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Building a Resilient Church

December 11, 2015 by Janelle P in Middle East

Kyra* is part of Open Doors’ trauma support staff in the Middle East. Open Doors is not a disaster response organization or a relief organization. We differ from other NGOs in our approach to providing relief. We see relief as a means and not an end. Our calling is to support the persecuted church and help them to build resilience in the midst of their suffering. She has traveled to countries throughout the region to help local Christians deal with the trauma they are facing. She shares her thoughts regarding the impact and influence of trauma support.

“We acknowledge that persecution, while for the sake of our faith in Christ, has a great impact on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual parts of our lives. Therefore, our goal for trauma support is to help the church build resilience in these difficult times. It is during times of suffering that the church needs people to stand alongside them. That’s what trauma support desires to do through training and also through presence ministry.

People have questions – Where is God? Why is he allowing this to happen to us? When will this end? How many more times will we have to flee? Can we stay together as a family? Can we survive losing any more loved ones? How will we survive financially? These are all questions the church is asking, and they are questions that trauma support is helping people to wrestle with. We do not have the answers to all these questions but we do know who does. Therefore, our greatest privilege is to help people connect or reconnect with God in the midst of their pain and suffering.

Our trainings are primarily focused on creating awareness and equipping the church to know how to handle the complex reactions to the trauma of disaster, great violence and of being persecuted as a Christian minority in the Middle East. It is good to know that we have trained mental health care professionals and also work closely with our country coordinators and field staff in finding like-minded partners and mental health care services that can help the people in dealing with their current situation.

I would like to add that there is nothing that prepares even the professional for some of the violent and traumatic experiences the people are facing on the field today. It is not only the people we serve who are facing these complex types of dramatic stressors. It is also the people who work with us in serving the cause of the organization that are exposed to daily bouts of ongoing violence.

Our program is tailored to meet the needs of different groups we serve, and we are all trained in the current, best practice methods. In addition to conventional and expressive (art) methods of therapeutic practice, we also incorporate spiritual exercises, such as reading and reflecting on Scripture (especially the Psalms), praying and singing. Often in mass disaster areas, a whole nation cannot receive professional mental health care. There is no way any country can offer a service to the entire population.

What does matter the most is majoring in the minors—helping people discover their strengths, allowing children to experience play and living their age, getting women together to talk over coffee and helping men find a way to be proactive.

There are negative cultural stigmas to seeking professional mental health care in the Middle East, and there are also religious boundaries. Mental health care systems in these countries were not well developed or advanced prior to the crises they are facing today. Moreover, many countries have been emptied of most of their professional experts—doctors, nurses, lawyers, engineers, etc. Most have left the country.

We are always on the lookout for like-minded partners and professional mental healthcare workers. Priests and spiritual leaders are still the ones people expect help from. We focus on offering our services to and standing with those who are suffering for the sake of Christ.”

*Name changed for security

Thank You, Father, for Kyra and others from Open Doors who are assisting religious leaders and mental healthcare workers in the Middle East to minister effectively to those who have experienced trauma and persecution. “Every day I call upon you, O Lord,” they cry. ”I spread out my hands to you.” (Psalm 88:9) And we too spread out our hands to You today as we stand alongside them in prayer that You would heal the pain from the suffering they have endured, that You would overwhelm their fear and anxiety with Your perfect peace, and that the light of Christ would shine through them to a region of the world in desperate need of Christ. In the Name of Jesus, our Healer, Amen.

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