“Coastal Carolina Ministry to Veterans Program (CCMVP)”
Often we see but, do not comprehend what we are seeing in our churches and communities. The Veterans Administration began offering a program of training for clergy and congregational members to enhance their resources, understanding of Veteran concerns/issues/ and needs in order to encourage networking and cooperative collaboration of ecumenical churches and groups in the many small and suburban congregations across all fifty states in 2014. The goal was to have at least one contact person that often is a retired Chaplain from the military, with a current understanding and experience with providing healing and care for Veterans that suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and loss of limbs, emotional and sexual stress and loss of good health, employment and sometimes, the break-up of families when the symptoms of these maladies become overwhelming and appears to have no resolution.
In the ELCA, the Federal Endorsing Agent, Assistant to the Presiding Bishop, the Rev. Eric Wester, has been seeking these chaplains/pastors to serve as “Centurion Contacts” within their respective Synod territories and to promote and seek diverse means to expand the coverage of the program. The hope is to reach as many members of churches and to train local clergy for networking and combining the strengths of programs already in place with those new ones that may evolve through ecumenical community church participation.
In South Carolina Synod, the Rev. Phillip Clark, serving pulpit supply and some Interim ministry, has been volunteering to offer the training and work with the Synod’s staff and other pastors to “spread the word” and train this material affecting an awareness of many Veterans Administration resources, community mental health care available and a variety of outreach and support groups that already are in place since the Fall of 2015. There are many new ideas that each group takes off with and develop to custom tailor for their respective community’s Veterans and their families.
This program originally was named, Rural Clergy Training Program by its co-founders, Dr. James Goalder and Dr. Keith Etheridge located at the National Chaplains Department at the National Headquarters in Hampton, Virginia. They worked out of the Rural Ministry Department to develop, seek funding and resources and promote, ship and originally planned and aided in implementing the program with all the (now some twenty-seven) Centurion Contacts across some synods of the U.S.
The first training session offered in South Carolina Synod was held on September 9, 2015 at Bethel Lutheran Church, White Rock, SC. Pastor Roy Butler and his congregation graciously and generously hosted the first two training sessions. The first session was attended by twenty-five pastors and members of the South Carolina National Guard from Fort Jackson as well as representatives from the VA Medical Center in Columbia, SC. The second follow-up session was attended by five participants on October 15, 2015.
As time moved one Bishop Herman Yoos, the South Carolina Synod Bishop and Pastor Phil Clark determined that the needs of our pastors in South Carolina Synod can focus their time to participate for one day. They also found that the name “Rural Clergy Training Program” did not catch the imagination or encourage participation among the clergy. The name has been re-invented (Coastal Carolina Ministry to Veterans Program or CCMVP) to encompass more of where the pastors are located and will impact their combined efforts to share resources with the Veterans Administration and their Centurion Contact to minister and provide meaningful support to Veterans and their families within the respective communities.
The training includes four modules to train on:
- What it is like for returning Veterans to attempt to assimilate back into his/her community.
- Military challenges and acquaint those being trained with military lifestyle and acronyms (for better understanding).
- To learn how to determine if there exists mental health issues and concerns and how to make referrals both within the community and to the Veterans Administration.
- Provide opportunities to learn about community networking and building for supporting Veterans and their families.
Two training events had been planned for October 6th and 20th ; one at Lord of Life Lutheran Church, Bluffton, SC and one at Messiah Lutheran Church in Walterboro, SC However, Hurricane Matthew caused closings and postponed the events. It is hoped they will be re-scheduled in mid-November if possible.
Getting started in South Carolina Synod has been gradual but has the growing support of pastors that have attended the first training and others that see the needs and want to have a cadre of resources, enhanced skills and means to educate congregational and community members. Thus enabling them, out of a better understanding, to combine their resources, efforts and time to reach out to Veterans and their families. This will help unite communities in providing healing love, care and assistance when Veterans Administration Medical Centers and Clinics are far from those in need. We can do much and there exists room for us to grow and to share. We need you to volunteer to host a training event and to offer to train with Pastor Phil Clark so others can spread the resources and understanding across the state.