The NCC Recovery Journey Includes Counseling for Members
04 Nov 2017 | NCC Staff
To assist members on their recovery journey, in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, counseling services have been made available to the North Caribbean Conference (NCC) by C W Educational and Behavioral Center which is based in Atlanta, Georgia. Pastor Desmond James, President of the NCC, expressed support for the initiative of the counseling team and said, “Going through a disaster is traumatic and we all have experienced some level of anguish since the passage of Irma and Maria.”
The Center offers a variety of educational and behavioral services with emphasis on special education and mental health needs. During the last week of October, 2017, the team of four volunteers visited communities on St. Thomas and St. Croix as well as the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Church to provide crisis counseling and assist individuals to cope with life after traumatic events. “Our philosophy is holistic. We count it one of our greatest privileges to assist God’s people to understand who they are and the story God is writing in their lives” said Jessica Whyte, Assistant Director of the Center which is directed by Dr. Vincentia Paul-Constantin. Both administrators are Virgin Islanders and are affiliated with the SDA Church.
As Pastor Hesketh Matthew introduced the two administrators to the St. Croix SDA Churches, he affirmed, “Our health affects not only ourselves, as individuals, but also our family, community and our world. This engagement seeks to place our lives in perspective and gives us the opportunity to properly manipulate our difficult moments.”
Since the passage of the hurricane, residents have experienced a mixture of emotions (sadness, guilt, anxiety, loneliness, emptiness, fatigue, helplessness, disbelief, numbness, and anger) and Dr. Vincentia Paul-Constantin guided members into identifying signs of unhealthy grief such as avoiding and excluding friends and family as well as prolonged feelings of the worthlessness of life. She urged members to find opportunities to show God's love to individuals whose lives have been touched by this tragedy. “Surely God has not abandoned you. Search for those who need a word of encouragement, a heart-felt prayer, or someone willing to really listen and let them know people still care.” Jessica Whyte explained that if the experiences are not dealt with, they could over time be expressed in chronic mental illnesses, depression, anxiety and conduct disorder – members were happy that the counselors helped them to find appropriate language for their feelings.
“The islands have been totally rocked,” said Pastor Desmond James. “We have hundreds of church members whose houses were flooded. We have staff members who’ve gone through traumatic experiences. Our plan is to expose the entire conference to this opportunity in order to do self care.” That resonated with Pastor Vashni Cuvalay who expressed the need for the counseling services on St. Maarten, “It breaks my heart to see the state many of our members are going through. It is now affecting them mentally. The counseling service will offer them some sort of help.”
The need for mental and emotional wellness is great and members who are trained counselors have been volunteering. Pastor Danny Philip is among a number of individuals who have been counseling families to cope through this difficult period of life. The ministry of the visiting counselors, though short, was generally well received in light of the overwhelming—and unexpected—need.