Healing the Wounds of Combat Trauma Part 1

“Why should we pursue this? After all, so much is going on globally with Trauma Healing. Should I leave this to someone else? It feels all uphill some days and there are some naysayers…people who think it won’t ‘work’ with our vets…But yet, every time I lead a training I have mothers, fathers, brothers, spouses of combat veterans who say “I wish there was something like this for my ___(son, daughter, husband). They need help.”  What should we do?” I asked my very, very patient (military veteran) husband about six months ago.

And turned to see his head down in his hands, eyes closed, remembering when he first encountered the Healing the Wounds of Trauma material three years ago…

We stumbled upon the training in Kenya, thinking it would help us in pastoral care (it did). We thought we were learning it for others (we were, sort of). But we found out very quickly that it was for us, too.

I remember every evening after the day’s session, Mark would go straight home and sleep until 7 the next morning. The whole week was like surgery. One night he told me he did not know if he could take it.

But the next day came the cross. We took our pain to the cross.

Later he told me that he could feel healing happening in his own heart. He said distinctly “I wish every military veteran could experience this. Wouldn’t it be great if someone would write a military story set?” (now keep in mind we were using the classic African stories and they were powerful). That was three years ago. I had forgotten. But he hadn’t. So he did what all good husbands do, and he reminded me.

In April we embarked on a process that has been years in the making. In collaboration with the American Bible Society and SIL, SIM USA gathered a small team to begin work on the US military contextualization of the Healing the Wounds of Trauma material  -the basis for the Trauma Healing program.

Our original team of four consisted of three prior active duty military veterans (including one female Vietnam MASH nurse), two are currently reserve Chaplains (one Army and one Navy just for balance:) and a military spouse (that’s me:). We met for two and a half days to construct an outline for the military set of stories, discussing characters, story development, important content for each specific lesson, and also laying a foundation for new material on Moral Injury, Re-entry, and Spiritual Resilience.

As ideas flowed freely and characters became oh-so-real, the walls of our conference room began to look something like this: Military TH

Now that the foundation is laid, the next step is completion of the five core stories and lessons which will then be piloted in healing groups. Mark will lead at least one of those healing groups locally. Other trained veteran facilitators will lead at least two other groups. We are looking for feedback from military combat veterans and possibly spouses or family members. Because of the construct of the stories, I am hopeful that I can also pilot a group for combat veteran’s spouses. The third step will be finishing stories for the entire 12 lessons (as well as working to flesh out the brand new material for Moral Injury, Re-entry, and Resilience) by the middle of September.

Finally, we hope to host an Initial Equipping session for 30-40 participants sometime in the Spring of 2017. This will be a training to equip local church and community leaders to use the material in small groups or individually with combat veterans. This will ideally be hosted at a church near a military installation (Shout out to churches in the Camp Lejeune, NC area!).

Already, there’s a lot of interest in this contextualization within the United States. But it will undoubtedly pave the way for translation and further contextualization in other countries and with combat veterans worldwide. Certain things cross every culture.

Unfortunately, war is one of them.




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