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Healing ministry

Terry & Liz McCoy are just finishing their formal service with CMS. Here Liz looks back on one aspect of their work with trauma amongst the Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory.

When Terry and I arrived in Angurugu on Groote Eylandt in January 2012, we were struck by the trauma that people regularly experience in the community, and the need for the church to find a way to give pastoral care in this situation. Many were suffering with mental health problems without much support, and the wonderful clinic staff were often overstretched.

It was a privilege to be able to join the Aboriginal lay leader, Gayangwa Lalara, now ordained deacon, as she visited and prayed with people in her and their language. Those at the Aged Care Centre suffered from various diseases. Others were beginning a journey of following Christ as she visited them in their homes to take them through baptism classes. Gayangwa had once been professionally employed to work with those suffering from addictions. I learned much from her.

When I returned to Darwin and started teaching Certificate IV courses in Pastoral Care at Nungalinya College to church leaders, it was good to be able to invite visiting speakers with expertise in various areas, including Indigenous staff from Anglicare, who gave a day’s training on suicide prevention.

I witnessed the huge impact these students had when, after concentrated preparation time, they spent a day at Darwin hospital with the chaplains, visiting Aboriginal patients. Because of their language skills and relationships, they were able to provide so much comfort and practical support in such a short time.

On our return to live again in the remote community of Angurugu in September 2016, we trialled a version of some Christian courses produced by the American Bible Society called ‘Healing the Wounds of Trauma, How the Church Can Help.’ [1] The course uses stories that present what the Bible and mental health principles teach about how people heal from trauma.

The material was always intended to be used locally by local leaders, so we were thrilled when one of the younger church leaders, Violet Huddleston from Bickerton Island, asked if she could train to run groups herself. She had completed the healing group with us and was convinced that this could really help to heal the heart wounds experienced by people in her community.

Violet and another church leader from a different community, Miriam Numamurdirdi, joined us for training at Nhulunbuy with Valarie Johnson, Wycliffe USA, who had trained us in Darwin. This year, with support from CMS missionary Kate Beer, Violet and Miriam are running small healing groups in three different communities, for their people who live daily in the midst of trauma.

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Although the McCoys have finished their service with CMS in North Australia, new CMS missionaries like Matt and Lisa Pearson have gone to serve in the same region. You can go to the CMS website and support this ministry now here.

[1] To learn more about this course, see http://thi.americanbible.org/about-thi/our-approach