Southwest Stephen Ministry joins forces with Trauma Recovery Associates

EDWARDSBURG — As families and individuals try to cope with the everyday stresses associated with COVID-19, Southwest Stephen Ministry is offering area residents another tool to help combat it.

Stephen Ministry has joined with Trauma Recovery Associates based out of Kalamazoo to provide the RENEW Program. RENEW is a program specifically offered online to help with the rising number of people who have felt the trauma of dealing with the pandemic.

RENEW stands for refreshing, enriching and nourishing essentials for wellbeing.

RENEW is an anonymous independent study program created by TRA to help people recover from stress and anxiety. It addressed six topics — “caring for your body, mind, emotions, behaviors, spirit and yourself.”

RENEW is a free program funded by donations.

Through the Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo, St. Ann Catholic Church in Cassopolis and Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church in Edwardsburg found out about the program and decided that it would be a value to their parishioners.

“They [the diocese] recommend to anybody who is in need of support after going through trauma, and right now, we are experiencing massive amounts of trauma like never before,” said Carol Swope, the Southwest Stephen Ministry director. “Originally, they sent this out dealing with COVID and being stuck at home or getting the virus. Then we have been on top of that we are through a resurgence of it and now we are in the throes of a national issue with Black Lives Matter. And, we are in an election year, which for some people is traumatic.”

Swope said people are just overwhelmed and overloaded.

“It generally results in people feel isolated, they having difficulty concentrating or making decisions. Relationships are strained,” she said. “A lot of people are going through social withdraw. Not just with the COVID thing, but being afraid of what to say or how to say it. It is best not to go out for some folks. That can manifest itself into physical symptoms that occur from the stress of that.”

Swope said that it is the perfect program at the perfect time.

Swope said that those seeking help do not have to belong to any particular church. They can register online at TraumaRecoveryAssociates.com and go to the RENEW home page where they can register anonymously and create an account and password. They can watch an introductory video and download the printed materials for themselves to read and do their “homework.”

To speak to someone locally, the Southwest Stephen Ministry provides one-on-one support and care for anyone experiencing stress, but many other life issues that may occur in their lives.

Swope said 60 to 70 percent of the program’s care receivers are general population and do not have to be a part of St. Ann or Our Lady of the Lake’s congregation.

“We meet with people and work through the issues they are facing in their life one-to-one,” she said. “Right now, I have a number of people who have been assigned to a Stephen Minister and are working with someone. As I read through this [RENEW], I thought, ‘my goodness, this is something that the entire community could benefit from.’”

For more information or to register with the Southwest Michigan Stephen Ministry, contact Swope at (269) 445-7425.

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