By Laura McKillip Wood
When Russia invaded Ukraine early in 2022, TCM International Institute began welcoming refugees and guests from Ukraine into Haus Edelweiss, their center for European operations near Vienna, Austria. TCM staff also began providing food, clothing, and other supplies to refugees in different parts of Europe.
But a different sort of need existed that TCM is uniquely equipped to fill. TCM recognized some folks already ministering to the needs of people inside the war-affected areas—and in other parts of the world—would benefit from chaplaincy training. To that end, TCM staff created a 24-credit-hour graduate certificate in chaplaincy.
“[The] aim for this certificate was to give those reaching out to the hurting in Ukraine some encouragement and chaplaincy training,” says Sara Fudge, academic dean for TCM International Institute, which has provided accessible, affordable, accredited, practical ministry leadership training for thousands since it was founded more than six decades ago. While the training is inadequate for students hoping to serve as chaplains in in U.S. hospitals and organizations, it provides a good starting point to more advanced training.
The eight required courses can be taken entirely online or in a hybrid format that also includes some face-to-face interaction. This enables people anywhere in the world to take the courses and grow in the pastoral skills and knowledge needed to serve more effectively.
As of May 2023, 13 people had completed the certification. Eleven of the graduates attended a ceremony in Vienna, where each received a towel that symbolizes the nature of TCM’s servant ministry. Most of these 13 were TCM staff who will begin teaching for the certification. In the future, however, Fudge explains, “we hope to see students go throughout the world as our other students have done, follow where the Lord leads and where the needs call.”
The certificate includes core courses found in all TCM certificates as well as a course in understanding what chaplaincy is and how it can be effective. It also includes an introductory course in pastoral counseling. TCM hopes to continue to build the program and help equip people God is using to help those in need in hospitals, the military, refugee camps, and secular organizations around the world.
“Chaplains work primarily with people who are outside the church, who may never step foot in a church building,” according to TCM. Chaplains are trained to work with people from a variety of denominations and religions, as well as those who claim no religious background. They bring a calm, godly presence to hurting people, showing the love of Christ through service and help to those in need.
“Listening to the hurting and bridging the gap between the church and the world are primary skills for the chaplain,” Fudge explains. This new program hopes to train a new generation of chaplains with these abilities.
Laura McKillip Wood, former missionary to Ukraine, lives in Papillion, Nebraska, and writes about missions for Christian Standard.
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Read more about TCM and its Ukraine response in “‘How Can We Help?’ The Calling of TCM” from March 2022.