The new Bethesda Counseling Center recently held a two-day seminar for local church leaders. Focusing on the theme, “We are God’s instruments for healing and restoration,” the goals were to encourage and offer spiritual and psychological support to church leaders serving in communities facing trauma, and to open dialogue on creating safe spaces to listen to, and care for, those wounded.
During the seminar, a pastor from a Baptist congregation stood up and explained, “In Congo we have been taught that a man’s tears must stay inside. Men don’t cry! It was so unique to learn through this seminar that there are possible health issues and potential social conflicts when I am not genuinely able to express my feelings (positive or negative). I usually viewed negative feelings such as anger, sadness, or discouragement as “un-Christian.” But,emotions were created by God to allow us to cope or adjust to the changing environment or situations. I learned the role of emotions and how to use them to become whole again.”
The seminar intentionally worked across denominations, with representatives from Baptist, Evangelical, Catholic, Pentecostal, Revival and Adventist communities.
“This will enable me to be better prepared to care for those as their pastor.”
Hosted by Beni Francophone Baptist Church, the training included basic principles of counseling, effective counseling strategies including approaches developed by Mending the Soul Ministries, a look at the theology of suffering, and self-care practices.
“I have been a pastor for many years, and I had never learned that taking care of myself was so valuable for the success of my ministry. I believed I was called to always do anything with a “pastoral connotation,” otherwise I feared I would be misunderstood or judged by my community. Today I know I can set time for a personal retreat, time to rest, do some exercise like going for a walk, or find something good I like and do it more for my emotional and physical wellbeing. This will enable me to be better prepared to care for those as their pastor,” said another pastor from a local Evangelical church.
The Center exists under the Department of Theology coordinated by Katsongo Kamate. Kamate worked alongside Bethesda staff to offer this first inter-denomination training to these church leaders. Pastor Emily Hamilton, a UCBC teaching fellow in Theology and member of the Bethesda team, also played a key role in the training.
“We appreciate the remarkable work of pastor Emily Hamilton. She worked hard in developing this first curriculum for the pastoral training and successfully taught many of the key concepts such as understanding God in suffering, strategies to implement when caring for those who suffer, common pitfalls to avoid, and the importance of self-care for caregivers,” explained Noé Kasali, the Director of Bethesda Counseling Center.
The training was videotaped for student and lay counselor educational purposes. It will be available on CD and DVD in the UCBC Library at the beginning of February 2017.
In October 2016, Bethesda Counseling Center was launched by UCBC for the community of Beni. It is now reaching children and adults by offering primarily trauma and grief services, and conducting seminars for church and community leaders in hope that more people will be cared for in the community.