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From the office of Richard A. Brown

Blog PostIn response to Christ's love and example,
    we serve
children and families
    by providing healing and hope.

APRIL 17, 2013

The other day as I entered the building, I visited with Jason and his service dog, Benny the golden retriever. Jason, along with Robert and Stefanie, are our three new full time therapists at Cumberland. They have completed orientation and are making calls in the surrounding communities so more people know about Cumberland Family Services, our counseling clinic. As word grows, their counseling schedule is filling up. We will be able to more fully serve our campus residents and community clients.

Our goal is to fully respond to the counseling needs of our residents, whether in the residential cottages, emergency shelter or single parent family duplexes, as well as to the needs in Denton and surrounding communities. We have also updated and expanded our parenting training as we hope to give families the tools and resources they need to be healthy. Under the leadership of Jennifer Livings, our Clinical Coordinator, our therapists help clients find and increase their own strengths and resources as they face real-world issues.

Be well,
Richard

MARCH 18, 2013

It may still be cold where you live, but we are beginning to see some hopeful signs of warmer weather here in north central Texas.  Last weekend I spent an afternoon at a local Arboretum and not only found happy wintery pansies in bloom but spring beds full of dazzling tulips and hyacinths.  Even though it was a cool day, the sun was shining, the air was clear and the colorful growing things everywhere I looked reminded me that God’s creation is good indeed.

That feeling followed me back to work Monday morning as I drove onto campus.  I wish you could see everything that is going on here at Cumberland.  For years, Terri and Mallory have welcomed visitors in the lobby or by phone, making sure the first impression at Cumberland is a good one.  Terri has retired from the receptionist’s desk and agreed to continue her work as a faithful volunteer by working on special projects for us.  Mallory has been promoted to Resource Services Assistant and will provide much needed help to Jonathan, our Resource Services Coordinator.  We are grateful for the dedicated service Terri and Mallory have given.  But do not worry, now you will be able to meet our new receptionists, Kyndra and Tina, when you call or come by Cumberland.  Our good first impressions continue.

Cumberland is thriving and growing, sort of like a flower garden on a crisp and sunny day in late winter here in north central Texas.  We are a diverse campus of talents, experience and wisdom joining together to help bring healing and hope to children and families.

Be well,
Richard

MARCH 1, 2013

The Cumberland Board met a couple of weekends ago. Among the many joyful tasks in front of them—hearing about the accomplishments of 2012, enjoying a wonderful banquet of Babe’s chicken with residents and staff, watching all our cottage residents receive an award (a few serious but many silly ones) and getting organized for Presbytery and General Assembly meetings—they also regretfully accepted the resignation of Rev. Dr. Kevin Henson, our President and CEO for the last 5 years. We wish Kevin well as he returns to the for-profit world of business and continues his now decades long support of Cumberland.

Kevin has been my close friend for almost 30 years and my boss for the last couple of years. Last Fall I got to perform the marriage ceremony for Kevin’s and Robin’s eldest son, the same son whose birth I announced in chalk on the sidewalk in front of the graduate school Kevin and I were both attending twenty-something years ago. Cumberland will miss Kevin’s strong leadership and keen business sense. Under his direction our agency enjoys unprecedented strength in its programs and financial condition at a time when many nonprofits are struggling for identity and financial support. I will miss my good friend and one of the best bosses I have had.

The Board appointed a Search Committee to finalize the President & CEO job description and begin the search for someone to replace Kevin. In the meantime, they have named me acting President & CEO. I am humbled by their trust and committed to staying the course Kevin has marked for us during his years on the Board and as the agency chief executive. Even with this transition our mission remains constant. We serve. I look forward to sharing stories with you about that service in the weeks ahead. I also ask you to remember us—the residents, clients and staff—at Cumberland and wish good things for Kevin, Robin and their family as they make this transition.

Be well,
Richard

JANUARY 9, 2013

A few years ago, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wrote a book called, To Heal a Fractured World: the Ethics of Responsibility. In his first chapter, Rabbi Sacks concisely states that the “message of the Hebrew Bible is that serving God and serving our fellow human beings are inseparably linked, and the split between the two impoverishes both.”

Of course, what Rabbi Sacks refers to as the Hebrew Bible, many Christians may refer to as the Old Testament. However, I don’t believe that many have thought of the overall message of the Old Testament as the inseparably linked service to God and humanity. But, I think he may be right.

I also think that the New Testament can also be seen as delivering this same message. From Jesus’ healing ministry and parables to the Apostle Paul’s letters that say we should consider others as more important than ourselves and that the main ministries of the church includes both prophets and those who help others. Serving God and humanity.

At Cumberland, our staff come from different parts of the country, different educational levels, different communities of faith, and have different life stories. Yet, despite their differences, they are united through service to humanity. As a team, Cumberland seeks to serve children and families with true love and acceptance – empathy, not judgement – dignity, not dishonor – and with creativity, not prescription.

Each child or family that comes to Cumberland for help is viewed from their strengths, not their weaknesses and from their resources, not their deficits. By focusing on their strengths, Cumberland can help individuals reframe the way they view themselves. Hope can begin to form as people gain new perspective on their lives. From hope, healing can grow.

In Rabbi Sacks’ book he tells stories of ordinary people who become his heroes by helping others in extraordinary ways. These folks rarely make the news. Outside of the pages of his book, most of their work would go unnoticed except by God and the people they help.

At Cumberland there are so many things that so many people do to serve others that never get seen. For example, Clint and Martin maintain our 17 acre campus and our 14 buildings with silent skill. Keeping dozens of toilets, sinks, air conditioners, heaters and lights working 24/7 - 365, is an under-appreciated, yet inspiring feat.

Another example of the hidden heroes at Cumberland are the individuals and church groups who relentlessly and consistently give of their resources. There are literally hundreds who without fail give each month. In these difficult economic times it is genuinely heroic to give with such faithfulness.

When he refers to these hidden heroes in his book, Rabbi Sacks is reminded of the Biblical story of Moses and the tabernacle in the wilderness. “According to Jewish tradition, when the Israelites had finished constructing the sanctuary in the wilderness, Moses blessed them with the words: ‘May it be God’s will that his presence lives in the work of your hands.'"

For all of the hidden heroes who serve with us at Cumberland, may God’s presence live in the work of your hands to bring healing and hope to children and families.

DECEMBER 1, 2012

The short sentence above is how we describe our mission at Cumberland. This statement helps keep all of us at Cumberland focused on what we do, for whom we do it and why we do it. Because this statement is so very important, I thought I would write a few blogs unpacking this very powerful sentence.

The crux of the mission statement is the second line: "we serve." What does it mean to serve? There are many different ways to define service. Recently we had a meeting of our support team (the interdisciplinary team that is responsible for enacting the day to day work of our programs). I asked this team to bring a definition of service to the meeting. The person trained in social work had a definition couched in social work terms. The therapist offered her definition in the language of therapy. Our chaplain spoke theologically about service. Each of us used the language of our diverse training to foster a working definition.

I was taken by surprise, however, when our Resource Services Coordinator, Jonathan Jordan, offered his definition. He waited patiently. Then, when it was his turn to speak, he didn't. He simply reached under the table brought out a bowl of water and a cloth. From the person whose job is to make sure that each program has the resources they need when they need them, we didn't get words about service. Instead, we got a picture of what true service is about.

The bowl and cloth may remind you of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, or it may remind you of the thankless job of cleaning up someone else is mess, or it may remind you of a parent or grand parent cleaning up after you when you were a child. Regardless of what mental video this image brought to your mind, it is most likely one of pure service.

We serve. When someone comes to work or volunteer at Cumberland, they are introduced to this ethic. It can be seen in Youth Care Workers giving up their own free time to accompany youth to summer camp. It can be ensuring that a counseling client who is out of work and homeless leaves with a box of food. If you could somehow magically watch Cumberland's staff and volunteers go about their ordinary day, you would see images of service that would make you believe that their day is anything but ordinary.