In March of 2019, our parish is launching an exclusive program designed for military, veterans, and their family members called The Friend of God.
Designed for Veterans
The Friend of God is veteran-led and focuses on the unique issues facing the military/veteran community, including PTSD and addiction. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, some 11-20% of Iraqi veterans are suffering from PTSD, compared to 7-8% of the general population. Gulf War (Desert Storm) and Vietnam veterans have experienced similar rates.
Some veterans attempt to cope with PTSD by drinking heavily, using drugs, or smoking tobacco. Studies have shown there is a strong relationship between PTSD and substance use disorder (SUD) in both military and civilian populations:
- More than 2 out of 10 veterans with PTSD have SUD.
- War veterans with PTSD and alcohol problems tend to be binge drinkers. Binges may be in response to bad memories of combat trauma.
- Almost 1 out of 3 veterans seeking treatment for SUD also has PTSD.
- The number of veterans who smoke is almost double for those with PTSD (about 6 out of 10) compared to those without PTSD (3 out of 10).
- In the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, about 1 in 10 returning soldiers seen in the VA have a problem with alcohol or other drugs.
These statistics are alarming and do not address the related problems of homelessness and involvement in the criminal justice system. What is clear is that too many of our country’s heroes have fallen through the cracks and are left to fend for themselves. While the Veterans Administration is doing whatever it can, all stakeholders agree that communities must come together to help veterans who may be struggling with these concerns. This is where The Friend of God course comes in to play.
There are several, high-profile Christian programs that already exist for veterans, military members, and their families. These are to be commended for whatever good they have accomplished. However, until now there has not been a program to address the unique issues of veterans from an Orthodox Christian perspective.
What makes The Friend of God different is that it really is not a program at all. Rather, it is an intense preparation to live “The Way” of Christ within the Holy Orthodox Church. Participants are not just taught some spiritual “technique” but are engaged in a transformational process instituted by Christ Himself through His One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. It applies the balm of Orthodoxy’s therapeutic tradition to the unique struggles faced by those who served and their family members.
In this 8-week course, participants are taken through the fundamentals of Orthodox spirituality and the Jesus Prayer using The Friend of God book by Protopresbyter Daniel Rogich. This text, along with a specific workbook designed for military/veterans, emphasizes Eight Steps that lead to fundamental healing and transformation:
- Decision to Pray and Seek God
- Resolve: Bodily Purity and Fundamental Christian Attitude (FCA)
- Postures. Gestures. Time and Space
- Breath. Pulse. Walking with Prayer
- Control of Sense Distractions: Crucify the Senses. Know Thyself
- Attention: Prayer on the Lips
- Immersion: Prayer in the Mind
- Union: Prayer of the Heart
Within this course, you will not find any shortcuts or spiritual “life-hacks.” What you will find is the mystery of Orthodox spirituality made accessible and understandable to true seekers.
If you are a military member, veteran, or know someone who is struggling with his or her wartime experience, please contact Dr. Val W. Finnell to learn more about The Friend of God course and when it will be offered.