Hope for the Hurting

Project HELP PTSD

During the 2014–2015 church year, we launched a four-year emphasis under the umbrella of Project HELPSM related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is not only a personal issue for many families but also becoming a significant issue for the church. From the effects of war on our soldiers to persecution of our missionaries to school shootings and natural disasters, post-traumatic reactions are often serious but seldom discussed by those involved for fear of being labeled or misunderstood.

PTSD occurs when a person experiences a significant trauma and gets “stuck” in that moment in time where he or she relives it over and over and is unable to fully embrace a normal life. How can the church help people find their way through trauma to a place of hope? This past spring, I attended a conference called Gateway to Hope. It was a gathering of mental health professionals, military chaplains, and others sharing information and methods of helping families struggling with PTSD. In Baptist life, we often talk about adopting unreached people groups as part of our missions outreach in the church. Imagine my surprise when Chaplain Doug Carver, head of chaplains at the North American Mission Board, said, “One of the largest unreached people groups is our returning veterans.” He emphasized the important role of the church in being part of the solution in two particular areas:

Practice a ministry of presence, where we just listen to the stories of those who are dealing with PTSD and/or their family members who feel helpless.

Embrace the power of prayer to heal and commit to pray regularly for the person and his or her family.

At WMU®, we want to come alongside our churches and help people become knowledgeable, feel comfortable with families who have suffered trauma of any kind, and create avenues of ministry through the love and care of the church. This first year we have created a number of resources to assist you:

  • Drawing Near is a resource kit with an overview of PTSD, a Bible study, and a prayer plan, as well as ideas for mobilizing care teams in the church.
  • Your Pain Is Changing You was written by Dr. David Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church of New Orleans, who lived through Hurricane Katrina and its years of devastation. It is a book on biblical principles of suffering; why do good people suffer and where is God in the pain?
  • Sometimes I Am Afraid is a children’s book you can read with young children to give them a voice for expressing their fear when bad things happen.
  • Trading Up is a collection of 12 Bible stories and small-group discussions to equip people who are suffering and those walking beside them.

Jesus set the example in many different passages of Scripture. From healing physical illnesses to casting out demons to feeding the hungry, he demonstrated how we were to love and offer hope to those who are hurting. Let’s join together and not only welcome our soldiers and our missionaries home but also commit to walk with them as well as other families dealing with trauma through whatever challenges they face.

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