Teens and Mission Trips

Guest writer Taffy Hunter shares a family experience in today’s blog post.


My daughter is 15 and in grade 10. She is an amazingly smart young lady who does very well in school; she has good friends and she loves Jesus. My daughter also suffers from extreme social anxiety and panic disorder. This is so severe that she has taken years of counseling and hard work just to be able to order her own food at a restaurant, or check out at the store by herself. She has done hard things to help herself grow — like joining Pathfinders and going to OshKosh Camporee with her club, or going to camp for a whole week alone.

This year she was presented with the opportunity to join with friends and our local school on a mission trip to Bolivia. Please understand, two years ago this would have been impossible for her because of her anxiety. This year, however, she showed interest and I felt I needed to encourage her to try. She has known for a year about this upcoming trip, and has talked about it off and on throughout the summer.

I asked her the night before the paperwork was due if she had decided to go or not. She just sighed and looked at me and replied, “Mom, I just can’t. I just can’t go alone.”

I replied, without much forethought, “What if I went with you?”

The next morning, I woke up to a bright-eyed daughter with her completed application in hand!

“She took me up on it? What have I done!? How will we pay for this? We’re going to Bolivia?!” I thought.

I smiled encouragingly as I took the paperwork and filled out my portion. I handed it back to her and we prayed together before she handed it in to the group leader later that day. Even with the prospect of me coming with her, she was still terrified and had a panic attack after turning it in.

So often when we are raising teens, we forget they still need parents! They still need our full support, and sometimes they still need us as their security so they can do the hard things. This girl, who has come so far with her anxiety, was trying her best to step outside of her comfort zone — to do what she felt the Holy Spirit was calling her to do. She was terrified but willing and still unable to do it alone. As her mom, I get to support her by being the “wind beneath her wings” on this trip, and it makes me so proud of both of us!

The trip is a bit daunting in that we each have to raise $2500. She is a hard worker with a willing spirit, so we are pulling together as a daughter/mother team and doing whatever God calls us to do to raise the money that we need to go spread the Gospel to the people of Bolivia. Our relationship, which was already great, is growing even stronger as we work together, pray together, and even panic a little together!

Already, I am seeing her grow in ways she hasn’t before. She is taking her public speaking class with a new spirit of “I WILL do this,” because she knows she will have to talk to strangers on the trip. She has learned some handcraft skills as we’ve made hats, scarves, and other items to sell for donations. She has made dozens and dozens of enchiladas and lasagnas to sell. She has taken photos of auction items, and had to learn about lighting and setting to get the best photos she could. She has cleaned houses, raked leaves, and sold fruit without complaint. She has been calculating the finances and watching our account as it grows. She is thinking about others, readily willing to help, and happy to say “thank you.”  Already, so many life skills have been learned or reinforced just by choosing to go on this trip.

Most important of all, I believe, is the call that Jesus has put on her life for this season. She has responded to His mission, and is faithfully following through to reach her goal. Spiritually she is growing as she moves along in faith and trust that she is doing what God wants her to do, and that I am there to support her.

If you have a chance to help your teen, or someone else’s teen, go on a mission trip, please do so! I had no idea the things she would learn, how she would grow personally and spiritually through this entire process. I have a new appreciation for the many ways preparing for mission trips affect teens, and set them up for a lifetime of service centered on Christ. I can’t wait until we get to Bolivia in March. I am looking forward to seeing the growth, understanding, and spiritual maturity that I am sure will happen when we are on the trip.

Please keep us in your prayers.

Taffy Hunter

(Emilie and Taffy have created sites for those interested in supporting their trip: https://www.youcaring.com/emilieandtaffysmissiontriptobolivia-939844 or https://www.32auctions.com/BoliviaorBust.)

Preschool Unit Study: Chickens

The unit study we did last month was partly a family project. We got chickens! First the children and I helped Daddy to assemble the coop. We went out together to buy all the supplies and food. Then the big day came: We got the chickens! We chose four little Seramas in different colors, so they are easy to recognize. On our way home, we named the hens. My daughter named the brown one Lappie, and my son named the white chicken Tsitsi.

We are learning how to take care for our chickens and how to handle them. Every morning they need food and fresh water. We have to clean the coop regularly. When mom or dad picks up a chicken, the children can pet it carefully. We don’t want to scare them. We love to see them walk around in our garden, scratching the dirt and looking for worms or a juicy leave.

To learn more about chickens, we read multiple books which taught them some chicken-related words and the life cycle of the chicken.

Painting is one of the kids’ favorite craft activities, so we did several crafts which involved paint. We made a chicken handprint welcome sign to welcome the chickens and others who come to our house. The handprints are the bodies of the chickens. And, we added feet, a beak, and an eye. Each chicken got a letter. Combined, we got a nice welcome sign.

The hatching chick also needed some painting. I drew an egg shape on construction paper. The children painted it yellow. Once the paint was dry, we added eyes and a beak. We cut out an egg shape out of a brown paper bag and glued the edges unto the construction paper. The children drew a nest and finally opened up the egg, so you could see the little chick.

Playing with salt dough is also an activity they love. It was my idea to make little nests and chickens, using small buttons for eyes, a miniature clothespin for a beak and feathers. I think my salt dough chick turned out cute, but the children had different ideas. My daughter made a really cool racecar, decorated with chicken feathers. They had fun with the salt dough for over an hour!

Another nice activity was a feed-the-chicken counting game. I made the printable myself. The children rolled the dice, and counted how many chicken would get a dried chickpea. We kept going until every chicken got its food. It’s a good thing it’s easy to print more of these games, because after five minutes the children wanted to cut out the chickens and color them. It turned out to be not just a game, but a versatile worksheet. We had a lot of fun with it. Therefore, I want to share this printable with you. Right-click on the image below to copy.

A Tribute to My Grandpa

I want to write a blog that isn’t exactly on the topic I chose. However, I feel that God is impressing me to write about this so-to-speak white elephant in the closet of our denomination.

In February, my husband and I chose to embark on a very challenging ministry. In fact, it’s so complicated most people won’t touch it or address the subject in our denomination. And to be quite honest, I think it’s a huge cause in a lot of the issues in our churches. It seems to be there and yet not, be felt yet not seen, be ever present and yet silent. It makes people uncomfortable, and yet in spite of it all we owe so much to the people who have given their lives for the cause. I think it’s a little sad that our stand as a Church is non-combatant, and there is a huge hole in our ministry for combatant veterans.

Although we also hold the before-mentioned views, we have a lot of people in our circles who have served — either drafted while Adventists; willingly enlisted; or, like my husband, converted after service. So, why is it that we don’t talk about PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) when there are so many likely sufferers in our circles? Why is it that life goes quietly on while our own fellow brethren suffer with a silent destroyer of families, a beast that seems to lurk around every corner? It’s one of the most challenging and painful area’s of today’s world, and it’s not even being addressed. Christ in His ministry healed the aches and pains before sharing with others the spiritual gifts He had to offer. We need to heal the aches and pains of many in our families before we can offer spiritual healing to those outside the Church.

Let me give you a few statistics. It is estimated that one in 18 men will develop PTSD. One in every nine women develop PTSD, making them twice as likely to develop it as men. PTSD is just as common if not more common in emergency personnel (police, fire fighters, EMTs, etc.) as it is in the service. About 70 percent of adults in the U.S. have been exposed to one situation that could trigger PTSD. Out of those 70 percent, 20 percent go on to develop PTSD. Eight percent of the current American population has PTSD at any given time; that’s 24.4 million people in the USA — equivalent to the population of Texas! The story of Desmond Doss has been very well circulated and now that it is known he was an Adventist, we should take the lead in the treatment for PTSD. I personally was touched by the impact Desmond Doss made on our family.

An insider’s look at living with PTSD

Let me tell you my story. Growing up I remember going to spend nights at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Grandpa would sit us all down, tallest to smallest, on the couch. He had a very special drill-sergeant type attitude that we all loved and admired in him, and although I was young and don’t remember well, I like to think we all sat up straight like good little soldiers. (Although, I don’t think he ever ranked above an E2. Haha…) Grandpa had served in the Okanawan island chain during WWII. He wasn’t on the same island as Doss, however, and he wasn’t supposed to see active combat. He was a Seabee; Seabees were supposed to follow the Marines in and build the landing strips for the aircraft and bridges for the rigs after the Marines take the beach. He was even an actor in the fighting Seabees with John Wayne. (He only ran down a hill in one scene, but he could show you who he was if you watched it with him.) Grandpa, however, was washed into shore before the Marines, and ended up having to take the beach. My point in all of this is that he saw combat, and not nice combat at that.

Back to sitting on the couch… Grandpa would take his long slender finger and point at each one of us for emphasis. “If you want to come and get into bed with us tonight, you stomp down those stairs, you slam our door and you jump onto the bed. I want to hear you coming.” My dad told me once that he only made the mistake of sneaking into bed with his parents once. It ended with him picking himself up off the floor on the other side of the room. Grandpa cried the rest of the night.

Grandpa seemed to be a short tempered man, always barking orders at Grandma, yet everyone could see how much he loved and adored her. He enjoyed way too much salt on his little bowl of popcorn, and he cross-stitched all day long (and made so many incredible pieces) while watching old TV game shows and munching his way-too-salty popcorn. Occasionally he would make a batch of cookies. Although he would often show me how he did it, mine never turn out like his did. There was something that drew me to this cranky old man, an inner strength that I couldn’t help but see, brokenness, loneliness, struggling all made way for a tender, loving and compassionate person.

(Here’s a little side story: Grandpa was so scared of the dark that, once when the Sergeant insisted he stand on guard duty in the middle of the night during the war, he blew up one whole end of the pallet of runway because of a little tag that was flapping in the wind which refused to identify itself. Haha! It’s amazing he wasn’t court-martialed for that offense.)

Now, years later and being married to a veteran suffering from PTSD, I see the similarities and have a little more light on what was going on and why he was the way that he was. Desmond Doss came to Grandpa’s church one evening to tell his testimony. Grandpa and Grandma decided to go, and I wish I had been there, but Doss sat down for an hour with Grandpa — just the two of them — and I don’t know what he told Grandpa. That went with him to the grave. But, I know from then on, he was a changed man. The nervousness, crankiness, and irritation was gone. He seemed happier and more content.

Fast forward several years past my grandpa’s death to July 2009. I married the man of my dreams. Also, quite interestingly, he is a veteran. (My Grandma told me later Grandpa would have been very proud I married a Navy man.) I didn’t think at that time that Jeremy had PTSD because there were no signs or symptoms. However, before he was converted, he was highly suicidal, and at one point was even held at gunpoint by a SWAT team. Going through some challenges and looking back now, I believe he developed PTSD symptoms about a year and a half after we got married. All of the symptoms he was having in our marriage came to a head in 2015 when he had a flashback and didn’t know who I was. I had playfully woken him up by running my finger up his foot while he was sleeping on the couch. He instantly was on his feet and coming at me like he was going to hurt me. I couldn’t snap him out of it. He didn’t recognize me. Praise the Lord he responded to my gentle touch, though. It took him all night to come out of it, and I actually asked him to sleep in the garage because I wasn’t comfortable sleeping next to him in bed that night. (My grandma would tell me about times when she would wake up being punched or slapped in the face, and would hold my grandpa the rest of the night while he cried.)

Jeremy has struggled with just about every PTSD symptom that is possible during the last three years in particular. Our once happy home is often shadowed by past experiences that we weren’t even a part of. We walk on egg shells as we try not to make him mad and stay away from any trigger that would make him cranky. Often times we dread him coming home because we don’t know what mood he will be in. I don’t worry about him hurting us physically, but I struggle with the mental stress that all of us suffer under the stress of dealing with PTSD. Knowing my husband’s symptoms are only his PTSD can still be very draining. The kids often don’t understand why Daddy gets upset with them. However, and I want to make it clear, we have had several down time and many, many struggles, but Jeremy is still the man of my dreams. You see, within hurting people there are amazing things —jewels that are buried under charcoal that just need to be dug up, cleaned up, and polished. Each one shining in a beauty all it’s own.

In March Jeremy and I founded Survivinghome.org. It originally started as a ministry for veterans with PTSD, and now has transitioned to include emergency response personnel with PTSD. We attended an Oregon Conference event with our ministry’s booth, and while we were there we had several teens request classes on how to help their friends with suicide prevention and domestic violence requests as well. We see how God is guiding Surviving Home into being a ministry that addresses all aspects of home issues. As you can imagine, with all of these requests, it’s a little bit overwhelming as we want to help as many people as possible and show Christ as their one true source of strength through the good times and the bad.

As I have been working through a manual for spouses dealing with PTSD in their other half, this week a burden has been laid upon my heart. I never really realized how much I have changed and how much PTSD has affected my life, thinking, and functioning. Does that mean there is no hope? Does that mean that our lives will always be this way? Does it mean that we will never be able to see the loving, sensitive side of my husband again? No, I am a veteran of living with veterans with PTSD. There is a better side, and there is hope. My husband doesn’t intend or even realize how he comes across often times. So, if any of you are struggling with an environment beyond your control in your home, please know there is hope. There is a life. You may not be able to control the circumstances that come into your home or life, but you can control how you react to them.

“Abraham gladly returned to his tents and his flocks, but his mind was disturbed by harassing thoughts. He had been a man of peace, so far as possible shunning enmity and strife; and with horror he recalled the scene of carnage he had witnessed. But the nations whose forces he had defeated would doubtless renew the invasion of Cannan, and make him the special object of their vengeance. Becoming thus involved in national quarrels, the peaceful quiet of his life would be broken. Furthermore, he had not entered upon the possession of Cannan, nor could he now hope for an heir, to whom the promise might be fulfilled.

“In a vision of the night the divine Voice was again heard. ‘Fear not, Abram,’ were the words of the Prince of princes; ‘I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.’ But his mind was so oppressed by foreboadings that he could not now grasp the promise with unquestioning confidence as heretofore,” Patriarchs and Prophets, pg. 136.

In Matthew 11:28-30 it says, “Come unto me all who are burdened and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me. For I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yolk is easy and my burden is light.” When they are training a team of oxen, they take a younger animal with less experience and they put the yolk on their shoulders. The older animal is put onto the other side of the yolk and leads the younger animal in the right way. At first in this process the older, more experienced animal does all of the work, but as the younger animal learns each lesson and practices the lessons, the more burden it starts to carry. Eventually, it is carrying half of the burden and “towing their weight.” In a way, that is how it is with Christ. He takes our burdens, and places them on His shoulders to carry our load. He guides us gently through the trials and struggles, and shows us how to navigate the way to success.

Are you the one who needs to be strong in your family, helping take the burden of the suffering spouse? Are you tired of having to always be the strong one and having to hold everything together without getting much help? If so, take your burdens to Jesus. He hears and sees, and He carries them for you. He will guide you through perilous times and through learning how to be strong through everything being thrown at you. If there is concern about abuse potential, please seek help. There are a lot of resources available, and if you need to, please feel free to contact us. We will do everything we can to help.

God is into restoring families, and He has certainly brought ours a long way. I am starting to see occasional glimpses of the man I married shining through. They are not as frequent as I would like, but they are certainly there and becoming more distinct as time goes on. Let’s be strong — be strong for our spouse, be strong for our family, be strong for our friends, be strong for our Lord.

13 Things to Do This Winter

As soon as the weather settles into winter, I can breathe a sigh of relief. According to the calendar (and sometimes nature), there are 13 weeks each in winter, spring, summer, and fall. I’m going to focus on winter because it’s my second favorite season, and because…here it comes!

Week 1: Short Stuff

The shortest day of the year, also the first day of winter (December 21) is a great day to talk about length. Everything on earth can be measured. Spend every day this week exploring one system of measurement (metric, imperial, liquid, weight, time, etc.). Waking up before the sun and marking times for sunrise and sunset can also be fun.

Week 2: Garland Games

In elementary school we used to have something called the Turkey Olympics the week of Thanksgiving, where the classes would compete in Olympic-style games that were all Thanksgiving related. While the family is together for the holidays, create some fun games and put the brains and bodies to use in a healthy competition — indoors and out!

Week 3: NEWsletter

It’s a new year, and so much happened in the last year that children can find it hard to keep up. Instead of holiday cards, consider writing a NEWsletter with your kids. Leave a section on each letter for your kids to write something in their own handwriting or to draw in a box. Send it to everyone you love.

Week 4: Snow and Ice

Even if you don’t live in an area that gets “winter weather,” it’s a great time to explore the water cycle. Go outside and make ice, or make it inside and watch it melt outside. Shoveling snow for family and friends to earn some money is a practical way for your kids to spend this week. Create an opportunity for ice to expand and bust (this is surprising to kids, even if they’ve read it in a book).

Week 5: Animals in Winter

What is hibernation? How do animals cope with the cold? Are there animals that change their eating/hunting habits during winter? What type of animals are in your neighborhood? This is a great time to visit a zoo or nature center.

Week 6: Winter Gardening

Visit the grocery store and show the kids the types of vegetables and plants that can grow in winter. Onions, beets, carrots, and cabbage are only some of the cold weather veggies that you can grow in winter. Find out why they grow in the cold. Start a garden, or plan one for next year.

Week 7: Art & Science

You don’t often see art and science combined, but this will be a week of fun! Dissect fruits and stamp with finger paint to compare shapes. Make homemade flarp or Oobleck, and then use food coloring and glitter to jazz it up however you’d like.

Week 8: Community Service

There is something that needs doing, and you’re going to do it! Before this week begins, ask the city office if there is a need. Many food banks will allow supervised children to volunteer. Animal shelters often ask for children to come in and pet the animals. There is a lot that one family can do for a community in one week.

Week 9: Stargaze

If you live within driving distance of a planetarium, this would be a great winter field trip. If not, this is the best time of year to view the stars. If you live in the city, drive out for a night in the country and enjoy an endless starry sky — maybe catch a glimpse of Mercury, Venus, and Mars while you’re at it.

Week 10: History and Commerce

Valentine’s Day happens because of a historical event. Do you know it? Maybe you don’t want to explain the gory details to your kids just yet, but there are many historical reasons that we have the things we have and do the things we do. Why do we have clocks in our houses? What did the first clock look like? Explore Valentine’s cards and how mail was sent in colonial days.

Week 11: Making Museums

Science fairs are big in the public school scene. It will be fun to build your own museum exhibit this week. Choose a theme, collect specimens, arrange a display, and go public! Maybe your church will let you display your exhibit in the fellowship hall. (Sample ideas: Waldenses, creation, science God’s way, etc.)

Week 12: Creative Cooking

During cold weather people like to eat hearty meals — comfort food. It’s a great time to utilize your crockpot. Most the time we don’t let our kids help us in the kitchen because of the hot surfaces and sharp utensils. When you cook in a crockpot, the kids have an opportunity to work with cold ingredients and still feel ownership when the meal is served.

Week 13: Spring Cleaning

Is cleaning really a homeschool activity? Yes! And, making a spring cleaning plan that includes family members, goals, rooms, and workdays is basically a math question waiting to be completed.

By the time you’re finished with this list, the weather will start to warm and the school year will be winding down to the last weeks. Keep up the good work!

Good luck to us both!


It’s a Watery World

We watched a movie called Stranded at Sea recently. I’m not sure I would recommend it to anyone, but it was interesting and made me think. It was the true story of three men in World War II who survived a plane crash and being “stranded at sea.” Although as homeschooling parents we might sometimes feel as though we also have crashed and are trying to stay alive, that is not what this post is about!

As you can imagine, most of the scenery during the whole movie was the ocean. Seeing all that water reminded me of the next letter in the NEWSTART acronym: W. Here these men were, surrounded by water but dying of thirst. Are we in the same boat?

I remember my husband’s aunt telling me how they use to have to fetch water for all their needs when she was growing up in Italy. I often think how blessed I am that I can just turn the faucet on and abundant waters flow. Helping my child (and yours too) receive those blessings is the subject today.

As homeschoolers, we can monitor if our child is drinking enough water each day. It is another one of the blessings that being home brings. Our children have access to water all the time, whenever they want it, making it easy to provide their bodies with the necessary amount.

However, if your child is like mine, a reluctant camel, preferring juice and soy milk to water, here are some ideas to make the water go down easier!

My son loves Legos, so he uses a magnetic brick that will hold eight smaller Legos to keep track of his recommended eight glasses of water each day. Other ideas could be eight dimes stacked on the counter and the child gets to keep one for each glass they drink. Eight straws in the glass, removing one each time your child drains it, makes a fun time of it. The possibilities are endless; just pick something that holds your child’s interest.

How about a water bottle with marked off increments of ounces? Every time the student finishes a subject for the day, they need to drink to the next line. Of course, a fancy new water bottle always makes the task more pleasant. Adding lemon or lime increases the taste appeal here at our house. Or, how about some fancy ice cubes to swirl around? Speciality ice cube trays or the plastic refreshable ones are cheap enough.

As parents the world over know, it’s not just a battle to get water into a kid, but also a battle to get the kid in water! It is important, though, to use that water on the inside and the outside, so make sure part of the homeschooling day happens in the shower!

My mom used to always talk about a doctor whose cure for everything started with prescribing plenty of water. It’s good advice for all of us and an important part of our homeschooling day, so drink your eight today!