March 23, 2020
Dear friends of the Alliance,
My trip started on March 3rd from California to Benin in West Africa to attend the world conference of the World Organization of the Ovulation Method Billings (WOOMB). There were 200+ attendees from 20+ countries, most of them from Africa. On several occasions, I served as interpreter since I speak the two main languages represented at the conference: French and English. I also attended an advanced extension course for teacher trainers under the best teaching available anywhere on the planet. My teachers were Marie Marshell and Jillian Barker, senior teachers from Australia, the country responsible for the development of the method by the late Drs. John and Evelyn Billings. During the conference, I met wonderful people and witnessed the formation of WOOMB-AFRICA. This is an exciting development which will encourage the teaching and spread of the BOM on the African continent.
I then travelled to Uganda and arrived at the Entebbe Airport at 2 a.m. on March 13. During the previous 10 days, I did not have much contact with the outside world since I was so involved days and evenings with the conference activities. I really had not kept up with the coronavirus pandemic development. In Entebbe, I was received at the airport by a health care worker who sprayed my hands with a disinfectant, took my temperature, asked health questions, and reviewed the health form I had filled out in the plane. This did not alarm me because Uganda is recognized for their aggressive infectious disease control. They have successfully battled the Ebola virus and prevented the spread of SARS in the country beyond a few cases. Uganda was one of the first African countries dealing with the AIDS virus; they learned so much controlling this disease.
Back at the airport: new guidelines starting that day specified that travelers coming from 17 countries, including the US, would not be allowed in the country; however, if they wanted to stay, they may elect to complete a 14-day quarantine set up at the airport and a few other locations. At this time, more than 1800 travelers are quarantined.
The immigration officer said that she needed to discuss my case with her supervisor. She quickly returned and allowed me to enter the country without restrictions. I was still clueless about what was happening in the world and also about the regulations at the airport. My ignorance was bliss. It is only later that I realized how fortunate I was to have been allowed entry, probably because I did not come directly from the US but from Africa. It took a few days for me to reconnect with the world as I had to reactivate my phone and access the internet. It usually takes 24 hours to achieve, but this time it took 3 days. After the weekend, I inquired why my phone was still inactive. I was told they needed a new photo. All the while, the people in Uganda thought I was quarantined somewhere. It was with some consternation, much joy, and thankfulness when they later realized I was in country and ready to work!
When I finally caught up with the world and talked to family members, most of them in a holding pattern somewhere, I realized how fortunate I was to be in Uganda, where not a single case had been reported so far until today: we have a Ugandan coming from Dubai who presented with fever at the airport, was isolated, tested, and provided medical care. Health officials are doing contact tracing. All fellow passengers were quarantined. Schools closed two days ago, handwashing is stressed, and small gatherings enforced. Ugandans are cooperating; they are used to prevention measures and so very creative!
But I am free to work and travel, and under these circumstances, it feels surreal. It reminds me of a Scripture the Lord gave me 3 years ago when I had concerns about traveling access: “The Lord will guard your coming and going both now and forever” Psalm 121:8.
This gives me great confidence that I’m where I’m supposed to be and that I should take advantage of my freedom and get to work! Even though the door closed to going back to the US at least for the next 30 days, I am not worried. When it’s time to go, the Lord will make a way. I am ready to extend my stay as needed because there is plenty of work to do as we plan to begin construction for the children’s hospital shortly.
I’m concerned about the Church having been sidelined summarily. Churches are inaccessible at a time when they are needed the most. Couldn’t we have small services while observing social distancing? What about the sacraments, a source of great comfort to Catholics? Throughout history, the Church did its greatest work during times of pestilence. The Church is supra-national. It is universal. It is the conscience of the nations. Our societies are quickly becoming secularized and in a profound moral chaos. This pandemic is affecting our national, economic, and personal security. Suddenly, and to our surprise, the states are not able to fix everything: most are still shuttered in their homes, travelers are not able to come home, borders are closed, and unemployment has risen to astronomical proportions, causing great anxiety. And the COVID-19 keeps on spreading, to at least 149 nations so far.
To his credit, President Trump called for a National Day of Prayer. Interesting that our religious leaders were absent and cloistered. But the faithful are rising. In Uganda, everyone is very prayerful. It is truly a Christian nation. A global movement is on the way. Go2020 is just an example. God speaks through His Word and calls us to pray; not any kind of prayer for our needs to be met, but a prayer of repentance on behalf of ourselves and our nation:
“If I close heaven so that there is no rain, if I command the locust to devour the land, if I send pestilence among my people, if then my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and heal their land” (2 Chr. 7:13-14).
Father Peter from the Bujuni Parish in Kibaale made this the subject of his homily last Sunday as it was broadcast on the radio. And today, Pope Francis called for Christians to recite the Lord’s Prayer on March 25. The Church is awakening slowly. It befalls us, Christians, to assume responsibility for the sinful condition of our nation. Atheists and agnostics will not pray. There is a precedent in the Word:
“If today you turn away from following the Lord, and rebel against the Lord, tomorrow he will be angry against the whole community of Israel….But do not rebel against the Lord, nor involve us in rebellion, by building an altar of your own…When Achan, son of Zerah acted treacherously by violating the ban, was it not upon the entire community of Israel that wrath fell? Though he was but a single man, he did not perish alone for his guilt! (Jos. 22:18-20, emphasis added)”
We shall overcome together on behalf of our nation and all those we love.
As for the Alliance work in Uganda, it is moving on well, although we are also experiencing the pandemic’s limitations. Our pilot program for abstinence education in the schools was scheduled for last weekend in Kibaale but was cancelled due to schools closing.
The St. Raphael Hospital committee is meeting today to discuss the way forward; we are selecting a construction company and preparing the site for the ground-breaking event. It is not scheduled yet. At this time, attendance would be limited to ten. We will wait until the crisis passes.
Thank you for your support. It is needed more than ever. May I encourage you to faithfully support the pregnancy resource center as we care for distressed mothers and their little ones? Are you a St. Raphael Hospital founding member yet? We need you to support the building of the children’s hospital. There is so much need: for example, 38% of Kibaale children suffer from malnutrition. Please go online to: https://www.allianceforlifeint.org/donate
Soon, we will share the hospital’s new website with you. So many exciting things happening!
In the meantime, let’s join the Psalmist:
“All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord; all the families of nations will bow low before him” (Psalm 22:28).
In God, we put our trust,
As we all scramble to adjust to the new normal, we are working on being able to offer our previously scheduled Teacher Trainings in April and May as a combination of live sessions via Zoom and the Correspondence Course.
We are currently training a group in Pittsburgh using that format. It’s going so well that we think now is the time to incorporate it nationwide. While attending an in-person training is always ideal and should be the first choice when offered, we are fortunate to be able to provide an alternative during this time when gathering in groups is not possible.
Stay tuned for updates on our website and Facebook pages!
The Importance of Emotional Health during (and after) the COVID-19 Pandemic
We’re living in stressful times with the coronavirus pandemic affecting so many aspects of daily life. But even before current events developed to their present state, couples facing fertility challenges already had an undercurrent of stress and uncertainty in their lives. Now more than ever, serving the emotional health of our clients is critical.
BOMA-USA is excited to partner with Organic Conceptions!
Organic Conceptions’s online cognitive-based program allows couples to engage in its program from the safety of their own home. The course can be a wonderful and timely gift to help already-struggling couples stay well emotionally and remain connected to each other during this time of heightened stress and uncertainty.
Organic Conceptions has put together a very special offer allowing Billings teachers to purchase licenses for just $29 per couple (normal price is $99). For just $59 you can receive a license (for 3 months of access) as well as 1 copy of the workbook & journal kit for your clients.
Lastly, if you are interested in getting educated on this unique program, there is an online certification program. They are offering BOMA teachers a special offer that includes access to the online training, 1 copy of the workbook and journal, plus 1 license for a client that you are working with. You can access the special offer by going to (https://www.organic-conceptions.com/offers/c5wsHQG8/checkout)
To learn more about Organic Conceptions, here is a link to an overview presentation hosted by Craig Turczynski, Ph.D: https://youtu.be/VVKAzoBCwB8
If you have any questions, please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Melaine Myklebust
My grandma was a child when her mom died. My mom was 18 when her mom died. I was 24 when my mom died. I come from a family of strong women who have had to pave the way into adulthood without a mother's guidance. We started our marriages and had children without a mom there to offer advice.
If I live to be 50, I’ll be the first woman in four generations to do so.
In my quest to break cycles, I stumbled across emotional links to our physical body systems. Have you ever been so overwhelmed with grief that your throat hurts? Or have you ever been so worried that you feel it in the pit of your stomach? Maybe you’ve experienced diarrhea before a big presentation or job interview.
Our bodies run on measurable frequencies. Emotions can raise and lower our frequencies. If we are experiencing a particular emotion, our body will store it in an area that is running on the same frequency. (For example: Worry is stored in the stomach).
I became curious about all of this, so I took a peek inside of the book Feelings Buried Alive Never Die by Karol K. Truman. I wasn’t surprised when I learned that the inability to cope with traumatic loss, feelings of helplessness, and holding on to deep hurt are all linked to buried emotions stored in the female organs.
By putting on my brave face for so many years and pretending like everything was ok, I was suppressing some major feelings, and I was on the road to storing them in a place in my body that is exactly the same place that generations before me had experienced cancer. In an effort to learn more about emotional responses, I learned that trauma and emotional responses can be passed in our DNA from generation to generation.
Neuroscientists at Emory University found that genetic markers can transmit a traumatic experience from generation to generation. They did an experiment where they taught male mice to associate fear with the scent of cherry blossoms. They would expose the mice to the scent as they shocked their feet. Then they removed the shock and the mice continued to express fear when they smelled cherry blossoms. They bred the mice with female mice. When the pups were born they had never smelled cherry blossoms. As soon as they smelled the blossoms the first time, they showed fear. This emotional response had been passed from the father to the pups and was triggered in the limbic system by their sense of smell.
The way we respond to the world around us can be from emotional responses in our DNA and our learned coping mechanisms. Is it so farfetched to wonder if constant hip pain might actually be due to suppressed emotions? Or that anger issues might actually be stemming from a liver crying for help?
Dr. Andrew Weil[HT1] says, “No matter how far a resilient person is stretched or pulled by negative emotions, he or she has the ability to bounce back to his or her original state.” This gave me hope.
My passion for health and wellness started when I realized that I wasn't loving my body well. I was on a path of self-destruction. I thought taking care of the physical side of things would be enough, so I ate wholesome foods and exercised regularly.
But it wasn't until I started seeking spiritual healing through prayer and emotional healing through forgiveness that everything came together. Healing begins where the wound was made. We cannot heal if we don’t deal. We cannot deal if we don’t feel. I needed to be the one to heal so I don't inadvertently pass my woundedness on to my daughter.
As a child, I was taught to stuff emotions because, in my family, crying was a sign of weakness. I had years of suppression waiting to spill out. But once I started allowing myself to feel the ugly things I had been burying, the floodgates opened, and an overwhelming sense of peace has filled my body. In the process of learning about my emotional well-being, my physical body started to transform as well. I have more energy. I’ve lost a few pounds. But the best part about digging deep is the freedom that comes with healing. We were made to be free.
Melaine Myklebust currently resides in Rockville, MN, with her husband and four children. Melaine graduated from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2008 with a bachelor's of science degree in education and received her master's degree in curriculum and instruction from St. Catherine University in 2013. Melaine has a passion for wellness and education. She loves to cook nourishing meals for her family, homeschool her children, and educate others about how to live with purpose and intention. You can find her blog at www.lemongrassandsage.com
Executive Director Teen STAR USA
When he found the Billings Method, Deacon Santi Molina called it a treasure. His discovery led him to become a trainer, supervisor. and, most recently, executive director of Teen STAR USA.
Q. Tell us about your family and your work as a deacon in the Catholic Church.
This month, my wife, Laurie, and I celebrated 33 years of marriage. We met at the University of South Florida in 1985 and married March 21, 1987. We both worked as high school teachers in Tampa for four years before moving to Tallahassee in June of 1990. Our daughter, Clare, was born in 1998. Laurie works at Florida State University both in administration and as a faculty member teaching geography education; I teach anatomy and physiology at Tallahassee Community College. Clare is a dancer and is currently a trainee at the Ballet Theatre of Maryland in Annapolis.
I became interested in the diaconate when the priest who married us, Fr. Pat Rebel, suggested it to me. After we moved to Tallahassee, Fr. Mike Tugwell sponsored me in 1996. On May 20, 2000, I was ordained a permanent deacon by Bishop John H. Ricard, SSJ (Bishop Emeritus of Pensacola-Tallahassee). Then, I worked in various parish projects at the Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More but became more involved with Hispanic ministry. Currently, I serve at St. Eugene Catholic Mission and Student Center in Tallahassee and St. Margaret Catholic Church in Monticello. My duties include marriage preparation, religious education, Natural Family Planning, annulment advocacy, Bible study, prison ministry, and more. I work under the supervision of Fr. Anderson de Souza, SVD, pastor of St. Eugene. I truly love the work and feel honored and privileged to have been called to do it.
Q. Years ago, I remembered you joined us for a teacher training in Laredo, Texas, and you were switching from the Creighton Model. It's always intriguing to hear the reasons why people choose Billings over other NFP methods they have taught or used. Would you mind sharing your reason for that?
Well, I was intrigued by Natural Family Planning from the moment I took my first class (thank you, Pat & John Wermuth!). They taught Laurie and me the Creighton Model, and it worked very well for us. Since I am a biologist by training, the science and the theology behind it really interested me. So, in 1989 Pat and John sponsored me to take the Creighton training. It was intense, and I began teaching. However, I was not able to complete the certification process, as it demanded an effort that I was not able to engage in given my job as a teacher and coach at the time and also given the fact that we were moving to Tallahassee. When we moved to Tallahassee, I inquired about completing the certification process. Still, after a year of attempting to finish, I was told that I needed to do the training again (and pay again). My interest in NFP did not waiver, so I began to search for alternatives, and I had always been curious about the original method of NFP, the Billings Method. So, in 2004, I got a hold of Sue Ek of BOMA-USA. It turned out that there was a teacher training in Laredo, Texas. I was very happy and grateful to discover this treasure! While the Creighton Model is good, the Billings Method is simpler to teach, learn, and apply and is backed by solid scientific research. Since then, I have been teaching it to couples from the parishes in my area and beyond. And I have become a trainer and supervisor, particularly with the Hispanic side of BOMA.
Q. How has your work training new teachers changed your appreciation of the Billings Method?
It has been a blessing as well as enlightening. Just to go further into the research and the variations that can occur in cycles has made the Billings Method more and more fascinating to me. The simplicity of its rules and how well they apply to ANY situation in a woman's reproductive life don't cease to amaze me. Being able to communicate this to new instructors and help them understand it more and more is very rewarding as well. We owe enormous gratitude to Drs. John and Evelyn Billings, Dr. Erik Odeblad, and Dr. James Brown. Their work is inspiring, and if I had "another life," I would have liked to go into research to continue their work. Fortunately, we do have researchers and doctors like Dr. Pilar Vigil, Dr. Mary Martin, Dr. Lek-Lim Chan, and many others who are continuing their work.
Q. Your skills as a bilingual speaker, who is also a professor of anatomy and physiology, are huge for us. Going from a teacher to a trainer and then to being a board member shows a significant commitment to the Billings Method and what we do. What inspires you to keep forging ahead?
As I mentioned above, God led me to this treasure, and I have become passionate about it. I don't know that I can explain it other than that the Holy Spirit continues to push me to stay the course and continue to support and help in preaching this gospel!
Q. Last year, you added another significant responsibility to your list when you became the executive director of Teen STAR USA. Congratulations! Filling that role from the years of work that Dr. Hanna Klaus devoted to building Teen STAR International must seem daunting! What does the future look like for Teen STAR in the United States and abroad?
When working with engaged couples, I discovered that most of them come to the marriage prep and NFP classes without having any understanding of their bodies and even less about NFP methods. Most of them are either already contracepting and living together, or planning on using contraceptives—mostly because their doctors or someone else have convinced them that they are the only things that work. It occurred to me that we needed to begin to teach younger people about this earlier. When I brought this up to Sue, she directed me to Sr. Hanna Klaus and Teen STAR. It took me a while before I could find the time to investigate what Teen STAR was all about. I finally became involved in 2015, when I went to a seminar in Brazil, given by Dr. Pilar Vigil. So, as I got more and more involved with Teen STAR, we began conversations with Sr. Hanna, who was already looking for a successor.
We eventually worked together in a teacher training, and then I began to implement Teen STAR in our parish with small group meetings. We ended up working on a new edition of the manual, along with a whole team of Teen STAR teachers.
By the end of 2018, the Teen STAR board appointed me interim executive director, and after a year, I was named executive director of Teen STAR USA.
Sr. Dr. Hanna has done such an amazing job that I know that I will never be able to fill her shoes. So, yes, it is daunting! She has been incredibly supportive and kind to me. Her vision of Teen STAR is truly another gift from God to the world.
The future of Teen STAR is very bright, as we continue to grow and promote the curriculum at three levels: middle school, high school, and young adults. In March of 2019, we received a grant from Our Sunday Visitor Institute that has been helping us bring Teen STAR to Hispanic communities in the US. We have plans for teacher trainings for Denver (now postponed, but soon to be rescheduled) and San Francisco/San Jose, California (June 4-6). I feel I must clarify that Teen STAR is not "NFP for young people." It is a curriculum that uses basic fertility awareness as the background for young people to understand themselves as human beings, sons and daughters of God. It includes topics such as anatomy and physiology, fertility awareness, Theology of the Body, communication, parent/child interactions, the adolescent brain, responsibility, commitments, assertiveness training, and much more.
The girls learn to chart their fertility but not as a method. We do address the methodology of Billings, such as the rules, but toward the very end of the curriculum, after they have a good understanding of responsibility, commitment, and assertiveness training (saying NO to proposals that lead them to disintegrate their humanity). Its pedagogy includes self-discovery, use of the Socratic method, etc.
Q. If a Billings teacher is interested in adding Teen STAR to what he/she offers, what is the first step?
He/she should check our list of upcoming trainings on our website: www.teenstar.org. If people have questions not answered on our website, they are welcome to email me at email@example.com or call my office at 850-212-7106. We are also happy to go to other locations if at least ten people are committed to attending.
The trainings are similar in format to the Billings teacher trainings. They usually last three full days (8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day). The cost is $400 per person, which includes manuals and resources to get started with the program.
Q. We've announced our combined conference with Teen STAR that is scheduled to happen in August. Even though BOMA and Teen STAR have shared exhibit tables at other conferences over the years, the August conference will be the first-ever collaboration. While final details are still being decided, is there anything in particular that you hope to accomplish by sharing the conference with us, besides expenses!
I hope and pray that we will be able to continue this partnership. Many BOMA instructors have expressed interest in Teen STAR, and this will be a great opportunity for them to get more information and education about Teen STAR. As mentioned above, Teen STAR does not teach a method but has used the Billings Method as its basis to teach fertility awareness to young people around the world. Many Billings instructors might be interested in becoming Teen STAR instructors... or at least promoters of Teen STAR.
BOMA-USA provides education and training for The Billings Ovulation Method® which is a natural method of fertility management that teaches you to recognize the body's natural signs of fertility.