Seminar Highlights Forgiveness as the Catalyst for Wellness

Mrs. Denise Johnson, facilitator for the wellness seminar.

Forgiveness is an inescapable catalyst in the achievement of true physical, mental and spiritual wellness. This principle was the focus of one of the presentations at an emotional wellness seminar conducted earlier this month on Grand Cayman and on Cayman Brac.

Nearly 200 persons in total on Cayman Brac and Grand Cayman attended the seminar entitled Thinking Well, Living Well, developed by the Adventist Church’s Washington DC world headquarters. The local seminars were conducted at the George Town Church on Thursday, February 9, and at the Creek Church on Cayman Brac on Friday night and Saturday morning, February 10 and 11 February, respectively.

The facilitator for the seminar was Mrs. Denise Johnson, Women’s Ministries Director for the Atlantic Caribbean Union (ATCU) based in the Bahamas. ATCU is the regional administrative headquarters for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Cayman Islands, the Turks and Caicos, and the Bahamas.

Explaining the background to the initiative, Mrs. Johnson said: “Thinking Well, Living Well is an initiative of the church’s Women’s Ministries to motivate church members to be informed and to openly discuss the whole idea of mental health,” adding: “At the Atlantic Caribbean Union in the Bahamas we have adopted this initiative as a means of fostering healthier members and thus advancing the gospel.” The seminars are open to both men and women.

Dr. Leonard Johnson discusses the notion of forgiveness as a catalyst in wellness.

Mrs. Johnson is a registered nurse by profession. She holds a bachelor of science degree in community services and a master’s degree in counselling. Also presenting at the seminar were Dr. Leonard Johnson, ATCU President; and ATCU’s Health Ministries Director Annie K Price. Dr. Johnson spoke on the topic of maintaining positive mental, physical and spiritual health through the exercise of forgiveness.

In presentations in the two-hour interactive seminar that included physical exercises and breakout sessions, Mrs. Johnson defined “health” as not just the absence of disease, but a state of mental and physical wellbeing. Expanding that definition, she referenced the World Health Organisation’s perspective: Having good health means that an individual is able to realise his own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, can make a contribution to his or her own community, and is able to adapt to changing conditions in his or her life and environment.

Mr. Johnson discussed strategies for promoting positive mental health, including practical tips on achieving and maintaining mental health, how good mental health manifests itself in how we live our lives, and how to recognise some of the risk factors that may make individuals vulnerable to poor mental health.

Mrs. Denise Johnson joins a small group in discussion at the seminar.

She also spoke about the signs of major depression, its grave consequences requiring that individuals take the condition seriously. She outlined some of the many causes of depression, such as hormonal imbalances, dietary deficiencies and food choices, lack of rest, and the effects of climate, among others. She spoke to the issue of what goes on behind closed doors, adding: “We all wear a mask.”

Concluding her presentation on depression, Mrs Johnson discussed what churches can do to break the cycle of mental ill health. At the top of the list was acknowledging mental ill health when it occurs, and developing a strong spiritual quality of life. Also critical was creating a community that could offer a positive network of support.

Speaking on the critical role of forgiveness in maintaining overall good health, Dr. Leonard Johnson said that even though persons were members of a church, they were “real” individuals.

“Some people take pride in holding on to and rehashing (hurts) again and gain. But it is not going to help us to be well mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually,” Pastor Johnson said, adding that this state of letting go and forgiving could only be achieved through a deepened spiritual state.

Dr. Johnson further reminded those who may still be on the journey to that spiritual height that achieving a state of personal forgiveness was “predicated on forgiveness of others.” He supported this by referencing the Lord’s Prayer in which Christians were taught to ask for forgiveness of their sins in conjunction with their offering forgiveness to others.

Pastor Johnson reminded that there was no such thing as “Christian vengeance.”

A group discusses a point during a group exercise.

That presentation was followed by small breakout groups of four each for discussion of personal experiences with the notion of forgiveness.

Mrs. Denise Johnson said that the continued focus in the Cayman Islands on mental health and overall wellness would be undertaken by the Cayman Women’s Ministries Department led by Mrs. Sheila Woods.

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