Monday, March 12, 2018

12th Anniversary

Have you noticed that I only "blog" once or twice a year? It takes me more time to figure out how to log-in to this account than it does to write something.

But here I am. Midnight rolled by last night and I hit my yearly melancholy missing Kim.

I'm in a strange place these days.

I could get married again but everything is different this time.

When I met Kim I had just moved to Gulfport. I had gone through my 20's desperate for a girlfriend and hopeful for a wife someday but the opportunities in a small town were limited and maybe I wasn't that much of a "catch" back then anyway.

Then I met Kim and I knew within a couple months that she was the one. Maybe I knew the first time I saw her.  One of my favorite memories of my late Dad was the first time he met her. I guess we had been dating for about 3 months at that point when my Dad and stepmom visited me on the Coast. My Dad pulled me aside and said something like, "Well Son, I think you've found the one."  He could see it. He was right.

That's part of what's so different between then and now. Then, I knew. Now, I don't.

A lot of people around me tell me that those "feelings" don't matter. They tell me that I should marry, essentially, because I'm not getting any younger and it's not good to be alone. Even if I remind myself that being alone isn't necessarily the same as being lonely, they are not wrong.

When I first started talking about marriage with Kim she gave me the "out"- she told me we should break it off sooner rather than later because her prospects for a long-life were slim. That's when I told her I'd rather live some of my life with her than any of it without her.  I guess my thinking process on marriage is tainted by that line all these years later because what I want in marriage is not just to be with someone I can live with, but to be with someone I can't live without. The former isn't that hard to find, the latter is maybe once in a lifetime. I don't know.

Maybe I've set myself up for something unrealistic. Maybe someone I can't live without, someone that checks all my boxes, doesn't exist- apparently not even in my head since I can't articulate who or what that person is.

It makes sense that I should be married, I can't deny that. I tell people all the time that if I was married I'd like to adopt or foster some of the kids we minister with. There's a little girl at one of the orphanages right now that if I got married this week I'd probably start trying to adopt next week. Sometimes when I say that out loud, I feel inside that I must not really mean it... if I did then I'd do something about it. If I really cared about that kid then I'd get married. No internal pressure, right?

See how easy it is to get melancholy and worse on a day like today.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Praying for Libby

I'm a night owl. I often go to bed after midnight and last night was no exception. I drifted off to a Benedryl enhanced sleep thinking about where I was 11 years ago. Just after midnight on March 11 Kim's breathing was getting noticeably shallower. Those of us gathered in her room and down the hall in the waiting area knew she was getting close to her ultimate healing. Of course I'll always remember those moments.

Eleven years later and here in Ukraine, ironically, I attended a funeral and two graveside services yesterday. A couple of the cemeteries here in town are absolutely massive. Customary in this part of the world is to have large tombstones with etchings- a picture- of the deceased. Strange to me at first but I have to admit walking through the cemetery you get more of a sense that these were real people. It's like walking through a huge crowd of people frozen in granite.

I awoke this morning still thinking about this weekend 11 years ago. Kim's time of death was 2 am, March 12. After completing some paperwork all of who were gathered made our way back to Gulfport in the wee hours of the morning. I collapsed in our bed and woke up a few hours later that Sunday morning feeling like I had to hold it together, so I did I guess.  I wrote Kim's obituary that morning before even getting out of bed. I contacted my friend David, once a fellow youth minister but by then working at local funeral home, to begin making arrangements. 

I skipped church that Sunday. I won't skip today. I'll leave in about an hour and I'll be surrounded by people that have no idea what this day is to me. That sort of hurts but it's not their fault. And with two funerals yesterday there will be more than enough grieving today.

Something else that's been on my mind this weekend. I have a friend back in Mississippi who is alive and well with CF. He's fathered children, he's a tremendous professional in the field of education, and he's an advocate for those living with CF. One of his Facebook posts' this past week caught my attention and I've been following the story myself since then. 

There's a precious young girl named Libby Hankins from Alabama that's fighting for her life right now at Duke University Hospital. She has CF and she had a double-lung transplant last year. Her body is rejecting the lungs right now. There's a Facebook Group called Lungs for Libby and on that site I've watched news videos and slideshows and read many testimonies about her life and how she's impacted so many people not only in her small Alabama town but all over the world. 

I'm praying for you Libby. I don't even know how exactly to pray. I'm praying the Lord will use these dire circumstances to show the world His power and glory and compassion and mercy by healing your body; I'm praying He will comfort your friends and family and bless them with more of your presence- like, years and years more of your presence. 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

An Aluminum/Tin Anniversary?

I woke I woke up this morning and violated a personal ideal: I read Facebook instead of scripture. I was quickly reminded that life goes on and that life is good even when it's not.

I saw that today is my friend Amy's birthday. One of my earliest memories of her was when she was visiting our youth ministry and taking notes and nodding in agreement to something I was saying. It was encouraging. I was privileged to officiate her wedding. She recently posted pictures of her beautiful 2 year old. She still encourages me. Her life encourages me.

I saw on Facebook that today is my youth ministry friend Harvey's 21st wedding anniversary. He was a little later in life getting married like I was. I don't know if he ever felt like it would never happen. I often felt that way. But now he's celebrating 21 years of marriage and being the Dad to a couple beautiful children.

I saw honeymoon pics and the celebration of one week of married bliss from another former "youth", Michelle. She's godly and brilliant  pretty and looks so happy.

Another kid, super talented Emily is getting married today.  

And my friend Chad who fell in love with a kid he and his wife fostered several months her back today (or recently).

Life goes on, right? And life is a gift and it is good even with the pain that it sometimes brings.

I woke up this morning knowing that 10 years ago on a Sunday morning I woke up and wrote my best friend's obituary.

I'm glad I looked at Facebook for all the reminders about the good on this day and everyday.

Kimberly Katherine Batey White 

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Kimberly Katherine Batey White, 34, of Gulfport, passed away on Sunday, March 12, 2006 in New Orleans. 

Kim, born in Fremont, Ohio, has been a life-long resident of Gulfport. In 1989 she graduated from Gulfport High School, where she was named Student of the Year. In 1995 Kim graduated from the University of South Alabama with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing. For the last 10 years, Kim has worked at Memorial Hospital of Gulfport in the Cardiac Observation Unit. She was a member of Bayou View Baptist Church. 

Kim was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis when she was six weeks old but she did not die from CF, rather, she lived with it. In fact, she outlived all of the projections that were made about her life-span. When others would have taken advantage of their disability, Kim refused to be treated differently or to act differently. When she could have performed poorly in school due to frequent hospitalizations, she excelled both in high school and in college. Kim received a gift of life in the form of a double lung transplant 8 years ago. She used those extra years well as a caregiver at Memorial Hospital and as a Proverbs 31 woman. She was her husband's best friend and an encouragement and inspiration to all who knew her. Our lives are better because of Kim. 

Kim was preceded in death by her grandfather, T.W. "Pappy" Milner, Jr.; grandmother, Eleanor Stribling Milner; step-grandmother, Innabeth Melvin Milner; and paternal grandparents, Gerald and Mary Batey. 
Kim is survived by her husband of 9 years, Clinton White of Gulfport; her parents, Gerald "Gary" and Eleanor Batey, Jr. of Gulfport; sister, Mary Elizabeth Batey of Semmes, Alabama; father-in-law, John White and his wife, Mae of Amory, MS; mother-in-law, Jo Ann White of Hatley, MS; uncle and aunt, Ambassador Thomas and Katherine Anderson of Middleburg, Virginia; uncle, Tommy Milner, III of Gulfport; aunt , Patricia Cook and her husband, John, of Woodville, Ohio; sister-in-law, Vicki Raulin and husband, Michael of Douglasville, Georgia; sister-in-law, Janet Tuttle of Hatley; brother-in-law, John White and Pam of Vicksburg, MS; and by numerous nieces, nephews, great-nieces & nephews, and cousins.
Visitation will be on Wednesday, March 15, 2006 from 12 Noon until 2:00 p.m. at Bayou View Baptist Church in Gulfport. The funeral service and celebration of her life will follow at 2:00 p.m. Interment will be in Evergreen Cemetery in Gulfport. 
Memorial contributions may be made to MS Organ and Recovery Agency, 12 River Bend Place, Jackson, MS 39208 (; or to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation ( 
Arrangements by Riemann Memorial Funeral Home in Gulfport. An online guestbook may be viewed and signed via
Published in The Sun Herald on Mar. 14, 2006

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Last Month's Lowlights

My friend/co-worker, Julie and I,  had a discussion today which led me to think about on how hard it is to be authentic when writing newsletters and reporting to the folks back home.  The struggle is real.

I like to think that I don't embellish or oversell what I'm doing overseas, but there's no doubt that, at the very least, I try to cast things in a positive light.  As a Christian I have every reason to be a "positive" person and from a mental health standpoint, I would think it's healthier to look for the "good" as opposed to dwelling on the bad. But do I unconsciously do it too much?

At the end of every month I send out an Email Newsletter to about 300 people. I've used the same format for almost 4 years- 3 Highlights for the Month followed by a primary story- almost always a highlight in itself.

In the interest of being more authentic and trying to communicate that it's not all rainbows and unicorns, I might make this a new monthly blog titled, "Last Month's Lowlights".

Lowlight #1- I keep a daily mini-diary- just a sentence usually that describes at least the main thing I did every day. Usually I can go a few days without writing because it's easy to remember what I did just a few days ago. Usually. But Sept, 1, 2, and 4 are LOST days to me. I have no idea what I did...which means I didn't do anything significant. Not for the Kingdom, probably not for me or anyone else either. I probably didn't sleep all day since my temporary roommate moved in right before that and I would have looked like a jerk sleeping all day. Nevertheless...I apparently didn't do anything to earn your money three days in one week.

Lowlight #2- I count 6 days in the month where I can honestly say I worked my butt off and I worked ALL morning till late at night. That includes 2 days when I endured 20 hour long train rides.  Then there were 4-5 days where I for sure worked a full-day- the kind of days that you work everyday.  The rest were half-days at best. It's not that I didn't do "anything" those days- most likely I accomplished what was on my list to do for that day...but I didn't sit at a desk or push buttons for 8 hours.

Lowlight #3- According to MailChimp Statistics, only about 25% of the 300 people who received my email newsletter bothered to open the mail. Only one person provided feedback. The day after sending my "highlight" newsletter, when the statistics are available, is often the day I most want to stay in bed all day or drink a bottle of wine.

Lowlight Primary Story- This one is the hardest to admit- but I didn't have a meaningful conversation with any unbeliever about Christ or anything spiritual all month. 

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Saturday, June 20, 2015

The United States I was born in no longer exist.

Tonight I attended a Franklin Graham Festival of Hope- a one night crusade in Lviv, Ukraine.  I guess Franklin Graham does several of these per year around the world so it's a well-oiled machine. Organizers were hoping fill the stadium in Lviv- capacity 35,000.  Initial estimates is that there were 39,000 in attendance tonight.

My guess is nearly 10,000 people came forward during the Invitation (to Just As I Am no less). Many that came forward were escorting friends and again, initial estimates from a friend on the committee suggest there were at least 2000 first time decisions.

It was fascinating to me on several levels and I'm a little bit emotional right now.  Here are a couple observations.

1.  Franklin Graham is a chip off the old block. He looks so much like his father and sounds like him, too.  His delivery reminded me of watching his father on TV when I was a child. Here's the thing though: I have a few favorite communicators. I really like Ben Stuart at Breakaway Ministries at Texas A & M. He's brilliant, he's current/relevant, his sermons are "meaty", and he's witty without sounding like he's trying too hard to be. He's fun to listen to and I learn from him.  I'm not sure if Franklin Graham smiled tonight and I don't think there was a hint of humor in anything he said. There was no entertainment value whatsoever in his presentation. He proclaimed a super simple evangelistic message entombed in the Prodigal Son narrative from Luke 15.  I bet I could have delivered the same message.  I bet I could have read his message or maybe preached it with more passion and better illustrations (Franklin didn't use any illustrations...he just read the scripture and told the story). I bet I could have done that and possibly no one would have come down from the upper level.  Franklin did his best Billy imitation and the field flooded with people making a decision for Christ.

2. I remember a time in the country I was born in- the United States of America- when, if Billy Graham was holding a Crusade (usually a 5-7 night thing, right?) anywhere in the world, it would be broadcast on Primetime Network TV.  It would bore me as a child and I would be angry that my regular programming of All in the Family or Rockford Files was pre-empted...but I was young and stupid and didn't appreciate then how awesome it was that the world's preeminent evangelist was on national TV.

3.  At the same time that Billy Graham was on national network tv several times a year there were a couple other things happening in the world.  Ukraine- the country I live in right now- was behind the Iron Curtain. We in America considered everyone behind said curtain as godless atheist. The Church in America in the 70's and 80's bemoaned the direction of the Church, fearing we were headed for the same fate as the Church in Western Europe- dead and empty.

4.  And here we are today.  I can say unequivocally that Ukraine, even when it was behind the Iron Curtain I think, was and is far more conservative and generally more moral than the Disunited States of America.  That doesn't mean it is more "Christian" than the Disunited States (or the country that preceeded it, the United States).  By any measure the States would still be regarded as more "evangelized" and "Christian" than Ukraine where only 3-5% of the population identify as Born Again Christians.  But America is in a moral tailspin.  Much of the conflict in Ukraine over the past year or so is that many Ukrainians desperately want the freedoms and rule of law associated with the US and with Europe but they equally desperately DON'T WANT the lack of morality.

It pains me to visit large, beautiful,empty Cathedrals and churches here in Europe- the light is gone. You hear stories of many of them being turned into Mosques (it's happened before in Europe). But I've also been to some very solid, very vibrant churches in Europe. Most of them are meeting in rented facilities, no longer able to bear the tax burden of owning large properties (American Churches, you're next!).  Some are sizable; most are small. The numbers of Christians are few; but they are strong.

Could there ever again be a 5 night nationally televised major network Church Service in America? No, I doubt it. For the most part the "religious leaders" that get that kind of airtime in America today are nut job celebrities that rub shoulders with Oprah and wear a plastered hairdo to go along with a $10K suit while promising riches and ease.

No. The Disunited States of America is a Post-Christian Country. Culture and many (most) of our churches have slid way beyond the European Church it once feared.

Here's my prediction: American Culture will continue to slide toward (and beyond) Gomorrah.  There will be a lot of falling away within the American Church. But the few will grow stronger. Freedom probably grows churches far and wide, but persecution grows churches deep.  And by the way: The persecution hasn't started yet...America, get over yourself. None of the backlash you're facing now is real persecution. 

Monday, May 4, 2015


I am sort of fascinated by how "things" go viral on social media.

How in the world did Rebecca Black's "Friday" video go viral. She's a cute kid, but the song? Not so much.

And what about that stupid blue/black dress?  What the heck? And who cares?

I'm as addicted to social media (especially Facebook and Instagram) as anyone. I justify it by citing it's uses in "ministry".  It really is useful. For example, in two years of using Social Media based Crowdfunding tools like Indiegogo and Tilt, we've raised more than $30,000 for the Coffee House Ministry Center we're building here in Ukraine.

And now we're doing it again.

Actually, I'm mostly taking this one "off"- I figure I wore my friends out a few months ago while raising funds for the Coffee House (which is really make progress by the way and it'll be operational this summer and open in September!)

I recently created a page on Indiegogo to help my partners here in Ukraine with Ruka Dopomogy (actually a part of International Teams) to raise money for Summer Camp.

Supper Camp is near and dear to my heart. I love camp!  But with the currency devaluation here in Ukraine this past year (from 8 UAH to 1 USD to now more than 20 UAH to 1 USD) along with the fact that salaries have not increased...well, it's going to be really hard for families to send kids to camp.

The camp is cheap by US standards. We can feed and house a kid for a week and provide a pretty good program for only about $25 USD a week.  Last year that was about $200 UAH for a Ukrainian family...but today it would more than $600 UAH. It's still $25 to you and me but it's triple what it was last year for a Ukrainian family. It doesn't always make sense to me but that's how it works!

In addition to the increase in cost, we now have nearly 2 million internally displaced people (refugees) in Ukraine. Most are women and children who have fled or been sent out of eastern Ukraine. Many of them now reside in our region and we want them to come to camp. It's even more financially difficult for them.

That's why Ruka Dopomogy asked me to create the Indiegogo Campaign- to raise funds that will sponsor Refugee Kids and Teens at 100% for Camp this summer. In addition to that we'll let Orphans and Foster Kids attend for 1/2 price and we'll offer discounts for families with multiple children.

We'll do all that if we can raise the funds.  You can donate on the Indiegogo page and please share the link on your social media outlets. Wouldn't it be fun if it went "viral"?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Another Milestone

Nine years. Now it's been 9 years. I've been "widowed" longer than I was married.  And I was thinking recently that this past November, just a few months ago, was when I met Kim 20 years ago. My gosh! Time really does fly and it seems to do so exponentially faster the older we get.

I think I've written something every year on this "anniversary".  A friend sort of intimated a few days ago that I need to "move on" with my life.  I think she missed the point: I have moved on, but this week is never going to pass for me without notice and I wouldn't want it to.

When I was in Mississippi this past Christmas going through mementos and such I ran across the Eulogy my friend Margaret wrote and read at Kim's funeral. Margaret was as much or more Kim's friend as she was mine. She was one of my "ace" youth workers when I was a Student Minister in Gulfport but she was also one of Kim's co-workers at Memorial Hospital.  

I don't know how many of you have ever been in a position to plan a funeral. It's stressful with lots of snap decisions. I drove home from the hospital where Kim died in the wee hours of a Sunday morning and after taking a nap I had to notify the funeral home and write an obituary for the newspaper. Later that day I had to go to the funeral home and pick-out a casket and all the trimmings.The next day I had to arrange for the burial site.  Then I had to choose Pall Bearers and others who would be involved in the service including asking someone to provide the Eulogy. Regardless of stress involved, I can look back and know with certainty that I made the right choice in asking Margaret to perform that difficult task.  Here's what she wrote:

Kim White- one of the most unique, one-of-a-kind, loving young ladies that I have every personally known. I truly hope that this community, this church, her hospital and her entire family know that they had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have someone of her caliber...walking in our midst. 

Kim could have so easily whined, or felt sorry for herself or even have been bitter. She could have been consumed with her health problems- I am afraid I would have been had we exchanged bodies. Instead she never brought her sickness or health problems to light unless others pursued or forced the conversation. It makes me feel like a sissy- when I think of what she did with such significant issues. About a year and half ago Clinton and Kim moved into a new home. Some of us from church and her family worked together for a week or so painting and getting their home ready to move into. I can remember begging Kim to take it easy, to sit it out for a while. She basically gave me, in just a few words, that she wanted to be working. She was a very bright girl, who happened to have Cystic Fibrosis her entire life and who just happened to be a nurse.  She knew the things taking place in her body, the affect of the anti-rejection meds on her entire system. The possibility of rejection; and she let me know- life IS FOR THE LIVING. She changed out her IV drips running through her PICC line and then would pick back up the roller and paint harder than the rest of us. WITHOUT A BEAT- she had so much experience multi-tasking. Taking care of herself and living a full life. This is a huge part in credit to you- Mr and Mrs Batey, and Mary. You raised her up and supported her in a way that did not lend to her feeling or acting as if she had a disability, but instead she felt special, beloved, and protected by her family. She was so happy to have moved closer to her parents. She loved you all so much.

Kim was a great nurse. Bob and I actually experienced her intense TLC after one of his bad seizures. She knew how to get to the heart of your fears, give comfort, give skills and much compassion. She put a very intelligent mind, together with a huge heart and mixed in some really great clinical skills. The nurses that worked with Kim in Cardiac Observation were devoted to Kim, and Kim to them. All through the years I have heard first hand praise for her nursing from patients and her co-workers first from 4A and then the other 9 years from Cardiac Observation. Her manager, Cindy, relayed to me that she was always concerned with the well-being of her unit. She worried to the point of calling when she was sick to make sure the staffing was covered in her absence. She constantly was concerned with her co-workers well-being. She actually called last Tuesday to the unit to check on a co-worker who had illness in their family even while she herself was very ill. But her co-workers had her back also. Recently a co-worker actually locked the door on an employee from our environmental services who was trying to come in and strip and wax the floor. She actually had no intention of letting Kim cone in contact with those fumes. AND SHE WON!

Her co-workers thought so much of her nursing, that they turned her name in to Oprah's Person of the Year contest, and WLOX's Nurse of the Year Contest. So, Kim, we all know you are OUR Nurse of the Year. We know you were an example to all of us, the perfect nurse, a role model of caring. Her peers quote her as there to help in every time of need, quiet and respectful, patient-centered, always positive. SHE WILL BE IRREPLACEABLE at Memorial, where she showed us all the CALL and TRUE ART of NURSING.

Kim and Clinton were limited in starting a family. Kim physically never bore children, BUT WAS A MOTHER TO MANY. The last 9 years God used Kim and Clinton's marriage and home to provide an open door to all who entered. She had a loving heart, provided many a quick thrown together meal for the masses. Many a taco, and barbecued burger for 2nd Sunday Fellowships, Progressive Dinners for the youth...she had a tolerance that is beyond comprehension for the interruptions that we as a church and as a youth group would constantly give her. She laughed and giggled at the Life-Size Barbies the girls left at their door that would scare here when she opened her front door. She tolerated having her home toilet-papered so the girls would know the thrill.She acted in videos depicting how the life-size Barbie we left was kidnapped and through the imaginary investigation.

The kids would give no warning, night and day, they just appeared. And she loved them so. She would drive vans, pick up food for trips, drop us off early, pick us up late.We shared long distance trips and she nursed many a youth. She gave them words of encouragement, comfort for the sad, the lonely, the mis-placed, the scared and those in need of nurturing. She has always displayed "our home is your home". Instead of having 1 or 2 children that she devoted all of her time and attention, instead she mothered hundreds of kids through the 9 year mission she had as a youth minister's wife. So, for the Emily's, the Laura's, the Monica, Jana, and Ali's, the Justin, Tyler and Ben's, the Chelsea's, Heather's and Amanda's, the Jenna's, Scott's, Chip and Anna's- they would all want me to tell you how much Kim meant to their lives and how much they loved here. And I know Kim would want them to know she loved them too.

Clinton is such a great youth minister, much of this has to do with the support he received from his wife WHO VERY MUCH LOVED AND SUPPORTED HIM. She graciously took into stride when he was called away for weeks every summer and when the kids kept his ear and attention. She did this with seemingly ease because she loved SERVING GOD and she loved her husband Clinton.

Kim could see the good in everyone. I never once heard Kim say a negative or bad word about anybody. At Church, on trips and yes, even at work. DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD THAT IS TO DO? I can remember thinking to myself so many times, HOW does she do it? How is one person so sweet? How can you stay so kind? So consistently? I am just sorry I never told her how she inspired me to be a better person. So Kim, I do so know.  This sweet spirit and attitude led her ability to be a friend. She had several lifelong friends, friends from church and friends from work. They were loyal to her and her to them.

Clinton, Mr and Mrs Batey, Mary and all of Kim and Clinton's family- we all cry and mourn with you. We will miss her in our lives. But we also celebrate and rejoice in the knowledge that she was taken into the presence of OUR LORD, JESUS CHRIST at 1:30 am on Sunday, March 12.

IN HIS PRESENCE, in a place that God has prepared for those who love him, His presence and the place he PREPARED FOR KIM, that she is now experiencing. A place in his presence that our ears have never heard, that our eyes have never seen and where our minds cannot even conceive. She is now with THE ONE who came to make all things new. Where now she is new, where she is basking in his brilliance and IN HIS MARVELOUS LIGHT.

Kim, you made it count. We love you.