Friday, 01 August 2014 13:11

Are We Gateways to Hope for Our Returning Warriors?

Written by  Nancy W. Thomas, M.A., N.C.C., C.C.M.H.C., L.P.C.
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I was raised as the daughter of an Army officer.  He was my hero and a highly decorated warrior of WWII, Korea and Viet Nam.  He was a successful officer and businessman and enjoyed the pleasure of family, many friends, and multiple projects and adventures.


As with most WWII era veterans, he did not talk a lot about his war time experiences until later in my life.  I often wondered how he survived three combat experiences without developing PTSD.  Even now, his endurance, optimism and confidence inspire me to meet life’s challenges. 


Alabama will have over 20,000 returning warriors by 2015.  Veteran friendly faith communities, clinicians and clergy can provide healing sanctuaries for our warriors through ceremonies, rituals, support and encouragement. 


Recently research has renewed interest in the role of spirituality in resiliency.  Despair significantly increases when spirituality is lost and warriors are at much greater risk for poor outcomes. Combat experiences may leave invisible wounds of war unknown to the rest of us. Invisible and deep spiritual wounds are not easily addressed in the secular world. 



“We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way.” ? Francis of Assisi


Rita Nakashima Brock and Gabriella Lettini describe moral injury inIn Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury, as a violation of warriors’ core moral beliefs during combat leading them to have negative self-images.  Warriors with moral injury find their world unreliable, void of meaning and they may question their humanity.


We are reminded that Paul experienced pressure beyond his ability to endure leading him to rely on God again and again in his ministry, but clearly discussed in his letter to the Corinthians.



8b We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

II Corinthians 1: 8-11 (RSV)



Paul spoke of how Titus came along side of him and lifted him out of worry to tranquility with encouragement. I find the wording in II Corinthians 7:5-7 of The Message so touching.



Then the God who lifts up the downcast lifted our heads and our hearts with the arrival of
Titus. We were glad just to see him, but the true reassurance came in what he told us about you: how much you cared, how much you grieved, how concerned you were for me. I went from worry to tranquility in no time!



Titus is a perfect example of how the Holy Spirit equips us for the ministry of reconciliation to those who are suffering, making us Ambassadors for Christ!  Again in Corinthians Paul reassures that God is equipping us for this ministry.



So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, [d] not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us.  

II Corinthians 5:17-20 (NRSV)



Fortunately, Gateway to Hope: Breaking the Stigma of Moral Injury will be taking place September 9-10 at First United Methodist Church in Montgomery.  Gateway to Hope seeks to educate clergy, lay ministers, mental health and other health care professionals about the spiritual wounds of war and the faith community’s moral and spiritual responsibility to support their recovery.  The two-day conference will equip the “first responders” to provide pastoral and mental health care as they reintegrate into the civilian world.  Has someone come along side of you like Titus?  Will you pay it forward?  Will you be a comfort to others?                         



3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  II Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)



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