Departmental leaders across the Baltic Union gathered together in mid-January to take seriously the words of Psalm 147:2-3 as a principle for their territory:
The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
He gathers together the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
And binds up their wounds.
According to Baltic Union President, David Nõmmik, they see the issue of ‘Binding up the Brokenhearted’ as major within modern culture, and as significant for Christians who recognize that Christ is a Healer. Beyond the miracles recorded in the Gospels, they recognize that He is still a great Healer today, renewing our spirit and giving us hope.
Pastors and lay leaders in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are together answering that call. They work for people and with people, allowing God to use them to bless others. In order to increase their skills and provide positive learning opportunities for pastors and lay-members, departmental leaders met for an initial meeting in Riga, Latvia on Sunday, 14 January to start a new course ‘Binding up the Brokenhearted’. The course is meant to give the participants knowledge about mental health; what it is, how to be mentally resilient, how to understand and help challenging people, and much more.
Nõmmik opened the course by reflecting on Isaiah 46:4: “Even to your old age, I am He, And even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; Even I will carry, and will deliver you,” sharing how God is presented as a Deliverer and a Savior in the second half of Isaiah. At the end of the devotional, the participants were asked to pray in small groups, which served as a beautiful beginning for the course.
Dr. Torben Bergland, Trans-European Division Health Ministries director, then shared on three topics: mental health, attachment theory and understanding challenging people. Both a trained psychiatrist and psychotherapist, Bergland reported that when people struggle psychologically, they often also struggle spiritually. However, we need to remember that mental health is not the same as spiritual health.
Dr. Bergland explained that what we learn about relationships at the beginning of our life influences the way we relate to other people, how we see God, and how we relate and connect to Him. However, when people start learning about God and can develop a positive relationship with Him, they can also develop positive relationships with other people. We are born in a relationship, we are wounded in relationships, and we can be healed in relationships. To develop trust, security, a bond with others, and experience that we can love and be loved - that is what healing is in a relationship.
This has practical consequences in church – a place where it is especially important that we educate people about what love is and how God loves us. “If our churches are places where people treat each other badly, it influences their relationship with God as well,” Bergland explained.
How do we deal with challenging people? Bergland reflected that we need to always ask ourselves a question, “What is my contribution to these challenges and difficulties?”
He noted that very few people are intentionally difficult. Quite often they have battles to fight which we know nothing about. Therefore, it is wise to be kind and considerate. He suggested that in relating to difficult people we must always be respectful and not to try to change another person, since people only change from the inside out. However, we also need to take care of ourselves, and protect ourselves and others if needed.
The participants enjoyed the presentations, opportunities to ask questions, and discussions. They appreciated the professionalism with which the topics were presented, and the overall opinion was that very important themes were touched on during this first module of the course.
The course will continue in September.