Healing Flows from Jordan
In the Middle East, suffering people are engaging God’s Word to heal the wounds of trauma.
When Ameer* crawled into the cool linens of his bed, he was in Jordan. Rosy whiffs of geraniums wafted through the white stone windows of the Christian retreat center where he slept. Peace permeated the air.
But as Ameer drifted off to sleep, his mind raced home to Syria. The anxiety of walking wartorn streets made his stomach clench as he relived a nightmarish memory for the thousandth time. In his familiar dream, Ameer walked past a schoolyard in Damascus, just as he does every night. Children poured out of the schoolyard and onto an awaiting school bus, just as they do every night. Then, just as it does every night in his dream, an enormous mortar bomb fell from the sky, landing on the helpless children.
Ameer awoke. He was back in Jordan, but the stench of smoke and the screams of heartbroken parents lingered in his memory. “This scene keeps coming back to me,” Ameer laments. “There is no end.”
And yet, as he crawled out of bed and dressed in the glow of the rising sun, Ameer had reason to hope. He had arrived at the Jordan retreat center seeking healing for his own spiritual wounds and for the wounds of his Syrian community. Today would be historic; along with nearly 50 other people just like him, Ameer had come to participate in the Middle East’s first-ever Bible-based trauma healing program. By engaging with the Bible, these trauma healing participants discovered God’s love for their war-torn homes.
A Nation of Refugees
In 2010, Dr. Harriet Hill, director of American Bible Society’s trauma healing program, helped launch the organization’s first Bible-based trauma healing program in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But the power of trauma healing didn’t stay in Central Africa. With God’s help, the program has strategically spread to regions of the world where the need for healing is greatest. “The ball has started rolling,” says Hill.
And the need for spiritual healing in the Middle East is immense. “There are a lot of sad stories—more than my] story,” says Ameer, who volunteers to serve other Syrian refugees just like himself. “I think this is why God wants me to be in this ministry…I can feel what they went through.”
In addition to Syrians like Ameer, Jordan plays host to more than 1 million refugees and asylum seekers from neighboring countries like Lebanon and Iraq. One man from Iraq, who attended some of the trauma healing sessions in Jordan, related countless atrocities committed against his fellow Iraqis by the terrorist group ISIS. “The situation there is so difficult for people,” he says, telling stories of men who have been tortured and women who have been kidnapped and raped by ISIS militants. “These people are suffering.”
“Going with pain to the cross is powerful, because often we go through these things alone.” —Trauma Healing Participant
In the face of these great evils, the recent trauma healing sessions in Jordan represented a twofold opportunity—to heal the spiritual wounds of participants like Ameer, and to equip them to spread the healing power of God’s Word in their home communities.
“Being in worldwide community is a privilege,” says Jane Jelgerhuis, managing director of American Bible Society’s worldwide trauma healing ministry. “American Bible Society is committed to equipping leaders with biblically-based trauma healing resources for the wounded of soul and spirit.”
“The situation there is so difficult…These people are suffering.” —Trauma Healing Participant from Iraq
Equipping the Leaders
The practical way this equipping happened in Jordan was through training sessions. Participants gathered around tables to learn lessons about domestic violence, sexual abuse, trauma for children and the mystery of why God allows bad things to happen in the world. They also found solidarity in their sufferings by praying Psalm 13 aloud in Arabic as a group and then writing their own laments to God.
Hill, who facilitated the teaching sessions, admits that addressing trauma was not always easy in a Middle Eastern culture that typically remains silent on sensitive issues. Honest discussions about rape were especially challenging for the group. “[Rape] is a subject they have never talked about before in public, especially in mixed groups,” explains Hill.
But candid conversations proved helpful for the group. Participants leaned forward in their seats as they listened to presenters share testimonies about how they have personally responded to traumatic events in their own lives. “When people are immersed in helping other people in severe trauma, they are highly motivated to learn the information,” says SIL Global Trauma Healing Consultant Pat Miersma, who co-facilitated the training. “They soak in this material like a sponge—they can’t get it fast enough.”
The trauma healing sessions closed with participants writing down their darkest memories and bringing their pain to the cross of Jesus. “Going with pain to the cross is powerful, because often we go through these things alone,” relates one grateful participant after bringing his pain to Jesus through the exercise.
Healing for the Middle East
After gathering for training in Jordan, the trauma healing participants took the most crucial step in their journey together: they scattered to spread the balm of God’s Word throughout the Middle East.
One of the trainees, Margaret, has ministered to hundreds of refugee women from Syria through a local nonprofit for several years.
“We talk to them. We listen to them,” says Margaret. “We let them talk about their problems and what they need—not [only] what they need for food or clothes, but what they need for their lives.”
Margaret isn’t alone. Rani, another trauma healing trainee, serves another unique demographic in the Middle East—children. “The main reason I came [to the trauma healing training] is because my wife and I have a passion to create targeted [radio] programs, and maybe TV shows, for children,” explains Rani. Now he and his wife, Tamara, are better equipped to share the message of God’s love with traumatized children in the Middle East.
“We talk to them. We listen to them…We let them talk about their problems and what they need—not [only] what they need for food or clothes, but what they need for their lives.” —Margaret, Trauma Healing Participant
And for Ameer, the equipping sessions provided him with the courage to return to the scene of his darkest memories—the ravaged streets of Syria. “I would love to go back to Syria,” he says. “And I will go back.”
Strengthened by Scripture, Ameer and the other trainees from Jordan carry the hope of God’s Word into the dark shadows of the Middle East. “We will show them how God loves us through Christ,” says Ameer. “He knows exactly what we are going through. He loves us.”
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of trauma healing participants.
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