The Family Ministries Department in East Jamaica Conference made history when they launched the East Jamaica Conference Adventist Counselling Professional Network (ACPN) to assist members needing professional counselling when they face issues they are not equipped to deal with. The network was officially launched at the Constant Spring SDA Church on November 11, 2023.
“The ACPN was launched to create awareness and to sensitize our congregants of the counselling intervention program provided by the family ministries department through our team of volunteers,” said Pastor Adrian Johnson, family ministries director when he addressed the church.
The group, which currently consists of sixteen individuals including medical doctors, medical missionaries, cognitive behavioural therapists, guidance counsellors, social workers, counselling psychologists, family life educators and pastors are all trained and competent in their respective fields and saw the need to offer their services to the church and its members free of cost especially to assist those who are in need of assistance but cannot afford to pay for professional help.
According to Pastor Adrian Johnson, the ACPN is a sub-group from the family ministries department and is a group of committed Christians that have accepted the call to volunteer their services and skills to aid in transforming the lives of families through counselling intervention. The service can be accessed by calling the Family Ministries department of the Conference at 876-924-1061-3 Ext 278 or 245 or by calling the EJC ACPN Coordinator at 876-441-0939. Johnson was however careful to note that members of the church should keep the pastors of their church in the loop and contact them before reaching out to the ACPN group. He also enlisted the support of new volunteers who were trained in counselling to join the team of volunteers.
President of East Jamaica Conference, Pastor Meric Dale Walker, was pleased with the formation of the ACPN and congratulated Johnson for bringing this vision to reality. He also acknowledged the work of Elder Claudette Genas who laid the foundation for the ACPN when she was the director of the department in the previous administration.
In speaking about the prevalence of anxiety, depression, and stress in our society, the top preacher in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in East Jamaica Conference said “It is in your face, you can’t escape it, it is all around and it affects everyone.” Walker recalled that just last week over 70 schools were affected because of what he believed to be mental illness. “There was the threat of explosive bombs and everyone was affected,” he added. “We are living in a time of uncertainty where stress is prevalent and we don’t know a lot of things but what I do know is that the church must not sit with just a heavenly mind, it has a role in the society in which it exists and the church must never be immune to the challenges around it,” he said with emphasis.
Dr. Meric Walker posited that the ACPN should be a source of solutions for those who are in need of help. Noting that the current administration has placed CARE at the top of its strategic priority the president declared that the ACPN must be a network that reaches “ far and wide, deep and high and around the clock so that any problems that is presented can be intercepted” by the work of the team.
Executive secretary of the Conference, Pastor Melvin Francis also expressed his approval for the formation of the ACPN and said “The Conference stands proud to be associated with the Adventist Counselling Professional Network and that this network is being launched today marks a significant development in this ministry in East Jamaica Conference”.
Youth director, Pastor Joel Jumpp expressed full support of the formation of the ACPN and quoted statistics from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) that suggest that just about 15% of youth aged 12 – 17 years experience major depressive episodes. “Today, Christian counselling has come to the rescue and this is based on the premise that with God you can find healing and we can find hope.”
Team Coordinator of the ACPN, Sis. Sharon Whyte said the purpose of the launch was to “make aware and to sensitize our congregants of the type of counselling intervention and help the family ministries department can offer through its team of volunteer counsellors.” Whyte disclosed that the ACP Mantra is “connect, share, Inspire” and explained by saying “We must connect to God, share our expertise and inspire change in the lives of people so they can be better prepared for the mission.”
Whyte said the ACPN has four objectives which are: -
- To provide minimum yet satisfactory counselling service to our local church members.
- To improve and serve communities through Christ-centered counselling intervention programs.
- To help and to offer a safe space and place to those of our members who will be facing social and emotional issues that need professional and Christ-centered advice.
- To empower and equip district pastors and family ministry directors with basic counselling techniques and for this team to evolve and actively serve with humility and compassion.
The system for accessing the service should come through the church pastor Whyte said when she explained how the service would work. “When the people have their issues, they should be referred to the pastor and family ministry directors. Where there is a need for immediate and additional support, then a call should be made to the EJC Family Ministry Department,” she added.
The ACPN is not a legal professional body of the church; its mandate is to offer essential yet meaningful counselling interventions and make referrals where necessary.