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Hartland College Hosts Two-Week Mental Health Training

The event combined biblical principles with modern methods of psychological assistance.

Basics of Mental Health and Coaching training, prepared by teachers from Hartland College (Rapidan, Virginia, USA), took place on July 17–28, 2023, in Bucha, on the campus of the Ukrainian Institute of Arts and Sciences.


The event was initiated by the famous preacher and evangelist Mark A. Finley. After the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he offered training in psychological assistance and the basics of mental health for Ukrainians. As a result, a training course was formed, with 60 participants from all over Ukraine. Among them were pastors, psychologists, chaplains, and those who wanted to start serving society. For two weeks, they learned skills to help in crisis situations, overcome PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and methods of effective spiritual support.

Hartland College was represented by pastors Robert Bruce Mackay and Paul Coneff, faculty members Gerardo Payan and Ivonne Restrepo (Ruiz), and a student from the college, Johan Gómez.


Mackay is a chaplain with extensive experience, a graduate of Andrews University, a clinical chaplain educator, and founder and director of Chaplain Training Service. He taught the history of chaplaincy, spoke about his practice of ministry in hospitals, and gave advice on how to help in various crisis situations. The trainees learned from the examples given to them, discussing various situations and seeking answers to practical questions.


Coneff is a graduate of La Sierra University, a licensed marriage and family counselor, and president of Straight 2 the Heart, an organization that helps people overcome the effects of trauma and violence and recover from addictions. During the training, Pastor Coneff taught the practice of intercessory prayer based on the life story of Jesus. Together with him, participants looked at biblical passages used for prayer ministry with those who have gone through traumatic experiences.


Payan is a clinical psychologist, director of an emotional health center in northern Mexico, and has been providing psychological assistance to families who have experienced violence, crises, or addictions for the past 15 years. Payan is also the director and teacher of the online course Integrating Missiology with Biblical Psychology. During the training, he shared algorithms for helping post-stress and traumatic events, considered cases of acute stress disorder and PTSD, and {taught} steps for first aid.

Restrepo is a certified mental health coach from Hartland College and has organized training in various countries in North and South America, the United Kingdom, China, and the Philippines over the past 25 years. During her training, she introduced her students to the use of biblical coaching for counseling as well as building strategies, goals, and actions based on biblical values and the identity given to each person by the Creator.


Part of the training included tasks performed in groups or pairs, which made the training aimed at developing the skills necessary for ministry. Classes were held from 9 a.m.–6 p.m., and additional meetings were organized after dinner for those who wished to dive deeper into the topics of chaplaincy and intercessory prayer.

The Klimuk family, Olha and Volodymyr, assisted with all the activities and provided English translation.


The participants of the training noted the harmonious combination of biblical principles and modern methods of psychological assistance.

"I thank God for the wonderful opportunity to attend this event. Professional activity, especially in times of war, requires awareness and competence in dealing with trauma and victims of war. This program is special because it is built on a biblical basis and Christian principles that help to have confidence in one's professional actions and apply the example of Christ," said Olena Nosova, a practical psychologist, lecturer in psychology at the Ukrainian Institute of Arts and Sciences, and head of the Ministerial Spouses Association of the Ukrainian Union Conference.


According to Iryna Begas, Women's Ministries director for the UUC, it was an incredible learning experience: "I have heard the saying many times before that only the method of Christ is the most effective in serving people. During this training, we practically experienced and felt the method of Christ: compassion, closeness, understanding, and gentle healing of the Holy Spirit. It was a real revelation for me that all the psychological methods of help that were discussed at the training have a biblical basis and are Christ-centered! When the Lord heals the heart, He fills it with His light and love. It was with such hearts that we all left for different regions of Ukraine to bring God's love and healing further! May the Lord bless this ministry!"

According to Serhii Lutskyi, director of the Health and Chaplaincy Ministries departments for the UUC, it was not only the first visit of the Hartland College team to Ukraine but also the first trip of each of the speakers to the country, and they highly appreciated the level of training of the participants and their desire to learn.


"The teachers who came to Ukraine are very busy people, as each of them provides consultations and teaches in their home country. But for Ukrainians, they are ready to provide online training, support from supervisors, and even come here again because they see a thirst for knowledge. So I hope we will continue to cooperate, and when we see a request for a certain topic that interests people in Ukraine, the next time the teachers will come to us with a new training," said Lutskyi.


The original version of this story was posted on the Ukrainian Union Conference website.


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