Chaplain Dave Smith reflects on an equine therapy event in Colorado Springs he participated in last week with military and hospital chaplains called “Resiliency Care Support for Post Traumatic Stress and Cumulative Stress.”
JustPeace is keenly aware of the impact trauma has on individuals, families, and communities. Often when invited to walk with faith communities experiencing conflict, we discover the depth of trauma in the fabric of the congregation or community. We continue to deepen our understanding about trauma healing and transformation and resources to support both individuals and communities.
Trauma is about a loss of connection – to ourselves, to our bodies, to our families, to others and to the world around us. This loss of connection is often hard to recognize, because it doesn’t happen all at once. It can happen slowly over time, and we adapt to these subtle changes sometimes even without noticing them. We may simply sense that we do not feel quite right, without ever becoming fully aware of what is taking place; that is the gradual undermining of our self-esteem, self confidence, feelings of well being and connection to life. (Levine, 2005)
- To learn more about trauma and resilience, we recommend the STAR program at Eastern Mennonite University.
- To learn more about Transforming Historical Harms, we recommend downloading this free resource by David Anderson Hooker and Amy Potter Czajkowski.
- Click here to learn more about the Soul Care Initiative
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We are excited to announce that our Soul Care Initiative is a part of the resource directory on HiddenHeroes.org – a new website launched today by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. Visit the new site and learn about this groundbreaking initiative to raise awareness about our nation’s military caregivers and the challenges they face.
David Anderson Hooker (Professor of the Practice of Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding at Notre Dame and member of the JustPeace staff team) has a new book as part of the The Little Books of Justice and Peacebuilding series. Click here to buy it from Skyhorse Publishing. From the publisher: When conflicts become ingrained in communities, people lose […]
How then do we transform community? We put our neighbor’s interest before our own. We even go as far as laying down our life for our neighbor (John 15:13). This is a radical relationship! Veterans understand connectedness through radical relationships where each day, whether on the battlefield or at home station, they put others first by living out the ethos of duty, honor, respect, and selfless service; not only for country, but for the oppressed, and for their battle buddy.
Critical to hospitality is honoring relationships. By honoring a relationship with a veteran we then can begin to understand our connectedness as God’s children and we can transcend our biases and pre-conceived notions about the person. We then can relate to the person, not the war. By honoring relationship with a veteran, we can become a catalyst for the veteran to find meaning. If we do this, we become people of grace.
During difficult times, when divisiveness is pervasive, attention to the quality of relationships often suffers. In order to find a way forward, relationships must be honoring. A relationship is honoring when it provides space for authentic self-expression and seeks to not do violence to the Other because of the differences. A relationship is honoring, when it has as its highest priority the dignity of all.
Those that are committed to a mission and ministry to veterans should prayerfully contemplate the experiences of the veteran returning from war. The stakes are high and the costs of war are very personal. Therefore, attentive and non-judgmental listening will help the warrior in his or her spiritual struggle. For a veteran, telling even a small snippet of one’s story and feeling heard and accepted may be the first important step toward healing.
In her article God’s love heals the soul in the November-December 2015 edition of Interpreter Magazine, Emily Snell features Chaplain Dave Smith and his work leading the JustPeace Soul Care Initiative.
What can the faith community do to understand these challenges and journey with our veterans toward healing? The veteran’s story is sacred as is the faith community’s story. By understanding the veteran’s story in the context of the spiritual meaning within a particular faith community context, we then can relate to the person, not the war. This is the most important step toward developing a relationship of trust with the veteran and their family. The faith community can role model this technique for engaging conflict.
The church is uniquely positioned to give attention to the spiritual health of our veterans – an underserved component of veteran’s well-being. Churches have distinctive strengths and capacities for care. The church is the sacred community called forth for life and healing.