michael christensen

Director of Shalom Initiative
for Prophetic Leadership and Community Development
Drew University


Training and Consulting

Training and Consulting Experience

From 1977-1981, Dr. Christensen was on staff at the Lamb’s Church of the Nazarene in New York’s Times Square, working with persons who were homeless, addicted or displaced in the city.

From 1981-1990, he was Founding Pastor and Executive Director of Golden Gate Community in Haight Ashbury, San Francisco--a Nazarene urban mission and church congregation specializing in transitional housing, job development and compassionate ministries with persons who were homeless, living with HIV/AIDS, and/or in recovery from addiction.  During this time, he also founded or co-founded five social service agencies, including: the Oak Street House for people in transition, the Bridge for Kids living with HIV, and the Hamilton Family Center--San Francisco's first emergency family shelter. The story of how these neighborhood ministries began is told in City Streets City People: A Call to Compassion (Abingdon, 1988).

  • From 1988-1990, Christensen was an HIV/AIDS volunteer chaplain at San Francisco General Hospital, wrote a training manual on caring for people with AIDS (published as The Samaritan’s Imperative, Abingdon Books), and became the Director of the United Methodist AIDS Project in the California Nevada Annual Conference, responsible for HIV education and mobilizing pastors and laity for AIDS ministry within the Conference connectional system.
  • From 1990-1992, Christensen turned his attention to what was being called “Chernobyl AIDS”—suppressed immune systems in children and adults from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.  He and his colleagues initiated and coordinated a number of Chernobyl-related projects, including: recruitment and supervision of 80 American volunteers in the humanitarian distribution of USDA food products in the contaminated regions of Belarus; and the acquisition, sponsorship and distribution of $5 million in medical assistance through CitiHope International. His award-winning book, Children of Chernobyl (co-authored by journalist Michelle Carter and published by Augsburg Fortress press), documents the plight of some 800,000 children at risk for cancer from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster (Augsburg Fortress, 1993).          
  • From 1992-1995, Christensen has served as a community development consultant for World Vision and CitiHope International, primarily in support for the children of Chernobyl in Belarus and Ukraine.  After seventeen missions to the contaminated region, he has witnessed what he calls the “apocalyptic dimension of Chernobyl”-- the extensive, pervasive, adverse, public health effects and community trauma from the world’s worst nuclear accident.  recruitment and facilitation of visiting psychologists, mental health educators and psychiatric social workers who conducted mental health training workshops in Belarus for over 1000 professionals and paraprofessionals as mental health promoters.
  • In 1994, during the 8th anniversary of Chernobyl, he was invited to testify before the Human Rights Caucus of the United States Congress, which eventually resulted in a Congressional mandate and USAID funding to screen adolescents for thyroid cancer and train para-professionals in mental health services for children and youth in Ukraine. 
  • From 1998-2001, Christensen served as Senior Consultant and Program Manager of the psychosocial component of the Chernobyl Childhood Illness Program (CCIP)--a four million dollar USAID cooperative agreement to support medical treatment and mental health training in Ukraine.  During the four-year program, CCIP screened 116,000 adolescents for thyroid cancer and severe depression, and facilitated medical and mental health interventions.  Additionally, Dr. Christensen and his consultant-training team trained over 600 psychologists and social workers in non-invasive psycho-social approaches to depression and trauma.
  • In 1999, during the NATO war over Kosovo, he assessed and helped coordinate refugee relief efforts in Macedonia for CitiHope International, funded by the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).  He and his colleagues trained 30 chaplains and relief workers in field traumatology and a dozen United Methodist pastors in pastoral care and counseling of refugees during two trips to the region before and after the war.
  • In 2001, after the September 11 terrorist attack on New York, he assisted the New Jersey Annual Conference Disaster Response team in setting up a “Prayer Tent” at the NJ Command Center at Liberty State Park for rescue workers and engaged in defusing and emotional support of rescue workers.
  • In 2002-2003, he and Dr. Robert J. Duncan, Jr. teamed up to form the Critical Incident Training Institute (CITI) to offer training in traumatology and critical incident response at Drew University and in the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.  Dr. Duncan was instrumental in the design, writing, training and implementation of a $4.5 million dollar, 5-year long-term recovery grant from the United Methodist Committee on Relief in the aftermath of September 11.  As a psychosocial training unit, they partnered with the New Jersey Annual Conference in providing the initial training of 15 professionals to train others that resulted in over 600 families in New Jersey receiving direct services through family coping seminars and on-going case management from the Conference HEART unit.
  • In 2005, within days of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, he traveled to Baton Rouge to represent CitiHope International on an airlift to deliver 1.6 million dollars worth of needed medicines and essential medical supplies.
  • During his sabbatical in 2006-2007, he functioned as the Africa Regional Director for CitiHope International, responsible for new program and fund development for the Malawi mission. Also during this time, he developed the PACCT Program (Pastoral and Congregational Care Training) – an HIV/AIDS pastoral educational program in Malawi, Africa, co-sponsored by CitiHope, the Presbyterian Synod of Livingstonia and the United Methodist Church Center for Global AIDS.