Blog

Apr 20

2017 Rwanda Update #4

Today was a difficult day for both the attendees and the presenters. The first two days the ground work was laid to help the students understand the word and scope of trauma by giving them exercises which helped them anchor to a place of safety (primarily through drawing and sharing with one another) in order for them to process in the days that would follow. Roxane did such an excellent job of taking some very Western concepts regarding the biological and emotional effects of trauma (hyperarousal, intrusion, emotional numbing, and powerlessness) and breaking them down by using relevant examples from her own life enabling the participants to understand them.

Mama Nora shared part two of her story using her broken heart panel to illustrate her childhood neglect and sexual abuse. She spoke of the shame she felt and how she believed that the abuse was her fault. The students were really taken by her story which led to much discussion between the attending pastors and among the women during lunch regarding the prevalence of sexual abuse within families in their communities. After taking the students through a progressive relaxation exercise, we had them move onto an expressive art exercise so they could begin to explore their own heart wounds and then share their personal stories with one another.

After lunch we addressed the very important topic of Satan and trauma. In the West, we explain trauma symptoms and responses with science. In Africa, often the same symptoms and responses are believed to be caused by demons and Satan. When we explore the Bible fully, we see the reality of Satan and demons, and at the same time scripture speaks of very real biological effects that occur when people experience trauma. Clearly Jesus experienced some very real and significant trauma (both physiological and emotional) from the time he was arrested through his death on the cross. And yet we also know from Scripture that Satan had been waiting for an opportune time to attack him. It truly is a both/and situation. One member of the team shared her experience of the both/and within her story of trauma. The attendees were amazed and, at some level, comforted that what they have seen and experienced around trauma symptoms of complex emotional responses in Africa also occurs in the West.

We finished the afternoon session as Shanell taught on the relational impact of trauma. Pulling from her own trauma story, she spoke of the impact that trauma has on one’s relationship with others: the impact of toxic shame, the importance and role of healthy shame (legitimate guilt) and the need to rebuild intimacy with others. Shanell spoke directly to the importance of rejecting the toxic shame (false guilt) others have placed upon you and handing the shame back to the abuser. Her ability to create a safe and peaceful home after the chaos and abuse her children had lived through before she left her husband both encouraged and amazed both the men and women attending. We have such an amazing and courageous team of presenters here!

By the end of the day, we were all very tired. The life stories that are told by the presenters are used as a means of showing the attendees that sharing one’s story (with safe people) is a very important and necessary step towards healing. We know that our stories will bring up emotions and memories of past events, and this is why we follow each section with directed, individual and group expressive art exercises so that attendees have an opportunity to identify and process their emotions and then practice sharing with one another.

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Apr 19

2017 Rwanda Update #3

Today we hit the ground running with Dr. Steve Tracy, MTS Founder and President, teaching on the value and dignity of women. It is a crucial topic to present in any country, especially when one is training pastors and leaders. After covering the biblical account of the balanced relationship of man and woman before The Fall, he then covered the predictions of God regarding the male/female relationship after The Fall. The students easily realized how quickly men began to dominate over women both then and now. Steve then reiterated that it is very important to understand why the value and dignity of women is so important because of the amount of abuse that comes from the devaluation of women. We looked at how women were treated prior to The Fall, how Jesus treated women, and how women were treated in the early church.

Participants drew and then shared pictures of their perception of the way women were viewed in Rwanda; their honesty was refreshing. The younger Rwandan women depicted lives that are not so very different from American women with so many pieces in their lives to balance (being a wife, a mother, holding a job, cooking, cleaning, attending school, etc.). We left plenty of time for Q & A at the end before we broke for lunch.

After lunch Jumah, the Great Lakes Regional Director for MTS, presented on the individual portion of God’s original design, focusing on Psalm 139. We spent a lot of time allowing the attendees to work individually and in small groups drawing and connecting with their own individual design based on Scripture. They focused on the truths from Psalm 139—I am loved and known by God (v 2-6); I am loved and never alone (v 7-12); I am loved and perfectly created (v 13-18). The participants also worked through the Father’s Love Letter tract by Barry Adams which lists many truths from Scripture as to His love for each of them. As each person shared their artwork and verses, we were blessed by their understanding and connection to truth. The students were also treated to the first of five parts of Mama Nora’s story, laying the groundwork for tomorrow’s topics.

We really appreciate your prayer covering as we delve into the impact of trauma while allowing students to explore some of their past traumatic events.

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Apr 18

2017 Rwanda Update #2

Easter Sunday and Training Day #1

We had the opportunity to enjoy our Easter service at an African New Life church in Bugesera, Rwanda. After introducing the team, they invited one of us to share our testimony and in doing so, they told the church members of the redemptive work of Jesus in the midst of abuse trauma healing. The church provided an interpreter who graciously translated the sermon into English for us. We also really enjoyed the worship and a worship dance put on by the youth. The afternoon brought a refreshing down pour of rain as well as an opportunity for the team to finish planning for the conference which was to begin the next morning, Monday, April 17.

The first day of the conference went very well, despite a late start. There were 45 participants and more expected to come the following day. We had two wonderful leaders who acted as interpreters so that those who spoke Kinyarwanda (the primary language of Rwanda) could fully participate. As a result of the financial support that was donated to Mending the Soul for this conference, each student was given a By His Wounds book in his/her own language.  We allowed the participants to set the ground rules and asked them their expectations for the conference. As one would imagine, among their goals was to heal themselves and to help others to heal. We have a wide variety of occupations in attendance: counselors, clinical psychologists, social workers and pastors to name a few.

Much of Monday’s focus was on God’s presence with us and Immanuel, God with us (Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1). “Dr. Roxy,” our resident clinical psychologist with MTS, began our work for the day by defining the types of trauma (primary, secondary and generational) while team members Nora and Shanell shared their story of the gift of the silver box. Through this object lesson and using bow wrapped boxes, they were able to explain the importance of a proper response and confidentiality when one shares the “gift” of their story of trauma with another. From there, Roxy led the participants in an exercise where they were to imagine and then draw a picture of a safe place where they feel God’s presence. They then shared their pictures with one another, and ultimately a few shared theirs with the whole group. This is a pattern that we will be using throughout the conference each time we do an expressive art exercise that is found in By His Wounds.

During lunch we had the opportunity to spread out among the participants, and they began to share their stories and questions with us. Already some of those attending felt comfortable enough to share with various team members about the abuse and loss they experienced during the Genocide. After lunch, “Dr. Steve” covered how each and every one of us has value because we are all created in the image of God (Genesis 1&2). Next, he covered the very important topic of the five types of abuse (sexual, physical, neglect, spiritual and verbal) and how each perverts the image of God. Shanell followed by sharing part of her story which was used as a means to help the participants work through their thoughts, feelings, and body responses they were experiencing after hearing her story of abuse. The group sharing that followed this was raw and insightful; it generated many questions and responses from all. Interspersed throughout the day were beautiful times of worship which was led a cappella by one young man. It truly was a great start to an intensive, yet healing conference, and we are looking forward to seeing what the Lord has in store for us tomorrow.

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Apr 16

2017 Rwanda Update #1

The Mending the Soul (MTS) training team of nine have all arrived in Kigali, Rwanda. The team members are comprised of several individuals from Phoenix AZ; one from Wisconsin; a missionary from Tanzania; the MTS Great Lakes Regional Director from Uganda, Jumah Patrick; and Dr. Steve Tracy, MTS cofounder. Since we landed, we have spent time together as a team getting to know one another, planning our week ahead, and as a crucial piece of our preparation, visiting the Genocide Museum and the Nyamata Genocide Memorial Centre.

The Rwandan Genocide Museum walks visitors through the years and then the days and events that led up to and through the Genocide. The presentation depicted the political contribution, the media contribution, and the foreign aid that included machetes and guns, in bulk, to aid the Interahamwe (military trained Hutu soldiers). There are rooms filled with pictures of only a few of the thousands killed, including a room filled with pictures of children which is, of course, heartbreaking. As you continue through, there is a room depicting other genocides that have occurred throughout the world; how they started, and all too often, how they are denied. Yet, near the end there is hope. Hope that is born in the process of forgiveness and, when possible, reconciliation. As you can see in the pictures there is mention of Gacaca which a community base justice system inspired by Rwandan tradition and has tried over 1.9 million cases related to the Genocide.

On the Nyamata memorial site is a church that was attacked during the Genocide. Over 10,000 people were killed both inside and outside of the church building. It is especially difficult to visit as you see the reality of the brutality of the killings. Steve took some time to speak with our tour guide and invited him to attend the MTS trauma conference—he is hoping to attend or at the least receive a copy of By His Wounds.

Here is a quote from the Genocide museum that brings the hope of healing into the midst of the ongoing sorrow of such a horrendous event:

At the beginning, each and every person considered his own suffering as the biggest; but when we shared our pain, we began to feel compassion for others. We understood how the people suffered on the other side. Now we look at what people need, not who they are.

We have enjoyed a true African Easter service on Sunday. We so appreciate your ongoing prayers for our conference which began Monday.

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Apr 12

Africa 2017 Schedule

2017 Mending the Soul Africa ministry teams schedule

Rwanda team:

  • Shanell Bender
  • Kim Brownsberger
  • Kurt Brownsberger
  • Jumah Patrick
  • Nora Poling;
  • Roxie Thorstad
  • Steve Tracy
  • Mark Ward
  • Heather Webb

Congo team:

  • James Druzdzel
  • Ethie Gebeyehu
  • Leah Miller
  • Jumah Patrick
  • Nora Poling;
  • Sebastian Rogers
  • Gail Schuknecht
  • Celestia Tracy
  • Steve Tracy

Trip schedule:

  • April 12-13 Rwanda team travels to Kigali, Rwanda
  • April 14-15 Team visits genocide sites, prepares for conference
  • April 16 Ministry in local community
  • April 17-22 By His Wounds trauma conference for 60 Rwandan leaders
  • April 23 Team debrief
  • April 24 Team travels back to the US
  • April 24-30 Nora travels to Bukavu, Congo to assist Daphrose with conference for 50 youth workers; Steve travels to Uganda
  • April 30-May 1 Congo team travels from US to Kigali, Rwanda
  • May 2 Team travels from Kigali, Rwanda to Goma, Congo
  • May 3 Team flies to Butembo; spends day preparing for conferences
  • May 4-6 By His Wounds trauma conference for 60 Congolese evangelists
  • May 6 Ministry in local churches and trauma centers
  • May 8-9 Last two days of By His Wounds trauma conference
  • May 10-13 Conference for 50 caregivers of traumatized children and 30 traumatized children
  • May 14 Team flies back to Goma, conducts team debrief
  • May 15 Debrief and return to the US
  • May 16 Team back home

 

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Feb 23

Why MTS Goes to Democratic Republic of Congo

The incredible Time article below helps shed some light on why MTS goes to the Congo. We go to help prevent and heal the intergenerational cycle of sexual violence and injustice in one of Africa’s most beautiful but traumatized countries. Our brothers and sisters in the DRC are doing just that—with courage and humility and perseverance. We want their stories told. Please pray for MTS’ trauma care facilitators and trainers throughout East Africa.

Time Article: “When I Sing the Bad Memories Disappear”

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Feb 13

Comfort Campaigns Spread Throughout Eastern D.R. Congo: Pray!

Author: Celestia G. Tracy

 

Katavo and MTS’ trained teams will be certifying 400 new leaders in By His Wounds over the next 5 weeks. These teams in term will go on to offer trauma care to thousands of people in their provinces throughout Eastern Congo. They will be in several cities but also go deep into the bush into dangerous and remote areas. MTS has promised that we will be holding them up in prayer—for God’s protection and thousands healed; that God will demonstrate His power and mercy through miracles upon miracles of healing; as dark as the evil is, may God’s light shine all the brighter.

Katavo writes,

“When one works it is a human, one person, that works. When a person prays it is God who works and the work is greatly amazing!”

“From yesterday Sunday Feb 5 to Sunday Feb 12, our team from Butembo is busy in 2 different churches. One of them is CBCA Kyavaghendi , East Butembo, which is close to Carmel Mount that a satanic Mai Mai [local militia] group made their home and witnessed heavy fighting 1 to 2 months ago between the regular army and these Mai Mai. Many inhabitants sustained great losses and were traumatized. Now there is peace and it is time to heal the wounds. Yesterday, 340 people attended the healing seminar. On our team we are glad to serve along with 3 brother and sisters from Oicha and Mavivi [areas that have had horrible massacres this past year]. They brought brothers and sisters’ contributions as well made of 2 jerry cans of palm oil. This self-reliance of the teams (not depending on the offering plates of the church) is very much appreciated. I just talked to another team leader who went to the village of Musingiri in Butembo neighborhood (5 hours of walk) — they are just back from this 4-day mission with great shouts of Hallelujahs!”

In God we make our boast all day long—we will praise your name forever!            (Psalm 43:8)

Mending the Soul’s healing models are self-replicating and sustainable because we equip and resource the indigenous leaders God has already called and placed in churches around the world. We support them. The darker and more traumatized the region the more effective the model is. God continues to give us faithful, gifted, and anointed leaders like Katavo and Daphrose, and partnering organizations that are efficient and well organized like CBCA — so that trauma care can roll over the hills and into the valleys of previously unreached traumatized churches and communities throughout East Africa.

I waited patiently for the Lord:
He turned to me and heard my cry,
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
Out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet upon a rock,
And gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.  (Psalm 40)

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Jan 26

Celebrating Love’s Story

Author: Celestia G. Tracy

Ruth KatunguFor she is uniquely and wonderfully made —

she is your beauty and your treasure.

 

The business of the Christian is nothing else but to be ever preparing for death.
—Irenaeus of Lyons

Ruth Katungu was my sister who lived in Goma, DR Congo and mentored sexually exploited girls. She attended MTS’ first Princess Lost training there and was passionate about helping young survivors find healing and wholeness. The first thing she told me about herself when we met was that she was loved by her husband who “cherished” her. Ruth tirelessly cared for girls who had not known that kind of love. She took responsibility for their care.

Just before she died she gave birth to a baby boy. While pregnant she shared that, if she was carrying a girl, she would name her Nora or Celestia. Ruth was a ministering angel of God who lived every day as if it was her last.

She lived for the vulnerable and marginalized.

Mending the Soul is privileged to equip and serve Congo’s young leaders like Ruth. We have hundreds of MTS trainers and mentors in this region of East Africa alone. Please pray for them as they risk their lives on a daily basis to skillfully comfort the pain of their people. They are our heroes. May we be emboldened by their faith and challenged by their love. Ruth, you will not be forgotten.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?   —Mary Oliver

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Jan 19

Princess Lost: The Story of Our Daughters

Author: Celestia G. Tracy

 

Fairy.Tale.Cover.Image

My eyes overflow with rivers of water
for the destruction of the daughters of my people,
My eyes flow and do not cease,
Without interruption,
Till the Lord from heaven
Looks down and sees,
My eyes bring suffering to my soul
Because of all the daughters of my city.

Jeremiah’s Lament
Lamentations 3:48-50

In 2009 Mending the Soul Ministries was asked to create Christian curricula for sex trafficked young women and their mentors. We began where we always begin by listening to the voices of the survivors themselves.  In the beginning we offered our services free and invited them to come to us—to meet with us in our beautiful and professional counseling offices. Very few girls showed up, and those that did, did not come for very long. So, we began going to them: meeting with them in fast-food restaurants, juvenile detention facilities, and in city parks. These strong, young survivors were eager to have their stories known and wanted help.

Over a two-year period of time we met with 22 women. Sadly, 21 of the 22 had experienced every form of abuse by the time they were 8 years old. Their stories were eerily familiar: early childhood sexual abuse, physical abuse, and neglect. They grew up in families made vulnerable by mental illness, divorce, addiction, and at times poverty. They were desperate to be heard and would talk for hours, incorporating poetry, art, drama and music into their expressions. I would wear out before they would and often would have to make them stop after meeting for over three hours. They were smart and strong and so very angry about the injustice of what they had experienced. So was I.

I knew that their stories mattered and that I would spend the rest of my life giving them and other survivors like them a voice. Princess Lost was that first voice—their voice told in the genre of fairy tale that would poetically integrate the social science research on complex trauma with a breathtaking theology of abuse, healing and redemption. The stories of 22 girls woven throughout 54 pages; Tell our stories they begged us, tell our stories.

PL&FIn 2011 Princess Lost: The Story of Our Daughters and Princess Found: A Guide for Mentors of Sexually Exploited Girls was published. That same year I retired my practice to focus on resourcing and training caregivers in the darkest places of the world to care for the survivors they knew and loved within their own communities. Caregivers that were helped with their own primary trauma were then trained and resourced to help others with theirs. It’s an elegant and organic model that works because God has created us as people in His image designed for wholeness and robust impact—converting pain into healing and redemptive purpose.

Jenni Jessen is such a person. She founded and directs Compass 31 to “make Jesus known by fighting human trafficking through prevention, restoration and disciple making.” Jenni was sold into the sex trade in the US at the TheLuckyOne_FacebookAdandPostage of 4 and rescued at the age of 17. She now uses the Princess Lost/Found resources with stunning results in their restoration program. She and her team have translated the Princess Lost resources into Thai and now help train others in the model. Her powerful story is told in her book, The Lucky One, which was released in 2016. We highly recommend it. God is using Jenni’s story to heal hundreds of others; He never wastes our pain. Mending the Soul helped her heal from the effects of a traumatic past and Princess Lost/Found is being used to heal her girls. God is invested in our wholeness.

Jenni-endorsement

IMG_7250Mending the Soul is supporting young, global leaders like Jenni to use their own stories of abuse and trauma to help others. Love’s potion that transforms sexual exploitation into the greatest love story ever told. It never ends.

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Dec 22

Incarnation – Light

Author: Celestia G. Tracy

 

… the time came for the baby to be born,
and Mary gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:6-7)

27448789-nativity-wallpapers

Zechariah’s Song: Luke 1:68-79

Praise be to the Lord!
Because He has come and has redeemed His people.
He has raised up a horn of salvation for us… 

Salvation from our enemies
And from the hand of all who hate us—

 To rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
And to enable us to serve Him without fear
In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days…

 Because of the tender mercy of our God,
By which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
To shine on those living in darkness
And in the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the path of peace.

The fact that God has become man, indeed flesh, proves that the redemption and resurrection of the entire earthly world is not just a possibility but a reality… In Christ — and so from the side of God, not from the side of man—the gulf has been bridged. Man becomes the vessel of God, earth his dwelling place.” (Irenaeus, 2nd century church father and martyr)

When we stand in this truth—we receive God’s mercy and love as humble, submissive people, knowing that He is guiding us in paths of peace, illuminating all that is dark. When we care for others in His name, we bring His light into their lives.

This is the message of Christmas; that we are God’s beloved and are wrapped in His warm and wise, majestic yet gentle love. And then, satiated in His love, we are to take that shining light to others.

  • When you reflect on God’s benevolent love, what are you most grateful for today?
  • How has He filled the gaps of what humanly has been missing in your life?
  • How can you pass this on to others?
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Dec 19

Incarnation – Touch & Vulnerability

Author: Celestia G. Tracy
Unto you 4x6 print $15 12x18 numbered limited edition print $95

Painting by James Van Fossan

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. —John 1:14

God came to us and made Himself known in the most vulnerable way possible—as a newborn infant, born in the obscurity of a Bethlehem night onto a bed of hay. Eight pounds of flesh unable to survive even His first hours outside His mother’s womb without her care: skin on skin, mouth to breast for life-giving nourishment, arms wrapped around his tiny frame, mouth to face, fingers tracing his nose, cheeks, head. Jesus, within minutes of birth began to suffer: Bethlehem’s cold wind against His tiny cheeks, a drafty stable, rough hay, crude blankets.

He became human to redeem humanity—Jesus suffering in frail flesh like ours so that we might know God intimately. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known. (John 1:18)

“In His immeasurable love, He became what we are in order to make us what He is.” (Irenaeus, 2nd century church father and martyr)

May we receive Him with surrendered hearts, believing in His name, so that we might declare ourselves children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God! (John 1:13)

  • Close your eyes and imagine the stable with the sights and sounds of Jesus’ birth. What do you see? Hear? How does Mary touch her newborn baby boy? Imagine yourself being held in this way: tenderly, caressed by a tender hand, a smiling face of love bent over you, a soft, sweet melody caressing you in the night’s breeze.
  • What do you feel as you visualize yourself in this scene?
  • Today, can you receive God’s tender love for you? Describe what you’re seeing and feeling and needing; tell Him now…

The next time you are touched, or touch another with affection, pay attention to the mystery of God coming to you in flesh.

Can you sense the presence of Jesus in this skin on skin touch?

“This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:12-13

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Oct 19

“Rape Culture” in the U.S.

Author: Celestia G. Tracy

This is a warning for my friends about a painful post I must make today regarding the “rape culture” we’re experiencing in the U.S. and the ways in which we’ve been lulled to sleep around it all.

I cannot stay silent. None of us should.

I’ve included a link to an essay that is a clear illustration of rape culture and how Trump’s statements revealed just exactly the mindset that allows men to believe it’s their right to access women’s bodies without their permission. To dismiss this as locker-room banter couldn’t be further from the truth. Trump – in no uncertain terms – asserted that by having money he had the right to grope women. (And that somehow, by their not stopping this unsolicited assault, they gave tacit approval.)

This week, Kelly Oxford took to the internet to discuss sexual assault and rape culture after Trump’s comments. Women began sharing their personal stories of sexual assault, many being eerily seemlier to Trump’s comments (such as men literally just grabbing their genitals out of seemingly nowhere). Well, in just two days she’s received 9.7 millions stories. Ms. Oxford said on Twitter the next day that she had been receiving stories for 14 hours straight, at a minimum of 50 per minute.

This is harrowing and is something we cannot ignore.

And then this morning, the New York Times linked to other stories such as actress Amber Tamblyn’s story on Instagram, telling of an ex-boyfriend from an “emotionally and physically abusive relationship” who had sexually assaulted her. She wrote that while they were at a nightclub, the man grabbed her by her genitals, “lifted me up off the floor, literally, and carried me, like something he owned, like a piece of trash, out of the club.”

“His fingers were practically inside of me, his other hand wrapped tightly around my hair,” she wrote. “I screamed and kicked and cried.”

Surely, men and women across the United States can agree that a presidential candidate that brags about his “right” to touch and speak of women in such vile, disgusting and objectifying ways cannot serve as our national leader and take the United States in any direction but down.

I conclude with a shout out to our hundreds of Mending the Soul facilitators and mentors around the world who sacrificially make time and create safe space for men and women to heal from the effects of evil such as this. They compose Jesus’ church without walls and I love them dearly…

If you have experienced sexual abuse/assault and have not told anyone about it please seek out a Mending the Soul group in your community. You matter and have worth and value nobody can take away. We want to help you heal. If you cannot find a MTS small group in your church or community please order the book Mending the Soul: Understanding and Healing Abuse, by Steven R. Tracy and Mending the Soul Workbook for Men and Women; then find a counselor or wise mentor to walk with you through these resources.

Healing is possible!

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