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.



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.


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

Jun 21

Beloved Jewish Educator Janet Tatz retires from Intermountain

Edie Kort and Jim Nallick, new Jewish Mentors and educators, pose for a picture with Chaplain Chris and Janet Tatz.

Edie Kort and Jim Nallick, new Jewish Mentors and educators, pose for a picture with Chaplain Chris and Janet Tatz.

This week Intermountain’s Jewish Mentor and educator, Janet Tatz, retires from nearly a decade in supporting Jewish children in residential treatment. For the last five years, I have had the pleasure of working alongside her to ensure that every child on Helena’s campus has the spiritual and cultural support needed to do the hard work of treatment while growing in their understanding of God’s unconditional love and acceptance.

Janet has taught me a great deal about humility and grace, and has become a friend as well as a colleague. It has been a joy to work alongside her and model understanding and acceptance between the Jewish and Christian faiths for our children, their families, and our staff. Our ability to work together has strengthened the Chaplain’s Program and Intermountain’s Residential services. Janet has always gone “above and beyond” her part-time status and done whatever was needed to build relationships with the Jewish families served by Intermountain. It can be most clearly seen in the response she gets from the children and families she serves.

At last week’s Recognition Day celebration, the guest Intermountain alumni speaker was able to attest to the role Janet played in his journey to healing and wholeness, both spiritually and relationally. He spoke to the “happy and much more flexible place” he’s in now as a result of “time with Janet,” who he explained was not only his Jewish educator, but also “kind of like my

Janet receives a certificate in recognition of her efforts in establishing a strong Jewish Education program over the last 10 years

Janet receives a certificate in recognition of her efforts in establishing a strong Jewish Education program over the last 10 years


He continued, saying, “I really valued my special time with Janet Tatz, the Jewish Educator. She taught me a lot more about my culture and how to incorporate being Jewish into modern living. I told her what was happening in my life and she listened to me. She showed me a lot more of Montana and took me to Jewish rituals off campus. She meant and still means a lot to me!”

While Janet is retiring from Intermountain’s employment, she still plans to be around and help volunteer to support the transition to our new Jewish Educator, Jim Nallick. Additionally, Intermountain has hired a substitute teacher who will also serve as a female Jewish mentor on campus, Edith Kort.

If you’d like to congratulate Janet on her retirement, you may send your message care of Intermountain, 500 S. Lamborn Street, Helena MT 59601.


Jun 12

The foster care system, trauma and resilience

Chaplain Chris Haughee participates in a panel discussion on trauma and resilience in the foster care system

Chaplain Chris Haughee participates in a panel discussion on trauma and resilience in the foster care system hosted by Imago Dei, Portland

Trauma often does its greatest harm when it occurs during the impressionable stages of our youth. Losing one’s parents, moving from different schools, living in an unstable environment – all of these are issues that can break into a child’s world and cause difficulties well into adulthood.

What can we do? What has research shown to be the current best practices? What is the science behind this aspect of foster care, and how does it relate to our faith?

Chaplain Chris was honored to be a part of a panel to address these questions. The purpose of this discussion hosted by Imago Dei in Portland, Oregon, was to inform and hopefully encourage discussion for those who are already part of the foster care system and want to learn more, as well as churches and communities seeking to build greater networks of support and communication.

Dr. Robert Potter introduces the panel discussion by speaking to the impact of trauma on moral development, in particular with children. The trauma experienced by children in the foster care system can greatly impact their moral reasoning and behaviors. When approached by the challenges the world presents, a moral response asks: “What’s going on here, what ought we to care about, and what should we do about it?” In regards parenting a child who has been traumatized, the different perspectives of parent and child as to “what is really going on?” and “what is the most important thing to care about?” will definitely affect what should be done in response.

Panelists include: Dr. Robert Potter (M.D., Ph.D.) former chair of bio-ethics at Oregon Health and Sciences University; Reverend Doctor Chris Haughee (Evangelical Covenant Church, chaplain of Intermountain Residential in Helena, Montana); Mike Pinkerton (part of the foster care system at Imago Dei PDX Church), and two mothers of beautiful foster children who share a part of their story and experience, Jillana Goble and Kat Bonham (i.e. the true experts!). The panel was moderated by Dr. Paul Louis Metzger, the director of New Wine, New Wineskins (Ph.D., King’s College, London).

May 26

Observing Memorial Day

flag-memorial-dayMemorial Day, originally known as “decoration day” began on the 5th of May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11 which said:

“The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.”

It was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

In more recent observance, the Memorial Day weekend tends to be more about a day off to BBQ and play than recognizing the sacrifices of our war dead. Certainly, the children in residence look forward to a day off from school and staff and children alike know that summer is just around the corner. Summer’s activities include hiking, fishing, and camping trips in the beauty of God’s creation… so, it is easy to see why this focus has captured most hearts and minds.

Is our Memorial Day celebration more about "fun in the sun" than it is remembering the sacrificial love of others?

Can our Memorial Day celebration be more than just “fun in the sun” as we remember the sacrificial love of others?

Still, it would be my hope that we could recall the words of Jesus, when alluding to his own sacrifice, he taught his followers saying: “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Whether literally taken, as in the instance of those we remember on Memorial Day, or the figurative “laying down” of one’s life for the benefit and good of another, there is room amidst all the fun in the warm (nearly) summer weather to give thanks for those that love so sacrificially.

Blessings to you, Intermountain’s faithful supporters, for the sacrifices you have made to improve the lives of the children and families in our care.

Chaplain Chris Haughee

May 10

Punishment… or the grace of God? a story from chapel service

Maybe you are familiar with the story of Cain and Abel?

It’s hard to think of a Bible story that has more potential triggers for retraumatization or difficult feelings for children from hard places and circumstances than this story of jealousy, murder, and judgment!

As the story goes, the first family is living out its existence after mom and dad (Eve and Adam) have been kicked out of the Garden of Eden. The family is small… just two sons at this point: Cain and Abel. Abel tends flocks while Cain works the soil.

When it comes time to thank God for the fruit of their labors, Cain gives some of his crop, while Abel provides a “first-fruit”: the best cuts of meat from the firstborn of his flock. God is pleased with Abel’s gift, but not Cain’s. Cain gets jealous, burns with anger toward his little brother, and eventually leads him out into the fields and kills him.

God addresses Cain and asks about Abel, to which Cain replies infamously: “How should I know? Am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain has not only murdered his brother, but now he’s trying to lie to God about it!

As a result, God “punishes” Cain by driving him away from his fields and family and he must make his way from now on by being a hunter and gatherer.

Not the most “trauma sensitive” story to tell to children 6-13 who have experienced their fair share of difficulty in their lives… or so I thought at first. But, putting this story through the lens of “trauma-informed ministry,” I believe I unearthed a truth that deepened my faith and allowed the children and staff to connect to God and this story in a new way. I’ll explain in just a bit. First, a word about retraumatization.

a child draws a picture of a traumatic event

a child draws a picture of a traumatic event

Retraumatization happens when a person is “triggered” by something or someone in their environment that takes them back to a previous experience of trauma. It is not merely reminding them of the trauma, they physically re-experience their trauma as if it were happening again–right at that moment. It happens as much to children and youth who have experienced adversity in childhood (ACEs) as it does to combat veterans. It’s not an uncommon experience among the clientele that Intermountain works with. So… why this talk of retraumatization?

Well, it’s my conviction that God is “trauma-informed,” and what I had seen for over four decades as God’s punishment of Cain was actually an act of mercy! Here’s how I explained it to the children in chapel…

I asked all those who had ever done something really bad or had something really bad happen to them in a certain place to raise their hand if it was hard for them to return to that place because it made them relive the experience in their minds and hearts?

     EVERY HAND WENT UP… even those of our staff.

Then, I asked the children to put themselves in Cain’s position. He’s done something that

would you like to be known by others as the worst version of yourself?

would you like to be known by others as the worst version of yourself?

he is ashamed of. It’s so bad, he thinks he can hide it from God… hide it from himself. But, day after day he’d try and carry on working the field and doing what he knows how to do–plant and grow crops. All the while, he is working the same ground he buried his brother in! God points this out and shows Cain what he is doing is going to keep retraumatizing him: “You brother’s blood cries out from the ground!” Can you imagine a worse punishment than being forced to stay in that place for the rest of his life? Can you imagine God “rubbing his nose” in it by making Cain continue his life as a farmer?

So, what I saw (and had been taught to see!) as punishment was God’s grace… God forced Cain to leave what was familiar to lead a new life. He had to leave the fields in which he buried his brother and learn new skills and a new way of life.

It bears repeating, because it is at odds with our nature and how we often view God… God wasn’t punishing him, but instead giving Cain a chance to redefine himself as something other than a farmer who had murdered his brother!

Horrible things happen every day. Bad things happen to us and we have, perhaps, done our fair share of bad things. God’s grace means we don’t have to stay stuck there. We should stop retraumatizing ourselves by reliving our worst moments. None of us deserves to be known as the worst version of ourselves, and that is CERTAINLY not what God sees when he looks at us. God sees a son or daughter he desperately loves.

It was a message I needed to hear as much as our children. Perhaps you needed to hear it, too?

Apr 25

Celebrating the Passover at Intermountain Residential by Jim Nallick, Jewish Mentor

one-drop-per-plagueHere at Intermountain’s Residential Campus in Helena, we are blessed to have a number of Jewish children ably taught and guided in their continued faith formation by our Jewish Educators, Janet Tatz and Jim Nallick. The following is a report from Jim Nallick on this year’s celebration:

On April 18th, we gathered at fellowship to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Passover. This is done by having a meal together known as a seder, which is a multi-sensory retelling of the Biblical story of how God liberated the Children of Israel from slavery in Egypt through the leadership of Moses. The seder was presented by our team of Jewish educators who led the seder and prepared all the special foods.

Edie Kort (volunteer), Janet Tatz, and Jim Nallick - Our Jewish Education Team!

Edie Kort (volunteer), Janet Tatz, and Jim Nallick – Our Jewish Education Team!

Many symbols are used in the telling of the story. We are remembering being redeemed from slavery to freedom which is a festive occasion. There is wine in abundance – four small glasses of grape juice in our case, and we pause to thank God for all the blessings we have as we sample all the symbolic foods on our seder plate. Bitter herbs (parsley) is dipped in salt water to bring to mind our tears of sorrow. And if that is not enough tears, a big dose of horseradish served on the unleavened bread called matzah will bring tears to your eyes (and clear your sinuses) if you are brave enough to take a big bite. There is also the sweetness of apples cut up in a tasty mixture of nuts and cinnamon which has a resemblance to the mortar used while building for Pharaoh in slavery. We also remember that while there is much joy in freedom, that freedom comes at a high cost as we recall the terrible ten plagues culminating in the death of the firstborn of Egypt.  

The goal is to experience the story firsthand, remembering how WE were in Egypt and now WE are free. The story resonates through the ages because we all have our personal journeys of hardship, anxiety, and loss – but we also have the hope and experience of redemption and joy! The biggest portion of the seder is devoted to questions – what is the meaning of all of these symbols? Not just what traditional interpretations have been attached to these items, but what do they mean to us personally? With Passover being a brand new experience for most of the children, we had many, many, questions and many fresh insights on what all of this can mean for us here at Intermountain.






Apr 19

Why be a “trauma-informed ministry?” – FREE training materials from Chaplain Chris

As I wrap up my doctoral studies, I am excited to see how the concept of becoming “trauma-informed” in ministry is Trauma-Resilience Multnomah Conferencestarting to pick up steam across the country. Far from being behind the curve here in Montana, we are on the cutting edge in terms of integrating the expertise of the medical and social service fields into how we do ministry in Montana. At Intermountain, and through our sister organization ChildWise, we are part of a conversation that has the power to positively impact the lives of tens of thousands of hurting children, youth, and families.

Embedded in this post and available on the “Video” tab of the ministry site is 50 minutes of a training I was able to give at the 2017 New Wineskins Conference on Trauma and Resilience. They were not equipped to film ever breakout, but they did record audio. So, what you have here is the PowerPoint presentation with the audio from the training. It takes a little time to get through, but would be a valuable resource to any church or faith community seeking to understand the impact of trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in their community and how the Church can respond.



Other great resources are available for introducing these concepts to your community and church can be found on this site, including:

Finally, a curriculum for introducing trauma-informed ministry principles to churches seeking to address the needs of traumatized youth in their communities is being vetted by over 50 ministries and mental health practitioners in 23 states across the country. Entitled Bruised Reeds and Smoldering Wicks, the curriculum includes a copy of Paper Tigers and a resource DVD with interviews and discussion starters from several of Intermountain’s staff. I am hoping the curriculum will be available for wider distribution later in the year.


Chaplain Chris Haughee

Apr 08

Facing Freedom – a reflection from Janet Tatz

The Jewish people are about to embark on a journey. It is an annual ritual filled with song, teachings, food and ceremony. Pesach. Passover.  The retelling of the 3000 plus year old Exodus of the Israelites from enslavement in Egypt. We are encouraged to immerse ourselves in this holiday as if each of us, personally, has experienced both the bitterness of slavery and the redemptive power of liberation. Indeed, each of us, in our own way, has our own personal struggles or Mitzrayim (Egypt) to break free of. What better time than the beginning of Spring to clean house (both figuratively and literally), embark on a spiritual quest and strive to live more fully, more compassionately in the world?

The story of the Jewish people’s exodus from Egypt, their wandering in the desert and, ultimately, their entering the Promised Land, is a focal point of Jewish tradition, ritual and history. We were once strangers in a strange land. Therefore, we vow to welcome the stranger into our midst. It is not just a matter of freedom from but freedom to.  With freedom comes responsibility. We seek not just Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, but the courage and will to fight for the rights of all people to live in freedom, without fear of repression or reprisal because of their “otherliness”.

Traditionally, the Passover seder, which means “order” and involves fifteen steps in the telling and retelling of our story, continues long into the night: midnight, to be exact. The festival is filled with much more than good food, ritual objects and symbolism. We ask questions; we talk about freedom, justice and faith. Ultimately, we recognize that speaking of such things is not enough. We must act. We must face the challenges that we see in our communities, society and world and then work to change what needs to be righted. We strive to make the world a better, fairer, more justice place for all.

One aspect of the Passover seder that is familiar to many is the recitation of the ten plagues that befell the Egyptian   people before Pharaoh ultimately “Let My People Go”. Back in the day, those plagues included such things as hail, frogs, darkness and disease. Today, as we recall the plagues of the past, we also acknowledge our modern day stumbling blocks that inhibit freedom for all. Ritualistically, for each plague that is mentioned, we dip one drop ofone-drop-per-plague wine or grape juice from our cups, recognizing that our own joy is diminished by the suffering of others. I’m certain we can all conjure up at least ten plagues that the world would be better off without right now:

  • Destruction of our natural resources,
  • xenophobia,
  • extreme wealth inequality,
  • Islamophobia,
  • turning a blind eye to the cries of the refugee,
  • anti-Semitism,
  • homophobia,
  • denial of climate disruption,
  • misogyny,
  • racism… The list could go on and on.

Ideally, at the conclusion of the Passover ceremony, the participants will experience a sense of transformation. We will have moved from a place of a “hardened heart” to one of compassion, empathy and action. But one night, or even two, may not be enough to ensure that we have fully internalized our desire to not just seek out freedom for ourselves, but to actively work for justice for all. In order to encourage success, on the second of Pesach, we begin a forty nine day spiritual journey: the Counting of the Omer, a process of personal growth, contemplation and introspection.  At the conclusion of the Omer, we arrive at Mount Sinai and are ready to enter the Promised Land as a new nation: ready to face the challenges ahead, which are sure to come, but confident in our sense of community, pursuit of justice and freedom for all.

As the symbols of Spring emerge: buds on the trees, blossoming flowers, new Life in all its many forms, let us strive to make a fresh start, a new beginning, a time of peace, justice and security for all.

Chag Sameach (Happy Holiday)!

Janet Tatz, Jewish educator and mentor

Older posts «

» Newer posts