A Letter from Jeff and Christi Boyd, serving as Regional Liaisons for Central Africa, based in the Democratic Republic of Congo
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“That’s the soldier who killed my parents.”
Thirteen-year-old Kalonji (not his real name) was responding to Christi’s question about a drawing he was working on. Earlier, Christi heard another child share how militia members had beheaded two of her brothers in her presence. Each of the 70 children gathered for the Healing Hearts children’s camp had similar, terrible experiences. Even the adults trained during the event as facilitators of trauma healing came with their inner wounds. Papa Hassan confided that he was among just a few who had stayed behind when people fled in the bush after their community had come under attack. As a Muslim leader, he joined hands with a Protestant pastor to bury the bodies they found in their neighborhood, an attempt to restore dignity through a proper burial.
Last month, Christi and I were in the Congolese village of Tshikaji, where the Protestant Council of Churches in Congo (ECC), organized through its Department of Women and Families (DFF) a 12-day training for facilitators of trauma healing. This event took place on the grounds of the Christian Medical Institute in the Kasai (IMCK), a Presbyterian mission and ministry historical site. The training was held in collaboration with the Congo Bible Alliance, which provided the three specialized, experienced trainers and ensured translation of the resources into Tshiluba, the locally spoken language. Healing Hearts was launched in East Congo two years ago, and this training marked the introduction of the trauma-healing ministry to the Greater Kasai region, which comprises five centrally located provinces in Congo that were formerly known as East and West Kasai — the area where Presbyterians have the largest presence. It was my first time attending such a training event.
There is an urgency for the Healing Hearts ministry in the Kasai due to the atrocities inflicted on the population when a conflict between the State authorities and a traditional ruler sparked a horrifically quick-spreading provincial militia movement against the government two years ago. The response by security forces was harsh, and the general population bore the brunt of the abuse from barbarous and undisciplined fighters on both sides. The trainees for the ECC’s trauma-healing work were selected from places that were particularly hard hit by the conflict. To allow them to deal first with their own traumatic life experiences, the trainees worked through the classic curriculum for adults during the first five days of the training. Some of them shared fresh memories of the recent conflict, and others related decades-old unresolved trauma, such as their forcible and violent expulsion from Katanga Province. The pain remained so many years later.
Many factors influence the success of the training, but the selection of the facilitators to be trained is especially critical. Much thought and prayer were therefore given to the selection process. Besides establishing criteria for personal qualities and focusing on geographical areas that had suffered most, Rev. Nzeba, the General Secretary for the DFF/ECC, wanted equal numbers of men and women. She also desired representation from the diversity of the faith communities in the region: the ECC member denominations (Presbyterians, Methodists, Mennonites, etc.), the Roman Catholic Church, the Salvation Army, the Kimbanguist and Revivalist Churches, the Greek Orthodox Church, and the Muslim community. The atrocities were felt across all faith communities, and healing is needed in all. The provincial social services offices for West and East Kasai were therefore invited, too. Identification of the trainees was based on type of work and training: teachers, pastors, community leaders, those with training in psychology, health workers, Sunday School teachers, etc.
Once Rev. Nzeba had worked with Christi to map out the selection of trainees along these lines, she handed over the responsibility of choosing individual trainees to the Provincial ECC leadership, who then relayed the specifics to the respective church denomination leadership to finally target localities from where trainees would be chosen. The complexity of this multilayered process posed a huge challenge, but as lessons were taught and participants interacted, it became clear that prayers for a good selection of trainees were answered. With a common calling, this wonderfully diverse group worked together eagerly and collegially.
The healing of trauma is not about forgetting; rather, it is about confronting the pain and suffering and working to move on. And so, the joy of having 70 children with us for five days was deeply painful and sobering, as we heard time after time the brutalities that adults and children have witnessed and experienced. During the last five days of the training, the trainees worked all day with the children, and through stories, games, crafts, scriptural references and compassionate accompaniment, the men and women facilitators helped the children recognize a path toward healing, one that involves recognizing the loss, mourning, and weeping, asking for God’s help with the pain, forgiving, and rebuilding. God’s love for each child was emphasized throughout.
The 36 trainees are charged to return to their geographic communities, and in the coming 6-9 months each will work with at least two groups of adults and two groups of children. Those who do this and faithfully report back will be invited to the follow-up training designed to certify the qualified trainees as trainers themselves. In anticipation of that, we have already begun the effort to raise the funds to help the ECC and the Congo Bible Alliance organize the next training by mid-2019.
As the training progressed, Christi took photos and video, complemented them with text messages and sent them to a small group via What’s App. A document that collects all those postings into one file may be posted on our profile page in a few weeks.
We are grateful for the Christian Medical Institute of Kasai (IMCK), which graciously hosted this large group; for IMPROKA, the Presbyterian printing press, for working extra hours to print copies of a first draft of the Tshiluba translation of the children’s booklet; for many of you who have accompanied this training with prayer; and for each individual, church and presbytery who has given financially to enable Presbyterian World Mission to support this program of the ECC Dept of Women and Families.
We hope the next training will be in April/May, but otherwise in July/August. If you wish to financially support the upcoming advanced-level training that helps these facilitators become trainers themselves, checks should be made payable to Presbyterian Church (USA) and mailed to:
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
P.O. Box 643700
Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700
On the “note” portion of the check, please write E052171 ECC DFF – Healing Hearts. Please include with the check a cover letter indicating the account name, account number, the amount of your contribution, and Healing Hearts.
Our ability to accompany and encourage this trauma-healing work and other important church ministries is thanks in large part to the team of supporters who pray for us and support World Mission financially. Thank you for your support that allows us to walk with our brothers and sisters in the Congo. Please continue supporting us through prayer and through financial gifts. If you are in a position to do so, please consider a year-end extra gift of support for World Mission. Please see the enclosed letter from José Luis Casal, director of Presbyterian World Mission.
May the Peace of our Lord be with you!
Jeff and Christi
Please read this important message from José Luis Casal, Director, Presbyterian World Mission
Dear partners in God’s mission,
We near the close of 2018 inspired by the hope of Christ. God is transforming the world, and you are helping to make it happen.
Thank you very much for your support of our mission co-workers. The prayers and financial gifts of people like you enable them to work alongside global partners to address poverty, hopelessness, violence and other pressing problems in the name of Jesus Christ.
Every day, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission co-workers are blessed to be able to walk alongside their brothers and sisters across the globe. Listening to each other in faith and in friendship, they learn from each other how to work towards a world in which everyone flourishes. Acting upon what they discover together, PC(USA) mission co-workers and our global partners strengthen the body of Christ.
Because you are an integral part of God’s mission, I invite you to become more deeply committed to Presbyterian World Mission. First, would you make a year-end gift for the sending and support of our mission co-workers? The needs in the world are great, and World Mission is poised to answer God’s call to serve others.
I also invite you to ask your session to add our mission co-workers to your congregation’s prayer list and mission budget for 2019 and beyond. Your multi-year commitment will make a great difference in our involvement with our partners. The majority of our mission co-workers’ funding comes from the special gifts of individuals and congregations like yours, for God’s mission is a responsibility of the whole church, not a particular area of the church. Now more than ever, we need your financial support!
In faith, our mission co-workers accept a call to mission service. In faith, World Mission, representing the whole church and you, sends them to work with our global partners. In faith, will you also commit to support this work with your prayers and financial gifts? With hope and faith, I await your positive response!
At God’s service and at your service!
José Luis Casal
P.S. Your gift will help meet critical needs of our global partners. Thank you!
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