiene kits are given to students that come from far away to attend the International Evangelism Centre in Salika, Tanzania. At the Centre, these students prepare to be church planters and pastors to a number of countries in East Africa. The relatively few supplies—all fitting into a 1 gallon Ziplock bag—are a tremendous blessing to these eager, but often impoverished, students.

This project allows us a wonderful opportunity to discuss in chapel just how richly we are blessed, and that there is always something to be thankful for in the midst of our struggles in life. For many of our children, uprooted from their homes and working through some very difficult issues and matters of relationship, it was a healthy reminder that they, too, have something to give. They could see in a very tangible way that they had been blessed to be a

Bishop Eliudi asked the children, "Which of you wants to be a pastor or preacher?"

Bishop Eliudi asked the children, “Which of you wants to be a pastor or preacher?”


In a special chapel attended by Bishop Eliudi, the founder and president of IEC-Salika, the children had an opportunity to connect a little with the culture and language of Tanzania. Bishop Eliudi then shared a brief message with the children, asking them if any of them wanted to become a pastor, teacher, or chaplain in order to share God’s love with others. A number of children raised their hands, but I am not sure they were prepared for what was coming next…

Bishop Eliudi called each of these children, in turn, to the middle of our circle and asked them, “What message would you preach when you become a pastor?” And, the question was not rhetorical… he was looking for them to share something–right then and there! Here were some of the messages from our children:

  • “I would preach that God loves everybody and that he loves them no matter what!”
  • “God loves you and you should praise God!”
  • “I would share about the story of Jesus getting baptized and the Holy Spirit coming down like a dove.”

Clearly, the children have been listening and learning in our chapel times together! At Intermountain, we feel it is important for the children to learn compassion, empathy, and the positive sense of self that comes from giving oneself in service to another. From the spirit and the energy that flowed from our chapel service with Bishop Eliudi, it is hard to argue against the therapeutic power of service and acts of kindness and encouragement.

A big thank you goes out to the many Intermountain staff that donated items for the kits we made. I am also thankful for Sami Butler for her help in arranging the visit on campus. A grand total of 32 kits were assembled, each with a special note of encouragement from one of our children to the student that would receive one. We closed our time together going around the circle, with each child praying for the student that would receive their hygiene kit and reading a word of encouragement from the postcard they were going to include in the kits they had assembled.

Feb 26

Intermountain Residential Kids’ “Lord’s Prayer”

The Intermountain Children's version of the Lord's Prayer

The Intermountain Children’s version of the Lord’s Prayer

In a previous post, I explained that this fall I worked with the children on understanding and interpreting the Lord’s Prayer. The Lord’s Prayer, or “Our Father,” posed many interesting opportunities to discuss themes that each and ever one of us struggle with. It was a challenge preparing a lesson for children with emotional disturbance dealing with complicated teachings in scripture. It was an exercise in combatting “Christianese” and the simple Sunday school answers (you know… when in doubt, just answer “Jesus!”).

It was important to give context to the familiar words and phrases I know that they will encounter when outside the very supportive and nurturing atmosphere of Intermountain and the chaplain’s program (sin, evil, forgiveness, etc.). It wouldn’t be enough for me to simply edit out or rephrase words from the Lord’s Prayer because I knew they might be difficult for them to understand. We would have to take the time to carefully digest the words of scripture and make sense of them for a child that had experienced significant trauma and loss. So, rather than me being the one to rewrite and interpret the prayer, at the end of each lesson I took the kids’ suggestions on what our “Intermountain version” of the Lord’s Prayer might look like. Here’s what they came up with… I think you’ll be blessed.



Intermountain Residential Kids’ “Lord’s Prayer” © 2016


Dear God, you are everywhere.

Your name is holy, true and perfect.

Basically, we want what you want, Lord…

In the cottage, in our homes, and everywhere in the

whole wide earth.

Give us what we need today: stuff like food, but also

joy, hope, and opportunities to help others.

Help us forgive others even if they keep being mean,

because you forgive us when we’re sorry for what we’ve done.

Lead us away from bad stuff and into good.

Help us to not do bad things and help us be safe. May things be ‘good enough.’

You made everything, God, and it’s all for you.

You get our best, our happiness and our strength forever.


Feb 22

From Janet Tatz–“Happy TuB’Shevat!”

TuB’Shevat is my favorite holiday in the Jewish  year.  What could be better than celebrating

Janet Tatz, Jewish Educator, with the table set for a festive TuB'Shevat celebration on campus

Janet Tatz, Jewish Educator, with the table set for a festive TuB’Shevat celebration on campus

the first inklings of Spring half way between the winter solstice and spring equinox, especially since snow is most often still on the ground in the Northern part of the U.S. at that time of year?

The Jewish students, teachers, a parent and a friend, recently celebrated TuB’Shevat (literally, the 15th of the Jewish month of Shevat) here at Intermountain.  An ancient holiday, first celebrated by the kabbalists during the middle ages, TuB’Shevat, also known as The New Year of the Trees, recognizes and celebrates the returning of springtime. More specifically, TuB’Shevat celebrates that time of year when the sap begins to rise in the almond trees (both in the Land of Israel and the southern most states in the U.S. of A.). 

The holiday is celebrated by eating various fruits and nuts that grow on trees:  apples, dates, almonds, carob, oranges, etc. Modelled after the Passover seder, four cups of grape juice are enjoyed, each with a varying amount of red or white grape juice to symbolize the four seasons.  Songs are sung.  Blessings are said and stories are told.  What could be more fun?!

A wise man once said, “Speak to me of G-d” and the almond tree blossomed.  Chag samaech/happy holiday.  Welcome Spring!

It wasn't all just eating almonds and fruit! Janet and Jim took the children through a Haggadah for TuB'Shevat

It wasn’t all just eating almonds and fruit! Janet and Jim took the children through a Haggadah for TuB’Shevat


Feb 20

7 FREE Children’s Sermons for Lent (Year A)

In preparation for Lent, I have written seven free lessons for your use! My hope is that you will find this resource helpful for you as you interpret the “Change for Children” campaign to the young people of your church. While written primarily for a Children’s Sermon format, these CFC-logoobject lessons could be used in a Sunday school setting, youth group, or even as sermon illustrations.

   Click here for a direct link to the 7 Object Lessons for Change for Children- Lent 2017

2017 marks my fifth year at Intermountain and the twenty-first year I’ve been in children’s and youth ministry! Over these years, I have found that 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 congregations I’ve served have told 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!

These lessons have been carefully crafted around the stories of the Lenten season (Year A), how the Easter story impacts our hearts and lives, and the ways in which your church can connect to the ministry of Intermountain. 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.

If you haven’t visited the resource page to see what is there, I encourage you to do so. And, if you or your congregation would like to make use of any of the videos we have produced, make sure you check out the video page as well!

     [click here to jump to one of Chris’ favorites… “What If?”]



Feb 13

2017 Valentine’s themed Tea with Lauren Scofield, Miss Montana

Earlier this month we had the pleasure of putting on another wonderful Girls’ Valentine’s Day Tea. We hosted the Tea in our Community Service Center building and were treated to a visit from Miss Montana, Lauren Scofield.

Lauren Scofield, Miss Montana 2016

Lauren Scofield, Miss Montana 2016

Lauren Scofield graduated in May of 2016 from Carroll College with a degree in Biochemistry-Molecular Biology and a minor in Gender Studies. Soon after her college graduation she entered the Miss Montana Scholarship Program Competition and was crowned Miss Montana America 2016. During her year of service, Lauren has been promoting her personal platform of STEM throughout the state. Her goals through this program are to create a pipeline of innovate leaders by encouraging the creative and critical thinking required by STEM.

Lauren shared a message with our girls about beauty being something that we can think of as being part of minds, bodies, and spirits! Each girl and woman in attendance was asked to compliment the person to their right and left on something OTHER than their appearance in order to draw attention to the ways we focus on outward beauty instead of the beauty that comes from within.

Tea sandwiches, scones, and other supplies for the tea were provided by the ladies of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church and First Presbyterian Church, both of Helena. Many staff members helped with preparation, set-up, service, and clean-up, but the greatest assistance came from our resident wonder-woman, Anne Wilmoth! I was especially grateful, too, for the help that our Jewish Educator, Janet Tatz, provided in chasing down great deals on chocolate dipped strawberries from Van’s. Occupational therapist, Lisa Drown-Sommers, made dozens of amazing cookies for the girls and guests in attendance. I was blessed to see our young ladies in residence truly feel special and honored by the fuss made over them. It warmed my heart to see how deeply the love of God has touched the children in our care and the difference it is making in their lives.

Chaplain Chris gets in on the "photo booth" fun

Chaplain Chris gets in on the “photo booth” fun

I had a special gift for each of the girls—a little stuffed animal cat holding a heart that reads, “God’s love is PURR-fect”—as a reminder of God’s love for them. And, of course, our girls all received a personalized Valentine and an autographed picture of Miss Montana after donning their own tiaras and goofy photo props for fun pictures with their staff and friends.

Intermountain is thankful for all the support shown to us by the community and churches across the state. Your gifts allow for the care of very special, but hurting children who need to know the love and care of a God that loves them no matter what. This year, I am especially thankful for the $250 “Action Team” grant I received from Thrivent in order to make the Tea extra special. Everyone had a wonderful time, and as one adult attendee said, “Each of these I come to seems like the best one yet!”

Feb 09

Chaplain Chris to speak at Trauma and Resilience Conference in Portland, Oregon

Trauma-Resilience Multnomah Conference

There is an exciting conference coming to the Pacific Northwest, and Chaplain Chris Haughee has been invited to present. The conference is called “Trauma and Resilience” and is hosted by the University where Chris is completing his Doctor of Ministry.

CLICK HERE for more information on the conference.

This conference aims to tackle some of the more perplexing issues surrounding the current discussion in multiple fields around trauma. It is often said that art is impossible to define, though “you know it when you see it.” Is this what trauma is like? To be sure, trauma seems difficult if not possible to define. Yet, insidiously, because of the innumerable forms and shapes it takes, many of us would not even recognize trauma when we see it. Perhaps provisionally, we can define trauma as anything that shatters one’s trust in the world. Or further: trauma occurs when the very tools we use to build trust in the world are those things by which we’ve been betrayed.

How does one cope, when the usual ways to cope are the very things that cause harm? During the Trauma and Resilience Conference, Chaplain Chris Haughee will have the honor of joining a host of other expert speakers that will present trauma in a variety of angles. Their hope is to help everyone not only recognize how trauma affects all corners of life–from relationships, to communities, to politics, to literature–but also how we can begin to help one another heal and move beyond brokenness into resilience.

Chaplain Chris will be pairing up again with his friend and colleague Kimberly Konkel, from HHS in D.C.. (see below). They last presented together at ChildWise’s Fall Conference in Helena, Montana. Those interested in the conference should visit the website for the latest information. Conference fees are very reasonable, starting at $15 for students and $30 for adults.

You can secure your spot at this groundbreaking, interdisciplinary conference HERE.

Here is the list of speakers schedule to appear:

The future will require us to raise-up leaders prepared to engage a constantly changing world—where access to information brings trauma front and center at a moment’s notice. Ben Sand, CEO of Portland Leadership Foundation, will discuss how we can collectively work with young people to raise them up through trauma into resilience.

A pastor at Imago Dei’s Eastside location and founder of Holla Mentors who “stand in the gap to change the story so commonly understood for black and brown children through mentorship,” Eric will be presenting a plenary session on “Trauma and Race.”

Dr. Kinzie specializes in Adult-Outpatient Psychiatry at the Oregon Health and Sciences University, and in particular specializes on the psychiatric treatment of refugees, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression. He is our third plenary presenter, and will be sharing on the psychological effects of trauma.

The Director of The Institute for Cultural Engagement: New Wine, New Wineskins, and Professor of Theology of Culture at Multnomah University and Biblical Seminary, Dr. Metzger will be giving introductory reflections on theology and culture, framing the themes of the conference into the broader vision of New Wine, New Wineskins.

Dr. Gardner has worked for Wycliffe Bible Translators and the Summer Institute for Linguistics for over fifty years, and is the author of Healthy, Resilient, & Effective in Cross-Cultural Ministry. During that time she was a pioneer of introducing issues of trauma and resilience into training for missionary work, and will be presenting on how trauma comes to bear on the missionary field. In addition, Dr. Gardner will be one of several on our closing plenary panel session.

Robert Potter’s professional life has combined medical practice, teaching, and bioethics consultation. He practiced internal medicine and geriatrics for 30 years, and also holds a Ph.D. in Religion from the University of Chicago Divinity School. From 1994 until his retirement in 2004, he was the bioethics scholar, instructor, and consultant for the Center for Practical Bioethics in Kansas City, MO, and from 2004 to 2014 he was Senior Scholar for the Center for Ethics in Healthcare at OHSU. In addition to his workshop, Dr. Potter will be one of several members on our closing plenary panel session.

Steve Kolmes is the Director of the Environmental Studies Program, Professor of Biology, and the occupant of the Rev. John Molser, C.S.C. Chair in Science at the University of Portland. He has served on government scientific advisory panels such as NOAA-Fisheries Technical Recovery Team for the Willammette and Lower Columbia Rivers, and will be talking about how trauma shapes, and is shaped by, our current environmental issues.

Domani Pothen is Professor of English at Multnomah University, and received her Doctorate of Arts from Idaho State University. Trauma as a reality is peculiar in that by its very nature it often eludes our ability to process or represent it. Dr. Pothen will be presenting on how trauma appears in literature, how we attempt to represent it, and how great literature can open our eyes to profound ways to survive and perhaps eventually even move beyond, trauma.

The Reverend Chris Haughee is a licensed minister of the Evangelical Covenant Church and has served as chaplain of Intermountain’s residential services since 2012. Chris is currently in the final year of a Doctor of Ministry in Cross-Cultural Engagement program. Chris will be co-presenting on “Building Resilience Though Addressing Adverse Childhood Experiences in Your Faith Community.”

Kimberly Konkel serves as the Associated Director for Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, where she leads the work to combat the four co-occuring epidemics of suicide, violence, untreated mental illness, and addiction. Along with Chris Haughee (above) Kim will be co-presenting a workshop on “Building Resilience through Addressing Adverse Childhood Experiences.” In addition Kim will be on the closing Plenary panel.

Dr. Karen Fancher specializes in understanding the impact of war-related trauma in the country of Sudan and elsewhere, and is currently a Professor at Multnomah University in the MAGDJ (Master of Arts in Global Development of Justice). She will be presenting a workshop on how war and its resulting trauma impacts individual and communal psyches, and how it is so necessary to understand these situations to move forward to bring hope and healing to the world.

Michael Gurney is professor of philosophy and theology at Multnomah University. He served in the United States Navy (’81-’87) in the Naval Nuclear Power program on the USS Truxtun before attending Multnomah Bible College. He holds a Master’s in Philosophy of Religion and Ethics from Talbot and a Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen’s Highland Theological College. Dr. Gurney will be sharing about the realities of Post-Traumatic stress among military veterans, and some ways the church can aid in their healing processes.

The current Chair of Biblical Languages at Multnomah University, Dr. Kutz also specializes in the Book of Job (in particular how the Greek translation, known as the Septuagint, reflects biblical interpretation during the Intertestamental period). Perhaps no other book of the Bible reflects on what we would call the theme of trauma more than Job. But what does this often ambiguous story tell us? Dr. Kutz will guide us through several key themes during his workshop, helping us understand what the story can tell us today.

Multnomah University
8435 NE Glisan St
Portland, OR 97220

Jan 30

Teaching the Lord’s Prayer in chapel, an opportunity to practice trauma-informed ministry

Last fall, I decided that it would be a good idea to work with the children to know and understand some of the prayers that they had likely heard or would hear in the context of their church attendance in the future. It is always interesting to prepare a lesson for children with emotional disturbance that deals with challenging themes from scripture. It is helpful to interpret those familiar words and phrases within Christian expression that I know that they will encounter when outside the very supportive and nurturing atmosphere of Intermountain and the chaplain’s program. Entering the series on the Lord’s Prayer, I knew it wouldn’t be enough for me to simply edit out or rephrase words I knew might be difficult for them to understand. Instead, we would take the time to carefully digest the words of this well-know passage and make sense of the Lord’s Prayer for a child that had experienced significant trauma and loss.

It was an excellent exercise in “trauma-informed ministry,” which I have written about previously. Trauma-informed ministry can sometimes be misunderstood as an effort to remove the “hard things” a faith tradition teaches because they might trigger someone and are best avoided (think about the backlash among some segments of society to the concept of trigger warnings, safe spaces, and micro-aggressions!). My view is that true trauma-informed ministry delves into the hard spaces and difficult teachings of various faith traditions because… guess what? Those that have experienced trauma are already in a hard space and are already experiencing difficulty! These are those situations that Jesus spoke into and Jesus sought to bring hope and healing to the hurting. Jesus Bible-cross-Lords-Prayertaught his prayer to a traumatized, oppressed, and desperate people! The Lord’s Prayer was never meant to be viewed as something akin to a Hallmark card greeting or something destined to be a lovely cross-stitch that hung on the wall or sat on the mantle.

With that in mind, let us reread the words of scripture (Matthew 6:9-13, NIV):

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’”

LOTS of potential “triggers” there that might bring up difficult feelings and strong reactions… which is why I took the better part of two months to go through, line-by-line, the meaning of this prayer for our children. I’ll highlight just three issues we bumped up against below:

“OUR FATHER.” How do you communicate the loving care of God as a parent to those struggling with their relationships with earthly parents, birthparents, adoptive parents, or foster parents? In most cases, the parents of our children are doing an incredible job with very overwhelming children! It’s not a matter of parenting deficits that need to be mitigated for, but the perception of a child that is so trapped in shame and self-loathing that they cannot properly receive or interpret the actions of a loving parent! And that’s for a parent they can see, feel, talk to and interact with… not a all-knowing, all-powerful heavenly parent. How do you address a relationship like that? Most adults have a hard time thinking of God as a loving parent, a kind Father.

“FORGIVE… AS WE ALSO HAVE FORGIVEN.” Oh my. Books have been written about the issue of forgiveness within the context of deep loss and hurt, so what could I meaningfully relate in a just a few sentences? We had to talk about defenses we have and the protective behaviors we have learned through our traumas that make forgiveness and relationships hard. [click here for another story from chapel along this theme] We focused on how, when we get in the practice of forgiving others, it becomes easier to accept the forgiveness of God and others in our lives. I truly think Jesus meant this prayer to remind us that we are to be conduits of his grace and forgiveness so we can truly experience the forgiveness we already have! My debt has already been forgiven, and nothing I do can change that. What does hang in the balance is my experience of that forgiveness, and if I withhold forgiveness from another I clog up the works, so to speak, and God’s grace and forgiveness doesn’t flow as easily through me. Like I said… way too much here to deal with in one paragraph, but we had an excellent and open conversation in chapel about how hard this prayer can be to pray at times.

“TEMPTATION… DELIVER US FROM THE EVIL ONE.” Yes. We went there in chapel. We talked about the goodness of God and the paradox of a good, loving God allowing evil into our lives. It was like walking on holy ground to be surrounded by beautiful children who have suffered as a result of the evils in this world. The amazing thing is, our children don’t need to be convinced of humankind’s capacity for evil or their own participation in the depravity of the world. It was very freeing from them to understand that Jesus taught this as a prayer for EVERYONE, meaning even a hypothetical ‘spiritual dream team’ (the 12, the Pope and Mother Teresa, pastors, staff, the chaplain, whoever they might have thought of as “having it all together”) was instructed to be on guard against temptation and their own ability to participate in bad things. This isn’t a prayer for those that the church is waiting patiently for in order to get with the program! No, this prayer, in light of the call to forgiveness above, is a reminder of our need to look to God for our protection and provision in the midst of the difficulties this world presents.

In a future post, I’ll reveal the “rewrite”/interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer that our children came up with as well as an insight or two that they shared. Maybe this new version might even make it’s way into your prayer time or prompt some soul-searching in regards to this very popular prayer and what it means for Jesus’ followers to pray these words. But… that’s for next time! Until then, may God’s peace and blessing be with you all. Thank you for your love, support and prayers for the children of Intermountain and for all those children traumatized and working through toxic stress and adversity.

Jan 17

Updated pictures from Van Orsdel Commons build!

While it’s cold outside, Golden Eagle Construction is making the most of the bad weather by working inside. The old Bridger cottage is beginning to take on a new shape as you can see from the pictures below. Thank you for your support and prayers throughout the fundraising process, and we hope you share in our joy as the project is coming together and moving forward!


Chaplain Chris Haughee

some day soon... the Chaplain's office!

some day soon… the Chaplain’s office!

view looking north, Van Orsdel Commons interior

view looking north, Van Orsdel Commons interior

James Spradlin, managing the project for Intermountain, shares a moment of levity with Chris Hohn, maintenance custodian

James Spradlin, managing the project for Intermountain, shares a moment of levity with Chris Hohn, maintenance custodian

Jan 07

Need a New Year’s resolution? Consider becoming an advocate!

2017 is here, and it’s the season when most of us consider New Year’s resolutions and even the most cynical among us dares to think that with a little will power we might do any number of things: lose weight, eat healthier, watch less TV, get that promotion, or repair damaged relationships. This year, I’d ask you to consider a resolution that will make the world a better place and will give you a sense of purpose in 2017: be an advocate.

An advocate is someone who speaks on behalf of someone or something that they feel strongly about. It’s a willingness to put some “skin in the game,” affecting change in a system, situation, or society through personal effort. It involves speaking out, speaking for, and being there for someone or something outside yourself. It is, ideally, a purely selfless act. It’s also a recognition that, while we can’t do everything, we can do something. And, that something just might make the world brighter, more beautiful, and more full of hope.
So, what should you advocate for? How should you go about becoming an advocate?

I have a few suggestions for you, based on my own experience. I trust that if you follow these guidelines, you’ll find yourself connected to a cause and to a group of people that will help make 2017 an amazing year of fulfillment, hope and promise.

First, examine what you do for most of your waking hours. If it is employment outside the home, what is your line of work? What causes might be connected to your place of employment? If you work in the home, maybe you’ll connect best to a cause that resonates for your passion for raising healthy children or supporting other families? I currently residential-vertical-green-blackwork at Intermountain, an agency dedicated to “caring solutions, strong families, and healthy communities” in Montana since 1909. I am passionate about what I do, so it is easy to advocate for the children and families we serve. If you can find someone or something to advocate for that connects to your vocation, you’ll go a long way towards making that job a calling!

Secondly, consider what issues or personal hardships have you endured. If you are here to celebrate the New Year, you are a survivor! Who helped you along the way? Answering this question can help you find people and organizations that will help you “pay it forward.” For instance, my older brother had Muscular Dystrophy and was helped by both the MDA (Jerry’s Kids) and benefitted from having a wish granted by Make-A-Wish many years ago. So, my act of “paying it forward” is to support MDA and volunteer as a Wish Granter with Montana Make-A-Wish! Bymaw-logo mining your personal history, you are bound to find something you can advocate for, even redeeming something from your past that was difficult or troubling. The great thing is, when you take your past pain and put it into service in the present, you are able to connect with those you are helping in a much more profound and compassionate way. As you have been comforted by God, family and friends, you can comfort others (2 Cor. 1:4).

Lastly, ask around at the groups you participate in to discover new avenues for advocacy. Maybe your Rotary or Lions group is passionate about clean water or education? Maybe that booster club you joined is more than you assumed it was and is doing some great work to help students on and off the field? Communities of faith are great places for advocacy… have you considered getting involved in a cause your church or fellowship is invested in? My home church is Headwaters Covenant Church. We’re a community of believers that is passionate about making a difference in our community, state and world. In January we are observing Human Trafficking Awareness month, culminating on the 26th with an evening of dialogue with Attorney General Tim Fox where we’ll discuss what the church can do to prevent modern day slavery! I’m sure your church or community group is involved in something that you would be excited to advocate for.

So, whether it springs forth from your occupation or vocation, connects to a piece of your personal history, or allows you to connect in a deeper way with your church or community, be an advocate in 2017. You can help our world become a better place and that is a resolution worth making. Happy New Year!


[Note: A version of this article originally appeared in the Helena Independent Record, print edition, Dec 31, 2016]

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