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Regent University Trains Trauma Counselors, Making an Impact in Ukraine: 'Consistent with Our Mission'

Randy Mancini 14 Mar 17

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine intensifies, so does the trauma for its citizens.  

For nearly a decade Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA has been working with the government, churches, and universities to train counselors in Ukraine. 

With millions suffering there, many say the work is "needed now more than ever."

"We started in 2012 when I first came to Regent as a new faculty and we had an invitation from a private Christian school to educate pastoral counselors at that time, Christian counselors," said Dr. Olya Zaporozhets, a native of Ukraine and associate professor for Regent's School of Psychology and Counseling.

Part of Zaporozhets' work includes training mental health counselors in her home country both online and in person.

After Russia invaded and occupied the Crimean Peninsula of Eastern Ukraine in 2014, the focus of the program expanded from training just clergy to trauma counseling.

For more information about Regent's Ukraine Counseling program CLICK HERE

"We saw it as consistent with our mission," said Dr. William Hathaway, Regent's executive vice president of Academic Affairs. "We're here as an educational institution but we also want to make an impact on real-world issues where we can while fulfilling that educational goal."

Hathaway told CBN News how the school's counseling program uses researched and well-recognized models for trauma care, while also including a Christian approach, which is especially needed now.

"We know how to help many people with trauma in the wake of life-threatening tense events, but that's often after the event," Hathaway explained.  "So, when you're talking about helping people preserve through trauma, where they're being traumatized, where they're facing difficult circumstances, what we need is something called resilience."  

"Who knows right now where things will go in Ukraine," he added. "But certainly, people need all the resources they can get for resiliency, and I think those spiritual resources are particularly important for that. It helps instill hope. It also helps people in areas dealing with pain and injury."

Zaporozhets said current events in Ukraine are having a big impact on their work because many Ukrainians enrolled in the counseling program have been personally affected.

"I said, 'Hey let's cancel right now any educational things that require concentration and just focus on stabilization because we're all in this acute stress reaction right now that is continuing,'" explained Zaporozhets. "Let's stabilize our clinicians and that helps them to remember, 'Hey, at this situation, you don't need to know a lot of things. Just doing breathing, and that helps you calm down and then see what the next thing would be that is important for survival.'"

As the war rages on, Regent plans to remain engaged with those on the front lines in Ukraine and help to rebuild lives for as long as it takes.

"Everything that I'm seeing right now on the mental health side, we're not going to have less work but more. At this point, we're at standing alongside with all of our psychologists, counselors in Ukraine," said Zaporozhets.

Many students who have recently completed training are already making a difference.

"There are some people we trained are literally in the trenches right now as we speak," said Zaporozhets. "There are people in the military. There are people who are in hospitals. Those students that are Christians, they are a little more outspoken about miracles that God is doing during this war and how he is responding to prayers which are undeniable."

Meanwhile, Zaporozhets and a faculty member from Russia authored the following intercessory prayer for peace in Eastern Ukraine. 

Dear Father God,

We come to you as to our God the Creator, who gives the true meaning to the life of every being.  We are asking for the hearts of nations and their leaders to be humbled before you, as you are the Lord.  We are praying for Russia to find Your meaning for their nation that would honor You. We are asking for the heart of President Putin to have a fear of You and not harm innocent people, to live in peace with his neighbors. 

We are coming to you as to our God of Peace, we are asking for peace in the Europe-Asia region, but not for the peace at all costs. We are asking that rights of liberty and human dignity would be protected and installed in places where they do not exist or need protection right now. We ask you to move in this situation and conduct your redemptive work powerfully in the hearts of Ukrainians, Russians, Belarussians, Polish, Baltic nations, Turks, Germans, Chinese, Americans, and all other nations that are involved in the current global Ukrainian-Russian tension.  We are asking for the ongoing war in Ukraine to be over.   

We pray for wisdom for the leaders involved in the decision making. We pray for President Biden, President Zelenskiy, President Putin, President Macron, Prime Minister Johnson, Chancellor Scholz, and all leaders engaged in this situation. We pray that you would touch and soften their hearts.  We pray that you would give them wisdom and discernment.  We pray that you would lead them through negotiations and decision making that would result in peace and freedom for people who fight for it. 

We pray for our friends in Ukraine who are anxious about the news they watch every hour, for our loved ones who are deployed to Eastern Europe, for our colleagues that continue to do professional work and evangelism in Ukraine and Russia, spreading the message of Jesus Christ.  Give strength to their minds and comfort to their hearts as you are the God Almighty that rules the nations. Protect them and give them peace. 

We pray about all this in Jesus' precious name. 

Amen.

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