Nurturing the Nurturers… Caring for the Caregivers
By Ali Couch
Nurturers and caregivers cover a broad scope of areas of life. From doctors to stay-at-home parents, from seasoned church mentors to my 7th grade son leading Fellowship of Christian Athletes, from linemen restoring power in the night to the morning shift of teachers in the carline. We are all nurturers and caregivers in our own mission field that God has called us to.
Just last week as I prayerfully prepared for my day… “Lord, what are we up to today?” He led me to think of my colleagues/teammates/cohorts/squad/unit at Battlefield. I would soon be heading to see them for our monthly staff meeting and my heart felt a definite prompt to check in on their well-being. I know the particular heaviness that counseling is bringing to me as I listen to the sweet people sitting across from me who are burdened with the current issues of the global pandemic, presidential election, social and racial injustices, isolation, and on and on, in addition to their already present challenges. How are my teammates holding up while holding such a weight of others? I felt God creating a space for the Nurturers to be Nurtured and the Caregivers to be Cared for… not by me, but by Him; for me and my beloved sidekicks.
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As I write the many roles above, of nurturers and caregivers and think of countless more, I feel my empathy brew up within me hoping that everyone is caring for themselves well or being taken care of by another. I feel two phrases blazing in my mind… “You have to pour in to pour out” and “God in flesh.” These phrases speak to me of what I need to be actively doing to care for myself well and how to position myself in life for God’s love and care to rush over me through others.
I clearly remember 18 years ago, the words of a Beth Moore Bible study speaking into my foggy and depleted, young mother of 2 babies, self… “Honey, you have to pour in to pour out.” That was the moment I realized the importance of Self Care. Now, all of these years later, as a wife of a coach/minister/teacher, as a mother of four (21,18,16,13), a sister, a daughter, a friend, a therapist; I still hear those words…Pour in to pour out. Clinically speaking, we need to activate our parasympathetic nervous system (the brakes) to calm down our sympathetic nervous system (the gas pedal during stress). If we don’t engage and activate the brakes, we will remain in a heightened state of stress (fight or flight) that can hinder our body, our mind, our emotions, our spirit.
Some ways to activate the brakes is through self care… music, deep breathing, appropriate sleep, movement, healthy eating, massages, quietness, creativity, prayer, truth, sharing coffee with a friend, being in community, going to see a therapist. So, in real time… when leaving a shift, laying the baby down for the night, wrapping up the day; ask yourself, “How can I pump the brakes, unload the weight I just carried, pour into myself, so that I can regain the capacity to pour out again?” Seven years ago, I discovered that if I sing while walking to my car after a day of caring for others… and continue to sing during the drive home, I do better. So, as I leave the office, I begin to sing, “All to Jesus I surrender. All to Him I freely give.” This helps me release the weight I was just holding, pours truth back into me, so I can then pour out to my family at home.
The second blazing phrase is “God in flesh.” That morning at staff meeting, I heard two of my colleagues say two phrases, “I just need to be with y’all in this space,” and “Something encouraging happens when we pass each other in the halls heading into sessions or are able to grab a few minutes together.” Spiritually, yes! Since God’s Spirit indwells in us and the fruit of the Spirit is peace, love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control, it only makes sense that we would feel those things in togetherness with each other. I feel peace wash over me from God through my colleague while passing in the halls with eye contact and a “we got this” look.
I feel goodness and faithfulness as we encourage each other with lines from Rocky movies as we go into the ring to fight for health and wholeness with our sweet people. Clinically, yes! We need “another brain in the room” to connect with for healing to occur, which is a phrase that Bessel Van der Kolk and Curt Thompson emphasize in the fields of neuroscience and healing from trauma. This is a moment that the parasympathetic nervous system can be activated, to press the brakes for a moment, so that we can be poured into, so that we can pour out again.
Nurturers, Caregivers… pay attention to what nurtures you and cares for you well. Know that Self Care does not have to mean selfishness in a negative connotation. Know your “bag of tricks” of things that pour into you at specific times. Keep your hands open in a posture of receiving, ready for when God wants to give you care, when you least expect it, and usually when you need it most.
Almighty God tells us in Isaiah 41:9-10, “I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are My servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
Celebrate What God is Doing
First responders and those who serve in the armed forces are the people we have always thought of being on “the front line.” At Battlefield Ministries we talk regularly about pastors and missionaries being on the front line of our faith. The year 2020 has brought a renewed appreciation for those who serve out front in many aspects of our lives. Medical workers of all types are constantly exposed to the danger of COVID 19. Everyone who makes it possible to keep our grocery stores open, from the farmers and truckers to the managers and cashiers, risk exposure so we can buy food for our families. To say the drama of 2020 adds a level of stress to all of these things is an understatement!
We would like to take a moment to celebrate our counselors here at Battlefield Ministries who are on the front lines caring for the stressed, the isolated, and the brokenhearted. It has been appropriately stated our counselors “clock in at the gate of the valley of the shadow of death” and that was before 2020! These incredible people usher in the resources of the Kingdom of God into some painful territory and pour out the offering of their gifting, education, and skills for the benefit of those who come to us for care. We are so thankful for their efforts and the benefits they bring to our community. We are also incredibly grateful for those of you who make provision for clients to receive this care. Through you God makes provision for the clients as well as the counselors who care for them.
It is at the very heart of who we are to expose the enemy and equip the Body of Christ to thrive for the Lord’s name and His renown. Our counselors are a part of the beautiful Body of Christ and it is our joy to support them through supplementing the sliding fee scale, providing convenient Continuing Education in staff meetings, praying for one another, and guarding our fellowship together. So much of their effort goes unnoticed by anyone but the clients in their care so they can provide the best care for the clients. The ethics of honoring the private journey of the client dictates that we should never fully know the grind of clocking in at the gate of the valley of the shadow of death this side of eternity. For the sessions we know about, and the efforts on the front lines we don’t, we celebrate our therapists and those who make provision for the care they provide. Thank you.
Psalm 31:24 says, “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.”
CHRIS & ANGIE WHEELUS
Chris and Angie first began working with Battlefield’s international team in 2017 and quickly moved into supervisory and advisory roles for the counseling office. The Wheeluses have a heart for training new counselors. Angie serves as a supervisor and Chris spear-headed Battlefield efforts to provide Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for counselors to maintain their licensure.
Battlefield captured Chris and Angie’s attention in 2015 when they met Battlefield founders, Nathan and Jane Phillips, at an after-church meeting regarding West Rome Baptist’s missions efforts. Gradually, they realized a common passion – to serve those who serve around the world and to counsel from a Christian biblical worldview with clinical soundness. Chris and Angie lived, worked, and raised their family in Central Asia and the Middle East for ten years. The international piece is one they had longed to engage in since leaving the field in 2004. Chris and Angie love the way Battlefield freely pours love on missionaries and provides applicable resources for them.
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Angie possesses strong credentials and experience for working with individuals who have experienced trauma. She has an EdD in Professional Counseling and Supervision and is a respected director of the counseling center at Georgia Highlands College. Chris and Angie have traveled abroad with several Battlefield teams to minister through marriage events and missionary team retreats. Angie recently responded to a missionary in crisis in a difficult cultural context overseas. The situation called for Angie’s disaster mental health and trauma training in order to minister according to the person’s needs. They are grateful for supporters who stand at the ready to provide for immediate care such as this.
Chris and Angie like to work with people returning to the States from living and working abroad. Many times the transition is difficult for those ministering in a different culture and political system. Often, the missionaries need to process their experiences with trusted individuals. Chris and Angie are an excellent resource for ministering to these people.
Angie’s position at a local college and her leadership in the Georgia College Counseling Association make her a perfect fit to supervise counselors at Battlefield who are working toward licensure. Angie’s skill in coming alongside people in difficult parts of their story benefits the clients she serves and the counselors she supervises. At Battlefield and the college, suicide prevention is a large part of her work. In addition to her counseling work Stateside, Angie’s current sphere of influence has broadened to the international community through the use of technology.
Chris is a licensed marriage and family therapist and counselor who has gradually learned that his passions within the realm of the counseling profession lie in helping to train counselors through CE events and supervision. But, more than that, it is the field in which God has given him a platform for teaching. He believes God has designed and called him to teach. He first noticed this as a new believer while in college, but only recently did it become a reality. Chris is now a full-time professor at Liberty University. He is also an adjunct professor at Richmont Graduate University. God continues to provide a platform from which Chris is able to influence professionals in the counseling industry. He is President Elect of the Georgia College Counseling Association where he is organizing a conference called “The Spirit of College Counseling.”
Battlefield’s CE effort is a perfect place for Chris to focus his gifting as it blends teaching, training, and scholarship with our core values; values with which he agrees and embraces. He was the driving force behind our organization getting approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider. Chris’ passion is to equip counselors. He loves to help them grow in the profession and be equipped in areas in which he himself felt ill-equipped when starting out. Chris wants to encourage counselors to feel free to be themselves and to use their unique gifting in the profession while abiding by the legal and ethical requirements currently set in place. He assists them in developing their personal approach to counseling. In supervision, Chris does all of the above and further helps these young counselors by challenging them to apply the theories learned in school to the counseling session.
Chris is planning to publish a book on a Christian approach to vocation/career decision making called Design Discovery: Finding Your Vocation through Relationship with Your Creator. It will include two new career assessment instruments. He has published three career counseling interventions in a book by the National Career Development Association. Angie is published in the Journal of Military and Government Counseling.
Chris and Angie are valuable team members, ministering not only to our clients, but to our staff as well. As God uses them to sow into us professionally and encourage us to be vessels of health and healing, they are making a decided effort to ensure Battlefield will be able to continue the legacy of offering care according to the needs of future clients.
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Did You Know?
Battlefield Ministries has Opportunities for Continuing Education (CE)
In 2017, Battlefield recognized a need for formalizing therapists’ training that would incorporate clinically sound continuing education with many of the tools and principles that are unique to Battlefield. At about the same time Dr’s Chris and Angie Wheelus landed on our radar right here in Rome, Ga., Chris happened to be supervising the Continuing Education effort with the Georgia College Counseling Association. We quickly learned that he was very knowledgeable in the area of certification to provide CE credit hours. We began to brainstorm the possibility of Battlefield Ministries becoming a certified CE provider.
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We began to incorporate the formal structure, research, and presentation requirements at our monthly staff meetings where we had already been sharing tools and training with the team. From there, the application process went smoothly in the capable hands of Dr. Chris Wheelus. Our team of counselors count themselves fortunate to be able to attain CE credits by attending a staff meeting in which a fellow colleague presents CE-approved material. Over a half-dozen counselors with Battlefield have presented at staff meetings over the past couple of years and we have had some guests present as well. We will begin providing workshops to the wider community of therapists in our area in the coming year.
The CE efforts provided by Battlefield are much needed in our community and provide local, high quality, and topically helpful credits that meet the NBCC standards for counselors as well as social workers and psychologists. CE hours in the area of ethics are always needful, and Battlefield offers a unique perspective as a ministry that has thrived in a small town where many ethical concerns, such as the dynamics of dual relationships, can be common.
Our hope going forward is to bring in more outside clinicians to present and attend opportunities hosted by Battlefield which will encourage professional growth and competency as clinicians as well as make provision for them to earn CE credit hours. We are developing an online presence with the hopes of providing digital CEU’s, both live and recorded. We are thankful to have Elizabeth Dempsey on board who is trained in marketing and has the needed skills to move us forward with our digital footprint.
Jeremy joined the Battlefield team of counselors in August of 2019. He is gifted in giving hope to couples in crisis and helping young men transition from teen to adult. Another area of focus for Jeremy is working with those who have been wounded around spiritual matters. Jeremy comes from a perspective that is spiritually rooted in the Christian faith and clinically informed by research-based interventions.
Battlefield Ministries and WinShape have worked closely together for years. One relationship that came out of this partnership is with Jeremy Marshall. Jeremy has been a WinShape staff member since 2006. Working with WinShape college students, Jeremy found himself referring many of the students he worked with to Battlefield for counseling. He spearheaded a program to help assist with the cost of counseling for those students.
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After years of referring students to Battlefield, Jeremy began to wonder if he may be called to be involved with their care. Out of Jeremy’s relationship with Nathan Phillips came the hopes of possibly answering the call to become a counselor. Nathan was instrumental in helping Jeremy discover that he was suited for counseling and after completing his MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Regent University, Jeremy began offering counseling at Battlefield.
Jeremy loves to work with college students adjusting to a major change. After over a decade of college ministry, he is familiar with the common themes of challenge and opportunity in this transformative season of life. Having worked with college students for many years, Jeremy and his wife Stacie have done premarital counseling with over thirty couples. Jeremy has found it an interesting shift from working with couples who think everything is great and are invited to look at things they have never considered to working with couples who are struggling to remember what “everything is great” felt like.
Jeremy works with couples who are in crisis or experiencing difficulties in their relationship. He does not shy away from taking a couple who says this will be their one session and then it is over. Jeremy has a way of infusing hope into these couples who believe there is no hope for their marriage. Often trust has been broken or they are experiencing another stressor such as recently having a baby. He helps them step back from the current situation to see one another’s hearts. They can find the space to do this in the Battlefield office. Jeremy sees that while some couples come in with only a pebble of hope while others have a boulder, caring for and adding to that hope makes it possible for couples to find and walk a new path for their relationship.
Having grown up in and been very involved in church all his life, Jeremy also has a heart for people who have been hurt by the Church. He has seen a lot of people whose deepest wounds were from either messages of the Church or from people in the Church who hold places of authority. Jeremy does not want someone’s relationship with their Creator to be hampered by their experience with the created. Frequently, people are carrying shame that has been instilled in them by well-meaning people. Since Genesis 3 we see that shame makes us want to hide from God and others. Jeremy believes people are most deeply wounded through relationships and God has created us to be healed through relationships as well. So, helping people to journey out of hiding and shame and into freedom and intimacy is a passion for him.
Jeremy, his wife Stacie, and their three girls live on a large family farm where Stacie oversees a menagerie of livestock and a variety of yummy crops. As a family they love playing outside, reading great books, doing crafts, and having spontaneous dance parties in the kitchen. They attend Seven Hills Fellowship where Jeremy serves as an elder. Jeremy continues to work for WinShape where he oversees training and development for WinShape staff.
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We want you to know the many things we here at Battlefield are thankful for:
- Our readers who are staying connected with our organization.
- You, our supporters.
- The opportunity to minister to our clients.
- Our counselors who serve on the front lines.
- In spite of all the craziness of 2020, God is unchanging and continues to make his presence known.
- We’ve done a lot of ministry and seen a lot of amazing things happen.
- We are thankful God is making provision for more office space.
- Our counselors were already trained and ready to provide Telemental Health.
- The digital platforms we had in place to be able to provide remote services.
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“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.” Isaiah 61:1-4