Thursday, September 11, 2014

New Friends in Armenia

Before we landed in Armenia to join Orphan's Promise Centers staffs, we sensed it was going to be a very special and unique time. It didn't take long to realize why.  We were so humbled and challenged by the stories of the men and women who work for Orphan's Promise. From severe life circumstances in soviet times through the devastating earthquake in the late 1980's to now, the older folks demonstrate the power of the gospel of Christ.  The younger ones, children of the previous generation are following their parents's example in serving the children and families of Armenia.  They are bringing the light of the Gospel to dark and devastated places and people.

We spent three days with them on how to minister most effectively to children who come from difficult home situations. It is the trauma series that we have had the privilege of sharing in a number of countries.  There was a lot of hard work, but a lot of laughing, too.

Here are some the picture highlights of a people we will remember and hope to see again.
Beginning the day...asking for God's favor and direction



Samson, one of the OP directors, demonstrating self -regulation technique

Members of one center's team

Karen Springs, the regional director of  Orphan's Promise shares.  

Pastor Rafael closes the training.  We listened to his incredible stories about life in soviet times. What strength these people have.

Our wonderful and competent translator, Liana.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Orphan's Promise in Kiev

Orphan's Promise, a ministry of Christian Broadcasting Network,  is now ministering in different ways in over 60 countries around the world.  We have been totally taken aback by the breadth and the depth of the ministry. We have had the privilege of just a glimpse of the tremendous work that is going on.

Last week , we spent three days with the Ukraine Orphan's Promise staff. We followed up our trauma work from last year, focusing on teens and trauma and also training the group how to conduct Nurture groups, a focus of the work of Dr. Karyn Purvis. So much learning amidst so much fun!

Here are a few shorts videos of our time there.


An amazing group of young men serving the gypsy villages in western Ukraine really embraced the nurture groups. It was so much fun to see them use their creativity to teach new skills.  These men work in very difficult situations, extreme, extreme poverty and deprivation.  We saw pictures of their work - before and after.  When the light of Christ comes in, dark places become places of Light. 
Here is a short video of them teaching the nurture group rules: stick together, no hurts, have fun!


The Power of Yes and Connections Enhance Relationships

Trust based relationship principles, the power of saying yes and simply making connections are two powerful principles.  Two young people shared their stories on the third day of training after they learned these concepts.

Alonya's story

"Every night when I get home from work, my younger brother, who is 13, always asks me to use the computer.  always say no, because I don't want to get up and put in the password or even give him the password.  Tonight, after the training, he asked me the same question again when I got home. Tonight I said yes, got up and put in the password. He spent about 30 minutes on it and then turned to talk to me.  This was the first time in a very long time we had a meaningful conversation. It all happened because of the power of yes!"

Andrei's story -

"I have a 14 year old brother who has pretty much shut me out. Won't talk to me, just kind of mumbles.  I always thought it was his responsibility to initiate the conversation. After the training the day, I realized it was mine to connect. So last night, when I got home, I had making a connection with my brother as a priority. I sat down, started asking him about his day, his friends, school, etc....He opened up to me and we talked for over an hour. " 

We just love these stories and there were many more.  It is Wednesday afternoon here in Armenia and we leave very early in the morning (4:30 am flight) for Poland.  We will have pictures of the beautiful people of Armenia over the weekend.  Thank you for your interest and prayer support.  

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Learning about Nurture Groups

Training is meant to be fun!  It is also meant to be practical and something that can be used in the transformation of another.  Last Friday, in a training sponsored by the International Leadership and Development Center of Ukraine, we had the fun opportunity to work with over 40 professionals on learning about nurture groups.   This is a concept taught by Dr. Karyn Purvis ( Trust Based Relational Intervention).  I attended the "how-to" training last January in Texas.  I thought we would just be using in the US, but with permission from TBRI, we are sharing this in Ukraine and Poland this trip and beyond.

Here is a very short clip of what the training day looked like. I don't think we heard so much laughter in the midst of so much learning.


We have four more days in Ukraine. This week we are sharing with over 65 folks representing Orphan Promise training centers all over Ukraine.   More about these wonderful folks tomorrow. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Finished First Day in Ukraine

"Children are healed in the context of relationships."  That focus is the purpose of our training trip to Ukraine this trip. Helping those who work with children who have come from difficult places to heal. We had the privilege of meeting with and working with 42 folks from all around the very huge city of Kiev.  They are trainers, social workers, therapist, foster and adoptive parents and they came today and will be back tomorrow for the same purpose - to continue to learn how to help wounded children heal.

Raya, a young woman who attended the Trust Based Relational Invention training two years ago with Dr. Karyn Purvis began the day introducing the TBRI principles of empowerment, connecting and correcting. Her desire and passion  to help parents and others learn how to better connect and correct children is so evident. You can tell by listening to her and talking with her, she has spent many, many hours of study. so proud of her work.
Raya, sharing with the group this morning.

After Raya completed her presentation, we began the journey of understanding Nurture Groups for children. (Pictures will come tomorrow).  What I can say is that the group had a great deal of fun this afternoon while learning and we will continue it on Friday.  

A note about what we have experienced
 As all of you know, Ukraine is in the midst of frightening conflict with Russian.  Just today, we learned that Russian has indeed invaded eastern Ukraine - far from us. However, although the conflict is far from us, people experience it here in different forms. Just today, while walking back from our training, we watched, stunned, as a large group of men in hooded masts began smashing and looting a small store and gas station. It happened right across the street from our apartment.  After that settled down, we walked over to the large shopping mall here. It is brand new.  When we walked up the steps from the underground walkway, we saw the entire entrance to the mall roped off. It was impossible to get in. It had been evacuated due to a bomb threat, which we understand is quite frequent here in large shopping areas.  

We asked our translator how she was doing and others.  She said her life income had been greatly influenced. She felt anxious, numb and helpless to do anything to help the problems here. She said that most people feel that way.  Please continue in prayer for these people. 

We continue our time with the ILDC training tomorrow and begin our work with Orphan's Promise next week.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Getting Ready for Ukraine, Armenia and Poland - Has Been So Fun!

We are in the final days of preparation before we leave for our trip overseas. Getting ready has been so much fun!   We will be taking trainee prizes like we have never taken before.We show you in a minute. (If you know me, you know I am not the crafts type, but I have been unleashed :) )

During our time there we will be training through the International Leadership and Development Center/ LAMb International for the first part of the trip. Then we join the Orphan's Promise staff in Kiev for three days of training with their centers from all over Ukraine. They are expecting about 60 of dedicated folks who care about the welfare of vulnerable children - now more than ever in Ukraine is this needed. We met many of them last year while there. These days will be follow up to our series on trauma competent caregiving, adding teen material and learning how to conduct nurture groups.  We then move on to Armenia with Orphan's Promise to train their staff on the first part of our  trauma competent healing caregiving.

Following our work with Orphan's Promise in Armenia, we will be spending a week working with some very special friends in Warsaw, Poland.  This is our fourth visit to this very special country and we so look forward to this continued partnership.

Now to the trainee prizes.   I was inspired by two friends of mine, Mary Vacario and Carol Huggins- Mitchell during their trauma training last week. They had with them magnets with powerful statements on them as prizes for the group.  I thought to myself, that would be cool to make for our trip.  And the idea grew and grew.  So now what you will see below are pictures of the mugs, buttons, and magnets that are going with us.  The ones below are in Russian, but they are also almost ready in Armenia and Polish. The front room has been a mess- a very fun mess! Get ready Back2Back - Spanish and Creole are next!

"Behavior is the language of children with no voice"  Dr. Karyn Purvis 

"Connect before you correct"    or "For children, presence matters."

The Safety Script Magnets
Everything Russian 

We do ask your prayers as we go as we take our time with these precious people very seriously.  We go simply to speak those things God would have us to into their lives.  

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Historial Place for Us

I am standing in the rain at a very historic site located deep within the Ozark Mountains just outside the village of Hilda, Missouri.  The historic value of this place applies to Jayne and me for a number of very special reasons.  It was were our journey began. We just wanted to share this with you.

1. This is the first church I had the privilege to pastor going back to 1971.  It was Ozark Chapel, Church of the Nazarene. 

2. Jayne and I were married here 39 years ago officiated by Rev James C. Hester, our DS at the time.  A number of our invited guests almost turned back thinking that the church surely could not be this deep into the mountains—fortunately, they kept going and all made it on time.  Some of the Ozark mountain children attended our wedding barefoot, they didn't have much.

3. Our daughter, Kristy, was born while we were here and she was dedicated by Dr. Remiss Rehfeldt one Sunday morning at this location with about 50 people there to bless us and our new baby girl.  She spent many Sundays sleeping in the church nursery between services as it was too far to drive back to Springfield.

4. It was here that we came to know some very amazing mountain folks that blessed us in many ways and taught us many things and were graceful and kind in all things.  We have memories of vacation Bible school, Sunday school classes, eating in the homes of folks from backgrounds far different from ours. Most of these special people have gone on now.  When we go back to this site, we visit the Brown cemetery a mile down the road where many of them are buried and as we visit their grave site we fondly remember the over 5 years we journeyed together.

As you can see, the Chapel is now in ruins.  Be assured this is not how we left it.  The congregation picked up and moved into Forsyth, Missouri, many years ago.  It now serves that community under the name of Trinity Church of the Nazarene.  Neglect and abuse have brought it to this place of disarray but it still remains an historic place for Jayne and me as we remember the people we loved and the amazing things God did there.  Sometimes it is just good to stop and look back. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Questions, Answers and Life Changes

Questions and how we answer them can alter the course of one’s life.  I googled “Jesus and Questions” the other day and up came a list of over 100 questions that Jesus asked.  How folks answered those questions changed the course of their lives.  That is true for all of us.

Questions for us started over 35 years ago.  “Would you become my foster parents?” Would you consider a pastorate in Lebanon, Ohio?” “Would you consider a pastorate in West Carrollton, Ohio?” ‘Would you consider going to Kyrgyzstan for six months and just showing up?” We said yes to all these questions. I first thought of them as changing the direction of our lives.  I think a better way to put it is that as we said “yes” to each of these, we were directed to stay on the path God intends for us.

About seven years ago our journey into the international world of hurting, wounded and suffering children and adults began. It was a world we had never seen, but from our first steps into Kyrgyzstan ruined us. As Kay Warren says, we have been divinely ruined.  Being divinely ruined means that we no longer see life as we had before. The things that were important, no longer are.  The thing that truly matters is the God directed privilege we have speaking into the lives of people and see them heal and grow. Being divinely ruined is a permanent condition David told me a while back. Once one is ruined, he is ruined!

We have been involved in both US and international work in child welfare for a while now.  We see so much need and so little time to get it all done. AND, we know we cannot do it ourselves.  In spring, I wrote a prayer in my journal that had been on my heart.  It had three parts:  Lord, simplify our focus, expand the message you have given us by allowing us to train others and finally, provide resources to meet the needs to do the work..

Shortly after that prayer, we were asked another question.  “Would you consider coming on full-time with Back2Back. ( is an incredible ministry group working in Mexico, Haiti, India and Nigeria.) We said an enthusiastic "YES!" This isn’t a change of direction. We believe God continues to direct us on the life path He intended for us.  Our partnership with LAMb International will continue and hopefully be enriching for all of us.

Many things will change.  We will be stepping away from training work in Ohio that I have been a part of for over 20 years.  We will be gone much more than before.  We will be challenged to grow in ways we don’t even know about.  The journey continues and we are so excited to begin our work in January with these incredible men and women of Back2Back walking on the path God intends for them.

Photo: "Before you can CORRECT a child you have to CONNECT with that child." Dr. David Schooler
David is sharing during our first trip with Back2Back in January.  We are looking forward to working more closely with Gabriel and his staff in Matzatlan.

Johanna (Lamb co-founder) and I share with the young people preparing to become trainers in Mexico.

Questions are powerful.  They potentially open doors to new things God has for us. It all depends on how we answer them.