Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Update on Oasis

You may have heard or read something about what we call, Oasis. Oasis is our initiative to help youth who are facing this overwhelming challenge of aging out of foster care. Check out the graphic below to see what happens to those who age out. We need to do better.
Stats about aging out youth

An Enlarged Vision
We are enlarging our vision from thinking about a house or apartment complex to something called an Intentional Neighboring Community (INC).
An INC is the coming together of people from all walks of life to live intentionally as caring neighbors, embracing those among us who are most vulnerable, and surrounding each other with a culture of friendliness, kindness, helpfulness, and consideration.
The INC Approach
  • Assistance is community driven
  • Based off the universal need for caring relationships
  • Those facing serious social challenges become assets to the community
  • Capacity for ordinary people of all ages to care about and for one another
What Does This Look Like
Purposefully designed spaces.
  • A community of 10-15 acres
  • No more than 150 people
  • 1/3 of the population is aging out foster youth
  • The rest of the population is made up of mostly seniors, then families, and singles
  • Multiple community spaces on the property
  • Self-sustaining
Sr. housing is completely integrated

INC residents are not viewed as problems to be managed, but as ordinary people with overwhelming life challenges that can best be addressed in the kind of family and community setting that we would want for ourselves. Everyone is a member of the community with strengths, skills and life experiences that add to the success of the neighborhood.


Projected Outcomes

  • Reduce homelessness
  • Reduce incarceration
  • Increase employment
  • Empower seniors
  • More children being fostered
  • Adoption of waiting children from the state of IN
  • Support for adoptive and foster parents
  • Reproduced across the state of IN
If you would like to give to help make Oasis a reality you can do so here or if you have any questions about this please email Matt at matt@villagetovillageintl.com 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Milestones


On August 4th, Village to Village Intl. will celebrate 5 years of existence. I can remember back to when this was just a dream in my head. We had just completed our first adoption, and the financial cost for us to do so was on the front of my mind. I had many conversations that went the same way; I would share about our adoption experience, they would congratulate me and end the conversation by saying something like; "That is great that you could do that, but we could never afford to adopt." My first reaction to such statements was that it was an excuse, but I also had to admit the reality that adoption is an expensive process.

Sometimes I am blessed with the curse of not being able to get something off my mind, and this was one of those times. I kept thinking of different ways to remove this financial barrier. I wanted to do something that was not currently being done and I wanted to engage as many people as possible in the process. I can still remember the day it came to me. I was driving in my purple van in the the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago and I had just dropped my son off to play with a friend. I was in my van and it hit me like a ton of feathers (I know most people say bricks, but a ton is a ton. Plus I want you to be entertained as you are reading). That day was the beginning vision of Village to Village Intl. You can read more about how we started here.

Open Hand
If there is one thing that I have learned these past 5 years is to hold the vision and direction of Village to Village Intl. with an open hand. If I look at what we are doing today and compare that to what I had in mind 5 years ago and asked; "Are those two things the same?" I would have to say; "Yes and no." We are doing some of what I envisioned but we are also doing some things that I never envisioned. This is what is so exciting to me. I never would have imagined Stacey (my wife) and I would be using the Trust Based Relational Intervention material from Empowered to Connect to train foster and adoptive families. We can train 4-6 couples per class and currently have 23 couples who are interested in receiving this training. There is definitely a need for this. 

So as we move forward, we can look back and celebrate the past, but we are always looking forward asking ourselves; "What is not being done to help these kids who are faced with these overwhelming life challenges and can we do something to make a difference?" One of our favorite quotes is from Bob Pierce and it says; "Don't fail to do something just because you can't do everything." 

People have asked me; "Why did you start Village to Village Intl.?" and to me the answer is easy and is summed up right on our logo; "Because they matter."



Monday, July 18, 2016

Positive Fatherhood #3


What is your name of your children? 
Ethan, and I have 3 children; Seth (6), Aiden (3), Keegan (1)

Where do you live?
Illinois

What is your favorite thing about being a father?
Sharing my life with my boys.

What was/is one of your favorite things to do with your children?
Wrestling on our basement floor.

What has been the most helpful thing for you in being a father?
Besides prayer, other men to speak into my life.

What is one piece of advice you have for other fathers?
Don’t be too stubborn to ask for forgiveness from your children and show that you make mistakes and need forgiveness too.

Do you have a favorite story (something funny, a mistake you made that you learned from, a special memory, etc.) that you would like to share?
In the middle of the night, I was awakened by my toddler who had to use the bathroom. He was a few weeks into potty training and I thought my son got the gist of standing up. Half asleep I stood him up in front of the toilet and let go of him while he was peeing. Losing his balance, he fell hands first into the toilet. We went from a middle of the night bathroom break to a full body hose down. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Reflections on Father's Day


I am writing this post the day after Father's Day. A day that was filled with words of affirmation, encouragement, and love from my wife and all of my kiddos. One of the things I try to teach my kids is to look at situations from a perspective that is not their own. You know the old idiom, "Put yourself in someone else's shoes." I began to think about the kids I know who are growing up without their father, an absent father, or any family for that matter. As I began to pray for these children and youth, I was reminded of a song by Lecrae called, "Was It Worth It?" This song has truly helped me "Put myself in someone else's shoes." I hope it does the same for you.




"Was It Worth It"
(feat. Derek Minor & Crystal Nicole)

On birthdays and Christmas I used to have you on my wishlist
Held my son the first time, looked him in his eye
And thought to myself, what kind of fool would ever miss this
I ain't ask for you to sleep with mom and make me
Plus I'm your blood, why would you leave, what was so important
They told you smash broads roll up the weed
I guess that buzz got you high enough to float over me
I hope that every dollar that you made, every girl that you slave
When you close your eyes at night, I hope you say it's all worth it
Every graduation, birthday, game that you missed
I hope what you got instead make you feel it's all worth it
Being a, father's expensive and it cost you may ignore
Just know man, your grandson is paying for it
Can't ask myself what would dad do in hard times
'Cus that that man he'll be writing one of these rhymes

All these hearts that you broke, all these lies that you told
All this pain that you own, years all alone
Nights away from home, tell me
I hope it was worth it, was it worth it
Tell me was worth it, tell me was it really worth it

Listen, a lot of rap dudes never had a daddy
That's why we want approval from Nas like he family
But, it ain't just Jermaine, it's Dre to the game
To the Birdman saying that he's the father of Wayne, man
What happened to us better yet what didn't happen
No happy family 'cus daddy left me
Deep in this valley, of the Shadow of Death
I'm felling the breath of repetitiveness on my neck
Ate me alive while daddy was getting high
Trying to chase after something that I'm certain he'll never find
When the whole time, he could have had my young mind
Somewhere along the line I guess he spent up all his time
Sent me this birthday card out of the blind, when I was nine
Inherited a bunch of of pain and some empty memories
Wishing that he picked me up from elementary
I wish he could have seen me on my graduation
Taught me he to raise the son, and told me congratulations

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Foster Care Awareness

Did you know that May is foster care awareness month? Now let's be honest, it seems like every month is an "awareness" month for something, all of which are well deserved of having their own month. As I thought about the purpose of having a whole month dedicated to foster care I focused in on the word "awareness."

Awareness is defined this way; "concern about and well-informed interest in a particular situation or development."

When I read this definition, I asked myself; "Is foster care something to be concerned about?" and "Are people well-informed?" My answers to these questions were; "Absolutely, we need to be concerned about foster care," and "No, I do not think the average person is well-informed." 

This first video does a great job of informing us about the situation of foster care.



These next two videos give you a little idea of what it might be like to be a child in foster care.






Would you please consider sharing this post during the month of May to help bring awareness to this all important issue. Thank you.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

2016 Dodgball Tournament Recap

Our dodgeball tournament was a huge success this year! Why was it such a huge success?

Reason #1: We had the most teams that we have ever had.
We had 10 teams show up to try their stake at becoming the 2016 Village to Village dodgeball champions. In the end there could be only one and that team was J2 Marketing.
Congratulations to our champions!
Reason #2: We raised more money this year than any other year.
This year we raised over $4,500!

Reason #3: We had some amazing sponsors.
In total we had 8 sponsors.
1. Nate Stemm with Edward Jones in Elkhart, IN
2. Hose and Go Car Wash in Elkhart, IN
3. Goodwill of Michiana
4. Technical Repair Solutions in Mishawaka, IN
5. Shepard Swim School in Elkhart, IN
6. Encompass Nutrients 
7. Community Chiropractic and Wellness Center (Three locations in IN)
8. First Place Trophy in Elkhart, IN firstplacetrophy@gmail.com

Reason #4: We had a magnificent host.
A special thank you to Elkhart Christian Academy and Mr. and Mrs Newland! We cannot thank you enough for jumping in and helping us with the tournament this year. You definitely went above and beyond and for that we are grateful.

Reason #5: Everyone involved had a blast.
I cannot tell you how many people came up to me and told me how much fun this event was. Not just the people who played, but also the people who were watching.

Congratulations to our 2nd place team - Elkhart Police Department
What was left of our 3rd place team, The Ninja Turtles, at picture time



Friday, April 22, 2016

Positive Fatherhood #2


What is your name of your children? 

Miriam 10, Maggie 7, Evelyn 3, Gavin 1

Where do you live?
Iowa

What is your favorite thing about being a father?

Just being loved by my kids.  When I can be at my best, serve them well and see they way they return that spirit makes me feel like Superman.  It’s wonderful to see them grow, change and develop.  The time and effort (and money!) it takes to invest in them means other selfish things have to be set aside; but the returns are well worth it.  When my youngest daughter asks to sit on my lap, when my 2nd oldest wants to go to the hardware store with me, or when my oldest earns a new privilege I feel like a million bucks.

What was/is one of your favorite things to do with your children?

Every Sunday night is family night.  We’ll make pizza, let the kids pick a movie and enjoy just being together.  The kids also love legos or puzzles.  When we do small projects like that together it’s great.  No stress, or pressure, just the simple enjoyment of being together.


What has been the most helpful thing for you in being a father?
A good family and church relationship.  Whether it’s other couples in my small group, the community at our local church, or the help of aunts, uncles and grandparents. Having help and support means a lot.  Kids get sick, schedules get messed up, I take on projects that are way bigger than I can finish alone, or I just desperately need to take my wife out for a date and some adult conversation.  When these things happen having support from the community of Christ makes all the difference in the world.

What is one piece of advice you have for other fathers?

1) Let your yes be yes and your no be no. and 2) Pick your battles and always win.
Per scripture I don’t want to exasperate my kids.  I want to be kind and consistent with what is expected of them, what we can do and what we can’t.  As such, if I’m parenting the way I should I communicate with them, follow up with my commitments and be consistent.  This gives them boundaries and will build the trust that Dad is fair and he can be counted on.  To that end, kids need to be kids and I shouldn’t demand that they be perfect.  It’s ok to let small, unimportant things go.  Not every battle needs to be fought.  However, there are times when kids need firm discipline and instruction.  When No means no and obedience should be expected.  These are the times that it is imperative to stand firm.

Do you have a favorite story (something funny, a mistake you made that you learned from, a special memory, etc.) that you would like to share?
Since I don’t make mistakes, I have limited things to share here but will do my best.

Several years back Miriam was taking horse lessons.  One day, the horse decided to shake its mane rather briskly.  Miriam was unaware and unsuspecting of this, as it caught her by surprise she was tossed off the horse and landed face down in the dirt.  I was watching from the side and saw the whole thing happen.  I rushed up to her and saw right away that she was ok but didn’t want the slightest thought of discouragement to enter her mind.  So I said “Hey Miriam, way to go!  You’re a real cowgirl now!”  The other instructors praised her as well for her first fall.  Miriam sniffled a couple times but then, without hesitation, climbed right back on the horse and finished her lesson.  I don’t know that I’ve ever been more proud.  Miriam had every reason to quit, but she literally got back on the horse.

Bonus:  Little kids need nutritious food and naps.  You can save time by having your kids do both at the same time!