Hope in Times of Trouble

God’s Word restores life and hope in disaster zones in the U.S. and around the globe.

Every day, Bishop Michael Hartwell gets up in the morning to serve the residents of Logan County, West Virginia, a community that depends on the coal mining industry. Life isn’t easy in Logan County, especially these days, when jobs are scarce and budgets are tight. “[This is] one of the most depressed, oppressed, discouraged generations of Appalachians that I ever saw,” says Hartwell.

That’s why Hartwell helped to found the Appalachian Dream Center in the tiny town of Holden. In addition to providing a safe meeting place for the community, the center, with the support of American Bible Society and Operation Compassion, provides free Bibles and hot meals to those who need it most.

Supporting dedicated church leaders like Hartwell with Bibles and Scripture-based tools is a key reason American Bible Society is launching a new ministry team designed to provide the hope of God’s Word to those in the midst of crisis. Called “Scripture 911,” the program builds on decades of sharing Scripture in post-disaster situations. It also builds upon the years of work American Bible Society has spent developing Bible-based trauma healing programs in war zones and refugee camps.

In Logan County, Pastor Hartwell knows that the need for the hope of God’s Word alongside practical assistance is great. “When the coal mines are idle, everything around here becomes idle,” Hartwell explains. With no other sources of income, many of the people he serves live without electricity or heat—and often without hope. Suicide is becoming more prevalent.

“The spiritual need right now is to be delivered from oppression, depression, hurt, pain, generational hurts,” he says. The Appalachian Dream Center, with its foundation in Scripture, is a beacon of hope in the midst of this hard reality.

Through Scripture 911, God’s Word will be able to bring this same hope to more people in the U.S. and around the world.

“We have seen God restore lives and heal even the deepest wounds through His Word,” says American Bible Society President and CEO Roy Peterson. “We’ve seen God do it again and again in situations from Hurricane Katrina, to the earthquake in Haiti, to the streets of New York after 9/11. As we look forward to our third century of ministry, we must expand this work—doing whatever we can to get the hope of Christ into the hands and hearts of people who are suffering around the world.”

Scripture 911’s focus is twofold: rapid response with Scripture resources when disaster strikes and ongoing Scripture support to help people throughout the recovery process, which can take months and even years.

“Pain and suffering are significant barriers to Scripture engagement,” Peterson explains. “But when people encounter Jesus in the pages of Scripture, they find freedom and restoration. Through the Bible Society global network, we have the opportunity to share this message in the U.S. and around the world.”

After a crisis, people often need the Body of Christ to help with food, shelter and medicine. When people are able to hear a message of hope in the Bible, while receiving aid for their material needs, the message’s impact is enhanced.

However, the support does not stop there. What is often overlooked are the trauma wounds of the heart. “There are spiritual and emotional wounds as well as physical pain,” says Peterson. As time goes on, pain can continue to emerge through broken marriages, cycles of violence, depression or disinterest in daily life. At these times, Scripture can continue to speak into people’s lives, providing comfort, guidance and strength.

That’s why Bible-based trauma healing programs are effective in following up in the months and years after an initial conflict or disaster. In the Great Lakes region of Africa, people have been wracked by decades of war and unrest. People carry years of perpetual, deeply buried pain. It’s difficult to know how to cope—and how God fits into that pain.

But through trauma healing, they can begin to understand God’s love and forgiveness through the words of Scripture. Even years after the trauma has occurred, receiving God’s Word can give new life.

Through the Scripture 911 ministry initiative, both Bible-based trauma healing and disaster response programs will be able to deploy more quickly and reach more people. As a result, more people can find hope and healing in the Bible.

Bible-based trauma healing originally launched four years ago in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the team recently held an initial session for church-based caregivers in the Middle East. In the U.S., three pilot sites are starting programs, and church leaders found that trauma healing opened new opportunities for ministry as participants learned from Scripture to release their pain to Jesus.

After testing at sites including Philadelphia and New York City, American Bible Society released an updated and revised edition of Healing the Wounds of Trauma, the core program manual, for ministry use within the United States.

One of the communities that will benefit from this book is Logan County. Hartwell heard about the program through his partnership with American Bible Society, and invited the trauma healing team to host a pilot session in his community. The result was amazing.

“More ministry has taken place in the last two days than in all the years I’ve been here,” said Hartwell, who has served in the community for 27 years. “People have opened up. I knew there was more going on in their lives, but I didn’t know what it was.”

Now, through the work of God’s Word, the healing process can begin.

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