After a ferry ride, maxi rides, two plane rides, and two delays, the team has made it safely home. Twenty four hours of travel is enough to make one a bit loopy, but I was able to get some of the team members' thoughts about the things that they have taken away from this trip before we dispersed to our respective normal lives. It's necessary to point out the incredible job that our leaders have done- Dr. Benjamin Keyes, Dr. Kim Harris-Keyes, Dr. Kathie Erwin, Dr. Kathy Arveson, and Jenner Cotton. The trip and the high caliber of work would not have been possible without you and your gifts. Special recognition goes to Dr. Erwin who got herself on a plane with approximately 48 hours notice to join us when another faculty member couldn't come due to unexpected medical concerns. Her flexibility and commitment to the mission of the trip, as well as her perseverance at the prison training college in the face of daunting circumstances, was inspiring to us all. Thanks to the vision of Dr. Keyes for the education and training of other mental health professionals and the treatment of trauma, literally countless lives have been impacted by the short time we were in Trinidad and Tobago. It's exciting to think that I was a part of something much bigger than my own abilities that will possibly produce significant changes in the way people are treated and cared for.
A very special thank you goes out to Rev. Osbert and Angela Williams and the congregation at Woodbrook Pentecostal Church. Your hospitality and warm welcome cannot be overstated. The willingness to serve and love was evident in your church, and we were incredibly blessed by your people's ministry to us. Lemuel and Osanne Williams also played a significant role in both the orchestration of this trip and the practicalities of our team members navigating a foreign country on top of the daily responsibilities that we all had. There were many other Trinis who made our trainings/workshops possible and provided food and transportation. Thank you to you all!
One can't go on a trip like this without having some significant thoughts about life, God, and working in the field of trauma. Here are some thoughts from a few of the team members about their personal "take away" message.
Jeff Francis- "Although I had never been to Trinidad before, I felt the love and appreciation of the people for our trauma team being there on the island. From the prisons to the schools, and the conference, there was a great response toward our trainings and team...I am walking away with a greater understanding of how trauma effects people, but with an effective team working together anything is possible."
Tronda Douglas- "This trip has shown me that it's important to serve others." Tronda stated that as Christians, we are servants who are called to show God's love, mercy and grace. She noted the team's great attitude about being flexible.
Sarah Kornhaus- "With encouragement of my teammates I came to recognize that it's not the training that makes us effective counselors, it's the calling." There was some trepidation among some of the team members about their lack of training as they are currently students. Working together with more seasoned clinicians allowed them to learn more about working directly with others and gain confidence that they can make a difference.
Ashley Leary- "Going into the trip I didn't know what to expect and I found myself being pushed outside my comfort zone. But as a result, I feel more confident as a clinician and I feel more flexible and adaptive." She mentioned that she had never worked with any of the populations with whom we were working while on the trip, but she discovered one of her favorite parts of the trip was working with the children. She also enjoyed the Nylon Pool!
Susan Harvey- God affirmed and re-affirmed at every corner of the trip that her calling is in grief and loss.
Mary Taylor- "It's not about me." Working with different groups of people with our own diverse group of team members required that the team put aside individual desires or opinions. When it comes to dealing with the frequent changes, it's best to go with the flow.
Dr. Kathy Arveson- She mentioned that she was amazed how God showed up in unexpected ways daily in stories of counseling clients and the unexpected graciousness of the people that we encountered. She felt Christ's presence in how others expended themselves and the personal connections that were made.
Dephia Roberts- "Transformational." Throughout the trip, at many of the nightly debriefing meetings, Dephia turned our attention to the power of the Holy Spirit, reminding us that we can do nothing without His Spirit.
Dr. Kathie Erwin- "Our trainings on crisis management and trauma were on target for the Officers who work in the crowded, challenging environment at Trinidad's Remand Prison. Their recent experiences with a prison riot and other personal dangers proved that God chose this time to send the Trauma Team to Prison Training Center to bring help and hope."
Candyce Burns- "This was a wonderful display of the beauty of multicultural awareness and humility. Concerns such as social justice, at-risk populations and 1st responder self-care were all broached with love, grace and humility. As we interacted with Trinidad natives in groups, individual therapy and trainings, we also grew in understanding and sensitivity towards one another as a team. This trip was transformational."
There's little more to say aside from the amazing sense of God's presence though we weren't there to evangelize or to do explicit ministry in the community. This wasn't your typical missions trip, though we had the chance to share our faith and encourage others in theirs. We served as the hands and feet of Jesus while equipping others to be effective in their helping professions and; we reflected God's love and caring while counseling individuals and families who have been traumatized, sometimes repeatedly. We were His hands and feet as we listened to the stories of individuals on the front lines who work very hard to mitigate the damage of trauma in their community on a daily basis. We were His hands and feet as we cared for and encouraged each other.
As St. Francis of Assisi said- Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.
Thank you, friends and family and readers of this blog. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. I hope you have enjoyed the tiny glimpse into our daily experiences in the beautiful country of Trinidad and Tobago. Till next time...
Amanda N. Trent, Psy.D.