Last week, in the middle of the night, Steve and Celestia received an urgent email from our close friend, Katavo, in East Africa. He asked for prayer because armed intruders broke into his father’s home near Beni, Congo, and kidnapped his father. They held him for a huge ransom of $150,000 that the family had no hope to pay.
Katavo and his wife Daphrose are our dear Congolese ministry colleagues who named their youngest daughter after Celestia. They are among our most trusted and influential Congolese partners. Their faithful ministry for Christ is absolutely incredible. Because Katavo is a highly respected church leader, the kidnapping was well-know in the community. In fact, the local police and the UN wanted to try to free his father, but the family asked them not to as that would have most likely resulted in his death.
Days after the kidnapping, we received news that Katavo’s father was just released by the rebels. The ransom was lowered to $50,000, then $3,500, which the family was able to scrape together and borrow (a fortune for them). A brave young man named Charles took the money deep into the forest at dusk. He could easily have been murdered himself.
What bold love!
Katavo’s father is now home. He is not in good health, so your continued prayers for him would be appreciated. Pray also that God would miraculously use this situation for a greater good. We believe God directly answered our prayers. Here is a thank you letter with an update from Katavo for MTS support and prayer:
How wonderful and pleasant it is
when brothers live together in harmony!
For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil
that was poured over Aaron’s head,
that ran down his beard
and onto the border of his robe.
Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon
that falls on the mountains of Zion.
And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing,
even life everlasting.
Dearest Dr Steve,
Let our prayer supporters know how we are pleased and grateful to hear how much they have loved us! Praise the precious Name of Jesus Christ!
What happened to my father was a great wrong, of course. He was ill, under a strong treatment for typhoid. He was forced to spend 3 days in the forest, under heavy rains without a shelter, exposed to wild insects and cold, and fast. They were wandering in the forest, even in the dark, fearing being caught. However each day there has been conversations and prayers for my father. We thank God now that he is safe; he are grateful for answered prayers.
We also thank the Lord for the opportunity my father had to exercise his gift of evangelist with boldness over there in the deep forest. Let us pray for the conversion of the aggressors. This week is a day dedicated to community school evangelism at Himbi Institute. Both the students and teachers will be taught the Gospel truths and be challenged to accept the saving grace. Kindly consider uplifting us before the throne of grace.
We covet your prayers also for the deliverance of Daphrose’s 10 students who are harassed by demons. Meanwhile, Daphrose continues to receive short messages from the devils’servants seeking to intimidate her. One of them from a witch doctor says they have been asked to harm Daphrose. So her image is already in their mirror. If she does not want to die she needs to call back and not tell it to anybody. Daphrose needs the Lord’s cover.
On next Saturday, 7 Goma chaplains will meet for training; they will also prepare a 1-week program of teachings for our 1000 local churches and another one for students’s parents’presidents and principals. Let’s pray for receptivity and wisdom.
From June 18 to 23, we have a 6 day training seminar for 80 chaplains in Butembo. Our team of trainers will be led by Jean-Pasteur Katavo. We need spiritual stamina and the Lord’s provision to pass on the vision.
Author: Roxane Thorstad, PsyD Clinical Psychologist and Co-Founder, Journeys Counseling Center
In the spring of 2006, I met Celestia Tracy at a Starbucks for a job interview. Her passion for healing, the twinkle in her eyes, and the warmth of her hug (yes, a hug at the end of an interview!) struck me immediately. As Celestia often says, “God tricks us into the big stuff.” My husband and I were relocating back to Mesa, Arizona as our family continued to grow. I was also ending my four-year commitment as a clinical psychologist with the United States Navy where I had been treating Marines returning from the Iraq war.
I began working with Celestia in a small counseling office and by February 2007, I had attended one of the first Mending the Soul trainings at First Institutional Baptist Church in Phoenix. I left that conference knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that my experiences, both personally and professionally, had led me to that training for a much larger purpose.
Over the next several years, Mending the Soul began expanding in the Phoenix area and Celestia transitioned into a full-time ministry role, leaving clinical practice. Around that same time, my husband, also a therapist, and I decided to take a leap of faith and start our own counseling practice in the area. With humble beginnings, Journeys Counseling Center opened in January 2009.
As Journeys grew, several of us enjoyed teaching for Mending the Soul in both Phoenix and Portland, as live trainings were our primary mode of equipping new small group facilitators. We recognized that the partnership between local counselors and Mending the Soul ministry was extremely valuable and necessary. Counselors could continue to infuse the ministry with the latest information on trauma and abuse recovery and provide a safety net of professional support for facilitators, participants, and church leaders. We could also connect individuals to free Mending the Soul groups where they could continue to explore their own healing journey outside of the context of professional counseling.
During this transitional period, Journeys Counseling Center served Mending the Soul as the professional arm of the ministry, and we began training counselors in both Arizona and Oregon who wanted to serve the ministry in some capacity and be listed as a resource on the MTS website. This was an exciting time of growth for both Mending the Soul and Journeys Counseling Center as we continued to reach for new ways to create bridges between lay ministry leaders and counseling professionals. We saw God open doors and orchestrate a history that has become foundational to our current vision.
Today, Journeys is a thriving practice in Tempe, Arizona with fourteen staff members. We are expanding this summer to a larger space and are excited to continue partnering with Mending the Soul. We love sponsoring the MTS annual, “Inspiring” fundraiser in Phoenix, and Tanya Harris, one of our long-time counselors, and I have loved training together over the years. You will see us in several of the online modules of the brand new online basic training for facilitators. Once this endeavor has been rolled out, Mending the Soul and Journeys Counseling Center will partner together again to develop online training for professionals.
We look forward to sharing with you the collaboration between Journeys and MTS in the years to come, and encourage you to never underestimate the power of a divine connection, even if it starts simply over a cup of coffee!
Roxane is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in Arizona and Co-Founder of Journeys Counseling Center. She and her husband, Terry, have been married nearly 20 years and enjoy raising their three active children. She has been working in the mental health field since 1996 and has served on the Mending the Soul board of directors for 9 years.
Mending the Soul is excited to announce that the Beta Group for the Online Basic Training is officially underway! This first test group consists of sixty current facilitators who will help us fine-tune the new online course, so we are ready to launch our first official training for all new, prospective facilitators on March 26, 2018!
In preparation for that, we are now accepting registrations for the March 26th training. Those wanting to be trained to become a certified MTS facilitator must have already gone through the MTS small group model as a participant, and will be required to pass a background check before admittance into the course.
Click HERE to register, but don’t wait too long! Registration closes the Friday before training (March 23rd), and anyone registering after that day will be placed in the next training, scheduled for May 7th.
The cost for this valuable, four-week Online Basic Facilitator Training course is $135*, and includes the background check. This suggested donation provides care and trauma resources for global, underserved communities. To participate in the online class you will need:
Approximately 3 hours each week to work on the course, engage in discussion points, and complete required assignments (at your own schedule)
Those who complete the online course will be certified as a MTS Facilitator and empowered with many support tools, along with updated and expanded content such as the new MTS Participant Connect Program! Facilitators can also choose to be listed on the MTS website’s “Find a Group” locator, so even more people all over the country, and even around the world can join a MTS small group!
We hope to see you in a MTS online basic training class soon!
Our team has been so blessed to connect with various ministries who are being shaped by Mending the Soul in East Africa. On the team’s next to last day in Kampala we went to a ministry for at-risk children and youth. The founder is a former street kid, and the ministry is twenty years old, well developed, and funded. The founder thanked us profusely for MTS and our resources. He said that they have been feeding, clothing, and paying school fees for hundreds of children, but overall “the kids weren’t getting any better.”
Several months ago he asked Jumah to come do a By His Wounds trauma training for their staff. Due to pressure from their secular European funders, they had previously removed all faith components from their program. The founder told us that he wishes he had found out about MTS ten years ago because they would be a very different organization if they had. He said Jumah’s training has revolutionized their staff (eight of whom came to faith in Christ at the end of the training!) He said they now understand trauma, and he concluded by saying that the most important thing he learned from MTS is that you must include a strong, spiritual component to effectively care for at-risk youth.
Jumah told me the sequel to this story. When he came and trained this staff, their primary European funder was in town. She heard some of the training and was very angry that Jumah used Scripture and spoke of Jesus’ healing love. She confronted Jumah and declared that this was unacceptable. But Jumah refused to be intimidated, and told her that while MTS will gladly help anyone regardless of their religious beliefs, we will never hide Jesus; He is the healer of souls. Jumah suggested that if she couldn’t respect the Christian faith of Africans then African ministries didn’t need her funds. Jumah then encouraged the founder to trust God to provide, and not accept this disrespectful secular demand. Sure enough, God soon provided a new funding source from American churches.
We went away from this meeting praising God for allowing us to help other ministries not just give food and clothing (as important as they are) but offer healing for wounded souls.
Last week we completed our last training at the National Rehabilitation Centre, the juvenile detention center for non-capital offenders for all of Uganda. They have up to 300 youth there at a time. This is an incredible opportunity to train key government workers who serve a most vulnerable population.
Jumah trained a few of these workers three months ago. The director was so pleased with the tangible fruit in her staff that she asked us to come train more staff. We only had two days to train 35 people, but we went full-throttle and God potently guided us.
They were (understandably) skeptical the first morning, but soon loosened up and really began to engage. We fixated on addressing our own trauma before we can help youth with their trauma. Steve taught on the nature and effects of trauma and on Gods original design. Kelsey taught on the biology of trauma and on strategies for trauma reduction. Jumah led application exercises. The staff was so hungry for the practical strategies that they refused to let Kelsey stop teaching!
Jeffry, the assistant director, told me at one of the breaks that until Jumah came and taught, their only strategy with the youth was to cane (beat) them. He said now that they are starting to understand trauma, they are no longer using this force treatment, but are instead helping the youth using ministry tools they have received. He said they are so encouraged with the results of this new strategy!
Many of the staff told us how much they appreciate our encouragement and our understanding that they as staff members have also experienced great trauma. It is amazing how deeply God puts the need to be respected and understood into the human heart. By your prayers we believe we were able to do this strongly with this staff. Praise God for this amazing opportunity. Please continue to pray that Jumah will be able to do a full training for them soon.
God is on the move in East Africa!
Finally, before we headed back home to the States, we spent some time with our daughter, Abby, her husband David, and their children. In partnership with API (Abby and David’s ministry in Kampala) the ladies of Hope House were able to go through Mending the Soul and Princess Lost curricula over five years ago, and they are still doing well. They are now employed by MTS making the Ugandan signature paper beads, and are able to put their children through school with the income. Princess Lost saved their lives, and they’re SO thankful for their healing!
When this program started, Abby thought she would have three ladies come to Hope House. Instead over 18 came and finished the two year program! That first year was so overwhelming to Abby, that she said, “God always tricks us into the big stuff.”
It was great spending time with these beautiful women.
Thank you to all our prayer partners during the conference this week. We could truly feel the reality of your prayers! Here’s a summary of how we spent out time with the African leaders at this conference.
Summit Day One
Pastor Moses gave us a report from South Sudan. It was heart wrenching but inspiring at the same time. God is alive and well and is doing a miraculous work here. MTS now has a key denominational partnership through Bishop Jumah and Pastor Moses, the evangelical free church. Just last year this denomination planted 32 new churches in South Sudan alone! They’re waiting on our MTS training teams to come this May. Please be in prayer for the key trainers God is prompting to serve Him there.
Today there are 3,000,000 refugees in northern Uganda and these compassionate leaders are moving forward to bring them trauma care through the peace and hope of Christ’s love. Please pray for these courageous, compassionate men as they move forward in faith.
From Bishop Jumah:
In Rwanda we were invited to come and taste and test. We are wanting the whole MTS model for our churches and refugee camps because:
People are divided around tribal lines
Families are divided because of poverty
Children stand in line all day for one meal
Women are raped while waiting in line for water
There are 3,000 children in one classroom
Men are shot and killed right in the street
MTS is helping us know God as the One to help us recover. We have lost everything, but God is still on the throne. We Christians must act love and not just talk it.
We will form training teams that can then move around and train others. This will move trauma care through our churches and camps. We will organize the trainers into departments. People are dying of cancer in the camps because it is not caught early. MTS is our solution and will equip our people and we’ll find hope and help. God is the God of the miraculous and we’ll trust Him for the saving work He is preparing us to do.
God’s time for us is now. We’re not beginning we’re continuing!
What other African leaders shared at the conference…
“I first attended By His Wounds Training in Rwanda, and was like a butterfly drinking from water from the Nile. Where to start? I decided to start with my family. I realized that I was an abuser as a father and husband. My child was failing in school and I was the problem. Then I began confessing, first in my family, then in our churches. Then Jumah came to do the MTS training for our leaders. I was learning how to listen and to know how to facilitate healing for them. We was more! MTS will be coming in spring 2018 to our refugee camps in northern Uganda. MTS brings peace and healing and begins with me.”
“In 2013 I found myself in a refugee camp. What am I? Am I Ugandan or Sudanese? Why? Where do I get medicine for my heart and mind? MTS… they are bringing us medicine.”
“We have now taken in 18 children from the camps. MTS helped heal my temper and has given me capacity to care for my extended family and ministry. MTS is helping me solve my problems personally and in ministry. The Holy Spirit’s presence is there.”
“I’ve now incorporated MTS resources into our ministry for children and adults. People who don’t know the gospel are burning up.”
Summit Day Two
Thanks so much for your prayers. It’s incredibly humbling serving these East African caregivers. There are four countries represented: Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
We begin each day with worship. Here is a short clip of worship so you can get a glimpse of the joy and passion in this room.
Most of the participants needed armed escort to get to the conference center on day one. Bishop Jumah, from South Sudan shared how he passed just minutes after ten soldiers were killed beside the road. Most of the leaders at this summit have lost multiple family members due to war and violence, and yet they still stand in faith, declaring the goodness of God. They’re compassionate caregivers who put their lives on the line to offer trauma care in the name of Jesus.
Bishop Jumah is also a denominational officer for the evangelical free church. He describes MTS and By His Wounds as the gospel of healing.
“I’ve tried and tested it and am thankful MTS has helped me. Now I want it for my teams, my pastors and then for my churches. I thank you for coming!”
Thank you for helping us serve them. Because of your support MTS can offer these 25 top tier MTS trainers who have come to this conference compassionate care, good food, beautiful lodging, pastoral and clinical support, and advanced training. How right this is!
Summit Day Three
Mama Abia has been one of our partners for the last decade, and has attended every training we’ve offered in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 2007. She is the founder of CEPIMA which runs five mental health rehabilitation clinics in Butembo, Beni, Oicha, and Bunia, all within the “triangle of death” in the DRC.
She is full of joy and overcomes fear daily as she offers trauma care in the context of war and violence. On day one of the conference, she described the relief she felt crossing the Congo border into Uganda; it was the first time she felt physically safe in years.
Mama Abia thanked us repeatedly for investing in her and her staff, who are now trained in MTS and By His Wounds, so they can care for and treat 3000 patients in CEPIMA’s five clinics each year.
On day three of the conference, she shared about the significant difference MTS trainings and resources have made in her in-patient population. In the last two years, the average inpatient stay has decreased from three months to two weeks!
Mama Abia is now one of our MTS trainers and facilitates trainings in hospitals, churches, and nongovernment organizations. She asked us to come to Bunia, the corrupt border city of the DRC, next year and train the pastors, doctors, and nurses in that area. Of course, we told her in faith, that YES, we will come. God will make a way.
What a joy it has been to offer these heroes of faith refuge, healthy food, beautiful clean beds, and advanced training. Half of the participants have been MTS partners for eleven years, and the other half are new since bringing Jumah on full time as our African director.
Jumah now has a small team of trainers, and they continually train leaders of faith and government organizations in both By His Wounds and Vulnerable Child (VC). The demand for VC is very high in Africa, since 60% of Congo’s population are children. Being at this conference and hearing these stories drives us forward to finish the Vulnerable Child curriculum as quickly as we can. We are currently piloting it in Uganda and Congo, which will help us to finish the final contextualization for all of Africa once we have published VC in Spanish and city and faith versions next November, Lord willing.
Who would have dreamed that MTS would be chosen by God to provide trauma training and biblical resources for God’s choice leaders? Thank you for your support and for helping us help them.
He himself bore our sins on His body on the tree that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed
Summit Day Four
The South Sudanese pastors, Jumah and Moses, led worship to begin the day. It was quite an experience having two pastors who have literally lost everything they own and live in impoverished refugee camps, sing of Jesus’ goodness. They were both ecstatic about the conference, saying it has given them training they’ve never received to help them heal from trauma they’ve carried their whole lives.
Pastor Jumah oversees dozens of churches. He was so grateful to get the reference books we gave him. He told me he lost his entire library when he fled South Sudan, and has so missed having books to prepare his sermons and lessons.
Jumah and Moses can’t wait for us to come back and train their pastors in the camps this May. Jumah had to leave early to travel back to South Sudan to help with some severe church needs. This is an incredibly dangerous trip, and many have told him not to go, but he says Jesus said he must go so he will. We so admire their faith, and we are honored to assist them in every way we can!
Summit Day Five
We finished our five-day Africa summit with 24 attendees from four countries, representing 16 different ministries! Collectively these organizations minister directly to thousands of people each month. Thanks so much for your prayers for the attendees’ safety as they traveled to and from the conference, and for your financial support. It was off-the-charts successful!
Dr. Gerry Breshears taught each day on the Psalms, and Kelsey Hawk taught on trauma, and the front-line workers in attendance ate up the teaching. As one of our Congo partners put it “we will scoop out all of this MTS training and use it for our people.”
The timing was perfect for them. Congo and South Sudan keep getting worse, and they so needed the encouragement and training. David who came from Beni, Congo missed a fatal rebel attack on the road near the Ugandan border by mere hours. Please pray for them as the travel back home.
Over and over all who attended thanked us, and said they felt so loved by God that we would come give them this training. Every single person shared how MTS curriculum has miraculously helped them heal, and so many spoke of the amazing fruit they are seeing in their ministries, attributed it directly to your prayers. Thanks for standing with us.
Thank you for supporting this summit with prayer and financial investment. God is rapidly expanding MTS borders. The fruit of our investment in East Africa in the last ten years is increasingly evident. May God direct us in the days ahead to know how best to support these MTS teams.
Celebrating a faithful and compassionate God!
With gratitude and love,
Steve & Celestia
Would you like to partner with us financially to help the work Mending the Soul is doing in East Africa? Please consider a donation today!
Through God’s provision, MTS has equipped local and global leaders from California to Virginia and Asia to Africa!
If you are a church or organizational leader who is serving individuals with complex trauma such as human trafficking this training is for you. It is experiential, practical, and interactive. In only ten weeks you will be certified in MTS’s Princess Lost & Found model to respond to complex and co-morbid issues in a healing way within community contexts.
After completing our training, you will be:
Equipped to implement MTS’s Princess Lost & Found curricula for use in group or individual settings
Connected to a support community of certified Princess Lost & Found caregivers.
These weekly trainings are done virtually through your computer. For more information and to register, click here. But hurry; space is limited to only 25 participants!
The Princess Lost & Found training utilizes the beautifully crafted curricula written by Steve and Celestia Tracy, authors of Mending the Soul. Addressing the needs of sex-trafficked survivors and their advocates, this training provides psycho education on the devastating effects of exploitation and complex trauma and provides practical exercises to connect with survivors.
This research-driven training, rooted in real-life experience provides a pathway for mentors, social workers, therapists, and leaders to anticipate and respond to the needs of survivors. Through safe relationships, advocates offer hope for healing and redemption from the horrific effects of abuse specific to sex-trafficked individuals. MTS instructors bring both professional and mentoring experience with sexually abused and exploited men and women.
What others are saying about PL&F:
This training has been a blessing both for my organization and me personally. Bekah makes things practical and applicable. I also loved learning from all the participants – it truly feels like a support community. I highly recommend this training for anyone working with survivors.
Topics like re-exploitation and using a survivor’s story are so important! Thank you for addressing these and providing a safe place to process.
—Nonprofit Director and Survivor
As a survivor myself, and as our house mom is also a survivor, she and I are MOST grateful that we started with PL and NOT MTS…Something that is not in the book but that you have done so well in the training is giving concrete examples and giving us the words to say in situations. Your examples have been life savers for my staff! God obviously guided this process, and it has been amazing.”
—Survivor, advocate, and Non-Profit Leader
Our program is endorsed by:
Rejuvenating Women, Omaha, NE
International Justice Mission
Free Ever After, Tucson, AZ
Adorned in Grace, Tacoma, WA
Grace Matters, Vancouver WA
North County Abolitionists
DV Shelters, Phoenix, AZ, CA, WA, OR
Mentor Support Collaborative, OR
Free Ever After Int’l
Blue Water Mission, HI
Free at Last, Dallas, TX
Church Organizations in CA, AZ, WA, VA, TX, LA, OR, NE, Thailand, Russia, Asia, Africa, and India
Non-Profits in OR, WA, CA, AZ, PA, LA, and TX
Please contact Bekah Stines to add your organization to our growing list for 2018!
Please join us this February! For more information and to register, click here.
But hurry; space is limited to only 25 participants!
In a few days we will be leaving for a short-term ministry trip to Kampala, Uganda. This will be our first partner summit. We have invited two dozen of our most strategic African partners from the Congo, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Uganda to join us in Kampala for a five-day conference. We will be teaching and serving these amazing leaders for five full days. All of these leaders have attended a By His Wounds trauma ministry intensive, and this conference will offer additional teaching on a biblical theology of suffering and lament, biology of trauma, ministry to the traumatized, and self-care for care givers. Our team plans to offer individual pastoral counseling, individual and group prayer times, and receive ministry updates and conduct strategic planning with our partners.
We will be working with top leaders, most of whom oversee large ministries that serve thousands of people. This will be a most important time to strengthen front-line ministry leaders and further equip them to train their leaders. After this conference we have the opportunity to train 25 workers at the National Rehabilitation Centre, the primary government agency that works with institutionalized street children and juvenile offenders. This is an incredible opportunity to bring Christ-centered trauma healing principles to staff members working with one of the most difficult populations in Uganda, staff who have never received training like this. This will be a very intense and full two weeks. We greatly need prayer support.
Our Team Members Are:
Jumah Patrick (trip coordinator and teacher)
Gerry Breshears (daily Bible teacher)
Nora Poling (daily sharing her own story at both conferences)
Kelsey Hawk (teaching on the biology of trauma and care for survivors)
Ethie Gebeyehu (team and conference prayer director)
Celestia Tracy (teaching and pastoral counseling)
Steve Tracy (team leader, teaching and pastoral counseling)
Our Trip Schedule is:
Jan 20-21 US team travels to Uganda
Jan 22 Team preparation for conference
Jan 23-27 Conference with 25 African trauma ministry partners
Jan 28 Ministry in local church
Jan 29-30 Training for Rehabilitation Centre staff
Jan 30-Feb 5 Steve and Celestia visit with their daughter and son-in-law, Abby and David, and their children, Tashia and Shalom Kakeeto
Jan 31 Rest of team returns to US
Feb 5-6 Steve and Celestia return to US
God will give our team physical and emotional stamina, good health, and great sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit will prepare the hearts of those we are serving for the conferences, and He will speak to them and encourage them during the conference. Pray especially for the nine Congolese leaders who will be traveling to Uganda, as the Congolese roads to the border have become very dangerous with rebel attacks.
We can be a great encouragement to our partners on the front lines of trauma ministry in their communities. Many live in very poor, violent areas with constant stress and overwhelming needs.
We will have a strong gospel witness to the Rehab Centre staff, and this will be an influential conference leading to expanded future ministries.
Celestia and Steve can be a great encouragement to Abby and David in their beautiful, challenging ministry to Ugandan street children, especially as they are in the midst of moving the ministry to a new location several hours from Kampala to greatly expand their work among the poor.
Thank you for your commitment to MTS and your prayers. We will provide updates and more specific prayer requests as often as we can on the conference, ministry leaders, and trainings. Please subscribe here so you can receive these updates directly to your email inbox.
Author: Shanell Bender, MTS Facilitator Support Manager
Do you make New Years resolutions?
Resolutions to bring about a whole new you, and start the new beginnings we hear people talking about. That was my experience year after year, or sometimes Monday after Monday during the year. It was this goal to somehow forget the “old” and have that bright “new” beginning.
I would resolve to no longer remember or to rise above that pain, rejection, and hurt I experienced. In fact, I would resolve to “Move on” and “Get over” or even “Forgive,” so I could have my “New Beginning.”
However, this just didn’t seem to work for me.
Instead, old feelings would spring up at the least expected time, and before I knew it, words and actions in response to feelings of resentment and hurt would come pouring out of me to heap coals of fire upon those closest to me. Those are the people who bears the brunt of our traumatic past, the ones God has placed in our homes, in our families.
Where were my “New Beginnings?”
They’ll rebuild the old ruins, raise a new city out of the wreckage. They’ll start over on the ruined cities, take the rubble left behind and make it new.
– Isaiah 61:6 (MSG)
This passage changed my perspective on “New” Beginnings. Rather than attempting to forget the past, stuff it down, and move on, building upon the “past” with all its brokenness, pain, and ugliness is where “new” beginnings emerge. Integrating past experiences and utilizing the wisdom afforded from those experiences allows for processing through the feelings.
Resentment and hurt changed to insight, and yes even gratitude, as I realized what an incredibly deep, wide, and thorough foundation was possible for my “New” beginnings, out of the most horrendous trauma I had experienced.
I hope this inspires you in this new year, and I pray that God uses the rubble of pain and abuse in your past as the foundation for the healing and whole new city He has planned to through you in 2018 and beyond!
Shanell is the Facilitator Support Manager for Mending the Soul. Her favorite part of life is behind a wife to Roger Bender and mother to their seven children. She has ten plus years working with survivors of trauma. Her previous roles included Victim Advocacy, Trainer/Educator for Darkness to Light and Facilitating for Mending the Soul.
As we reflect on Christ’s birth this Christmas we are reminded of how much we have to be thankful for. Christ is our Immanuel, He is God with us. Always. His heart is the heart that beats in ours. His hands the hands in ours. His words of comfort in our mouths. His healing power made visible in our relationships. We praise Him and thank Him for allowing us to be His ambassadors of compassion.
Together, this last year, we have…
Preached good news to the poor,
Bound up the brokenhearted,
Proclaimed freedom for the captives,
And release from darkness for the prisoners.
… comfort all who mourn.
And together, in the coming year we will see Christ transform our brokenness as He…
Bestows a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
And a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
And together, in the coming year we will be called…
Oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated;
They will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.
Thank you for your prayers and partnership this past year. We wish you a very Merry Christmas!
With love and gratitude,
This is part of our Advent Blog Series. To read the rest of the posts in the series, click here.
The past three weeks of Advent we have been exploring the much darker and infinitely better side of the Christmas story; first, that God loves us too much to give us what we expect, second that Jesus is the King our hearts long for. This week I want to express that Jesus our King will powerfully use us if we humbly open our hands.
Almost all of our human relationships are based on reciprocal agreements; I will do this if you do that for me. I will work for you if you pay me this much per hour. I will be your friend if you respect our relationship. I will vote for you if you support the issues I believe are most important. Rarely do we even enter into a completely open-ended agreement with someone where we give them complete power over our lives with no limits. But this is exactly what Mary does with God in Luke 1:35-38.
She calls herself a “slave girl of the Lord,” and simply says, “let it happen as You have decreed.” She isn’t hanging on to anything and she isn’t holding back. Keep in mind, she has just heard the most confusing and disturbing message imaginable. Gabriel told her that she was about to be miraculously pregnant with Jesus. Mary lived in a Jewish culture in which adultery was punishable by death. Mary’s humble obedient heart is incredible, and so is the way God used her in salvation history.
While God, being all powerful, doesn’t need us to help him accomplish His plans, He delights in using weak humans who are surrendered to Him for great kingdom purposes. Mary epitomizes this truth. I love the way Hudson Taylor, one of the greatest, most influential missionaries of the modern world put it: “God uses men who are weak and feeble enough to lean on Him.”
The account of Gabriel coming to Mary and announcing that she would give birth to the Son of God is surely one of the most astounding passages in Scripture. This is what Advent is really all about; God giving us not what we expect but exactly what we need, and this message is exactly what we need this Advent season.
In our culture, Christmas is largely about getting gifts on December 25. Maybe you already have your list of gifts you hope to give or receive, but I would like to deconstruct our cultural approach to Christmas and remind us that the best imaginable gift God could give us has already been given. King Jesus has come. What is your response to this gift? Mary gives us a beautiful example of embracing God’s gift with open hands. How have you responded to Jesus? Maybe you have never put your faith in Christ as your Lord and Savior. Or maybe you consider yourself a Christian, but if you are honest, simply haven’t really surrendered your life to Christ the way Mary did. Satan wants to rob you of God’s priceless gift this Christmas. I want to encourage you, implore you to surrender to reconsider and respond to Jesus.
So I’ll close this Advent blog series with the admonition Jonathan Edwards gave his congregation in his sermon on the excellency of Christ:
What are you afraid of, that you dare not venture your soul upon Christ? Are you afraid that he cannot save you; or that he is not strong enough to conquer the enemies of your soul? But how can you desire one stronger than ‘the mighty God as Christ is called in Isaiah 9:6?
Is there a need of greater than infinite strength? Are you afraid that he will not be willing to stoop so low as to take any gracious notice of you: But then, look on him, as he stood in the ring of soldiers, exposing his blessed face to be beaten and spit on by them!
What is there that you can desire should be in a savior that is not in Christ? Or, wherein should you desire a savior should be otherwise than Christ?
What excellency is there lacking? Whatever there is that is great or good; what is there that is venerable or winning…which is not found in the person of Christ?
Over the past several years Mending the Soul has found itself with the inability to keep up with the demand for facilitator training. Until recently, most Mending the Soul training has taken place in-person or by DVD. As the demand grew, we realized there had to be an easier and more accessible way to train our facilitators. This fall we began taking the exciting first steps to move our MTS basic training online.
These last few months have been a busy and invigorating time as we hired an expert in the field of online education, researched the best online learning platform for our classes, chose the course design, and worked to identify the best way to move our current curricula online. As a team, we spent time in Phoenix brainstorming these ideas together and strategizing for the future. We filmed facilitator teachings for use in our online course, as well as “mock groups” which will allow those we train to see the do’s and don’ts of running a Mending the Soul small group.
Our goal is to soft launch our first online, “Beta” course in February, which we will offer to our certified trainers first, and then to our current Mending the Soul facilitators. We can only accept fifty individuals for this first, four-week test, so if you are a trainer or facilitator, watch your email for the registration link, and secure your spot fast! Once the beta test completes and we gather constructive feedback, we will launch monthly online facilitator training and certifications to the greater public in March.
As we work to move our training online we are driven by three main goals:
To provide anyone in the world with an internet connection access to MTS training
To create a high-quality online course that is engaging and informative
To transfer the heart and community of Mending the Soul into an online environment
Here is just a small, sneak peak of what we’ve got planned for the look of our new, online Facilitator Training course:
We are confident in the success of this new training, and it is just the first step! In the future we plan to implement further online training for our other curricula as well as advanced facilitator trainings. The opportunity that online training gives us to reach many more people is astronomical, and we are excited to see how God grows Mending the Soul’s reach through it.
Want to partner with us as we take these next big steps? We are still seeking year-end donations to help us fund our 2018 endeavors. Donate today and see the difference your contributions make!
This is part of our Advent Blog Series. To read the rest of the posts in the series, click here.
Last week in our Advent Blog Series, we talked about God loves us too much to give us what we expect. In saying that God doesn’t give us what we expect, we don’t want to lose sight of how beautiful the Advent message is. What does the human heart long for? We all long for an all-powerful person who will deliver us, yet one who is just and merciful. Look at the interest in super heroes in contemporary movies as well as the myths which go back to ancient times of powerful heroes.
In Luke 1:32-34, Gabriel goes on to tell Mary that Jesus would be called the Son of the Most High, sit on the throne of David, and have an eternal kingdom. “Son of Most High” is the same as Son of God. “Son of God” or its equivalents (“the Son,” “my Son”) occur 124 times in the New Testament, where “Son of God” had Messianic connotations. For instance, in Luke 4:41 Jesus casts out demons who acknowledge that He was the Son of God. Finally, Gabriel says that Jesus would be the king of an eternal kingdom, the kingdom of God. The child born to Mary would be the eternal King of Kings and would usher in the kingdom of God. He would be unlike any human king they had ever known or heard of.
This king would have all power for He would be divine. He wouldn’t reign for just His earthly lifetime, but for all eternity. This king would rule with perfect justice and mercy, which was emphasized in Old Testament prophecies of the coming Messiah. Notice for instance:
“Then a throne will be established in steadfast love, and on it will sit in faithfulness in the tent of David one who judges and seeks justice and is swift to do righteousness.” (Isaiah 16:4-5)
“He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth.” (Isaiah 42:3-4)
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)
You and I certainly long for this kind of savior. For instance, think of our human politicians. I know the current political scene is a mess. It is very hard to find a politician who is truly a public servant. But even when you find the very rare truly honest, gracious, just politician, what can he or she really do? Can this person stop the next hurricane from hitting our shores? Can they eliminate world poverty? Can they wipe crime off the face of the earth? Can they bring perfect justice to every square inch of the universe? Can they heal every human heartache for the rest of eternity? Can they abolish death? Of course not. But Jesus can and will do all these things. He is the perfect king our hearts long for.
Jesus is strong but gracious. We can trust Him. He is everything our hearts long for. So how do we respond to the truth that Jesus is the King we long for and is God’s provision for everything we truly need?