Dec 30

Make 2018 a year of positive change in your community… be an advocate!

2018 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. 2017 was a year that saw a number of social movements precipitated by what national leaders did as well as the misbehavior of those in government and media in regards to sexual harassment. Whether or not the news that hit our headlines in 2017 motivated you to march in the streets or donate to a particular cause, I might suggest that a better approach for affecting and sustaining meaningful societal change rests in how we view ourselves and our social activism. This year, since we’re considering resolutions, I’d ask you to consider one that will make the world a better place and will give you a sense of purpose in 2018: 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 and more beautiful. An advocate does more than curse the darkness, she lights the way to a better tomorrow. An advocate joins with others, like those engaged in ChildWise Affiliates throughout Montana to better the lives of children in our communities (see video for more on this exciting movement)!

So, what should you advocate for? How should you go about becoming an advocate?

Where would you start in considering advocacy in 2018? 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 this 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 work 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! By 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, and in 2018 we are purposefully focusing on making our church a more trauma sensitive space by including a sensory-break room where those that are overwhelmed, regardless of age, can take the opportunity to regulate their mind, bodies, and spirits in order to better connect with the worshipping experience.

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 2018. 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]

Dec 18

ICYMI: Alizajane Sark blesses the kids of Intermountain

In case you missed it, there was a wonderful story on KTVH in Helena about Alizajane Sark and the Festival of Trees donor that paid $800 so her tree could be donated back to the children of Intermountain. Here’s the story that ran on the news last week:

 

 

We wish you a blessed Christmas and hope your heart is filled with joy and generosity, just like young Alizajane’s!

Dec 13

Happy Chanukah!

Chanukah is an eight day holiday that begins on the 25th day of Kislev, on the Jewish calendar, each year.  This year, Chanukah started on December 12th at sunset, and the whole campus was able to assemble in the multi-purpose room to observe the holiday.

Through fun songs (like the one above) and entertaining videos, we recounted the victorious story of a small group of Jews, including the Maccabee family, who fought off the Assyrian-Greeks in a battle that lasted three years ( 168-165 B.C.E.), in order to retain their Jewish identity and practices. This was the first time, in recorded history, that a people stood up for their rights, and it is a cause to celebrate, even today!

Where does the connection to “light” come in? Well, when the Jews returned to their Temple, in Jerusalem, that had been trashed and defiled by the Assyrians, they could only find one small crucible of oil to light the menorah that was lit each day in the Temple. As our children learned, one of the miracles of the Chanukah story is that this little bit of oil lasted eight days ~ the exact time needed to prepare, purify and bless a new batch of oil.  Accordingly, Chanukah is celebrated by lighting a nine-branched chanukiyah ( candelabra).  Each night, an additional candle is lit, adding more light to the darkening days.

During our special chapel service, the children heard Chanukah stories, learned a couple of Chanukah songs and prayers, played the dreidel (a spinning top that tells the story of Chanukah) game and enjoyed sufganiyot ( jelly doughnuts) which is also part of the traditional celebration of Chanukah.

Also known as The Festival of Lights, Chanukah is a time to celebrate with family and friends.  It is a joyous holiday. We hope you have a wonderful celebration, as well… whatever, whomever, and however you choose to recognize this special time of year!chanukkah-image

 

Dec 06

“Guess Who?” an object lesson for the 2nd week of Advent

guess-whoObject lesson for Week 2 of Advent: “Guess Who?”

Objects needed:

A copy of the children’s game “Guess Who?” if you can find one.

Theme/Main Idea:

With Jesus’ birth, God entered into human history and gave God a face! In knowing Jesus, we have a chance to know God. In living our lives with Jesus, we can know true hope no matter what happens.

Presentation:

“Have you ever had to describe a good friend to someone who hasn’t met them? What sort of things did you say to describe them?

[Take time for children’s answers. They are likely going to mention personality traits as well as physical traits.]

These are all great descriptions. I noticed that people mentioned physical characteristics—how tall, what color hair, etc.—as well as personality traits—nice, funny, etc.—when describing their friends. Now, for a stranger who hasn’t met our friend, it might be easier for them to recognize our friend if we just stuck to physical traits.

[Take out “Guess Who?” game]

Do you guys know what this is? Yes. It is a game. Has anyone here ever played this game? Yes? Well how do you play? That’s right, you try and guess the other player’s mystery person before they guess yours. And, it is all about asking questions like, ‘Is it a boy? Does he have a mustache? Does he wear glasses?’ And, as you go… it narrows things down until you can guess who the mystery person is.

Now… I kind of have a silly question for you. If you were going to play this game and God was your mystery person, how would you describe God? Would you use physical characteristics to describe God like in this game [hold Guess Who? Game up], or would you use personality characteristics—sticking to what God is like… gentle, kind, powerful?

[Give children time to respond]

Yes. We might think about pictures we have seen of Jesus when we describe God, but even those pictures… well, we can’t be sure exactly what Jesus looked like. So, more often than not, I think I would describe Jesus or God like some of you did: Loving, kind, peaceful… those kind of things.

Until God came to earth as Jesus, we had a hard time knowing Jesus. The Bible tells us that Jesus is a perfect representation of God—He shows us exactly what God is like because he is God. So, after Jesus came, people could know God better than they ever had before!

Even now, after Jesus has been born, lived, died, rose from the grave and has returned to heaven, we can still know God well by knowing Jesus. We can know Jesus by reading the Bible, by talking to Jesus in prayer, and through worship—what we are doing right now! Yes, he might not be here physically. We might not be able to reach out and touch Jesus, but Jesus is here and we can still know him in our hearts, minds, and souls. And, just like our best friends, we’ll find that the words we use to describe our friend Jesus will not focus on how Jesus looks, but on the traits that really make a difference to us. The hope of the whole earth—to know God and be loved by God—this hope was met when Jesus was born.

Let’s pray:

“God, thank you for the hope we have in Jesus Christ. Because Jesus came to us we don’t have to guess about who you are and how you feel about us. You love us, care for us, and want us to love you in return. Thank you, God for this season of hope and for the joy you have placed in our hearts. Amen.”

Key Text:

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:15-20)

 

© Chaplain Chris Haughee, 2017 www.intermountainministry.org

Nov 26

Van Orsdel United Methodist Youth visit Intermountain in Helena

group w posterHelena’s Community Service Center and Residential campus were bless to have a visit from Intermountain Presidential Council member Pat Floyd, youth leader Tina, and 15 amazing youth from Van Orsdel United Methodist Church in Havre, Montana earlier this month.

The group started out at the Community Service Center with Terry Chaney, who fed them lunch and gave a program on the history of Intermountain and answered a lot of questions about Intermountain’s mission and ministry. It was a wonderful place to start the visit and gave the group insight into the interventions and activities that our community-based programs engage in, reaching hundreds of children and families every day.

signing posterNext, the group traveled up the hill to join me for a quick explanation and tour of the Residential campus, visiting McTaggart cottage as well as getting to see the construction going on in the former Bridger cottage. That cottage is being transformed into Van Orsdel Commons, a place where chapel activities, Jewish mentoring, and cultural activities will take place for our children.

Additionally, the Commons will include a café and study lounge space for both children and staff, extra room for special cultural projects and artistic creations, house our puppet stage, and allow for additional occupational therapy activities for children and wellness programs for staff.

I was especially touched to have the group write prayers on the 2×4 studs in the walls… words of blessing and encouragement that will surround those that will use the Van Orsdel Commons for years to come.

In between small groups touring the Van Orsdel Commons, the group helped Heather Rae, our donations manager, down in the “Treasure Chest.” The Treasure Chest is our donations room, and there is almost always lots of work to be done in that space. It is set up like a small store with items of clothing, school supplies, shoes, jackets, and some toys and games. When individuals or groups donate items (perhaps in response to the “Wish List“) they come down prayers on studs1to our donations room and need to be sorted and placed out in the Treasure Chest so staff can take children there to select items as needed for their care and for special celebrations like birthdays and Christmas.

Throughout this post, you can see pictures from the visit, including a mother and son that attended and wrote prayers of blessing on the walls of the chaplain’s office as well as the hand of Intermountain Presidential Council Member Pat Floyd signing the poster the youth created to encourage our children. The poster reads: “To the children of Intermountain, we are praying for you!” Pat signed the poster, writing: “Lots of love, from Van Orsdel United Methodist Youth.” The poster is hanging in the space we now use for chapel activities, the MPR (Multi-purpose room), in the Bob Wix Building.

I am excited to see how the relationship between Van Orsdel UMC and Intermountain will continue to grow. Tina, the leader who attended with 15 of her amazing youth, expressed interest in possibly coming back in 2018 to participate in our yearly VBS Day Camp! It was amazing and inspiring to see a group of young people that were truly engaged and ready to assist in Intermountain’s mission of “healing through healthy relationships” any way they could!

Sincerely, Chaplain Chris Haughee

Pat signs poster

Nov 21

Happy Thanksgiving and Thank you!

We have spent a lot of time this month focusing on thankfulness, gratitude, and recognizing how richly we have been blessed. It started with Operation Christmas Child, and a special chapel service in which each cottage sent a child up (one at a time) to select items for a gift they prepared together for a child in Mexico. In addition to writing notes of

A sample of our children's notes in our Operation Christmas Child gifts

A sample of our children’s notes in our Operation Christmas Child gifts

encouragement, each child had to come back to their cottage with an item and explain why they had selected it to go in the gift. This interpretive step emphasized the role of empathy and “putting others above ourselves” (Philippians 2:3) when giving a gift. The children really seemed to respond to this lesson and had some wonderful insights when we discussed what made a good gift around the holidays!

The following week in chapel we spent time thinking about all the people that come around us and support us when times are hard. We discussed thankfulness and gratitude as key components in building the “team” that God has placed in our lives. Children drew pictures and wrote notes of thanks to donors to Intermountain and also wrote on a

Each leaf on the tree has something our children are thankful for.

Each leaf on the tree has something our children are thankful for.

fall leaf something they were thankful for. The leaves each attached to a tree on the wall with a small Velcro dot, and when each child had giving thanks, we had a beautiful fall tree to decorate our space for our upcoming holidays!

At Intermountain, we are tremendously thankful for the support we receive from our donors and supporting churches. We simply could not carry on the work on behalf of children and their families without the love, prayers, and financial support of so many throughout Montana and the country! So, as we gather to give thanks, each of you are on our hearts and minds, and we wish you a happy Thanksgiving and a blessed holiday season.

Sincerely,

Chaplain Chris Haughee and the children of Intermountain

Give Thanks good-good-rewards

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

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