Pastoral Care overcomes distances

Pastoral Care extends its services and hopes to continue serving students despite the distance.

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Courtesy of OlgaStrelnikova on Adobe Stock

Bethsabe Camacho and Maria Weyne

When Biola first announced its transition to a fully online format, many departments had to be innovative with their approach on how to serve students. Following the Biola Counseling Center’s footsteps, Pastoral Care already had their online booking system in place, making the transition process a lot easier for students and ministers. 

THE EMERGENCY ROOM OF CARE

Assistant Director of Pastoral Care Christopher Barragan describes PC as an emergency room for students. Students come in and the team assesses their needs. Barragan explained that Pastoral Care treats wounds that are hurting presently, but if a student seems to need long term help, they will connect them to local therapists or psychologists. 

“If you’re bleeding out, we’re going to do a pretty good job at, at least, making sure you don’t bleed out, to make sure we can get you to where you need to get within a reasonable amount of time,” Barragan said. 

Additionally, Barragan and his team serve as a bridge between global and out of state students in need. While the BCC is unable to serve those students due to state laws in place, Barragan explained his team is happy to help even if their training may look different. He added that any help is better than no help, and his team is available for those with immediate needs. The team has also made efforts to be more accessible by extending their hours to 8 p.m. PST. This addition was made in hopes to reach students in different time zones so that anyone can get help. 

NEW TYPES OF NEED 

Since the pandemic began, Pastoral Care has seen a shift in the types of care students may need. Barragan explained the major areas of need surrounding family or roommate living situations, stress, emotional health and many students suffering with grief. There is sorrow over the loss of “what could have been,” meaning that students are missing their lives before COVID-19 and are struggling to accept the current changes. 

Barragan also noted that anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder are present within sessions. Many of the PC sessions in the past were oriented towards how students could navigate their relationship with God. However, ministers have seen an increase in questions concerning their relationships to those around them. 

“My hope is that students would know that PC is a place where they can simply be themselves and get the support they need,” Barragan said. “Our team is wonderful, incredibly talented and we are grateful for the opportunity to come alongside students.”

MOVING FORWARD

Barragan advises students that meeting their commitments and demonstrating kindness to loved ones can be enough to endure these times. Even in these moments, he explained, students have proven that they are resilient.

“I have sat with students at this point for hundreds of hours and listened to hundreds of stories and to see students adapting to new normals is truly inspiring,” Barragan said.

The hope of Pastoral Care is that students debating on seeking care are made aware that they are invited to come as they are. They have a team of ministers and interns ready to walk alongside students and provide them with the best possible care to best meet their needs.

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