Dec 05

New Horizons back for another holiday concert for the children!

Nancy Trudell, Intermountain Board member, recently coordinated with Chaplain Chris to bring the New Horizons Community Band to chapel for a special holiday concert. This holiday concert was the eighth time that the band has been on campus to share their gifts with the children.

The band is made up of about 60 community members, from a variety of backgrounds, ages and experience who enjoy playing together. While not all the band members were available on December 4th, the turnout was VERY impressive… a clear indication, according to Nancy, that “the band members enjoy ourselves as much or more than the children!”IMG_2350 IMG_2351

The band played a number of holiday favorites as well as popular songs the children knew, including “Sleigh Ride,” which had the children looking around to see where the horse was (there is the “whinnying” sound of the trumpet at the end of the song, if you recall). After the concert, band members shared their instruments with the children for a musical version of a “petting zoo.” Band members took time with every child and showed them how their instruments worked!

Many of the children’s eyes lit up when they learned that they would get a chance to play trumpets, tubas, trombones, and other instruments. It was clear that more than a few of our children have a musical gift!

As you can see from the pictures to the left, the band enjoys getting into the Christmas spirit, and several members donned Santa caps and elf ears. I am so thankful to have groups like New Horizons Band that enjoy coming to campus and doing something special for our children.

Nov 28

FREE resource! Children’s object lesson for the first Sunday in Advent, Year C

The rest of our Children’s Advent Lessons (Year C) can be found by clicking this link!

Objects needed: A seedling, branch, or picture of stump/seedling/nursery log
Theme/Main Idea: Even when things seem hopeless, God gives us hope. When nothing is left of the tree but the stump, there is still life there… just waiting for the right season to spring up again.sprouts-out-of-the-tree-stump
Presentation:

“How are you this morning, children? Can I be honest with you about how I am feeling? I am a little sad… disappointed.

[what would be best here is for you to share a personal story about a time you felt let down… what I include here is for illustrative purposes]

I was really hoping that I had made a friend the other day at church. We made plans to meet for lunch, but when the day came, she said she had too much going on at work and had to cancel. I had my hopes up, and they just fizzled. So, I am feeling pretty low. Anyone else here ever feel that way?

Well, I guess I better get on with the lesson. You want to see what I have for the object lesson today? [let kids respond] Yes? Okay… here we go, I am so excited!

[pull out a seedling/stick or picture of a stump]

Isn’t it beautiful? [kids will likely give you puzzled looks] What? You don’t agree?

I think it is beautiful because I just read about what this means in the Bible… In Jeremiah, chapter 33, God promised a branch—or a little seedling—that would grow up and save everyone! Isn’t that amazing? I really like trees, and that must mean this will be an amazing tree!

Hmmm… you guys don’t look convinced. Do you suppose this is one of those places in the Bible where it’s like a word picture—and maybe God wasn’t really talking about a branch, a seedling, or a stump? I think that might be right, especially since this passage comes up on our first day of Advent.

Do you know about Advent? Advent means “the arrival of an important person or event.” It’s the start of the church year, and throughout the season of Advent we recognize the coming of Jesus as a baby. We celebrate that particular miracle on what day that is coming up? Do you know? [let kids respond] That’s right! Christmas! So, Advent is the time leading up to Christmas.

Well, with that in mind, let’s take another look at this promise of a branch that was going to come and save everyone.

Do you know what God was actually talking about? Or, maybe I should say… Do you know WHO God was talking about? [kids guess] That’s right… Jesus!

Jesus was the branch Jeremiah wrote about. That’s kinda weird, isn’t it? It gets a little less weird if you understand why God promised that branch in the first place.

Back then, the people of Israel were pretty discouraged. They had messed up big time, and they were suffering the consequences of some pretty bad choices. They had turned their backs on God and decided to do things their own way. It didn’t work out very well for them. So, like a big beautiful tree getting cut down, all of their amazingness of being God’s people was taken away. They had to leave the places they were living and go live somewhere else.

They were sad. They had gone from feeling like a big, important and beautiful tree to a lowly little stump. And, as they felt lowly like that stump, without any hope, that’s when God told them that out of that stump they had become a new tree would sprout! At first it would be so small, it would just be like a little branch coming out of the side of the stump!

Wow… incredible! When they felt their worst and felt like maybe God would just throw up his hands and be done with them, God gave them a promise. God told them that they would have a future leader, a great great great (you keep going on and on for a little while…) grandson of King David, who would help make them the type of people who are ‘right with God,’ close to him, and part of God’s family! That’s a wonderful promise to look forward to.

So, here we are in Advent, just starting out. Let’s remember how God kept his promise to send the branch—the seedling from the stump of Israel—known as Jesus, and that he still keeps all his promises today. In our own small way, we can help extend the hope that God gives us by supporting the work Intermountain does with kids and families. We’re handing out change cans today, and we’re hoping you fill them up between now and Christmas. You’ll hear a little more about Intermountain as we move through the Advent season. But, for now…

Let’s pray:

God, thank you for your presence in each of our lives. Help us remember the promises that have come true and those that will come true in the future. Give us patience to wait for all the good things you promise to those that love you and place their trust in you. Help us hold out for the best, YOUR best God—for us, and for our church and our community. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Key Text: Jeremiah 33:14-16, New International Reader’s Version (NIRV)

14 “The days are coming,” announces the LORD. “At that time I will fulfill my good promise to my people. I made it to the people of Israel and Judah.
15 “Here is what I will do in those days and at that time.
I will make a godly Branch grow from David’s royal line.
He will do what is fair and right in the land.
16 In those days Judah will be saved.
Jerusalem will live in safety.
And it will be called
The LORD Who Makes Us Right With Himself.”

Nov 20

Continuing a tradition of giving: learning about tzedakah and assembling gifts for OCC

20151110_165028_resized_1Recently we participated in Operation Christmas Child with the help of donations that came from various sources. This marked the 20th year the children have had the opportunity to put together gift boxes for children in various places around the world. We spoke about how this gift might be the first gift some of these children would receive and how we can learn to be grateful with what we have been given, even if we know our lives are far from perfect.

Jewish mentor, Edie Kort, gave a lesson in the Jewish tradition of tzedakah–which means “justice” but refers to the act of charitable giving. The children were able to hear a story about how a little girl named Dahlia was able to get a BIG yellow comforter into a little tzedakah box! Of course, she was simply saving up her money to give to a charity, but it was a fun way to introduce to the children the concept of saving up so you could do good for another. After the story, Jim Nallick, our Jewish Educator, worked the children through an interactive exercise where they had to determine what the best way of giving charity is based on Maimonides’ “Ladder of Tzedakah.” In case you are wondering, the absolute highest form of charity is to get the individual established in business and be self-supporting, which comes from the verse:

“Strengthen [the poor person] so that he does not fall [as distinct from the one who has already become poor] and become dependent on others” (Leviticus 25:35).

Our littlest ones were able to grasp that it was far better to give charity without drawing attention to yourself (“That would be bragging,” said Macie) than to make sure everyone knew how important your act was. Overall, while some of our younger children struggled with the concept of assembling a gift for someone they didn’t know, and not getting a gift themselves, most of the children were really able to get into the spirit of giving. We prayed for the children that would be receiving our gifts, and each child took time to write a note of encouragement and friendship to the young person they assembled a gift for.

Isn’t it great to be reminded that even in the midst of very difficult circumstances, we can learn to be grateful and give to others something that might be an encouragement to them? Our children are an encouragement to me daily, and I hope that we can carry ourselves with the same attitude of selflessness and love that they are learning to express during their time at Intermountain. And, hopefully, in bringing healing through healthy relationships at Intermountain, we are helping children learn to be independent and faithful contributors to their families and communities–the highest form of charity!

Nov 14

How do you cope? Learning healthier ways at Intermountain

In a recent chapel time, our children were given the opportunity to “pay if forward” by helping create the video below. You see, part of the lesson was about thanksgiving and generosity, and that generosity is NOT just about sharing money. It’s about being the type of people who share compassion and the wisdom that has been gained through difficulty. The children were encouraged to know that they could help other children handle their big feelings in healthy ways by sharing what they had learned at Intermountain. Trauma-affected children come to Intermountain and learn skills that help them become more resilient and healthier individuals. They are comforted by healthy relationships, and can therefore comfort others. This concept of “paying it forward” is an old one, at least as old as these words from scripture:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. – 2 Cor. 1:3-6

So, as we enter this holiday season–a season that often brings up overwhelming emotions–how do you cope? If you’d like some ideas of how you can cope in healthy ways, watch the video our children put together and let us know what works for you! And then… pass it on!

 

 

Oct 29

Stories from chapel: Masks, Halloween, and hiding our true feelings

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…

On one side, the mask reads: (fake) happy, perfect, excited. On the other: suicidal, sad, mad, hurt

On one side, the mask reads: (fake) happy, perfect, excited. On the other: suicidal, sad, mad, hurt

Halloween!

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. One girl really used this lesson as an opportunity to open up and share some of what was going on for her beneath the surface. Her picture is used above… notice how one side of the mask shows her outward appearance: excited, perfect, and (fake) happy. But, amazingly, she trusted us to see what was going on just below the surface: feeling hurt, mad, sad, and suicidal.

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, this young lady was in a place where she could get the support she needed to handle the big feelings she had underneath her mask. She was able to hear clearly that God sees past the mask 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!

Oct 18

Intermountain Moment: Helping the trauma-affected child succeed at play, with Kathleen Slack, M.S.

Play time can be hard for any child, but is especially difficult for trauma-affected children. Children that have been affected by early childhood trauma and severe stress are often given any number of labels to describe the symptoms of that trauma or adverse childhood experience: PTSD, ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder), ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder), and even RAD (Reactive-Attachment Disorder). Whether caused by early childhood trauma, adversity, or a physical and/or mental health issue, a child with special emotional needs struggles with playtime, especially that with peers.

Kathleen Slack, our K-3 Special Education Teacher at Intermountain’s Residential Campus in Helena, Montana, has a wealth of experience in helping special needs children work through the relational minefield that is playtime, recess, or unstructured play. Any church or faith-based organization that wishes to reach out to adoption and foster parents should consider these tips when helping children with emotional special needs in their community. Play can be a wonderful tool for building self-confidence and relational aptitude in little ones, so we want to set up everyone in our fellowship for success! Here’s what Kathleen suggests, both from the video clip above and from our conversations:

  • Let the child know what to expect. “Free time” might sound wonderful to us as adults, but the concept of unstructured free play can be paralyzing for the child that is afraid to misstep, has difficulty initiating conversation, or struggles with conflict. Until the child is comfortable making their own choices around play, suggesting two or three options gives the child the freedom within boundaries that will develop trust and security.
  • Let the child know where you will be and what they can expect from you. Sometimes what we take for granted as a given–“I will keep you safe and allow you to have fun.”–is very reassuring for a child from a trauma-history to hear. What are the physical boundaries (“We’ll be in this room, or in this fenced area, or on this playground equipment…”)? How long will play last and how will they know when it’s time to wrap it up? (“We have 10 minutes to swing or play in the sand-box, and I’ll let you know when there are two minutes left, and I’ll ring the bell when it’s time to line up to go back inside“). As the adult, you provide safety and security for the child. They need to “borrow” your sense of confidence to face the challenge of play and negotiating the expectations of peers. Keep your eyes open and your ears attuned to their play, so if they look to you to see if something is “safe” you can reassure them.
  • Consistency is very important. The anxious child can be made a little less anxious if she or he knows that the same routine is followed for recess, free play time, or game time in whatever setting they find themselves in. Visual schedules and charts for classrooms are helpful in this regard, as are routines for lining up or quieting down for transitions.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and I would encourage you to speak to the primary caregivers for the children in your community that might need a little help around playtime when they are participating in church or children’s/youth activities. They will be the experts in what can calm or sooth their anxious children, and you will honor them with your humility and willingness to learn from them!

 

 

Oct 15

FREE Advent Object Lessons for 2018 (Year C)!

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: Object Lessons for Change for Children- Advent 2018

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.

 

Blessings,

Chaplain Chris Haughee

Sep 13

Finding healing after trauma: Elizabeth Smart (courtesy of Goalcast)


One of the most common questions I get from the trauma-affected children I serve is, “Why did God allow [insert really awful, tragic experience] to happen to me?” I imagine it’s a question that most pastors, ministers, chaplains, and those Christians who share their faith with others face. It’s fundamentally a relational question, not a theological one… and that’s important to remember. The question is seeking the reason why a God who is Love could allow something that is experienced as anything BUT loving. (see 1 John 4:7-8)

I found that the best thing I can do is to recognize the profound hurt and struggle that lies within all of us who have ever wrestled with that question, “Why?”

We see how Paul dealt with the unresolved struggles in his own life when he states:

 

I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:7b-10)

I can recognize now after many years of processing, reflection, and prayer, that God was able to express a strength through my weaknesses and build a stronger character within me through some of the traumatic experiences I went through. I would think that many reading this could also see where God has built a certain strength or resolve within an area of hurt, woundedness, or pain. This is not simply the worldly wisdom expressed in the popular saying, “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger,” but a wisdom that comes through suffering and an insight gained into what really matters to you that rarely comes from a life of ease.

There is a phenomenon referred to as “Post-Traumatic Growth Syndrome.” First studied in the 1990s, psychologists have been attempting to define what it is about the difficult process of recovery from a traumatic event that challenges a person’s core beliefs that can leave a person more resilient, and sometimes even thankful for the “gift” they have received in seeing the world more clearly after their traumatic experience. To evaluate the extent to which someone has achieved this kind of growth after trauma, psychologists often use various self-reporting surveys and scales. One such survey is called the Post-Traumatic Growth Inventory (PGTI) and was developed by Tedeschi and Calhoun, which they first reported on in the Journal of Traumatic Stress (1996 Jul; 9(3):455-71). They sought to measure positive responses in five key areas that they believed would show post-traumatic growth:

  • Appreciation of life
  • Relationships with others
  • New possibilities in life
  • Personal strength
  • Spiritual change or renewal

I believe that you can likely perceive how going through a life-threatening, traumatic experience, and coming out the “other side” might impact each of these areas. Pain, such as that experienced by Paul (referenced in the Bible passage earlier), has a way of focusing our thoughts and actions on what is truly important and lasting. Elizabeth Smart, the “girl who was kidnapped” in the YouTube video embedded in this post, found victory in realizing those that had terrorized her “no longer had any power over her” and that she could go on an live a happy life. Furthermore, she could take her trauma and use it as a catalyst to be an advocate for others.

The role a church or fellowship can play in helping those in the midst of their own pain and traumatic experience is to hold out hope for them that they, too, can experience a sense of growth as God redeems even their suffering. The beauty of the Christian story is that we are all part of a much larger narrative, and we can walk with one another through the most difficult struggles and provide companionship that makes the journey a little easier to endure.

Sep 09

Intermountain Moment: The secure base of relationship, why it’s essential!

Relationships are of vital importance to our experience as human beings in community with one another. A secure, loving and supportive relationship is the foundation on which we branch out and explore our world… not just as small children, but even as adults! Think of those times when by situation or circumstance you felt compelled to venture out and try something new. I am guessing that those of us that were fortunate enough to have secure, loving and supportive relationships handled that stressful time better because we knew that “our people” had our backs, no matter what!

Stability in childhood relationships sets a young person off of a pathway to success. Similarly, when there are emotional and relational deficits that must be overcome, a child can struggle.

Intermountain’s CEO, Jim Fitzgerald, describes his own stable childhood this way:

This is the difference.

     I have never once walked alone, never.

     From my first day, at my core,

     I knew that if I’m taken,

     If I’m hurt, or lose my way, or disappear,

          my people will come find me.

     Nothing can stop them.

      Knowing that has been immeasurable,

        the trans-generational inoculation against fear, shame, and doubt.

 

As Steff explains in the Intermountain Moment video above, YOU can be part of the secure relational base that a child needs. You can be that wherever and whenever God calls you… in the neighborhood, in church, in school, as a professional or a volunteer. Once you know the difference you can make, only one question remains: how will I make a difference?

You make a difference with your love, support and prayer for the ministry and mission of Intermountain. You make a difference when you partner with us to bring healing and advocacy to your church and community through trainings and a shared vision that the way things are is not the way things always have to be! Together, we can break the cycle of generational trauma. Contact me or reach out to Intermountain to find out what is possible.

Aug 26

“Soul Train” brings two Israeli students to Helena’s Residential Campus

Earlier this month, the students in our Residential program in Helena benefitted from the opportunity to meet two wonderful young women from Israel who came to Montana as part of the “Soul Train” program, which is supported by Bnei Akiva. Bnei Akiva is a youth movement, which inspires and empowers young Jews all over the world with a sense of commitment to the Jewish people, the Land of Israel and the Torah. A piece of their work, then, was to focus on connecting with the Jewish children on campus and in Helena, but they were also gracious enough to teach some cultural studies and share with all the children some dance, games, and pictures from Israel. All of this was made possible by the hard work in coordinating the activities and transportation by Intermountain’s Jewish Mentor, Jim Nallick.

Sarah Zalta and Ayala Kowalsky are both from Efrat, Israel, and are stayed in Montana for two weeks–one week in Helena and one in Bozeman. Sarah is a 3rd year student at a school for the arts, and Ayala is a make-up artist and dances in a dance company. Their artistry were on display in their work with the children, as they did some fantastic face painting (among other fun activities)!

IMG_1751[1]

Ayala (left) and Sarah (right) sharing with the children during a “get to know you” game that involved Mike-and-Ike candies!

I asked Sarah and Ayala to share a little bit about themselves and their experience in Montana and with Intermountain. Here is what they had to say:

Chris: Sarah and Ayala, we are grateful for the Soul train program making it possible for you to come and visit us and share your talents and love for Israel. What do you see as your purpose here and what do you hope to achieve in interacting with our children?

Sarah: I hope to make positive connections between Israelis and the kids from Montana and Intermountain. Also, I want to give the Jewish kids an opportunity to learn about their own identity, to connect with their Jewish roots and learn about their history.

Ayala: I see an importance of exposing the Israeli and Jewish culture around the world, especially when the media shows so many things that aren’t true!

Chris: What have been your impressions of Montana so far?

Ayala: Lots of open space, I love it! Kind of a relaxed vibe, nothing seems too rushed or stressful. Beautiful hills and views.

Sarah: I loved being in Montana, the people are very welcoming and positive. There is a very relaxed and peaceful atmosphere and it was very enjoyable (incredible view!).

Chris: What have been your impressions of Intermountain? What have you enjoyed about your interactions with our students and staff?

Jewish Mentor, Jim Nallick, and guests from Israel, Sarah and Ayala

Jewish Mentor, Jim Nallick, and guests from Israel, Sarah and Ayala

Sarah: I got a great impression of Intermountain! During my studies last year, I volunteered in a program called “Ahuzat Sarah,” which is very similar to Intermountain… just an Israeli version. The children [at Intermountain] are given the opportunity to learn and to develop themselves in the best way possible. Especially the detailed follow up on every child is so important and is really happening here. The staff pays their full attention to the children and truly cares about them. Also, the respect given to different cultures is fantastic.

Ayala: I really like that the classes aren’t too big, and it seems like each student gets a lot of attention. The teachers and supervisors have been amazing and it’s beautiful to see their connections with the students.

Chris: Anything else jump out to you about your time here at Intermountain?

Sarah: I was really amazed by the respect that is given to the Jewish kids even though there are only very few of them–and the understanding that each child is a whole world and deserves the greatest opportunities.

Ayala: I loved meeting and letting to know the students. It was exciting to hear from both staff and students that they learned new things about Israel!

Chris: Well, we are so appreciative of the passion, skill, and energy you have shard with our students and staff. Thank you so much for coming to bless our children!

Ayala: Thanks for letting us share this experience!

Sarah: Thank you for the warm hospitality in this great place and for the collaboration! Hope you guys will come visit! All the best… blessings!

a thank you note from one of our children to Sarah and Ayala

a thank you note from one of our children to Sarah and Ayala

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