I wanted to thank all of those donors who contributed through the Generosity website and helped me raise $1550 toward this goal. Though those donations do not show on this page, your contribution has made it possible to keep the program going for the first quarter of 2017. I am so grateful to you all.
Want to know about my work and this amazing journey? I’m happy to share.
I lead retreats and workshops for a living. It’s what I do. I work for churches, retreat centers, Bible studies, etc. But about a year ago, my work took a very interesting, albeit sacred, turn. On a monthly basis, I now drive a few hours to an army base in Georgia. There I meet with soldiers who have a dual diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). I talk with them about prayer and prayer beads.
This came about as part of the research for my upcoming book, Beads of Healing: Prayer, Trauma, and Spiritual Wholeness(Upper Room Books, 2017). It focuses on the use of prayer beads to help trauma survivors address their spiritual wounds and develop/heal/deepen their relationship with God. I wanted to test the material to make sure it was sound and helpful.
I admit I was hesitant about working with soldiers. I didn’t know how they would receive me – a complete stranger – into their tight-knit group. More so, I didn’t imagine these tough men and women would be much into beads, especially when it came time to invite them to make their own sets of prayer beads. I pictured blank stares, loud guffaws, or polite – yet firm – dismissals. But that hasn’t been the case at all.
I start by telling my own story of trauma. I want them to know I understand PTSD – the nightmares, the anger, the fear, the loss of control. Not just that: I want them to know I have experienced profound spiritual healing, to the point that the nightmares have subsided and I can generally live from a place of peace and deep gratitude.
It’s clear that my willingness to share my story – to be vulnerable and speak my truth – makes a strong impression on the group members. They relax. They recognize the safe space we have created together. They share parts of their own powerful stories. They begin to get interested in the idea of prayer beads.
When I talk about prayer beads, I cover a bit of the history and how they can be used to pray, focus, and be still. I show them prayer beads from a variety of faith traditions, knowing that not all of the soldiers are Christian. I also share some ways they can be used to help with PTSD symptoms. Then I invite the soldiers to make their own set of prayer beads, encouraging them to use whatever format or configuration of beads has meaning for them.
Much to my surprise and delight, the soldiers have approached the bead-making with great enthusiasm. They study the bead colors and pendant options. Some choose crosses or other faith symbols, while others use peace signs or nature symbols. Each puts great thought into how he/she will design the bead set. Stringing their beads together, they chat and swap stories, creating a space that is both ordinary and holy.
In the end, each set of beads is amazing, an outward and visible sign of each person’s inward and spiritual journey. The guys are often excited to explain the thought behind their designs – the reasons they chose particular colors or patterns of beads. They want me to know how they plan to use the beads to pray to God, to calm down when they get anxious or agitated, to sit and be still or breathe deeply.
In the beginning, I was only going to do 3 or 4 sessions. However, one year later, I’m still making the monthly trip to the base, and have just signed on for 2017.
To date, I have been donating my time and costs of driving almost five hours round trip from my house to the base. However, from a financial perspective, I cannot continue to do this. Still, I have come to love this work so much and want to find a way to keep doing it. That’s where you come in!
I am seeking $4,500 to continue my work with soldiers with PTSD. This provides for ten workshops with the soldiers over the next year (there are two months when the program does not meet) at $450/workshop. This amount reflects a 30% discount in my usual workshop fee, plus mileage for my round trip.
Assuming this is a great success and I raise more than $4,500, I will use the additional funds to a) extend the number of workshops at the current base; or b) expand my services to soldiers at other locations.
ALL donation amounts are welcome and deeply appreciated. Those who give $50 or more will receive specific gifts, as detailed in the donation levels to the right.
Thank you for your generosity.
Grace and peace,