July 9, 2014
Wednesday morning. We had our last lovely breakfast at Solace guest house, packed our things and left to travel a little over an hour south to Centre Saint Andre, a retreat and conference facility. We arrived in time to get our rooms to put our things away and get to the start of the conference. This Community of Practice conference, run by the Bible Society of Rwanda, is their first ever such meeting of trauma healing facilitators and is designed to raise the level of skills and knowledge of the facilitators as well as share best practices among them. Our role at the conference is threefold: lead some of the teaching sessions, listen and respond to case consultations and, best of all, get to know the facilitators and share experiences. The room was set with tables for 6 with 4 Rwandans and 2 Americans each.
The conference began with a bible study by the secretariat of the Bible Society. He spoke of the necessity of having the right names for things. He noted the significant difference in naming Rwanda a country healing from genocide instead of Rwanda a genocide country. Each table then discussed successes and challenges. At my table we heard of many good stories of healing (Success) but also that the
facilitators feel much guilt for not helping more (Challenge). They struggle with feeling worn out and impoverished helping others. Some noted how their own families and marriages were suffering given that they found it hard to say no to tangible needs of those they were trying to help. They noted that many of the recipients did want to have tangible gifts in order to take time to be in a healing group.
Next, Diane Langberg presented on the topic of shame. She defined guilt as a response to what we do but shame as a response to what we perceive we are or have become. She noted there are different types of shame but all result in a loss of “glory.” Some religious traditions believe that blood (honor killings) is the only way to cleanse the family of shame. She pointed out that while this is gravely distorted view of shame/honor, blood IS the only cleansing of shame–Jesus’ death and resurrection. She explored how Jesus did not run from the shame, that the image of God is one who runs after the shamed, who clothes them, who brings them his honor.
In response, the table groups considered three questions: What is considered shameful in Rwanda? What does the church say is shameful? Which of these are false sources of shame per the Scriptures? Consider some of the items mentioned,
- To be pregnant without a husband, yet a man is proud
- To divorce or separate
- To be impotent or barren
- To be a victim of rape
- To be drunk (if woman); only shameful for a man if he does something wrong when drunk
- To engage in open conflict; to talk openly of problems
- To be in need/impoverished
- For a woman to talk about domestic violence; to be a man beaten by his wife
- to have disobedient children
- To be albino
- To commit adultery (church endorsed shame); to be HIV+
Interestingly, it was not always agreed upon which items should not be considered shameful.
We ended our training day with a teaching/group interaction I did regarding addictions (the nature of addictions, what the Scriptures say, and how these facilitators can help improve commitment to sobriety in those they seek to help). I think most Americans and Rwandans felt the beginnings of connections forming as personal stories were told to us and we received them for what they were, treasures.