From Kiev We Touched the World

From Kiev We Touched the World

Written by Janet Taylor, Margaret Webb

As we walked along the crumbling sidewalks between rows of grimly deteriorated apartment buildings in the Rusanivka district of Kiev, Ukraine, we were acutely aware that we were in a former Soviet country. It was early November and winter was beginning to set in, but all along the sidewalks sat rows of elderly women in coats and scarves, beside boxes of apples or slabs of meat, socks or hand knitted caps. Their faces were tired roadmaps of the harsh lives they lived under Communism and still live as their country struggles to lay hold of freedom.

But as we turned in at a shabby storefront and pushed open a forbidding metal door, we entered an atmosphere of warmth and praise and eager hope. The welcoming faces of the 12 students reflected eight different nationalities, but their hearts and minds were bound together by their commitment to minister to hurting people in the power of the Holy Spirit. We were thrilled to be with them.

It was an advanced level lay-counselor training course called Methods and Models of Biblical Counseling at the Kiev base of an international mission organization, and we had been invited to teach a two-week module that included Theophostic Basic Training. Both of us, as Masters level counselors, had taught and practiced Theophostic in the States, but as we stood before this multi-national and multi-lingual class, we felt the heady mixture of excitement and anxiety over launching into unknown territory. What would it be like to teach through an interpreter? Would we be able to connect in the delicate intimacy of ministry sessions without speaking the same language? How could we supervise a practice session and give insightful feedback with each word being relayed back and forth like a complicated game of telephone?

As we prayed and prepared in the months before the trip, we had received many assurances from the Lord that this effort had His blessing; that in addition to teaching Theophostic, He wanted us to minister individually to these young missionaries. That conviction was so strong that it gave us courage on the first morning to smile at our lovely young Ukrainian interpreter and launch into one of the most exciting ministry experiences either of us has ever had.

It was as if, from that storefront in Kiev, we were flinging good seed on the fertile ground of Christian missions from Northern Europe to Southern Africa, through Eastern Europe all the way to the Far East. We were amazed as we shared with the students over dinners in their homes to find how many countries of the world they had lived and ministered in and how global their ministry vision was.

The seven Russian-speaking students were from three countries in the former Soviet Union, their stories a mixture of the struggle and hope of these emerging nations. Currently in their late 20's and 30's, they had spent their formative years under Communism, long enough to be wounded but not crushed by it, experiencing the collapse of the Iron Curtain in their teens or early 20's. A few had been raised in Christian families and suffered the persecution and ridicule of Christian children that was the official policy in Soviet schools. Others had their families ravaged by the epidemic of alcoholism born of the despair so common among Soviet men. Broken families, economic stagnation, and decades of spiritual deprivation had exacted a toll on each student's life.

But as we taught, mentored, and ministered to each one through those two weeks, we saw the hope that faith in Christ has brought to their lives and marveled at their courage in opening up their wounds for healing. One young Ukrainian man was having trouble getting out of his head and into his emotions when the HS took him to a memory at age 3 involving his grandfather, the one person he knew really loved him. He and Grandfather were on a walk together when a drunk man attacked Grandfather, who fell, hit his head and was instantly killed. Only the Holy Spirit could have walked him through the delicate, painful process of realizing that he was hanging onto the memory of his Grandfather's love in a way that was shutting out God's love. When the Lord asked him to say goodbye to Grandfather, he wanted to obey but couldn't bring himself to do it. As we kept inviting the Holy Spirit into that stuck place, the Lord gave him a powerful vision of the vibrant, living, here and now, loving interaction that He was offering to replace the distant, static, memory of lost love that he had been clinging to. He was filled with joy and able, then, to say a poignant and beautiful goodbye that brought everyone in the room to tears.

The Soviets displaced hundreds of thousands of families in an effort to break bonds of former ethnic and national identity. A Russian man's family had been sent to Uzbekistan by Stalin, but after his father abandoned them, his mother dropped him off at a boarding school. His presenting symptom was difficulty in relationships with women, even a deeply buried hatred of women that grieved and mystified him. The Lord showed him that the early abandonment by Mother was the source and origin, and he met him in the dining room of that cold, hard boarding school, bringing such love and connection that the young man felt rescued and adopted into a family, felt for the first time that he belonged and was valued. The joy on his face as the Lord held him was a beautiful sight we will never forget.

It is stories like these that keep us coming back despite the unique challenges inherent in international ministry. We are in the early stages of addressing these issues and are interested in networking with others who are also teaching Theophostic internationally. Here are some of the issues we faced, solutions we tried, and questions we came away with.

1) Most of the cultures in our world outside North America do not have a psychologized worldview. As Americans we tend to take for granted some of the basic operating assumptions that underlie a willingness to address the past to heal issues in the present. Many cultures and Christian subcultures have no model or framework for personal growth or emotional healing. We find that we must "prepare the ground" before planting the seeds for TPM. We often start by teaching metaphors that show how God has built His vision for transformation and healing into nature. The Caterpillar-Chrysalis-Butterfly transformation is both a powerful and beautiful example, as well as a simple plant metaphor that equates deep issues with roots hidden beneath the surface but defining the health of the plant above. The students began seeing their own healing journeys through these new sets of lenses. "Oh, I get it. I'm still in the Cocoon stage" or "Those unexplained outbursts must be part of the root system."

2) Over the two weeks we had opportunities to join their community through shared meals and walks and talks. As they shared their lives with us and trust was established, we began to understand the issues, beliefs and lies that the students were bringing with them from their home cultures. We were also vulnerable with them by sharing our own healing journeys, which deepened both our connection and their vision for the ways the Holy Spirit can transform a life through healing.

3) We discovered they were hungry for more of their own healing. We didn't require them to sign up for personal ministry sessions, but they all did. It was simply incredible to watch how God orchestrated our busy schedules to bring about these "divine appointments." We became convinced that receiving personal ministry is an essential component of TPM training. It increases considerably the demands and intensity of the training process, but when we are with them for only a week or two, it is important to take the learning off the page and into their hearts. Fortunately, our students had already been trained in basic lay counseling, so we were introducing TPM to people who were already hungry to go beyond Tolerable Recovery.

4) Our training model consisted of: 1) having the students watch the videos before we arrived, 2) expanding on the training material in class, 3) TPM demonstrations in class, 4) practice sessions in triads with our supervision and mentoring (3rd student being the observer/intercessor), and 5) making personal ministry time available. All of these steps are the same as our North American training model, but the cross-cultural setting required more time and involved language challenges. At this point, the training materials are not available in Russian, or Korean, the language of our upcoming group of students in October. This required the leadership of the school to provide simultaneous translation as they watched the videos. We also had trouble with the differences between US and European VCR technology. There is no question that they missed a lot, but the benefits outweighed the difficulties.

5) Training materials in the language of the students will be important for both the quality of the initial training and the follow through for ongoing development of the skills. Probably our biggest frustration was knowing that most of these students would be leaving the training determined to begin using TPM, but without having anyone on-site for supervision/consultation and without the training materials in their own language to refer to. We have been doing some follow-up consultation and support by email, but it is not the same as being there.

6) Coaching cross-culturally is a challenge! First of all, even at home, we are still learning how to supervise/mentor a TPM practice session, which is quite different from supervising a counseling session. How do we give input without being intrusive and interrupting the flow? How much should we intervene when the student feels stuck? What is the fine line between helping the student and taking over for them, making them do it our way? Add simultaneous translation to the mix and it increases the difficulty. We decided to do less interrupting but took notes to give feedback afterwards on points in the session where they could have done it differently. We also wondered if making a standard set of Cue Cards to use when the student looks at us helplessly but having a conversation would disturb the subject. The cards might say standard phrases such as "Focus on the feelings" or "What do you believe will happen if …?" or "Are you willing to ask Jesus about that?" We may try that in our next international training, but the cards will have to be bilingual!

The young missionaries we trained have shared with us their visions for using TPM as part of their ongoing ministry work. God has called one to work with street children and AIDS babies in Cambodia; another to pioneer in a central Asian Muslim country, counseling both in the fledging church there as well as outside; some to work with wounded missionaries; and some to counsel with young people in a drug rehab center in Southern Ukraine. One student gave us this report by email: "The client I was working with found it hard to believe that she could hear directly from God. She expected that the counselor would hear but doubted her own ability. She was quite surprised at the end when she saw that God had spoken to her. The memory that Jesus led her to seemed insignificant to her but it turned out to be exactly right, and she was amazed. I saw how the technique is so simple and that the client is looking for something more complicated. She struggled to stay focused and trust the leading of Jesus instead of controlling the process." The student went on to say how much she needs ongoing training and supervision in order to feel competent in using TPM.

Not all of the students have the kind of ministry context that will lend itself to one-on-one Theophostic Prayer Ministry. Our goal in those cases is to enrich their understanding of the deep healing work of the Holy Spirit, and to encourage them to pursue their own healing journey, equipping them to minister to wounded people in very challenging settings.

This article was written by an author that is not affiliated with Theophostic Prayer Ministry. Therefore his or her views and findings do not necessarily represent the teachings of this ministry. The official teaching of TPM can be found in the Basic Training Seminar Manual. It is from this manual that all other publications, articles and media is to be evaluated.

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This article was written by an author that is not affiliated with Theophostic Prayer Ministry. Therefore his or her views and findings do not necessarily represent the teachings of this ministry. The official teaching of TPM can be found in the Basic Training Seminar Manual. It is from this manual that all other publications, articles and media is to be evaluated.