Educating Rural Clergy

Educating Rural Clergy

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U.S. Missions endorsed chaplain Rusty H. Trubey is out to save lives.

The Veterans Administration chaplain leads two-day workshops in rural areas in an effort to educate community pastors about the troubles facing many of those who have served in the military. The thrust lately is on suicide prevention. Based at the Coatesville Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Pennsylvania, Trubey conducts seminars in parts of the Keystone State, as well as Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina.

The highly interactive training includes sessions on the military culture wounds of war; pastoral care for veterans and their families; mental health services and referrals; and building community partnerships.

The neediest veterans aren’t necessarily those who have returned recently from Afghanistan or Iraq.

“We see a lot of substance abuse among Vietnam-era vets,” says Trubey, who has been at the VA center since 2015. “When they retire, it can exacerbate delayed onset post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.”

Thomas G. Behling, Chaplain Service chief at the Coatesville VA Medical Center, says the connection with pastors is vital.

“A lot of veterans, particularly in the National Guard and Reserve, come from rural communities, unlike those on active duty at a military installation,” says Behling, 56. “Many times, concerned about the stigma around depression and not wanting to jeopardize their career, they will go to local clergy for assistance first because they know it will be confidential.”

Trubey’s instruction, especially the module in which he talks about understanding the military mindset, is eye-opening to many ministers, Behling says.

“War is a significant emotional event,” Behling says. “The training helps pastors recognize that families are struggling with reintegration issues.”

Paul W. Witt, chaplain service chief at Fayetteville VA Medical Center in North Carolina, asked Trubey to speak at a clergy forum Witt organized. He says the quality training Trubey provided helped the VA be viewed in a better light.

“Veterans will go to clergy in the community before they come to the VA,” says Witt, 60. “Rusty making an effort to go into the rural community to find those more remote sites really helps us. This training helps empower clergy to take care of veterans in their churches.”

Trubey, 49, isn’t just speaking from theory. He went on active duty right out of high school, and for the past 11 years has been an Army Reserve chaplain. Trubey is one of only two dozen chaplains around the country serving in the community clergy training program. The VA instruction is funded by the Office of Rural Health.

“Pastors don’t always understand the complex issues that veterans and their families face,” Trubey says. “I’m passionate about building partnerships with pastors and connecting them with important resources in the community.”

Trubey earlier served 16 years with Chi Alpha Campus Ministries before becoming a hospice chaplain. His interest in hospice care piqued in 2012 when his father, Fred, a Korean War veteran, died.

“I appreciated the care that hospice provided,” Trubey says. “Now, end-of-life care for veterans is one of the most sacred and rewarding things I do in ministry.”

Trubey also has faced trauma on the home front with Oakley, his wife of 17 years. Their daughter Emmilou, born in 2015, has a rare genetic disease requiring her to live with a tracheostomy tube and ventilator. In addition, Emmilou needs to be fed via a line, plus a gastrostomy-jejunostomy tube. In 2016, Oakley gave birth to twins, Ada and Wren, born prematurely at 27 weeks’ gestation. They weighed just under 2 pound each at birth and had to spend six months in neonatal intensive care units at a trio of hospitals.

Soon after her 2001 wedding to Rusty, doctors told Oakley she wouldn’t be able to conceive. The Trubeys have eight children.

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