Trauma Is A Mission Field: Part 3 “We Are Changed”

“I have heard all about You, Lord, and I am filled with awe by the amazing things You have done…(Hab.3:1)

When we stepped off the plane, heavy grey clouds hung low in the sky. The humidity fell on us like a thick blanket. But we made it! After three days of missed and rerouted flights, we finally made it to our destination –Liberia. Passengers stood in line before a large container of bleach water with a sign that read EBOLA IS REAL. We were instructed to wash our hands under the spigot then stand in another line to have our temperature read by a thermal scanner. 98.6 , I passed. Whew.  After luggage collection (only mine because my travel buddy’s did not arrive with her) and clearing customs the SIM Liberia Director whisked us away to the ELWA mission compound and the house where we were to stay.

The next day, I visited the local church of ECOL president Pastor Moses Paye. It was a correspondence from Moses that first initiated this journey…writing to SIM last year, he said, in effect “We are traumatized…by the war first…now from Ebola…The church is hurting… Can you help us and equip us to help others?” It was a privilege to finally meet this man. He had a warm, compassionate smile, but there was a shadow of suffering in his eyes. Later I would understand that shadow.

The next day, we began the first Initial Equipping session with a maximum attendance of 40 people (and there were more on a waiting list). During table group discussions, tea times, lunches, and even in the large group personal stories began to emerge over the next few days-painful and fresh. We held them gently, tenderly – grateful to be entrusted to hear them.

After understanding more about heart wounds and how they affect people, “James” came to one of our facilitators and explained how it had changed his perspective. He said that his wife had been shot in the arm during the war and it had never healed properly. But hearing the lesson made him realize that his wife was not only suffering from this physical wound but also from a heart wound (trauma), and he had never been sensitive to this before. He shared how he went home that night and immediately apologized to his wife and asked her to forgive him for not understanding her pain.

By the end of the week first, “Joshua” came to me and shared how he had come from a M* background and then gone to work for a Christian NGO. (He had a very difficult job during the Ebola crisis). Joshua said his wife often complained that everyone in his work thought he was “such a great person”, but that he was not that way at home. He knew that he carried a lot of pain in his heart and it was coming out towards his family. After the Pain to the Cross ceremony, he said “Sis Stacey, I have to process this. It is too big. But God has changed me. I know I need to really give my whole heart to Him.” He went on to say that He had come to realize that only Christ could heal him and carry his pain. And that he was going straight home to tell his wife and children that he was sorry, to ask their forgiveness, and to tell other people what had happened in his life.

There were many transformations like this. It was amazing to see God at work. I just had to stand back and be in awe of Him. The second week went much the same way -loads of participation and transparency. Also maxed out at 40 participants with 100% participation all week!

There were many different groups and churches represented both weeks, just a few were: Samaritans Purse (they sent 13 people each week), the Bible Society, CRU, ECOL and various other churches/denominations as well as ELWA hospital staff.

At the end of each week, we made time to divide into groups and plan for implementing a Trauma Healing ministry in the communities where they live and work.

One big highlight for me was being given a Liberian name. The women from our first week presented the facilitators with beautiful Liberian clothing -dresses for the women and shirts for the men. Then they called me forward and gave me a special thank you and told me that my new Liberian name is “Muna” which means The One I Love”. I also found out later that in another tribe it also means “Ambassador of Good News”. So I proudly wore that name the remainder of my time in Liberia!

All during these past two weeks, Mark has been holding down the home “fort” in Fort Mill. He got the boys to camp each day, girls to work, and also managed to meet the new missionaries coming for SIMGo as he lead two of his favorite things -Men’s Night and a small group training on relationship development and support-raising.

I have truly enjoyed this journey. Even though I know I will never be the same, having absorbed some of the pain shared…I accept that gratefully, counting it a privilege to listen to the stories of my brothers and sisters here in Liberia. The war and then Ebola have enacted a terrible toll on them. We cannot change what has been or will be, but we can come alongside and help bear the burden. Our Lord Jesus was “a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief”. He Himself carried our weaknesses and sorrows.(Is.53:3-4). I have pondered this over and over…and what it means for us as the body of Christ. Surely we are called to do as our Master did? Can we turn our eyes away from a traumatized, suffering world? Shouldn’t we instead help shoulder the load…and point them to that Calvary cross?

Oh, and I cannot forget Pastor Moses…before I left, he looked at me and said “We are changed…we are forever changed.”

Me too, Moses. Me too.

 

Taking boys to camp

Taking boys to camp

Mark meets with new appointees

Mark meets with new appointees

ELWA nursing staff make plans

ELWA nursing staff make plans

SP staff make plans

SP staff make plans

Table group discussion

Table group discussion

Presented with gifts

Presented with gifts

Trauma Is A Mission Field: Part 2… The Hands and Feet of Christ

“God is angry and far away”

“God is unable or unwilling to help us.”

“It is the fault of the Christians because they refuse to worship our gods.”

“Shiva, the god of destruction, is unhappy and must be appeased.”

Nepal statue

Nepal earthquake

These are the comments we heard over and over again in Nepal, as people try to make sense of the most destructive earthquake(s) in eighty years. Nearly 9,000 people were killed and 23,000 more were seriously injured in the April disaster.

Recently, Mark and I traveled to Kathmandu to visit some cross-cultural workers who live there. We were also connected with two local church leaders who invited us to facilitate two, one-day Trauma Healing sessions for local pastors and their wives. Many of them were directly affected by the earthquake and desperately asking the question “How do we help others when we ourselves are hurting so much?” They traveled in from villages for the teaching. And as we learned their stories, we were humbled in their presence. Because the largest quake happened on a church day, most of them were with their congregations. It lasted for almost two minutes -but felt like an eternity. As one pastor stepped outside the church door in his village, the roof and walls collapsed behind him, killing 73 parishioners. Another pastor lost his wife and all of his children. Still another church lost 19 members, including their pastor, whose son then stepped up to lead and came for the Trauma Healing session so that he could learn how to help himself and the hurting congregation. I also met Rosaline, the young wife of our translator who suffered a stroke during the earthquake. She spent a week in the hospital and now experiences severe memory loss. “It is very difficult on the days when she is confused and cannot remember me,” her husband told us sadly.

Mark spoke first, addressing the impossible question “If God loves me, why do I suffer?”, focusing on the story of Job. He asked about cultural beliefs around them. The participants were able to share about the persecution they often face as Christians, particularly in the wake of the disaster. Though local churches are often the first to bring in aid and relief, they are also accused of angering the god Shiva and causing the earthquake. So on top of their own suffering, they are facing increased persecution in some areas.

Men gather in groups to discuss questions from the first, one-day Trauma Healing session

Men gather in groups to discuss questions from the Trauma Healing session

Second session groups gather for discussion

Second session groups gather for discussion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The Lord is near to those who are discouraged; He saves those who have lost all hope.” Psalm 34:18

“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger…No. Despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, Who loves us.” Romans 8:35-39

We were then able to touch on other topics like How to Help Someone With a Heart Wound (aka Trauma), Caring for the Caregiver (which the Pastors and wives all appreciated, since they are caring for so many people in their families and villages now), and How to Help Children with Heart Wounds. We also talked about the Journey of Grief and, finally, how important it is to bring our pain to Christ for true healing.  In the end, we encouraged them to participate in the full five-day Trauma Healing Equipping session their leaders are planning for August. The pastors are eager to receive the training in order to more fully help people in their villages. One way for believers in Nepal to reach out to their communities in the days ahead is by becoming trained, compassionate lay-people, able to minister to others. This is the time when the words of Scripture can bring powerful reassurance, healing, and salvation. The local church must be empowered and equipped to respond with Truth and Love to a hurting population.

As the monsoon rains approach, everyone is aware of the potential for future danger in the form of mud and landslides. Many of the church leaders are now struggling against weariness and despair as they absorb the emotional pain around them while at the same time trying to organize physical relief in the form of food and tents for their villages. Their heroic efforts were initially spurred on by compassionate resolve and adrenalin, but now the full weight of the disaster is hitting home.   Please pray for them.

 

At the end of the last day’s session, I gathered my bag and books and turned to go, thinking wearily about the long plane ride ahead of us. I looked up to find two women standing politely in front of me, one with palms together, head bowed slightly. She smiled and gave the greeting “Namaste”. I greeted her back. Then she said in broken English “I am Sinhg and this is my sister Angelique. We came by and heard you speaking. I needed to hear these things. Thank you so much…My sister is troubled.” At this, Angelique held out her hands to me, took my hands and placed them on her head and said “Pray me. Pray me.”  Her eyes looked into mine but they seemed empty and sad. Sinhg explained, “She cannot sleep since the earthquake. Her mind affected badly. Please, she wants you to pray for her.”

So we prayed.

Everything in me felt broken and and small and utterly helpless…

And yet, I know the One who loves Angelique. And loves her still.

And where there is Love, there is Hope.

 

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Please pray for our sisters and brothers in Nepal

Mark helps Pastor S.T as he burns his paper.

Mark helps Pastor S.T as he burns his paper.

Taking their pain to the Cross in Nepal

Taking their pain to the Cross in Nepal

Trauma Is A Mission Field: Part One… Josiah’s Story

Yesterday evening I stood apron-clad in my kitchen, mixing a chocolate cake and chatting with Josiah. At first the conversation centered mostly on politics and government, and in particular his attempt to explain something to me about communism and inflation, I cant remember…

But then abruptly he said “Momma, I’m glad you and Daddy help people with the Trauma Healing ministry. Even though you have to travel sometimes, I like what you are doing….there are so many people in the world who are hurting. Someday..”, he said quietly “you can teach me how to help people. I will learn to be a Trauma Healing facilitator and I will go with you to help children.” There was a long pause as I poured cake batter into the greased pan and slid it into the oven while nodding my head slowly. There was more coming and I did not want to interrupt him.

“Momma…”, he began again “There are too many people in the world who have had trauma, who have seen and experienced bad things…I have seen bad things. In the orphanage I saw bad things. And I know how those people are hurting.” He paused and blinked very very hard to keep back the tears, but they were coming on fast now. I could feel my heart crushing, breaking, melting in my chest. Josiah does not cry, usually. He always fights tears. But he was losing the battle this time. I held out my arms and he came to me, buried his dark head against my broken heart and sobbed.

What could I say? It was true. You cannot be abandoned in a lonely park at age two (I’ve been to that park and that place -and it is dolefully dark and lonely), spend the next five or six years in an overcrowded orphanage, where you are not allowed to go to school or even outside to play… a child cannot endure this without pain. And it is the kind of hidden, gnawing, eat-away-at-your-insides kind of pain. “I’m sorry, son.” I said simply. But my whole heart was in those words. What I would give to snatch him up the very minute his China mother let him go! How often have I prayed for her? I pray that somehow she knows he is safe and well and loved.Josiah

“Momma…” he lifted his head to me “What exactly do you teach the people in Trauma Healing to help with their pain?”

So I walked him to the kitchen table and took the little book we use with children and showed him the first two lessons. I explained how we talk about God being with us in our pain. And how we teach big people and little children that their hearts can have wounds which are a lot like physical wounds. He chimed in “This is true! I know what a heart wound is. My heart is hurting. It must be wounded. I have seen too much…” he shook his head sadly. “But how can it get better?”

So I explained to him that heart wounds need to be cleaned out, just like a physical wound. We do this by talking about our pain and the sadness we feel. We talk to God but we also talk to other people. I gently told him that it is very important not to keep the bad stuff inside and that sometimes we can just talk to someone we know and sometimes we need to go to a pastor or a special counselor.

Then I hung up my apron, took his hand, and we went for a walk. We walked and he talked. Then we sat on Aunt Stephanie’s trampoline and looked up at the evening sky and he talked some more. He agonized over the other orphans he once knew, especially the fate of the sick and disabled. He passionately raged against the machine of communism and the systemic abuse that allows children to be “thrown away like trash!”. “One day”, he said “I will go to other children, like the ones in South Sudan, and I will teach them Trauma Healing, and they will listen to me because they will know I care about them. They will know I understand trauma.” he said earnestly, trying to wrench purpose and meaning from his own experience.  I listened and loved him more, praying that some way he would know how much. When he was tired and spent, we prayed together. We asked God to heal those deep and painful hurts. There is still a lot of work to do. But it was a good beginning.

At bedtime, he bounced into our room ready for a story. “Momma!” I looked up into his face “Thank you. I already feel better.”

IF ONE PART SUFFERS…

Liberian girlIn 1 Corinthians, Paul points out that there should be no division of compassion and concern in the body of Christ, but that “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it…”(1 Cor.26).  We are challenged with this truth daily as we minister to hurting cross cultural workers, and also the people in the nations where they serve.

 


Ebola fighters

Ebola fighters

Respond…

SIM was one of the first groups to respond to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa by keeping doctors and healthcare workers on the field and beginning a global prayer campaign. But our commitment to the Liberian church and community is long-term. Over 24,000 people have been infected by Ebola and more than 10,000 have died.The people are traumatized and grieving, overwhelmed by the loss. How do those in the church care for one another and reach out to a hurting community? And in their personal suffering how do they also address the logistics of caring for thousands of orphaned children? The needs are still great..


 TH CrossProclaim…

We believe that Christ is our Sin-bearer and our Pain-bearer as well.
Now is the time for the Gospel to be lived out and spoken into the lives of hurting people. Through this ministry, God will be glorified and the church strengthened as the healing truths of His Word are shared in a way that requires relationship and oneness.
Through the Scripture-based Trauma Healing program, the path of healing goes directly to the Cross.


Liberia prayingEquip…

The Trauma Healing ministry is also sustainable. Local church and community leaders can learn to facilitate the program and lead healing groups. The Liberian church is asking us to bring the program to them!
We will do this beginning in April when we lead an Initial Equipping Session at SIM USA in Charlotte, NC for SIM missionaries and interested ministry partners working in West Africa ( click for info) Then, in July, Stacey and others will travel to Liberia to co-lead the first Initial Equipping Session (possibly two) for local pastors and community leaders.

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Answering in Faith

Visiting the team in Berdahl

Visiting the team in Berdahl

SIM logoIn mid February, Mark finally returned from his month-long travels to Kenya, Ethiopia, and Turkey. SIM has over 150 Gospel workers in Ethiopia, so it was important for him to visit different areas during his stay. Even so, it wasn’t near enough time to see every missionary who wanted a Chaplain visit. The SIM leadership in Ethiopia was very eager to embrace pastoral care for their team though, even offering us an official invitation to return and minister at their Spiritual Life Conference later this year (Dec 28). In faith, Mark went ahead and answered “Yes”. After all, this is exactly what we have prayed for: that the vision for missionary Pastoral Care will spread to every SIM team.

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Boot shining class…? Pastoral care covers a lot of topics!

For the last part of his trip, Mark was in Antalya, Turkey at the Global Member Care Conference. Attendees came from around the world to learn about caring for global workers -with an emphasis on those living in insecure areas. Since this is a topic that is personally dear to us, he enjoyed the insights from member care colleagues and the opportunity to dialogue with those from other organizations. He must have been busy because he forgot to take pictures in Turkey!!

Back in the US, Mark made it just in time to help me (Stacey) set up for a Trauma Healing Awareness Session I lead at SIM USA. This was an opportunity for me to share with key SIM Liberia and Guinea personnel (including Ebola-survivor Nancy Writebol and her husband Dave) how the TH program can help the Ebola-traumatized population there. Thousands of people have died and others are left grieving and alone . Survivors are stigmatized by fear and superstition. An orphan epidemic has stunned the church.  But they have heard about the trauma healing ministry in places like Nigeria, the Congo and South Sudan and the Liberian church is eager for SIM to introduce the program. Our first step will be leading an Initial Equipping Session here in Charlotte April 13-17.  This training will have a focus on oral learners in West Africa and we will use the new TH radio broadcasts that the Trauma Healing Institute has created especially to reach hurting Liberians! (Read a great TIME tribute to the Ebola fighters here)The goal of this training will be to equip Gospel workers to immediately go and begin leading Scripture-based healing groups using the TH materials

Once again we stepped out in faith to say “YES” to leading this training -first here and then Stacey will plan a trip to Liberia in July to train church and community leaders there. (SIM missionaries are already safely on the ground in small numbers now as Ebola cases have decreased.) Right now, we are working to have a special SIM project number assigned for giving.

In the mean time, if you are interested in helping fund our travels this year – either for the SIM Ethiopia team SLC or the Trauma Healing ministry  (and we anticipate more pastoral care travel for Mark) please click the picture below or follow directions on our How to Give page.  Thank you!

TRAVEL DONATIONS

TRAVEL DONATIONS

Dispatches from the field…

At a team dinner celebrating a birthday

At a team dinner celebrating a birthday

Stacey co-leads a Trauma Healing Advanced Equipping Session for 20 South Sudanese refugees in Kenya

Stacey co-leads a Trauma Healing Advanced Equipping Session for 20 South Sudanese refugees in Kenya

Security and Situational Awareness training from the Chaplain

Security and Situational Awareness training from the Chaplain

 

We just spent two weeks in Kenya offering pastoral care to the SIM South Sudan team and some members of SIM Kenya.  We had over 73 visits with missionaries during that time. The Lord constantly refreshed and renewed us thanks to your prayers. Also during those two weeks, Stacey was able to help lead the Advanced training of 20 South Sudanese in the Trauma Healing program. Mark took part in leading another class on Security and Situational Awareness. Keep in mind that the situation in South Sudan remains highly tenuous. Since there is always the potential for conflict, personal security training is important for all team members.

Mark leading a workshop for the SIM South Sudan team

Mark leading a workshop for the SIM South Sudan team

During our time with the team, we were also able to share the team results from a cross cultural stress assessment survey (CSA)and use these to help the team brainstorm good strategies for minimizing stress in the three key areas we identified from their report. It was a useful tool and lead to some great discussion. Besides the stress-assessment, Mark also lead a session on Internet Accountability.

Mark and Steve our SIM UK Director

Mark and Steve our SIM UK Director

The next few days were spent at the annual Spiritual Life retreat. The worship team this year came from Scotland and the speaker was SIM’s UK Director. Mark really enjoyed getting to know Steve -and may now finally be won over to cricket and rugby!

Both of us really enjoyed our time with the team and with local friends. It was good for us to return and be with them again. Its not always easy to explain what we do since Pastoral care involves confidentiality, but one of our SIM families wrote this very kind note and asked us to share it with you:

To the supporters of the Conards-
Words cannot express how deeply we as a family are appreciative of your empowerment of their ministry. This past week we had our annual spiritual life conference for our team and Mark and Stacey came out to offer member care to our team. This was such a healing ministry for us personally and the team as a whole. It was at times hard to find Mark and Stacey as they went on countless walks, and drank countless coffee listening, advising and praying with many in a confidential way. My husband and I met with them to review our safety policy and get input from someone outside of leadership (with jobs to fill) as to good and healthy ways to engage as a family those we so dearly love while  evaluating our child’s safety and well being. We really needed and valued from their advise, counsel, and empathetic listening ears.
   The number one reason missionaries leave the field is due to conflict with other missionaries and Mark and Stacey’s mediation and conflict resolution training have been so invaluable. Often it is just the simple act of listening that allows us to release the hurt done against us, even if it in unintentional and focus on what God has called us to do. In sending and supporting the Conards you send and support each of us as we serve. Thank you!
 It was difficult for me (Stacey) to leave at the end of two weeks, but at the same time I was ready to get back home to the kids! Mark continued his travels on to visit the SIM Ethiopia team which has almost 150 members -from all over the world! He wrote this after arriving in Adis Ababa:I(Mark) just arrived at the guest house in Ethiopia. The night I arrived I was scheduled to speak to the new arrivals about how they can stay healthy on the mission field. I would tell you what I talked about, but I can barely remember, I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open. After it was over I went to the guesthouse and slept like a rock, but then I had another presentation I was scheduled to give at 0830 the next morning. I was so thankful to God that this meeting with the Ethiopia leadership went well. I was given two hours to talk about what it is I and the member care team do for teams on the field. I discussed, the CSA Test, Mediation training, Trauma Healing, and Chaplain/Pastoral Care. A lot of great discussion came out of that meeting and it ended up going over in time because there were so many questions. Praise the Lord! I have already been meeting with missionaries since my arrival two days ago and I already have more appointments scheduled to meet with others in the days to come. I am also scheduled to fly to northern Ethiopia to meet with a team up there on Monday. Please be praying for the flight and for the meetings with this team. Blessings.

Mark will be in Ethiopia until February 7th and then on to a Global Member Care Conference in Turkey. He flies home on the 15th of February. Mark and I have officially been invited to return and provide Pastoral care for the SIM Ethiopia team’s Spiritual Life Conference Dec 28th later this year.

Mark standing outside Bingham Academy -a school for missionary kids in Ethiopia

Mark standing outside Bingham Academy -a school for missionary kids in Ethiopia

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time to Travel

We would appreciate your prayers as we fly to Nairobi via London tonight (January 9) arriving Saturday Jan 10th at 10pm.
Stacey begins teaching the Trauma a Healing Advanced Equipping Session Monday morning Jan 12th thru Friday the 16th during the day and meeting folks in the evenings. Mark will be meeting with SIM team members and offering Chaplain care and mediation all week We will also help out with conducting some team workshops the 16th and 19th. Late next week the 21-25th we accompany the SIM SSudan to their Spiritual Life Retreat. Pray for spiritual renewal, reconciliation,and growth for each missionary. Many are weary from living and working in tough environments. Pray that we will be able to offer encouragement and care.
Please also pray for our children here in the US and their granddad staying with them.Stacey will return to the US on Jan 26th and Mark will travel on to Ethiopia Jan 27- Feb 8 then Turkey til the 16th when he will fly home.
Thank you for praying!

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