This the third post in a four-part series Dealing with Trauma on the Field:
Part 1: How do you care for your soul right after a trauma? (available here)
Part 2: How do you care for your soul in the months and years after a trauma? (available here)
Part 3: How can you help a teammate right after a trauma? (Sept 29)
Part 4: How can you support a teammate in the months and years after a trauma? (Oct 1)
Thank you, Laura Bowling for this series!
The realities of security, health, and sacrifice become clearer when a teammate experiences trauma while serving cross-culturally. And while I was “the teammate,” I know my teammates and their children and others felt even more vulnerable. The circumstances of my home invasion forced all of us to move from a “this might happen” point of view, to a “this did happen” point of view. So while you are wrestling through all of the questions and emotions you are now facing, how do you walk with your teammate who is reeling and in shock?
My former teammates in South Africa modeled this well in the days and weeks and months following my home invasion. I was clearly in shock and unable to think straight, let alone make any major decisions about what needed to be done.
Instead, my teammates sprang into action—communicating with my family and with our organization, purchasing plane tickets for my parents, organizing details for lodging when they arrived, handling the local media, speaking with the police, and more. While I mostly sat on a couch staring into space and answering the occasional question, they were handling countless details and caring for me at the same time.
Details aren’t the only aspect of caring for a teammate experiencing trauma, however. There’s actual care involved too. In my case this took the form of making sure that someone was always with me, since being alone was too difficult for me. One teammate made sure I ate regular meals. Another teammate sat with me and held my hand while I gave my statement to police. Hearing me recount every detail of what happened wasn’t pleasant for her, but she did it for me.
They talked with me each day about what the schedule was for the day and made sure I was up for whatever was planned. They went with me to identify my belongings at the police station. And they carefully broke the news to me that the man who raped me had died while in police custody and before I had to identify him.
After my parents arrived in country, other teammates brought meals and showed them around the area a little bit. Teammates helped me pack the items I wanted to take back to the States with me, and, in fact, they packed and stored all the rest of my belongings after I left the country. And those weren’t the only logistics they continued to manage after I left the country.
In those initial days and weeks, teammates are first responders. I think this is particularly true when trauma happens to a single person on the field. Their blood relatives are most likely hours and hours away from them. And their teammates are all they have. The thought of being a first responder can be overwhelming. However, when we already care for our teammates, when we’re already involved in their lives, and when we already reach out and serve each other, the task seems less stressful. Was everyone on the team doing everything? No. Some teammates, the ones I worked directly with, bore the brunt of the first responder job. But the others stepped in and helped too.
I would encourage you to prepare for someone on your team to experience trauma at some point in time as it will most likely occur. Having important conversations before a trauma hits, will allow your team to care for each other well when one does occur.
Here are just a few questions to get you started:
1. Does your team have a plan for how to handle a trauma on the field? If not, begin talking about what a plan might look like.
2. As a group, have you thought through all of the details that will need to be dealt with in the event of a teammate leaving the field suddenly? If not, spend some time brainstorming some of those details together.
3. How are you caring for each other right now? Are you serving each other? Do you already sacrifice of your time when a teammate needs help or encouragement?
As you think through these questions, remember that when trauma comes, the Father will give you wisdom and strength to care for your teammate. We can’t anticipate every detail for every possible situation, but we can trust the One who knows each detail.
Mark your calendar! Starting the first Tuesday of every month for “Soul Tending Tuesday” we will practice stillness and silence in community for 10 minutes. Use this zoom link and use the phrase “bestill” when asked for a code to enter. We will start at 7:00 a.m. MST (time zone converter). Our first community stillness and silence practice is Tuesday, October 5th. See you then.