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.