StoryWagen came about from a question, “What would chaplaincy look like outside of an institution?” The founder of StoryWagen, Chaplain José Martinez, is a military and hospital chaplain, as well as a church planter. Chaplaincy is a unique ministry because it is interfaith and interdenominational work in the secular world. The point of chaplaincy is not to proselytize those who are being served but to care for their souls.
Spiritual health is a recognized dimension of the health field, but it is often overlooked or minimized. This is in part due to the politicization of religion; however, spirituality goes beyond religion. Normally the general public does not have access to chaplains who specialize in this kind of ministry. StoryWagen is an attempt to fill the gap between spiritual health education and the general public.
The idea of going to people in a VW bus comes from the image of the 60s and 70s when the peace movement was often associated with the VW bus. The overarching goal for StoryWagen is to transform society by being the mobile listening center that hears people’s stories and empowers them through education about spiritual health.
José said about this ministry, “What excites me most about StoryWagen is that I get to have these conversations about spiritual health in the general public domain, which I think will help transform our society through spiritual care, especially during this pandemic. In my opinion, our society is suffering from a sort of spiritual agnosia. What that means is that people have become unable to see the divine or the imago dei in other people. Through our conversations about spiritual health we are going to be able to help people to come back to that center.”
José said his studies at Central Baptist Theological Seminary added to his clinical and theological understanding of why such a ministry is needed to augment what the church is doing. He has partnered with the National Benevolence Association to help produce the resources and podcasts related to StoryWagen.
This wild dream of a mobile resource and listening center focused on spiritual health was started by Chaplain José Martinez. He saw through his chaplain work, at the hospital and in the military, that there were many people that had spiritual health issues and didn’t even know it. It is our goal to provide free resources about these issues such as grief, moral injury, shame, guilt, and other spiritual health issues that affect mental health to individuals, community groups, and faith communities. Additionally, for those that need to tell their story, we will be that safe space, meeting people where they are and giving them a platform to be heard.
Some of you might be thinking, “How did you come up with your name? Isn’t Wagen spelled wrong?” Well yes and no. The name StoryWagen represents our mobile studio which is in a 1979 Volkswagen bus.
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