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Adventist Community Services Conducts Ground-breaking Training in Rwanda


Attendees from six countries shared traumatic stories from the field.

Representatives of Adventist Community Services (ACS), a community outreach ministry of the North American Division, led their first emotional and spiritual care training class outside ACS’s territory, in Kigali, Rwanda, August 13-15, 2018. 

The “Assisting Individuals in Crisis” course was taught by ACS Disaster Response director W. Derrick Lea. The three-day program drew 35 people from six countries — Rwanda, South Sudan, Burundi, Congo, Kenya, and Tanzania.

“The distance is far, but it’s been gratifying to share our time with those interested in assisting communities in crisis,” said Lea. 

The training was organized after leaders from Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Rwanda and other African countries asked ACS for guidance in offering the emotional and spiritual care training their teams need. According to Lea, it was evident that the workers had a need to share their experiences and traumatic stories from their regions.

Heartbreaking Stories

A stark contrast exists between the community needs typically addressed in NAD territory versus the severe crises taking place in some African nations, including outbreaks of cholera, malaria, and Ebola, refugee influxes, cyclones, drought, and mudslides, ACS leaders said.

The ADRA Congo country director shared how the region has experienced war for more than 20 years. “The ongoing unrest has forced many families to live in refugee camps for five to ten years, which the camps are not suitable to accommodate,” he said. “Also, families who live in refugee camps for extended periods are more susceptible to cholera outbreaks.”

Another attendee spoke on the challenges of providing care to individuals in need who are unable to communicate because they are in shock.

“I hope we can work out the particulars of how ACS and ADRA can work together in support of communities that experience crisis around the world,” said Lea. “As we become more familiar with the strengths both organizations bring to recovery efforts, those affected will ultimately be better served by the Seventh-day Adventist Church.”

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