Healing the Broken Hearted
How God is using a Bible-based trauma healing course to help heal people around the world.
They say that familiarity breeds contempt. Could this be true of the Bible in Wales? The Bible has been part of the fabric of our society for centuries with many if not most of our laws and patterns of living based on it, but we seem to be turning our back on this book. In this article we show how the Bible continues to be a powerful force for good in the world. As we search for meaning and truth could it be time for us to return to our roots and to the Bible?
When David was
12 he was on an overcrowded bus making its way across the orange-red dust roads of what is now South Sudan when soldiers opened fire, peppering the bus with bullets, breaking glass, bursting tyres, killing many of the passengers, and injuring and maiming others.
Because of where he was sitting, David wasn’t hit and he managed to crawl off the bus and to find a hiding place lying in the bush off the side of the road. There he hid from the soldiers for three days, listening to the cries of the wounded and dying, before he was rescued.
David survived – but what happened on the bus changed him and affected the way he lived for many years. ‘I was not good in my heart,’ he recalls many years later. ‘The situation made me bitter, and I used to seek revenge against everybody who did something against me. I knew nothing about forgiveness.’
But David changed again when he had the chance to do a trauma healing course. There, along with others who had also experienced trauma, David went on a biblically-based journey towards healing. ‘As soon as I began to study trauma healing at the workshop,’ David says, ‘the light came into my heart, and I recognised that the word of God had entered deeply into my mind. That has changed me into a good Christian.’ These changes in David have contributed to him becoming a leader in his community – and to him being elected the chief of his village.
David is one of the many people who have experienced help and healing through trauma healing courses since they began as a fledgling programme in Kenya in 2002. From those small beginnings, the impact of this trauma healing course has spread out around the world and has now touched over one million lives.
But what is it that makes these trauma healing workshops so powerful and effective? What is the biblical journey of healing they lead people through? And how did they develop out of the work of Bible translation?
Responding to the effects of war
In the late 1990s Margaret Hill, one of the authors of the trauma healing book and a Bible translation consultant, was living in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country being torn apart by war. ‘I was evacuated a couple of times,’ Margaret remembers, ‘and when I returned I became aware that the local church leaders found it hard to understand the effects of the trauma of war’ on people like David, ‘and why so many people in their congregations were behaving in a destructive and angry way.’
Harriet Hill (no relation to Margaret), also one of the authors of the trauma healing book and who served with Wycliffe Bible translators in Côte d’Ivoire and Kenya, and is now the director of the Trauma Healing Institute at the American Bible Society, explains: ‘There were a number of us in Wycliffe who were in contact with the trauma of war and we started asking: “What does the Bible have to say about this? How do you read the Bible from a position of unjust suffering, horrific prolonged unjust suffering?”’
To attempt to answer these questions, Harriet and Margaret got together with Richard Baggé and Pat Miersma, who were mental health experts working in Africa. Together they developed the first draft of what would become Healing the Wounds of Trauma. They tested it in an initial workshop where pastors from 10 different ethnic groups who lived in war zones took the material, translated it, and then went back home to use it to help the people in their churches and communities. The next year they did a follow-up workshop with the pastors to find out what they had learned, and they used this input to revise the book – this process of revising and improving the material is still continuing. And it took off from there.
Through the lens of the Bible
Cami Robbins, who along with her husband Larry now coordinates trauma healing for Wycliffe in Africa, believes that the ‘number one reason that the course is so effective’ is that ‘it’s Bible based.’ She explains further that ‘when mental health is taught through the lens of the Bible, it brings a supernatural power that people feel. We use biblical support and the cross of Jesus to help with listening, writing laments and with the way we process grief.’
Harriet also believes that it is this ‘fusion of the Bible with good mental health principles’ that makes the course so effective. ‘We have research by secular mental health scholars,’ Harriet explains, ‘documenting that if you do trauma healing interventions without addressing the spiritual, it is not as effective.’ Of course, good mental health and the Bible are not separate things – as Margaret observes.
Article first published in ‘Words of life: Wycliffe Bible Translators’
www.wycliffe.org.uk - photos copyright Wycliffe Canada