Contents — March 2019

Spirit Volume 11, Issue 1.

In This Issue

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Editor’s Letter

Lent, Worship in the Real World, Service in Africa, PSAs and News...

Five-minute read. There's a lot to read in this issue. Lent and rules of life, taking advantage of everyday situations for worship, some Public Service Announcements, working with the Peace Corps in Africa, and we have new clergy to introduce too.
 Read More 

Keeping Watch

Lent and The Way of Love

Five-minute read. A reflection on Lent and the journey that is 'The Way of Love'.
 Read More 

Features

Worship Opportunities Are All Around Us

Eight-minute read. Part four on Deepening Your Relationship with God by Worshiping with Other Faiths. Read More 

Unknowing Victims

10-minute read. Are you a victim? It's a crime that can be very hard for people to admit to being the victim of. For some it is because it is an embarrassing admission that they were duped, for others, it is because they don't even know that they are victims. Read More 

Preparing for the Inevitable

Five-minute read. Do you know how to handle your family's financial transactions?
 Read More 

A Year in Africa - Preparations & Orientation

15-minute read. Continuing to show that ministry can take on many forms. In 2016 Julia Taylor signed up to spend a year with the Peace Corps in Uganda. Read More 

Have I Told You Lately?

Two-minute read. Recently I said goodbye to a longtime friend and co-worker. I’m not sure that we’ll meet again on this earth. Read More 

News

The Ordination of Jeffrey Neal Stevenson

Five-minute read. On December 12, 2018 Jeffrey Stevenson was ordained into the priesthood at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Kansas City, Missouri.
 Read More 

Meet Mother Terry Deokaran, All Saints' West Plains, Missouri

Five-minute read. On February 26, 2019 Mother Terry Deokaran was installed as rector at All Saints' Episcopal Church, West Plains, Missouri.  Read More 

Bishop's Day at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral

Two-minute read. Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, hosted the northern Bishop's Day event on March 9 this year. Read More 

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Include the #dwmo hashtag in all your church social media posts to be seen and shared on diocesan social media.

About

How to contact us, submit articles & pictures  About Spirit 

Directory

A directory of all the churches in the diocese  Directory 

Lent, Worship in the Real World, Service in Africa, PSAs and News…

There’s a lot to read in this issue. Lent and rules of life, taking advantage of everyday situations for worship, some Public Service Announcements, working with the Peace Corps in Africa, and we have new clergy to introduce too.

Gary Allman Five-minute read.   Resources

Sleeping Alleluias – Seen at Church of the Good Shepherd, Kansas City, Missouri. Image credit: Gary Allman

Welcome to the first issue of Spirit in 2019.

Lent, the period when we let sleeping alleluias lie. It’s a well known phenomena that as you age time appears to pass as an ever increasing pace. And here we are in Lent again. It’s a point that Bishop Marty alludes to at the start of his Keeping Watch article, Lent and The Way of Love. He goes on to encourage us to take a close look at the ‘Rule of Life’ proposed by our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry in ‘The Way of Life’.

I’ve found the concept of a Rule of Life to be a huge help, but something that I let lapse all too frequently. So maybe it’s just as well that Lent and my annual review of such things appears to come around more quickly each year.

***

Carolyn Thompson returns with a fourth article on her experiences of Worshiping with other faiths. This time there’s a slightly different spin on things, as she talks about the opportunities to worship out in the everyday world. See Worship Opportunities Are All Around Us.

The first draft of this editorial grew into a major Public Service Announcement. In a fit of ‘editor’s remorse’, I changed the text into a full feature article – Unknowing Victims. Read it and find out about my first hand experience with internet crime, and then help me raise awareness of it.

Speaking of Public Service Announcements, the Rev. Jerry Kolbe sent me an interesting note that he’d shared with the retired clergy. It was well worth sharing with a wider audience, so check out Preparing for the Inevitable.

Julia Tayor is also featured again, this time writing about her 2016 – 2017 service with the Peace Corps in Uganda – A Year in Africa – Preparations & Orientation. We are serializing her African exploits in Spirit.

***

In the news section we introduce the recently ordained Jeff Stevenson, and welcome Mother Terry Deokaran, installed as rector at All Saints’ West Plains, in February. We’ve also included some pictures taken at the recent (March 2) Bishop’s Days workshops held at Grace and Holy Trinity cathedral, Kansas City, Missouri.

***

Finally I’m going to use my editor’s privilege (there aren’t many I can assure you), to further promote an event that is very dear to my heart, and that’s the Stop Human Trafficking & Abuse Event being held at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City on March 30. Come and join us.

Gary Allman is Communications Director with The Diocese of West Missouri

Lent and The Way of Love

A reflection on Lent and the journey that is ‘The Way of Love’.

The Rt. Rev. Martin S. Field Five-minute read.   Resources

Lenten Altar at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral Image credit: Gary Allman

The season of Lent is upon us and I’ve been told that – this year – the 40 Days of Lent will culminate in the observance of Holy Week, during which we will re-live Jesus’ final, earthbound days. I’ve also heard that – this year – Easter will follow Holy Week and will be observed for 50 days culminating with the remembrance of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came to the Church.

Yeah. Okay. I know it happens that way every year. Nevertheless, I hope the sameness of this year’s journey through Lent, Holy Week, and Easter will not deter us from observing this most critical, central, significant time in truly new, powerful, and transformative ways. After all, there is nothing as important as Easter; nothing is more important than the remembrance of Christ’s Resurrection, because only Jesus’ victory over death resounds beyond the bounds of our earthly lives.

How important is Easter? Just check the calendar. The very numbering of our years divides at, and because of, the decisive moment when death was defeated. All our human history is numbered backward or forward from that day!

So. How will you mark Lent? How will you celebrate the triumph of Easter?

May I suggest to individuals, small groups, and parishes, that you focus on “The Way of Love: Practices for a Jesus-Centered Life”? And it’s not only me inviting you; our Presiding Bishop, The Most Rev. Michael Curry, has issued this invitation to join him on this journey. Want to know more? Read on!

First, the Way of Love is evangelism. Evangelism, simply put, is hearing, absorbing, and becoming immersed in and transformed by the love of God in Christ Jesus. The Way of Love is designed to help us reach out to those who do not know or follow Jesus and to give us practical steps to help others learn to engage Jesus. Moreover, the Way of Love provides us methods (a rule for life and practices of faith) to be evangelized ourselves, for even we who have been committed to Jesus for many years need always to be evangelized anew and immersed more deeply in the love of God.

Second, the Way of Love is exactly what is says. It’s about practices that are individual and communal, daily and periodic; it’s about habits that bring Jesus to the core of personal and community life. These practices are intended for individuals but can be taught and supported in many settings such as small group and parish activities. If you seek love, freedom, or abundant life, then you seek what Jesus wants to give. He gives these things when we seek him. The Way of Love is a seekers’ path.

Third, The Way of Love: Practices for a Jesus-Centered Life is part of our Presiding Bishop’s call to be the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement. To be Jesus’ movement, we love like Jesus loved, and that love has the power to amend lives, transform communities, and change the world. Certainly, that is the core of Jesus’ message.

The Way of Love uses seven principles or practices to turn lives toward Jesus. These practices constitute a rule of life that also reminds us moment-by-moment to live as representatives of Jesus’ loving, liberating, and life-giving way. The seven practices are:

  • Turn – Pause, listen, and choose to follow Jesus
  • Learn – Reflect on scripture each day, especially Jesus’ life and teachings.
  • Pray – Dwell intentionally with God each day.
  • Worship – Gather in community weekly to thank, praise, and draw near to God.
  • Bless – Share faith and unselfishly give and serve.
  • Go – Cross boundaries, listen deeply, and live like Jesus.
  • Rest – Receive the gift of God’s grace, peace, and restoration.

Keeping these practices before us daily, even hourly, helps us build the habit of letting Jesus into the center of our lives, our relationships, and our activities.

Many of you have heard me speak (or read what I’ve written) about my core belief about the dual but related purposes for which the Church exists —

  1. to help lives be formed or transformed into the moral likeness of Christ and
  2. to help communities of all kinds become the Beloved Community.

Lent and Easter seem to me to be the perfect times to begin employing the practices of the Way of Love and to begin building the habits that will help us become a reflection of Christ’s life and our faith communities to become the Beloved Community Christ Jesus wants the whole world to be.

In matters not when you start. Lent? Easter? Another time? Any time is the right time. How about now?

The Rt. Rev. Martin Scott Field (Bishop Marty) is the eighth bishop of The Diocese of West Missouri.



Stop Human Trafficking & Abuse

Find Out More

Saturday March 30, 2019

9:30 AM – 3:30 PM

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church

6401 Wornall Terrace

Kansas City, Missouri 64113

Registration Not Required

Lunch Provided

Human Trafficking | Modern Slavery | Sexual Abuse

Program

9:30 AM  Registration
 
10:00 AM  Introductions – Mike McDonnell
 
10:05 AM  Brotherhood of Saint Andrew – Jeff Butcher. A brief introduction of the work of the Brotherhood in areas of social justice.
 
10:25 AM  Slavery, the Bible, and Gritty Evangelism – The Rev. Dr. Benjamin Thomas. Slavery is seen all over the Bible, and the Bible has been used (wrongly) to defend this practice. Learn how a biblical theology of humanity stands against any practice of slavery, including human trafficking, and why fighting human trafficking should be viewed as an act of “gritty evangelism.”
 
11:25 AM  Break
 
11:30 AM  Hiding in Plain Sight – Greg Holtmeyer. One in six males are sexually abused by the time they are eighteen. That means approximately twenty-five million males have been sexually abused in this country alone. There is no religion, education level, socioeconomic level that is immune from sexual predators. Greg will share his personal story of childhood sexual abuse, discuss the short term and long term effects of the sexual abuse of males including physical, emotional, and provide some brain research, provide resources for health care providers, survivors, and friends/family members.
 
12:50 PM  Lunch (provided)
 
1:00 PM  Lunchtime Speaker – Christine McDonald. Christine will discuss her experience of being trafficked for 20 years.
 
1:45 PM  Sex Trafficking – Benjamin Nolot. This session will examine the social and cultural underpinnings of sex trafficking as well as what can be done to abolish commercial sexual exploitation as a whole.
 
3:00 PM  Close
 

Speakers

The Rev. Dr. Benjamin Thomas, Director of Church Relations for the Saint Francis Foundation
Prior to joining Saint Francis, Fr. Benjamin served as Dean of Christ Cathedral (2010-2016) in Salina, Kansas and Assistant Rector at Grace Church in New York City (2008-2010). In addition to his work at Saint Francis, he teaches courses for the Bishop Kemper School of Ministry — a collaborative initiative to train bi-vocational clergy and lay persons to serve the Dioceses of Kansas, Nebraska, West Missouri, and Western Kansas. Fr. Thomas and his wife Holly have four children and are negotiating about a dog.
 
Greg Holtmeyer, Executive Director of The Phoenix Project
Greg Holtmeyer is an educator, advocate, and survivor. His passion is to create awareness concerning the devastating effects of childhood sexual abuse of males. Greg created The Phoenix Project to offer hope, education, support, and inspiration for those who are on their healing journey from sexual and physical abuse. Greg is currently a member of two state level tasks forces, appointed by the governor. He gives voice and attention to the many male victims of sexual crimes who are waiting for support and understanding.
 
Christine C. McDonald, Trafficking Survivor and victim advocate
Christine C. McDonald survived two decades of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation (17 years of which were in the Kansas City area), 103 arrests, and 7 prison terms.

After nearly taking a life at gun point, Christine knew that if she did not find a way out she would become the very evil she had experienced over the years. Attempting to do so took her on a journey that, although different, would be equally challenging. Christine was left totally blind after choosing the life of her unborn child over medication that would have saved her eye sight but ultimately taken the life of her child. Eternally vigilant, Christine uses her life experiences as a tool to break stigmas, and construct conversations for change.

Christine is the author of “Cry Purple” A glimpse into her journey of life. Her second book “Same Kind of Human” was written to help professionals and people of faith understand the complexities behind exploitation. The book provides the tools enabling them to engage individuals who have experienced exploitation.

Christine’s latest exciting venture is a movie of her book “Cry Purple” to be filmed in Kansas city Missouri later this year by River productions in partnership with the “I will rise project” as they plan to humanize the homeless, the addicted, and the prostituted in cities across America.

Christine is on the Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Task Force, and serves on the Supreme Court Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking Commission. She has been featured on PBS, CBS, NPR, NBC, The Wall Street Journal, and other media outlets.
 

Benjamin Nolot, CEO and Founder of Exodus Cry
Following in the footsteps of his hero, William Wilberforce, Benjamin fights to end modern-day slavery. He campaigns to shift cultural mindsets and laws that would abolish human trafficking and the commercial sex industry, thus setting people free. Benjamin has created two films, the award-winning Nefarious: Merchant of the Souls and the soon-to-be-released Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution. He has been a featured speaker at the United Nations and a columnist in a plethora of online and traditional media. He also hosts a podcast at ExodusCry.com. Benjamin is driven by a core conviction that every person should be free. He resides in Kansas City with his wife Lauren and their three children.
 



Worship Opportunities Are All Around Us

Part four on Deepening Your Relationship with God by Worshiping with Other Faiths.

Carolyn B Thompson Eight-minute read.   Resources

The Cross on Lake Kanuga, at Kanuga Conference Center.
The Cross at Lake Kanuga. Image credit: Gary Allman

You don’t have to go to different churches or different faith traditions every week like I do to take advantage of the worship opportunities around you. You just have to be open so you see what God is presenting to you.

In case you haven’t seen the earlier articles – my journey began over two years ago with a calling to go to a different place of worship each week with the objective of being able to feel/see God no matter where I was.

I’m pretty sure I’d not have seen any of the things below as opportunities for worship, much less taken advantage of them as such had I not gotten to this point in my “feel/see God no matter where I am” journey. I’ve definitely been similar situations before, but never saw them as worship opportunities — nuisances, work for the Kingdom — but not worship opportunities.

The notion that worship opportunities are everywhere came to me at midnight one night when I stopped at a huge grocery store on my way home from a trip.

It was actually 11:50 p.m. when the conversation started. I was trying to get a sale price (that ended at midnight) on an item, so I rushed to the cashier (there was only one checkout open at that time of night) to hurry it through, knowing that the computer knew what time it was and would not give me the sale price if I didn’t get it rung up before the stroke of midnight. When he rang it it came up at the regular price. I told him I knew I was close but it still wasn’t midnight so it should be the price in the sale paper.

Of course it turns out that cashiering wasn’t his regular role in the store, he was helping out at this late hour and a manager would be the only one who could fix this quick enough to meet the midnight deadline. After he called for a manager, we waited, and 10 minutes later (now past midnight) no one had arrived. He apologized profusely and just tried to figure out a way he could get the computerized cash register give me the sale price. I’m pretty sure his jury rig made a mess out of some system but he was adamant that he should take care of this for me. I was certainly grateful, even thought it was now 12:30 a.m. and I had been up since 8:00 a.m. in a day that included eight hours of driving.

After everything was packed in the grocery bag he asked me if I lived in town and, a little irritated (I wanted to go home, not have a conversation), I said that I was about 30 minutes away. He then told me he used to work at Culvers, plus he’s a minister. I asked him where and he said he travels. I said that was pretty common around here with church’s too small to support a full-time minister and not enough ministers to go around. “Oh, my ministry travels,” he said. And he told me all about the places he drives his truck to, to minister to people. Why a truck? – because he carries a huge wooden cross in the truck bed. He arrives in various towns, parks, takes out his cross, hoists it onto his shoulder and walks around town.

The pre-journey me would absolutely be not engaging him, trying to get away, even not really believing him, thinking what the authorities must think of this, etc. But, to my own surprise I realized as I left the store, that I had listened, I had asked questions, I had given suggestions for other places where his ministry would help people. My first thoughts weren’t of shock for how I’d acted but I immediately thought, “worship opportunities are all around us – I wish I’d seen this man carrying a huge wooden cross down the street as I would have been able to worship the God who gave His Son so I could be free”.

Over the next days I thought a lot about that worship opportunity and many more that have been presented to me but I’d missed. I won’t miss them from now on. As you look at the list below, and add more of your own, note that seeing something isn’t the worship opportunity.

Seeing something is just recognizing a nice or thought provoking thing. It’s taking the thing you see hear, or feel as an opportunity to worship our Father – to tell God how mighty God is, to thank God, to ask God for forgiveness, or to ask for intercession for others or yourself, that is what makes it worship.

Worship Opportunities

Here’s the list of worship opportunities I’ve thought of so far. Add more to it in the comments below so we all can have more opportunities to worship God:

  • Crosses that people put on roads at the site of a car accident.
  • People standing on the street proselytizing, or Mormons on their mission coming to your home to talk with you, or other organized religious groups visiting door to door.
  • Sunrises, sunsets, mountains, huge open spaces.
  • Christian radio talk shows, music and church services on the web or traditional radio.
  • Church signs with quotes, for example: “The fact that there’s a highway to hell and only a stairway to heaven says a lot about anticipated traffic numbers”.
  • Cursillo and other organized retreats — I was invited to one for Christian business women and in answering one of the questions and hearing other’s answers and stories we realized that we just heard 23 great sermons.
  • Get-togethers that aren’t even overtly Christian. At an annual Christmas brunch with dear friends each of us told “the most important thing we’d learned that year” — we heard “have to stop being so concerned about leadership in the US as it’s tearing me up”; “our book group read White Fragility and I realized I wasn’t understanding how privileged I am, even though I didn’t set out to be”; “I am polar opposites – I work unceasingly or procrastinate”; “kindness never goes out of style”; “I care too much about what others think and should be concerned with what Jesus thinks”; “You don’t know what you don’t know because you don’t know”; “I didn’t really believe God would take care of me no matter what – if you asked me I’d have told you that I believed – but this year’s proposal and marriage showed me I didn’t believe – now I’m changed” — all very impactful material for worshipping our God.
  • Church work — we’re usually so focused on cooking the meal, organizing the children for the pageant, gathering the mittens – that we miss the worship in it.
  • Even prayer as part of choir rehearsal and vestry meetings. Again, we usually are so focused on the event at hand that we do this more by rote and miss the worship opportunity.

I can’t wait to see how this list grows as we all look for worship opportunities in our day to days lives!

Carolyn B Thompson is a cradle Episcopalian with an unquenchable thirst for more relationship with her beloved Father.


Resources

Back to Contents

Unknowing Victims

Are you a victim? It’s very hard for people to admit to having been the victim of a crime. For some, it is because it’s an embarrassing admission that they were duped. For others, it is because they don’t even know that they are victims.

Gary Allman Ten-minute read.   Resources

Double Trouble – January 19, 2007. Copyright © 2007 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

We often see victims in the world, and sometimes it’s obvious to us that they are, in fact, victims. These victims of spousal abuse, victims of addiction, or victims of circumstances sometimes seem oblivious to the fact that they are being victimized. We wonder why they can’t or haven’t seen it, or why they deliberately choose to be in denial about being a victim. If we have any self-awareness we might wonder if we, too, are oblivious victims.

We live in an immoral world. As Christians we are called to live a moral life and to love one another. We should even love those who would do us harm, which can be a challenge. But as Christians, we should also be championing the causes of those who have become victims.

I’m never going to grow tired of saying it (and I know I say it a lot). It’s yet another example of our fifth baptismal covenant.

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

But what about the victims who are closer to home? What about you? Are you a victim? No?

Don’t be quite so sure. I’m not going to talk about ‘obvious’ issues such as addiction, which we don’t talk about nearly enough. No, instead I’m going to talk about an old-fashioned crime in a modern guise.

Here’s what happened to me.

Without realizing it I’ve innocently become embroiled in organized crime.

There, I’ve said it. It sounds sort of exciting as we are tempted to think of the scenarios that play out in the movies. At the same time, when put like that, it also sounds rather mundane.

There is no scurrilous money laundering, even though I live in the Ozarks. I’m not being blackmailed, nor have I or my family (thus far) been threatened. In fact, I’m one of the lucky ones. The criminals haven’t taken anything of real value from me, and more importantly, I’ve discovered their nefarious activities. I know what they are doing, and for the past several years I’ve been doing what I can do to make their crimes more difficult.

The bad news is that most of the victims in my position don’t, and possibly never will, know that they are victims. Which is why I ask, are you sure you’re not a victim? You may not know it.

My story only represents one side of the equation. There are victims on the other side who, if they don’t suspect the criminals’ intentions in time, will lose both financially and emotionally. It’s a modern take on a crime that’s as old as the hills. According to the FTC, this crime has cost Americans some $143M in the last year. In my opinion that’s a huge underestimation.

What are these crimes? They’re commonly known as Romance Scams or Catfishing.

In my case what’s being stolen are photographs of me. The pictures are used to create fake profiles used in online social media, games, and dating accounts. The purpose of these accounts, which use my photos, is to defraud people. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot that people like me can do to stop these criminals from getting ahold of your online pictures, except perhaps by never appearing on the Internet in the first place.

Michael Lucious – one of stranger monikers the scammers have adopted.

They use my photographs (and the photos of many, many others) to make their fake accounts look real. They claim to be divorced or widowed and are looking for friendship and love. What they are really looking for is a way to separate vulnerable and lonely people from their money. They tend to target older divorced or widowed women, but they are just as likely to use pictures of women to target vulnerable men.

My wife says my pictures are being used because I have a friendly and trustworthy face (who am I to argue?). Also, there are lots of pictures of me doing all sorts of fun things, very useful for the made-up scenarios they weave into their schemes. There I am on planes, in airports, on sailboats, with injuries, out in the woods, and even with my step-daughter. They love to include her pictures because the idea of a widowed man raising a young daughter alone makes them seem far more endearing.

A sample of pictures of Gary Allman used in fake social media accounts. Image credit: Gary Allman

By the way, the irony of this situation isn’t lost on my wife and I, given that we met online, and that at one point her bank account was frozen because her bank thought I was a scammer.

When I first discovered that my pictures were being used, I thought it was a joke. I quickly realized that it wasn’t and I took action to close down all the faux accounts I could find.

And that’s when things got a little bit hairy.

When the fake account suddenly disappeared, the lovelorn victims searched Facebook for their missing beaus and found the real me. In the process, they also discovered the heartbreaking, and ire-raising news that the love of their life was not widowed, but was happily married and living in Missouri. I was not an oil rig worker, or commodities trader living in New York, Geneva, or somewhere in Texas. In short, they thought it was me deceiving them, having a “fling” on the side.

“Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned”


The Mourning Bride by William Congreve

They took to sending abusive messages to my wife and I.

Thankfully, the zero engagement rule seems to work equally well with jilted lovers as it does with Internet Trolls. Foreseeing a long future of such abuse, I created a webpage detailing the scams and my innocent involvement. Now when I find and report a fake account, I post a link to my page and a picture of the fake account publicly on social media. It’s my hope that the grieving lovers will see the pictures of all the different accounts I’ve closed and realize they’ve been taken in by a scam.

To be clear, we are not talking about one or two fake accounts, I’ve closed over a hundred, and I am still closing them to this day. It’s like playing whack-a-mole. And that’s just the ones I’ve found, there will be hundreds more out there. (And of course, I’m not the only one. There are thousands of people in my shoes whether they know it or not).

The messages I get now are no longer abusive. They are the stories of people who are victims of these schemes. Some have, fortunately realized something was up, and didn’t part with any money. But many discovered their error too late.

There was one lady who lost all the insurance money she received after her husband died. Another lost over $160,000. I received a message from the granddaughter of one victim who lost everything, and it was presumed as a consequence she took her life.

It is with a sad and broken heart that I am writing to you. I have been writing to “Gary Brooks” since May 2014 and have sent him over $160,000 of my retirement and credit card money…

… I have finally accepted the fact that I am indeed being scammed. I have had such high hopes of a future with this other guy and really sucked in all the affection and promises he sent me…

… I was wondering what you would suggest me to do next …

This is a serious crime, with serious consequences, and very little chance of redress for the victims.

The scammer’s techniques are to quickly move the victims from public conversations to private chat, texting, and phone calls. That reduces the chance that the victim will see any evidence of the scam being outed, It also leaves the scammers free to be grooming more victims simultaneously. The scammers weave convincing and sympathy-inducing stories for their victims, often involving accidents, or temporarily delayed business funding to lure their victims into sending money.

Another disturbing aspect is that these criminals often claim to be religious to make their stories sound more trustworthy.

From a family member

The lies and deceit can seem obvious to casual observers. Unfortunately the victims are often desperately invested in their relationship with the scammer, and will not believe anyone who tries to make them realize they are being duped.

Some of the messages I get are heartbreaking

…you don’t know me but I just wanted to get some kind of clarity.

… had been talking to someone she ‘met’ on the game words … and they used your picture… they ended up getting money … My whole family tried warning her but she refused to listen to us because this person told her everything she wanted to hear… this person was supposed to be returning back to the states from an overseas oil rig but conveniently never showed up…

…was found dead in her home with no clear indication of how. All we know is her newly refilled pain pills were gone … We all believe this person lead her on for so long that eventually it just took a toll on her emotionally … I guess I was really just needing your advice. I really want justice for what this person has taken away from my family.

The scammers don’t only use social media. They use dating websites, games sites, and by a stroke of luck I even found one on the Fitbit site!

One scammer created a complete website (now taken down) posing as a cinematographer.

Once their foul schemes have been discovered the scams don’t necessarily stop. They may pretend to be victims themselves and contact their victims (since they know who they are), and create some complex (but costly) plot to get revenge. The scammers have even been known to send people to physically go and meet the victims.

So…

let’s be careful out there.

Sergeant Phil Esterhaus, Hill Street Blues

What Can We Do?

We can raise awareness. Romance Scams are often treated lightheartedly. For the victims of the scams, their hopes of love and happiness are dashed, and their financial security may be compromised. There’s nothing amusing about either scenario. Spreading the word will warn people that these crimes are taking place, and hopefully reduce the number of victims.

Raising awareness that pictures are being stolen for this purpose should encourage people to check if their pictures are being stolen, and report any fake accounts.

This won’t stop the crimes. There have always been con men and fraudsters. However, widespread awareness of internet catfish scams will make it harder for these criminals to operate. And that can only be good.

Are Your Pictures Being Used?

Facebook search for people with the name "Gary Allman".
This is the result of one of my early Facebook searches for “Gary Allman”

The scammers tend to target people with a good supply of pictures. One of their most popular sources of pictures are people serving in the military. An overseas deployment can explain why they can’t meet their victim in person.

How would you know if someone is using photographs of you in romance scams?

For me, the first ones were easy. They were foolish enough to use my real name and have publicly visible pictures of me. So just do a search in Facebook for your name. If any account with a picture of you shows up and it’s not yours, you’ve found a scammer of one sort or another.

If you can learn the aliases they are using, then trawling through a social media search on that name can unearth a load of these fake profiles. I’ve lost count of the number of ‘Gary Brooks’ I’ve closed down.

How you take down false accounts depends on the organization. In my experience, Facebook and Instagram have been very good at taking down reported accounts. But their record in making it easy to identify them or stop them from being created is appalling. Google is next to useless. Even with copies of my driver’s license, they refuse to remove them.

Are You a Romance Scam Victim?

If you are single and dating partners online, reverse image searches of the profile pictures and any other images your date shares works well for identifying suspect people. This is why I’ve made sure that the pictures of me are easily found with a simple search.

Be on the alert for anything that doesn’t look or feel right. Is the person’s writing style consistent? Does their command of English match their supposed nationality? Are the pictures really taken where and when they claim to be? Do the things in the background of the photo match the story you’re being told? Does the person avoid answering questions about inconsistencies? Does the apparent age of the person in the pictures keep changing? Be careful. There are tens of thousands of scam accounts on Facebook. I wouldn’t be surprised if over 30% of Facebook accounts were scammers of one sort or another.

Needless to say, never send money or give financial information to someone you’ve not met in person and don’t really know, regardless of how convincing they may be.

There are several groups to help you identify potential scammers (links below).

Even harder than dealing with a scammer yourself is convincing someone you know that they may be in danger of becoming a victim. They usually refuse to listen, even when they may have their own suspicions.

In the worst case, if you’ve become a victim of a scammer, you can report the crime to the FBI online (ironic isn’t it?).


Resources

Back to Contents


I Think I’ve Been Scammed Resources

Reverse Image Searches: support.google.com/websearch/answer/1325808

Romance Scam Forum: www.romancescam.com/forum/index.php (this one is particularly good)

Nigerian Dating Scams: www.watchforscams.com/nigerian-dating-scams.html

Social Catfish: Scams: socialcatfish.com/category/scams/

FBI Cyber Crime Page: www.fbi.gov/investigate/cyber

Facebook ‘Scam Haters’ page: www.facebook.com/thefightbackstartshere/

About Romance Scams

Gizmodo Article (I agreed to take part in this piece): Pray for the Souls of the People Sucked Into This Dating Site Hell.

BBC article: Scam baiter: Why I risk death threats to expose online cons.

Washington Post Romance Scam Article (May 2018): When a stranger takes your face: Facebook’s failed crackdown on fake accounts.

Washington Post Romance Scam Article (Feb. 2019): Romance scams cost Americans $143 million last year, FTC says.

FBI (February 2018): FBI Cautions Public to be Wary of Online Romance Scams.

Federal Trade Commission (Feb. 2019): Romance scams rank number one on total reported losses.

Reporting a Scammer

FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center: www.ic3.gov/default.aspx

Federal Trade Commission:
https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/Information#crnt&panel1-3

Preparing for the Inevitable

Do you know how to handle your family’s financial transactions?

The Rev. Jerry Kolb Five-minute read.   Resources

In a conference call with the Church Pension Fund, we became aware of a situation that has prompted us to provide some education. It has to do with the death of a partner and financial transactions.

If you have been allowing your partner to do all the banking, paying bills and general financial transactions (especially online), we would like to encourage you to immediately begin sharing those responsibilities. In the instance we became aware of, the husband was doing all the financial transactions. When he died, even though they had joint accounts, the surviving spouse was unable to do any financial transactions because she did not have the passwords, login information, account numbers or access codes to access the required accounts.

Please begin to share financial responsibilities with your partner. Record your passwords and account numbers in a secure location which is familiar to both of you. Consider using an online password and account manager to make this process easier. Help your spouse pay bills ‘online’ (if that is your financial method) so they know how to do it. Also, make sure that both you and your partner’s names are on your accounts.

This kind of information is still important if you pay your bills by a paper check. It is also important if you are a single person handling your affairs. Someone will need this information. Make sure they know how to find it.

One suggestion is to alternate doing the monthly financial transactions. If there is a question, someone is there to provide the answer.

When there is a death of a spouse, the bank and the utility companies will be of little help to you without this kind of information.

Also remember, this issue isn’t just limited to financial transactions. Couples often split the workload. What responsibilities does your partner undertake that you would not know how to deal with if they were to die or become incapacitated?

Facebook Memorialization Page

With the proliferation of online accounts and social media, it’s a good idea to consider putting together an ‘online will’, setting out what should be done with your online accounts when you die. Facebook, for example allows you to elect a ‘Legacy Contact’ to oversee and memorialize your account.

Be proactive!

Fr. Jerry Kolb is Chaplin for Retired Clergy in The Diocese of West Missouri.

Resources

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A Year in Africa – Preparations & Orientation

Continuing to show that ministry can take on many forms. In 2016 Julia Taylor signed up to spend a year with the Peace Corps in Uganda.

Julia Taylor 15 minute read.   Resources

In 2015 I applied for and was accepted in a Peace Corps program sending doctors and nurses to Africa for one year. Now, (2016) I will be part of the Global Health Service Partnership (GHSP) to work with medical and nursing schools teaching and working with school facility and administration to improve the educational opportunities for healthcare professionals in Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Swaziland and Liberia.

“My bags are packed – I’m ready to go”… to Uganda

Julia Taylor at her official swearing into the Peace Corps – US ambassador’s house, Uganda. Image credit: Julia Taylor

I organized my house, and was very happy to have a Mercy co-worker to rent/house sit while I was gone. I had to complete my on-line training and endure numerous immunizations, including a series of three “pre-exposure” rabies shots.

More enjoyable by far were all the “farewells”: a bon voyage Cardinals baseball game with my sisters, a wonderful weekend visit with six college friends and a goodbye luncheon given by my coworkers at Mercy Hospital. I took my Missouri grandchildren on trips to Virginia and Kimberling City. I flew to Montana to celebrate Anita (my second daughter’s) Air Force change of command.

Finally, after a rousing Independence Day celebration, I packed my 12 year old canine companion Ginger in the car and drove 1,200+ miles to Arizona. I was fueled by a combination of Red Bull and diet Dr. Pepper (I don’t recommend it) and entertained by a recording of “Murder on the Iditarod Trail”, hundreds of miles of highway construction through Oklahoma and endless radio commentaries on the 2016 presidential candidates.

I had dinner with my Arizona family and bought the grandchildren birthday presents in advance for the birthdays I would miss while I was gone. I was fortunate that I had family farewells with all my grandchildren, my sisters and four out of five of my children. My brother in California and my son in Hawaii said their goodbyes via telephone.

I was finally ready to head for Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. Thank heaven I had some help. I could have never handled the luggage by myself. Two bags weighing 49.5 lbs. each and a smaller one weighing only 38 lbs. Total baggage fees: $210.

When I arrived at Washington National airport, I tipped generously – the baggage handler, the taxi driver and the bellhop at the hotel. I was there for ten days of Peace Corps training. There were 58 other volunteers – doctors and nurses – preparing to teach. Our studies included lectures on teaching techniques, writing test questions, malaria, parasites, HIV/AIDS, hemorrhagic viruses, mental health and communication methods. A display in the lobby of the Peace Corps headquarters gave me pause. It was a memorial to all the volunteers who died during their time of service. I learned that motor vehicle accidents were the most common reason.

Some highlights of these ten days were: a visit by the Secretary of State, receiving our malaria medications and a simulation session where those of us who were out of practice were given an opportunity to return and practice IV starting techniques. During that session I also gave an Emmy worthy performance as an annoying family member in a tense clinical situation.

I realized that several of the dresses I packed were too short (I know – a strange situation for me but in Uganda knees needed to be well covered). I mailed them back home and shopped for replacements. I completely repacked all three suitcases, saw a Washington Nationals game, attended a performance at the Kennedy Center, reacquainted myself with the Metro system, visited friends from Ft Huachuca days, and walked a lot seeing the monuments and buildings that are essential to any visit to the Capitol. I took advantage of the outstanding restaurants focusing on food that I don’t think I’ll see a lot of in Uganda: Thai, Korean, tapas, and crème brulee.

We ended our Washington DC orientation with a send off from the director of the Peace Corps and the ambassador from Uganda (she gave me her card and her daughter’s telephone number). We received teaching supplies, a lab coat and medical equipment (everyone was stressed about the weight limit for baggage). Our last lectures included recommended actions for trauma in the marketplace, treatment of chronic illnesses and a recommendation to keep our mouths shut for at least three months – to listen and to learn. It will be hard but I will try!

Tomorrow at 6 am I will be leaving with my 140 pounds of luggage flying on Ethiopian Airlines for 13 hours to Addis Ababa and then on to Entebbe, Uganda.

Uganda – Travel and more orientation

Welcome to Uganda. Image credit: Julia Taylor

The 6 am pick up at the hotel in Washington DC didn’t happen. When the bus didn’t appear, we called the Peace Corps emergency number. It didn’t work! Finally the buses, which had gone to the wrong hotel, appeared. After a long check process at Dulles and $200 fee for the third piece of luggage we boarded Ethiopian Airlines. I was in a middle seat for the entire flight. We were fed often and landed in Addis Ababa without delay. The two hours flight to Entebbe included another meal.

Everyone had to present proof of immunization against yellow fever before we could pass through the Immigration checkpoint. Thirty pieces of Peace Corps luggage did not arrive. After long wait, we decided that some would take the bus back to the hotel and the rest would complete lost baggage forms and wait four hours for the next plane from Addis. I was in waiting group. There was a liquor store in the baggage claim area so four six-packs of beer appeared. Finally next plane landed. Great cheers went up each time one of our suitcases appeared on baggage carousel. Two Nigerian women in traditional dress were also waiting for luggage. They cheered with us. When all the lost luggage had been safely retrieved, there were high fives all around and a group picture taken by one of the Nigerians. Apparently the missing luggage had sat on the tarmac during a rainstorm for quite a while because the contents of my soft sided suitcase were quite damp.

“The first of many mosquito nets”Image credit: Julia Taylor

Then we were a bus to Kampala. We were told it would be a 45 minutes trip which sounded reasonable for a 23 mile trip through crowded streets. The trip took three hours which was better than the first bus. It took them 4.5 hours. The Kolping Hotel room was basic with mosquito net which is sprayed with insect repellent before bed. After 32 hours of travel, I finally got to sleep.

The next day we each received a Peace Corps cell phone. It is old style – the kind where you push the 2 key three times for a “c” when you are entering information), I set up account information for a local bank (US $1 = Ugandan 3316 shillings), received more information on malaria including practicing with a rapid detection test (I am negative for malaria for now) and were presented with a water filtration system for new residents.

Learning the test for malaria. Supplied image

One volunteer brought a yoga tape. Every evening in Kampala we met at 6:00 p.m. in the classroom. It was very popular with the volunteers and the local staff, especially since we were told that running was not advisable because of the truly horrific traffic. I learned that fresh produce needs to be peeled or soaked in bleach water. Apparently I won’t be having many salads this year. The Peace Corps office will be holding both passports and immunization records to prevent us from leaving the country without letting them know.

After Lecture Yoga. Image credit: Julia Taylor

The motto for Global Health Service Partnership Uganda is “to increase capacity and strengthen the quality and sustainability of medical and nursing education”

I’m trying to stick to a vegetarian diet but did try a small piece of goat which tastes like … meat. Each day the buffet includes at least one type of fresh banana (sometimes two) plus matookay – plantains – both mashed and steamed. Every day there is a very good sauce with peas which I eat over rice. We also break for tea (complete with pastries) twice each day. We received a small Peace Corps cookbook with suggestions for meals using products available in Uganda.

At the recommendation of the Washington DC Peace Corps staff (in order to make it through the difficult days) I started gratitude list making three entries a day of things for which I am thankful. So far, it hasn’t been hard to list three items.

Our classes on security and safety convinced everyone to stay inside with doors and windows bolted at all times. The briefings were very negative (probably realistic but …). This was followed by a trip to a mall (quite nice) for electronics purchases. Almost the entire group descended on the Africell office so I was there for over four hours. I purchased a mobile hotspot so now I have a laptop, Verizon cell phone, Africell cell phone, a small projector, multiple outlet adapters, power protector and lots of accessories to support this equipment. I wanted to buy skirts since I have learned that “trousers” are not acceptable clothing for women here but most clothing stores were closed for Sunday.

The husband of one of the doctors is an IT whiz and helped me with several electronics issues. Dennis is number 1 on my gratitude list for 25 July.

One of the highlights of today was a great lecture by a university professor on the history of Uganda. There are 117 districts (similar to our states) with 52 ethnic groups and languages. Uganda didn’t exist in any way until the British in 1894 decided the area should be part of the Empire. The British determined the borders of their newly created colony. According to the lecturer the country is still not totally unified. Districts are often more important than the country as a whole.

We started our language classes. The eight doctors and seven nurses on our group are going to five locations. Each area speaks a different language so there are five separate language classes. The language in my area is Lumusaaba. After one 45 minute lesson, I am already lost. However I did learn something: “Wakonile uyrena? Nakonile bulayi” This is a greeting which means “How did you sleep? I slept well.”

I am beginning to adjust to the eight hour time change. After several mostly sleepless nights, I am now able to go to sleep by 11:00 p.m. and wake up in time to hear the Muslim morning call to prayer (about 5:30 – 6:00 a.m.).

We also received some information about our home stay. We are going to our permanent stations on Wednesday for an eight day stay with a local family. This is being done to get us acclimated to the culture. We may not have hot water or flush toilets. The host families have been warned that Americans generally eat dinner earlier than 10:00 p.m. During my stay in Mbale (I’ve been told that it is a four hour trip) my group will meet the administrators and our co-teachers at the university. Then we will return to Kampala for additional classes and finally the Peace Corps swearing in.

The weather has been very pleasant – in the 70s and 80s. I am now repacking my three heavy suitcases preparing to depart from Kampala to Mbale at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow.

Home Stay in Mbale

It was a five hour trip from Kampala to Mbale on a very crowded bus. We crossed the source of the Nile (which flows north). No one was allowed to take pictures. It had nothing to do with Nile River itself. The issue was military security because of the bridge over it. On our bus were some “real” Peace Corps volunteers – the ones who sign up for 27 months and mostly live in very remote places. My group is very much in awe of them.

We are Mbale for eight days for our home stay (to help orient us to the local culture), introductions to university and hospital administration and more language instruction.

My home stay family is the second wife in a polygamous marriage. She has four children, three of whom are in boarding school. The child at home is a 6 year old boy named Moses and called Momo. There is no hot water (only a cold water bucket shower for the next eight days). There is a pit (indoor thankfully) toilet. No running water after about 6:30 p.m. The host “mom” is gracious. She was told that Americans eat huge breakfasts so the first day she overloaded me with carbs. I told her a banana and cereal is just fine. Here they serve cold cereal with hot milk. A dozen chickens sleep in a room off the kitchen at night. Otherwise they are truly free range.

We were given a tour of the building where we will be staying. There are seven apartments and the Peace Corps volunteers will occupy five of them. The building is still being completed and the university will provide some furnishings so I’m not exactly certain what it will finally look like and what I will need to buy to furnish it. I know I will have to get a refrigerator, pots and pans, glasses, silverware, etc. Also complicating the situation is the fact that the administrative and support staff of the university are on strike, so it is possible that our furniture will have to wait until everyone is back to work.

Cooking lunch. Image credit: Julia Taylor

There is a coffee shop/hostel just a few buildings away from what will be my new residence. Free wifi, laundromat, interesting menu, Afro-Zumba classes. We all think this will be where we spend a lot of time. I visited a second coffee shop that serves Mexican food each Tuesday and Saturday. I am looking forward to trying some Ugandan enchiladas.

Circumcision festival is a huge deal. It finishes August 8 but the leadups to the event are already happening. There are parades of many walking, laughing people – everyone except the one on whom the surgery will be performed. The age for circumcision here is 18 years and apparently the boy is not to flinch or faint. If he does it will be a point of shame for the rest of his life. The procedure is done by a layperson who apparently is beaten to death if he makes a mistake. This is a ritual for a tribe of 6,000 persons who live in eastern Uganda and western Kenya. Most gather on even numbered years for the event. The number of young men who are circumcised ranges from 15 to 100. This year the presidents of both Uganda and Kenya are scheduled to visit the festival. We viewed the area for the event. It looked like a county fairground.

the infant mortality rate is 76 deaths per 1,000 births. For comparison, it is 6.1 per 1,000 in the US.

We have made the rounds of the local, district, university and hospital officials. Routine protocol visits seem to be the same the world over except that here all visitors sign an official logbook. The one we signed started in 1957. I learned that the infant mortality rate is 76 deaths per 1,000 births. For comparison, it is 6.1 per 1,000 in the US. Life expectancy in Uganda is 59 years. In the US it is 76 years for men and 81 years for women.

Image credit: Julia Taylor

The only way you can tell who is a boy and who is a girl here is by the clothes the child is wearing. Girls always wear skirts and dresses. All children have their heads shaved – much cooler and cleaner that way.

Using the app Whatsapp? I was able to call my cousin Mary just before her 50th wedding anniversary party. I was glad to talk to her but very sorry to miss the celebration.

We took a field trip to a synagogue outside Mbale. The rabbi who is the only trained rabbi in sub-Saharan Africa was extremely gracious and without notice took lots of time to talk to us. . There are 400 people in the local congregation and approximately 2,000 Jews in Uganda. Three of our group of seven are Jewish so we plan to be back for services.

Ugandan street scene. Image credit: Julia Taylor

Shopping in the marketplace was chaotic and confusing but fortunately we had our language teacher with us so I was able to replace my forgotten underwear, buy African fabric for the Peace Corps swearing in on August 11, and locate a dressmaker who promised to make the dress before we leave Mbale on August 4.

Walking here is a challenge both due to number of motorcycles and the fact that I can never remember which way to look when crossing the street since they drive on the left side of the road.

Mt Elgon Waterfall. Image credit: Julia Taylor

It was a long, very bumpy bus ride (with a full bladder – very poor planning on my part) to the top of Mt Elgon which I was told is approximately 9,000 ft. in elevation. We saw lots of very isolated villages on the way. There was a great hike to a waterfall – definitely got my exercise for the day. The view was magnificent.

St Andrew’s Anglican Cathedral has three Sunday services (English, Lumusaaba – the language I am attempting to learn, and Lugandan – the language used in the capitol). The English service I attended included some African music. We also sang two verses of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” Each service was over two hours long. An American fire marshal would have emptied half the church. At my service there were at least 550 probably 600 people jammed in. After we stood up for a song, I was slow to sit down and almost lost my end of the pew. Afterwards, one of the priests invited me to his house for lunch (two other Peace Corps volunteers were staying with him). I even saw a little CNN. Then I did some shopping and walked to the coffee shop for African tea (lots of milk), and Kindle time.

One day we visited the main campus of the university where we will be teaching. It was about a two hour drive. The vice chancellor was most gracious. She was certain we had met before. We decided that it must have been in Hawaii. She had been on Oahu for a week-long meeting at the University of Hawaii. Since we were near Kenya, we drove to see the border. A policeman gave us a tour of the border area – we definitely stayed on the Ugandan side. The sight of very long lines of very large trucks waiting to be inspected before crossing the border seemed quite familiar. It was similar to the Arizona-Sonoran crossing at Nogales.

On the last full day in Mbale, we had a dinner for our host families. Several medical faculty members also attended. The site coordinator surprised me with a birthday cake. Everyone sang to me and then three large sparklers were placed on the cake and lit. It was a great time. A perfect ending to our week!

Birthday Cake, complete with fireworks! Supplied image

Back to Kampala

We left Mbale in an air-conditioned bus! The highlights of our trip back to the capitol included lots of sugar cane pieces provided by a fellow Peace Corps volunteer who cut them down in his home stay family’s back yard, a purchase of habanero oil, and a great lunch of vegetable curry & naan.

Back at the Kampala Kolping Hotel, the reunion among the volunteers from five locations in Uganda was joyous. After all, we hadn’t seen each other in eight days. The comments were either bragging about how luxurious the home stay accommodations were (hot water, actual showers) or trying to be the person in the most challenging situation (only cold water bucket showers, a five hour church service). I was excited to feel hot water again and I had no trouble remembering to turn on the heater for hot water a few hours before my shower.

There is a small television in my room. I can watch the international version of CNN and two local stations broadcast in Lugandan. However, one evening one station had the Olympics on – in Portuguese. Unfortunately in the middle of a swimming event with the American relay team in the lead, the programming was switched back to local Ugandan news. I still don’t know the result of the race.

My exercise routine is mainly walking up and down four flights of hotel stairs for 30 minutes each morning since it isn’t considered safe to go to the Kampala streets alone. Each morning starts at 5:00 a.m. with the Muslim call to prayer broadcast loudly from all mosques. The call (broadcast five times a day) does not last long but it does remind the roosters that it is time to get up and crow for the rest of the morning. Not to be outdone, the Christians broadcast music with singing all morning on Sundays.

Almost every business – banks, hotels, malls – are protected by rolls of nasty looking barbed wire across the top of walls, and guards, usually men in uniform, with long rifles. You are required to pass through metal detectors to get into the mall.

Whites and Asians are called muzungus by everyone. I think it means foreigner in Swahili.

I went shopping for household goods at a local department store where irons cost 56,000 – Ugandan shillings, thankfully not US dollars. There were quite a few items in the store that carried the Target brand name. The bedding is being individually ordered (sheets, pillowcases, mattress pads, etc.) and then sent to a seamstress who is custom making them. We missed lunch at the hotel but fortunately there was a “Mr. Tasty” chicken shop which in addition to chicken, fish and pizza also sold ice cream. I had a scoop of butterscotch. Ice cream is hard to find here and is a real treat.

On a second shopping trip I purchased some essentials that I am certain I cannot find in Mbale: olive oil, balsamic vinegar and macadamia nuts. I am still looking for white chocolate.

We had more classes and a trip to the Peace Corps office. Once returning to the hotel, Kampala Friday evening traffic was so bad, we all got out of the bus and walked to a very upscale mall. It had a bookstore, gelato, a fitness center, numerous clothing shops and much more. I had my eyebrows threaded & got a supper of hummus and vegetables. One member of our group, a retired pediatrician from Ohio, had volunteered with the initial class of the Global Health Service Partnership in 2013. He has already seen three students that he taught at that time including one we ran into in the mall.

There are multiple starches for every meal – mashed plantains, yams, rice, pasta and occasionally mashed “Irish” (white potatoes). Every morning I was thankful for cold milk on my cereal. We have “break tea” every day at 10 am (tea, coffee, pastry) and evening tea at 4:00 p.m.

Lectures included psychiatry (which included a reminder that homosexuality is still a crime in Uganda) and African traditional medicine. The lecturer reported that 60% of Ugandans use a traditional healer as their primary care provider. She mentioned that if there is a doubt that the baby was fathered by a member of the clan, the baby is in the doorway. If the domestic animals step over the baby that indicates that the father is a clan member and all is well. If the animals step on the baby, the child does not belong to the clan.

We did practice teaching with students from a local university as the target audience. There were several lectures on HIV/AIDS which is still a major problem in Uganda. Adding to this problem, TB is also a huge issue here. Death from AIDS plus TB is four times greater than death from AIDS alone.

We also visited an 84 year old traditional healer who says she is successful in treating all diseases except epilepsy. Traditional healers are licensed by the government and supposedly the herbs they use are tested. On the same day we saw a bone setter. This family ran a practice and a hospital. Many people go to the hospital for x-rays then take the x-rays to the bone setter (who is trained only by his/her family – no formal education is required). The patient has gauze, herbs and then a bamboo split applied. Some people then go home and come back for checkups. The more serious breaks, such as the femur, stay in the bone setter hospital for three to four months until the bones are healed.

We had a cultural afternoon visiting the Ugandan National Museum, the tombs of the kings of Uganda, (official title is the Kabaka of Buganda). Four kings are buried there but they don’t really die so they each have nine wives living on the burial grounds. The women are supported by the kingdom of Uganda (which as far as I can tell is physically the same as the country of Uganda so Uganda has a president with political power and a king with no power but tradition and respect). Kingship is passed down by family: the oldest son gets land and the youngest son gets authority so the current king’s youngest son will one day be king. We visited the National Theater which has lots of craft shops. I bought a pair of earrings and a Ugandan nativity set to add to my collection of 70+ crèches.

Another cultural experience was the trip to the Ndere Centre where we watched amazing performances of variety of traditional African dances. The energy and stamina required for the three hour program was incredible. The audience included people from the USA, Canada, China, England, the Netherlands, Switzerland and several other African countries in addition to Uganda. It seemed to me the local version of the Polynesian Cultural Center (those who lived in Hawaii will understand this).

As our time in Kampala draws to a close, the festivities began. One night we had a happy hour complete with heavy pupus and a trampoline. A very welcome treat was the mango margaritas. 

Our official swearing into the Peace Corps took place at US ambassador’s house. I wore my new outfit that I had made from African material and tailored in Mbale. In addition to the seven doctors, eight nurses, one librarian, one computer scientist and one accountant in our Global Health Service Partnership volunteers, we were joined by 44 “real” Peace Corps volunteers. It was a surprisingly moving ceremony. I am proud to be part of the Peace Corps!

Orientation is finally finished. Now it is time to get to work!

This article was originally published as a series of posts on Julia’s personal Facebook account.

Julia Taylor attends Christ Episcopal Church, Springfield, Missouri

Have I Told You Lately?

Have I told you lately that I love you? Well, Darlin’, I’m telling you now.

Mary Chiles Two-minute read.   Resources

Image credit: Gary Allman

Recently I said goodbye to a longtime friend and co-worker. I’m not sure that we’ll meet again on this earth. The words of an old Willie Nelson standard just came out of my mouth. Kind of corny, right? And yet the words were so right that we nearly wept with the truth of them.

The words just came out of my mouth. Because they were true. This friend and I have had a lot of interaction over the years. That’s code for sometimes it’s been rough—still code for the reality that all relationships have their ups and downs, aches and pains, joys and heartaches. Isn’t that the nature of love?

In this leave-taking suddenly I was poignantly aware of how much our friendship meant to me. I realized that at the heart of it all was love.

Have I told you lately that I love you? Well, Darlin’, I am telling you now.

Willie Nelson

So even if you’ve got reasons to be angry or hurt, don’t ignore the love. By all means acknowledge the importance of boundaries. Speak the truth kindly. And in the midst of the messiness of true friendship, tell them how you feel.

Mary Chiles serves on the vestry at Christ Episcopal Church, Springfield Missouri.



The Ordination of Jeffrey Neal Stevenson

On December 12, 2018 Jeffrey Stevenson was ordained into the priesthood at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City, Missouri.

Fr. Jeff Stevenson Five-minute read.   Resources

Bishop Marty and Fr. Jeff. Image credit: Gary Allman

My husband Noah and I are recent transplants to the Kansas City area from Alexandria, Virginia outside of Washington DC. We came to Missouri to accept my first call as the new Assistant Rector at St. Andrew’s, Kansas City. I recently graduated from the Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) after a long-deferred call to the priesthood.

I grew up in the Church of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) in Utah. I don’t remember knowing anyone that wasn’t LDS until I was a teenager and so my notion of what it meant to have faith was tied to that single tradition. This all changed in 1994 when I enlisted in the Navy. In the military my world opened to new realms of possibilities, to new ways of seeing the world, and to new ways of understanding what it meant to “have faith.” It was while I was in the Navy that I came to understand that faith took on many forms and I found myself exploring what it means to believe in God. Looking back on those years, I recognize now that I was being called to ordained life, but at that time I was not ready to hear or follow God’s call.

When I left active duty military, I decided to return home to Ogden, Utah where I begin working on a degree in Social Work. That plan was interrupted by the events of 9/11. My training in the Navy was in intelligence and satellite imagery, these skill sets were suddenly in high demand. I was recalled to active duty and served as an imagery analyst at the Office of Naval intelligence in Washington DC. When the yearlong recall to active duty came to an end, I accepted a position with a consulting firm in the DC area. It was not social work, but it was a way to make an impact in the world, so for the next 13 years I worked as a National Security & Intelligence consultant.

After many years of discernment, I realized I could no longer ignore the call to ordained life. In 2015 Noah and I decided it was time and so I left the intelligence community to enroll in the Master of Divinity Program at the VTS. During seminary I explored my passion for ministry in the context of trauma, writing my thesis entitled “Confession and the Moral Injuries of War.” I also worked as a chaplain at the local hospital, served as the chaplain to the Alexandria Police Department, and began working on Veterans ministries. Academically, I discovered a love of Hebrew and Aramaic; studying deeper meaning in some of my favorite Old Testament stories through translation. Most importantly, my call to walk with all of God’s people has driven me to explore my passion for the ministries of preaching, pastoral care, and community engagement.

Image credit: Gary Allman

Though we have lived in the Washington, DC area for over 15 years, Noah and I are both excited about this new adventure in Kansas City. We are thrilled to be joining St. Andrew’s and The Diocese of West Missouri family.



Meet Mother Terry Deokaran, All Saints’ West Plains, Missouri

On February 26, 2019 Mother Terry Deokaran was installed as rector at All Saints’ Episcopal Church, West Plains, Missouri.

The Rev. Terry Deokaran Five-minute read.   Resources

You may be asking, “Who is this Mother Terry (Teresa) Deokaran from the Diocese of Western Kansas, and how did she get to be rector of All Saints’ Episcopal Church in West Plains, Missouri?” Let me see if I can give you a peek into me.

The people of All Saint’s Episcopal Church, West Plains, Missouri. The installation of the Rev. Teresa Deokaran as rector on February 26, 2019. Image credit: Donna Field

Mother Terry Deokaran. Image: Facebook.com

I am a unique woman of 60 years in love with life and God. I am a woman transformed, as are many of you, through loss and love. I am single, divorced 12 years, and I have two children: Sean, 33, in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Melissa, 30, in New Orleans, La. I have no grandchildren as yet. My likes include: good food, good wine, chocolate, a good book, conversation, antique shops, coffee shops, outdoor markets, pottery, plants, rocks, old buildings/barns, old churches, lovely liturgy, and God’s beautiful outdoors!

I grew up in the middle of the cornfields in the small town of Mt. Carmel, Illinois. I was baptized at age 16. I attended college in Louisiana and graduated in 1980, the same year that I was married. My married life took me to Guyana, South America (my ex-husband’s home country) and to Hammond, Louisiana.

Mother Terry Deokaran, at All Saints’ Episcopal Church, West Plains, Missouri. Image: Facebook.com

My faith journey has taken me from the Disciples of Christ Church to the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church and to the Roman Catholic Church. For 15 years following my Confirmation into Catholicism in 1998, Christ touched my soul profoundly. I was impacted by the preaching and love-filled ways of Dominican friars and sisters. I pursued and completed theological studies at Loyola Institute for Ministry in New Orleans from 2006-2010. From 2008-2011 I was in discernment with Sisters of Peace, O.P. In 2010 I moved from Louisiana to Kansas. In 2010 I undertook and completed in 2013 a three year Spiritual Direction Program at Heartland Center for Spirituality in Great Bend, Kansas, all the while working as Pastoral Minister at the Catholic Church of Barber County, Kansas, a cluster of 3 sister churches.

It was in December of 2013 that the gentle voice of God laid on my heart the thought of the Episcopal Church. As a Roman Catholic lay woman I had always desired to be at the Altar as the Roman priests were. I listened to God’s calling and I entered a chapter that changed my life. I was received into All Saints’ Episcopal Church (Notice the name!), Pratt, Kansas, on June 12, 2014. I completed a year of Anglican studies at BKSM (Bishop Kemper School of Ministry) in Topeka, Kansas. On December 12, 2015 I was ordained a deacon and on July 9, 2016, a priest. During my period of Postulancy and studies I worked full time at Larrison Mortuaries in Medicine Lodge and Pratt, Kansas. From 2016 – 2018 I served as Vicar of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Medicine Lodge, Kansas and worked full time as Manager of South Wind Thrift Shop in Pratt, Kansas.

Sisters and Brothers, God initiated and I responded. In the fall of 2018 the Spirit moved again … in the parishioners of All Saints’ Episcopal Church of West Plains, Missouri who were seeking a priest to shepherd them … and in me, a priest open to the awareness of God’s next step in my journey and seeking a family to serve and spiritually guide.

The installation of Mother Terry at All Saint’s West Plains. February 26, 2019 Image credit: Donna Field

May the meditations of my heart attuned to the Holy Spirit direct my words and actions as Mother to my new family of All Saints!



Bishop’s Day at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral

Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, hosted the northern Bishop’s Day event on March 9 this year.

Gary Allman Two-minute read.   Resources

Josh Trader leading a discussion on creating a safe church. Bishop’s Day at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral. Image credit: Gary Allman

Canon Steve Opens The Day – Bishop’s Day at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral. Image credit: Gary Allman

Gary Allman is Communications Director with The Diocese of West Missouri