Traumatic experiences are part of the context for many missionaries, pastors and leaders who currently work with people who have been affected by some type of tragedy, especially in this time of pandemic. The suffering and the aftermath left by these experiences are part of the challenge that the Christian worker faces in presenting the message of the gospel.
Rick and Kelly Martínez, IMB missionaries who lead the Gateway team in Mexico City, are witnesses to this reality.
They reported that in just two months, nine Mexican pastors who were vital members of the Baptist convention died of COVID-19. The Martínezes, as they prepared for their return to the mission field after seven months in the United States, began receiving story after story from Mexican families affected by the loss of a loved one.
At the beginning of 2021, in their transition back to Mexico, the Martínez family prayed fervently asking God for an effective way to minister to the churches and families in their convention who were experiencing suffering and trauma due to the loss of relatives or close associates during the pandemic.
It was at this time that the idea of implementing New Hope arose. New Hope, translated into Spanish as “Nueva Esperanza,” is an initiative created by a group of church planters, counselors and oral communicators with the goal of bringing healing to those who have gone through some type of traumatic experience.
According to Tricia Stringer, director of Multiplying Hope – the entity that offers the New Hope resource – trauma can be a significant barrier to a person’s understanding of God’s love and the redemptive message of the gospel.
New Hope’s ministry aims to address this trauma by studying God’s Word in groups of four to six who meet weekly for a total of seven sessions. In these sessions, members share their stories in a safe environment and are comforted by being exposed to biblical narratives whose characters, like them, have gone through suffering and loss.
The wonderful thing about this healing experience is that it does not end at the end of the seven sessions. Participants are encouraged to start new groups in which they can also minister to people who, like themselves, have been affected by similar traumatic experiences. They share healing hope with other people.
New Hope came to the attention of the Martínezes at a meeting of team leaders, and they immediately began to explore the idea and pray about whether or not this ministry could be a possibility to help their brothers and sisters of the faith heal from their trauma.
The Martinezes connected with Robin and Charlie Janney, missionaries in El Bajío region of México, who shared with them testimony after testimony of how God has used New Hope to bring healing and salvation to many, as well as to start new churches and deepen discipleship. When the Martinezes asked the Janneys if they would be willing to start an online group in Mexico City for pastors’ families, the Janneys’ response was, “No, we will not lead that group, but we will train YOU to start that group.”
The Martinezes, therefore, were trained by the Janneys every Tuesday, and the following Monday they shared the material learned with one of the groups from their newly planted churches.
Within that group were three members of a family that had lost their mother, wife and grandparents to COVID. During the last session of her seventh week, a young lady named Eve* gave testimony that she had always heard about God and the Bible, but that she had never understood it well or paid much attention to it. It wasn’t until she began the New Hope sessions that Eve finally understood who God was, and He completely changed her life.
Eve says that she has a desire to be used by God to help others know Him and understand what she has experienced.
Now that this group has finished the seven sessions offered by New Hope, its members are planning to start another group soon with new people who, like them, have experienced some type of trauma and need help in their healing through the Savior.
Pray with the Martinezes for more opportunities to use New Hope with other colleagues and leaders to share the gospel, disciple, help people with trauma heal, and even plant new churches through these healing groups.
For more information about New Hope ministry, visit www.multiplyinghope.org.
*Names changed for security