"Trauma As Mission Field"
WRF Board Member Dr. Diane Langberg
[A Report to WRF Member Calvary Presbyterian Church - June 5, 2011]
A tsunami in Asia, an earthquake in Haiti, and now Japan; genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia; child soldiers; wars around the world; human trafficking and relentless, systemic violence in our own inner cities – all of these events produce traumatized human beings. In addition we have, according to Amnesty International, one in three females who are beaten or otherwise abused in their lifetime. One in three – think about that statistic next time you walk through an airport or a crowded marketplace. Violence and trauma are a major health and development issue worldwide.
Girls and women around the world face violence every day. More girls have been killed in the last fifty years, because they were girls, than men were killed in all the battles of the twentieth century. Females have food withheld, medicines withheld, education withheld. They are mutilated, disfigured, killed and trafficked. And then there is the catastrophic problem of rape around the world. In 2008 the United Nations declared rape as a weapon of war for the first time and a UN commander stated that it is becoming more dangerous to be female than to be a soldier in an armed conflict. According to UN accounts, in some areas of the world three quarters of females have been raped. It is intended to disfigure and torture these women in order to terrorize the general population.
As most of you know I travel internationally and speak and train about trauma and violence. I have gone back and forth to Rwanda for the past several years in response to the trauma of the 1994 genocide. In recent months I have also been asked by the American Bible Society to go to Congo which is currently called the rape capital of the world. The program is called “She’s My Sister”. Congolese pastors have asked for two things – Bibles (many of them have to share one Bible) and training for how to deal with the trauma from the Congo wars which have resulted in 5.5 million deaths and where brutal rape occurs 1100 times per day. These requests for help have now increased to include the Great Lakes region of Africa (8 countries and beyond). I go to Ghana in July to do trauma training and then into Rwanda and Congo in October.
It certainly seems that the focus of my work for the coming years is changing. I believe that trauma is a tremendous mission field and that the church worldwide needs to be trained to understand it and respond in healing ways. It is not just over there – it is here. That is why Place of Refuge exists here in Philadelphia. Given the massive natural disasters and the horrific evils around the globe we are talking about hundreds of thousands of people who are desperate for care, wisdom and healing. The World Health Organization says that the inequitable distribution of mental health care results in a 75% treatment gap between developed and developing countries. I believe Christians are to stand in that gap and care for the war torn, raped, oppressed, violated and abandoned of this earth in the name of Jesus.
So here is what is happening: one of my colleagues (WRF member Dr. Phil Monroe) and I are working to set up a year long training program for licensed and experienced counselors so they can become master trainers and assist us around the world in training indigenous Christian leaders to work with trauma in their own countries. Simultaneously we are travelling and training people on the ground in various countries – concentrating in Africa but not limited to that.
We are the church. That means we are the body of Jesus Christ and He is our Head. In the physical realm, a body that does not follow its head is a sick body. That is also true in the spiritual realm. We are His people and I believe with all my heart He has called us to go out of ourselves and follow Him into the suffering of this world bearing both His character and His Word. And we do go – we send missionaries and the Scriptures; we provide food, clean water, education and jobs for many. And we should. We have rarely, however, seen trauma as a place of service. If we think carefully about the extensive natural disasters in our time such as earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis and combine those victims with the many manmade disasters – the violent inner cities, wars, genocides, trafficking, rapes, and child abuse we would have a staggering number. I believe that if we would stop and look out on suffering humanity we would begin to realize that trauma is perhaps the greatest mission field of the 21st century. Listen to your brothers and sisters:
Celestin Musekura - I am writing to request you to consider a partnership to train and certify 100 Christian counselors in Southern Sudan. The country has gone through trauma and the current situation that is ushering the South Sudan as a new nation in the world requires that the Church of Sudan be equipped with leaders who understand biblical principles of caring, counseling, and healing.
Josephine of Rwanda – Awareness of trauma started in 1994 in the aftermath of the genocide that devastated this country. Since then trauma is present everywhere in every community, in every school and almost in every family. Acceptance and healing of the psychological dimension is not embraced by Rwandans for a number of reasons. First, it requires competencies that many people do not have. Second, the work has to be done by people who are capable of taking care of their emotional well-being. Rwanda needs such people if we really want to address the challenge of trauma. Every Rwandan was affected in one way or another and we continue to be exposed to emotional suffering. We need to find a way of addressing the emotional challenges that result from a permanent exposure to human suffering, mistrust, and suspicion. For this reason, experts in trauma should be present and invest time and money as other investors have in different developmental work. Men and women of God, you who take seriously the inner suffering of orphans and widows and who can help to properly address our suffering, please stand with us. Your reward from our God Almighty will be great .
I covet your prayers. This is a massive task that encompasses both sides of the ocean and can impact continents. We will need humility, great wisdom, wells of love and endurance – for this is battle against the forces of evil and darkness. Someone asked me recently if I was thinking about retiring. I laughed out loud – God clearly does not have that in my near future. Trauma is a vast mission field. I believe it is the mission field of the 21st century. Global trauma is the voice of our Savior calling to us through suffering humanity to follow Him in the fellowship of His sufferings. The question before the church is: will she go? We have said yes and pray you will join with us in interceding for this work.
NOTE: Dr. Langberg may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org