Trauma affects people around the world, whether it’s from violence, natural disasters, abuse, war, etc. In Colombia, there is a high rate of people who have experiences one or more traumatic events in their lifetime. As a church, how then do we support and accompany people as they process and heal from these traumatic events? This is a question that has come up over and over again. It was the motivator behind the trauma and healing workshops held in Medellin and Bogota this past weekend.
It was an honor to receive professor Elizabeth Pierre, from North Park University and Theological Seminary, who teaches a course on pastoral counseling and has done much research on trauma and healing as the focus of her PHD. Elizabeth led us through a time of looking at what trauma is, what the symptoms are, how context and culture impacts trauma, the role of the church, and what healing and recovery can look like.
Over 50 people attended the workshop in Medellin from different Covenant churches, social foundations, and a group of youth leaders from the “Be Peace, Make Peace” project that traveled 9 hours from the municipality of El Bagre. The discussion was rich and painful at times as people shared the different experiences of trauma they themselves or their communities have experienced. There is much need of God’s healing and for the church to accompany and support victims of trauma. We need to be witnesses to their pain and healing. We need to be able to join them in their lament. We know that this conversation is just the beginning of what will need to be a continual conversation in equipping people to walk alongside victims of trauma in Colombia.
In Bogota we had the opportunity to be with more than 40 women from around Colombia. They were gathered for 4 days to be trained in advocating for victims of abuse and other trauma in their churches and communities. This is part of a national initiative that the Colombian Covenant Women’s Ministry is developing to equip women leaders to accompany and advocate for victims of abuse and trauma. The participants received training in AVA (Advocating for Victims of Abuse), a resources that has been developed by the Covenant in the USA and is being taught by two incredible teachers from CHET (the Covenant’s Hispanic Center for Theological Studies in L.A.).
The time together was beautiful and painful as the stories of past and present abuse and trauma were shared. It was also inspiring as women committed to being these advocates in their churches and communities. They talked about the steps going forward to continue being equipped in these important areas and create support groups. Elizabeth (with Katie translating) gave a day-long workshop on trauma and healing and it was another important conversation that allowed for stories to be shared. Listening became key and together the women encouraged and supported each other. God’s Spirit was present. The pain was real, but so was the hope.
Again, the conversation continues and training is offered. These women will continue forward and we ask for prayers for the ways they will provide support for victims of abuse and other forms of trauma here in Colombia.