Category Archives: Africa

Tuza 2.0: Day Four

[June 26, 2013]

The conference has begun. We have 30 high level caregivers here, 17 of whom attended Tuza 1.0. One of the things we expect is that all of the planning as to how long things will take does not ensure we will be able to stay on schedule. While we expect it, it requires a lot more cultural sensitivity and flexibility than us Westerners usually like to display. When I go to a conference, I don’t want to “waste” time playing games and getting to know my neighbors. Just fill my head up with knowledge, thank you very much. But that is not the way most of the world lives. So, our conference began, appropriately so, getting to know each other. Truth be told, this kind of beginning is necessary if we are going to trust each other!

Our first session included a short review of basic helping skills followed by a roleplay with Carol King. After a large group discussion, we broke attendees up into groups of 4 to form quads (counselor, counselee, and 2 observers). Many attendees remarked at how helpful the quads were for practicing skills. It seems that most have not had this experience before.

After coffee break (coffee plus a bowl containing a little donut with peppers and carrots inside and little fried (whole) fish!), one of our attendees presented a case for large group discussion. The case was of a teen who had experienced sex trafficking and was severely wounded in an attempt to kill her.

Our afternoon session featured a presentation by Dr. Barbara Shaffer on the topic of domestic violence. She spoke about the common cycle of domestic violence (tension building–>violence–>calm), the basis for protection from the scriptures, and gave basic goals when meeting with a person who is domestically abused.

During our large group discussion, we heard from several men and women that men are increasingly abused in Rwanda society. There was some discussion about how much this is an issue. It appears that since the genocide, women have had greater need to be independent and so traditional relationships between men and women are disrupted. Women, these individuals claimed, are more likely to be argumentative than in past eras. Also, we learned that in a separation, children under 7 may be forced to go with the father (or his family) since children belong to the father and not the mother. Not all attendees agreed with this view. We ended the day with small group discussions about how to tell when a person is experiencing domestic violence and how to engage that person in some basic information gathering and invitation to talk further.

One of the major changes we have in our schedule is the fact that we decided it was important to translate in real-time. We had planned that English proficiency would be high enough to do the training in English. However, it appears that substantial concepts are being missed. Even though this doubles the time it takes to do a talk and training, we  believe this is best for the attendees. We give them written text of the talk in English and at the same time give it orally in English and Kinyarwandan.

Some of us ended our work day with a fun swim in Lake Kivu. The water was a perfect temperature and clear many feet down. We swam for about 40 minutes then got ready for dinner. The swim was refreshing after a long day of concentrating and listening. Listening across accents and experiences can really wear you out.

A Funny Anecdote:

Charging phones and readers can be quite a challenge in Africa. You can have a converter and the right plug and find out that your device will not charge. For some reason, I could not charge my phone or nook while in Kigali. However, I was grateful to find that I could charge my devices in my room here at Bethany Centre. Well, last night I awoke at midnight to flames shooting out of my converter right at my head and mosquito net. I yelled, “FIRE” and quickly yanked the blackened plastic out of the wall while sparks continued to fall on flammable material. Thankfully, nothing caught on fire. I opened the patio door and threw the converter outside. My room stunk of that awful burnt plastic smell. In my stupor I wondered if I should call the front desk and ask them to make sure there wasn’t any ongoing problems with the outlet. As I stood thinking about it, I heard/saw outside flourescent lights grow tremendously brighter and then explode, first one, then another, then another. Deciding that I now needed to call the front desk, I turned the light on so I could dial the phone. The overhead light also exploded and sparks fell to the bed/net below. Again, I pounced wanting to make sure nothing caught fire. It did not. I used my phone light to dial the front desk. Minutes later, a sleepy voiced answered. I requested someone come soon to check on me and to ensure something wasn’t terribly wrong. No one came. The next morning I related my story and learned that several others had no power and their lights blew as well. Later we learned that some wires crossed and caused the power surge. It ended well and we had no further electrical problems the rest of the conference.

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Filed under AACC, Africa, christian counseling, counseling, counseling skills, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Psychology, Relationships, Rwanda

Tuza 2.0: Day Three

[June 25, 2013: Kigali to Kibuye]

Our day started with devotions with IJM staff at their office in Kigali. After devotions we met with the social work staff on a beautiful balcony overlooking the city to hear about their work with victims, the process of getting information to determine View from IJMif they could take the legal case and the counseling they could offer. IJM offers TF-CBT informed therapy for parents and child victims. You could hear the heartache as the counselors can only offer counseling to those whose cases IJM agrees to investigate and work for prosecution. They do what they can in those cases where abuse has happened but lack necessary evidence for courts. Unfortunately, there are few options for referral.

After IJM we proceeded to go to Ndera Psychiatric Hospital. As the ONLY psychiatric inpatient facility in the country of 11 million people, they about 350 beds. Do the math! About half of their patients are those with serious seizure disorders. Those in the crisis units have severe psychotic and disruptive behaviors. We saw one man who was stark naked. When asked about census, we discovered that while they have 60 or so beds for men in crisis, their current census is 78. Meaning, men share cots for sleeping!

We visited the stabilization units for men and women, the pharmacy, and kids ward [Picture below is of the daily schedule for kids in picture form]. It seemed that the hospital has a fewkid schedule more medications available to use since our last visit in 2009. Then, they only had access to Haldol. Now, they have some atypicals like Risperadone. Most stay at the hospital for about 3 weeks, though we were told that someone was in the crisis unit since 2001!

After the hospital, we intended to take a trip to one of the church memorials in Nyamata. However, we were running late so we returned to Solace for lunch and discussions with Bishop Alexis, an Anglican Bishop. Bishop has been engaging with us since 2009 for counseling help. He suggested that we come next time with a plan to engage key principles for a country-wide  response so that we avoid overlap.

By 3pm, we were on our way to Centre Bethanie on Lake Kivu in Kibuye. Our bus was packed with people and luggage. The road from Kigali to Kibuye has more twists, turns and vistas than you can possibly imagine. Lovely drive, though long. Finally, we arrived 3 hours later (after dark) to the conference center. Dinner was served in the restaurant (open sides to the lake!).

Today was a full day in many ways. One fun item: I received an African shirt from other team members. Wore it with pride today. One serious item: on our trip to Kibuye, I sat next to a man who told me his genocide story. Lost wife and 2 children. Survived hiding in the reeds for over a month. He told me how the Lord spoke to him about forgiving his family’s killers and how now he is doing reconciliation work with victims and perpetrators. I am amazed at his strength and struggles.

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Filed under Africa, counseling, Rwanda, trauma

Putting irritations into perspective

In one of my classes last night, I wanted to show students several short videos of Christian counselors in action. These students were finishing up their last fieldwork classes and so I thought it would be good to remind them of the kinds of professional identities they are developing.

Unfortunately, our Internet didn’t cooperate. Usually, I have no problems showing streaming video in class. However, we have been experiencing a bandwidth problem of late when all of our classrooms are filled with students getting on the Internet at the same time.

Clearly, an irritation. I could not accomplish what I wanted to. I had good material but at that point in time, I had to punt. My thoughts, at the time, were something like this, “someone needs to fix this problem because I have limited opportunities to do this kind of teaching!” I imagined then that I would write to our administrative folks and complain (nicely!) that we need more bandwidth in order to keep providing a quality education.

Today, however, I have a renewed perspective.

I read of a missionary professor talk about the bandwidth issues in his school. For what would cost about $20 per month (DSL, 512KB) in the U.S., they must pay $880 per month! If they want to double their bandwidth (and they need to due the increase in computer use at the University), they must also double the fee per month!

And this is just the bandwidth problem. I have visited that school and student housing wouldn’t qualify here for a place to keep my lawn mower.

Are there things that irritate you, especially things that are supposed to work well but don’t? Well, it is irritating. And we should work to fix the bugs. However, in the right perspective, I can have a thankful heart for how much I have been given AND a willingness to sacrifice more for those who have even less.

I’m still going to write that letter, but with a vastly different spirit.


Filed under Africa, Biblical Seminary

Trauma Research: A Quick Update

Last week I made a presentation (Trauma Research Update) to the attendees of the 2013 Community of Practice hosted by the American Bible Society’s Trauma Healing Institute. Video and audio recordings were made and when they come available I will point you all to them here (and there were several VERY GOOD presentations made).

I attach here a PDF of my slide show where I walked ran the audience through a quick review of what we *think* we know about the context, cost of psychosocial trauma in Sub-Saharan Africa (based on peer-reviewed publications). In addition, I review the current thinking about the biology of trauma AND intervention strategies that have some empirical support (though not without significant questions).


If you hope this will be an exhaustive review, look elsewhere. Also, keep in mind that the slide show is written by an educated consumer of research (not a researcher) and designed for a ministry audience. Consider that this review is about what we know from empirical publications. There may be many important things we know that come from other sources!

Also, the information I had about the context and cost of trauma comes, primarily, from an excellent commissioned report written by Wheaton College’s Humanitarian Disaster Institute (yet unpublished). Giving credit where it is due, slide 14 is from an excellent presentation made by Heather Gingrich. Check out her new book on complex trauma.


Filed under Africa, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, trauma

A day of trauma recovery: Stimulating talk and an important reminder

American Bible Society

American Bible Society (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today was the first day of the Community of Practice convened by the American Bible Society and their Trauma Healing Institute. The room was crowded with recovery specialists in practice around the world. While a few are mental health experts, many are missiologists, bible translators, linguists, pastors, etc. All are individuals who felt the need to address the pandemic of trauma in their little corner of the world. Participants are working in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, South America, Europe, Canada, and the U.S.

It was a stimulating day. Opening remarks by the new ABS president, Dr. Doug Birdsall, reports from ten different areas about recent trauma healing efforts. We heard about what was going on in Nova Scotia to Namibia to Nepal to Nigeria; in South Sudan, Kenya, Thailand, the DR Congo Papua New Guinea and some sensitive areas.

I got a chance to take the group through a fly-over of the cost and context of psychosocial trauma, some recent understandings of the impact of trauma on the body and concluded with a summary of what we know works (and some possible reasons why) and might be transferable and scalable in other parts of the world. Dr. Michael Lyles brought us an update of PTSD and tied it to the experience of the parable of the Good Samaritan. We also heard about resilience training in Namibia and the trauma of persecution and torture in the Middle East.

It is exciting to see what God’s people are doing with just a few resources and to hear how the Bible Society’s program of recovery is maturing and growing by leaps and bounds. However, Doug Birdsall’s meditation on Luke 10 is still ringing in my ears. After sending out the 72 to do ministry, they returned with joy over the great activity they saw. People were healed; demons cast out; the kingdom expanded. Jesus responds to them by saying something rather startling,

Yes, and there is even more amazing things to come. You haven’t seen anything yet. BUT, don’t rejoice over the fact that you have power to cast out demons. Instead, rejoice in the fact that your names are listed in the roll of citizens of heaven. [my paraphrase]

It is good to take heart in the small army of trauma recovery specialists. God is up to something great, even bigger than we can now see. But, it is always more important that he has come and redeemed us. Make sure that you are more happy about your redemption than about what you can do for God.


Filed under Africa, Biblical Reflection, Missional Church, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, trauma, Uncategorized

Project Tuza 2.0 in Rwanda: Your chance to participate

Those following this blog for a bit will know that I have travelled to Rwanda to participate in training Rwandan caregivers from 19 caregiving organizations (with World Vision Rwanda as the main host and partner). This project has been named “Project Tuza” and is funded by both World Vision Rwanda and donors to the American Association of Christian Counselors nonprofit foundation.

Trip Details:

This June (21-30), a group of 8 counselors and psychologists will be working with local counselors and caregivers to improve counseling and caregiving skills to women and children experiencing domestic violence, with those suffering addictions, and to provide opportunity for extensive case rich learning. While some trainings will be delivered via presentations, we have been requested to spend much of our time in small skills groups so that attendees can learn through practice and case review sessions. As this time will also be nearing the end of the Genocide memorial period (April – July), we will also leave ample time to give attendees time for processing their own trauma burdens. Beyond this training, we are now shaping up meetings with other interested parties so we can expand our opportunities on future trips.

How can I participate?

  • You can pray. These trips are difficult to manage from beginning to end. Getting the logistics right can be difficult when managing time-zones and cultures.
  • You can pray some more. Health, prepping for talks, making sure that we bring the resources we need (AACC is gifting the Rwandan counselors with a large cache of DVD and CD trainings). Next week, we will be meeting here in the States with one of the Rwandan counselors to finalize our training.
  • You can give. This trip is already funded by World Vision Rwanda and AACC. However we desire to keep returning to continue the training. You can help offset the costs of this trip and enable us to return soon. Since our last trip, airline tickets have increased more than $500 per person! Each one of us who are going give by covering a portion of the costs of travel to and from Rwanda. You can help us as well. Please consider giving to AACC Foundation by mailing checks (made payable to AACC FOUNDATION) to AACC Foundation, Attention: Project Tuza, PO Box 739, Forest, VA 24551 (in memo line, indicate the gift is for Project Tuza) or by giving online here in increments of $5. All gifts will be tax deductible.

Stay posted for more information and blogs about our trip!


Filed under AACC, Africa, counseling skills, Diane Langberg, genocide, Rwanda, Uncategorized

Desensitized to Justice Matters?

This week marks time when the 2013 Justice Conference comes to Philadelphia. If you have time, come for a visit and see what many of the well-known advocates for justice have to say ( and say hi to us at Global Trauma Recovery Institute/Biblical Seminary located at #237 in the exhibit hall). At our church, one of the adult Sunday School classes has been considering What God thinks about justice. I had the pleasure of leading it this Sunday as we explored the matter of injustice within our own walls. You see, too often we think about injustice as an “over there” problem. But wherever humans exist, injustice does also.

Gregory of Nyssa says that injustice is rooted in…greed. Greed propels us to take what is not rightfully our own. While outright theft is one form of greed, so also is being unwilling to speak up when others are being mistreated (we don’t want to give up our comfort and power).

Sensitivity to Injustice?

In today’s class, we considered those in our midst that might have less of a voice, thereby being more vulnerable to systemic injustice. Some of the populations named included children, women, ethnic/language/ideological minorities, singles, single parents, technologically dis-advantaged individuals, lower socioeconomic status individuals, same-sex orientation individuals, etc. In small groups, we considered how we might sensitize ourselves to the potential for systemic sin inside the church. Across all groups, the main answer was given that relationships must be formed with “the other” if we are going to learn of latent forms of injustice. There is little that will help us outside of learning through relationship.

Desensitizing ourselves?

However, there are times when we are in proximity to injustice and we turn a blind eye to it. How does this happen? Over time, we lose our sensitivity and begin to accept the dominant paradigm. If you want an excellent description of this process, I encourage you to read The Eye of the Leopard, by Henning Mankell. The main character, Lars Hakansson, arrives in Zambia as a young man. He is shocked and embarrassed by the overt racism by white farm owners who mistreat their “employees” and imagine that Africa would fall apart without their superior work wisdom and work ethic. But over the next 18 years he finds himself owning a farm and being in charge of 200 employees and their families. As the book progresses, he ends up becoming as paranoid as those who have lived their entire lives in Zambia. To be fair, both Black and white Africans help perpetuate the division. Lars tries to shed the “bwana” moniker (akin to “our father” in Swahili). Once he accepts the position, Lars imagines he will be different. He will build schools. He will treat others with dignity. He will raise salaries. Despite keeping these promises, the social fabric continues to fray and Lars starts to sound like the other racist owners.

Only in the end does Lars come to realize the truth,

A White man can never help Africans develop their own country from a superior position, he thinks. From below, from inside, one can contribute to expertise and new working patterns. But never as a bwana. Never as someone who holds all power in his hands.

Being in a system that promotes a dominant group’s power and maintains another group subservient will inevitably rub off on you if you try to work within the current system’s power structures. The challenge is this: if you don’t work in the current system, you probably can’t get much accomplished and will have little voice against “the machine.” If you do try to work within the accepted power structures, you will likely have some positive effect, even as you yourself may become accepting to some of the injustices.


Filed under Africa, Good Books

Praying for Goma

Last year I had the privilege of touring Goma (search Congo 0r Goma or DRC in my search engine above) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It is a city on the northern edge of Lake Kivu and on the border with Rwanda. Residents of Goma (and all of the displaced persons) have known much tragedy, especially since 1994 when the genocide in Rwanda spilled over into the DRC. There have been African multicountry wars, ethnic conflicts, rampant poverty, corruption, an ineffective central government…and now, today, it has fallen into the hands of a relatively small band of rebels called M23.

If you are like most, you find the regions somewhat confusing. You’ve heard about the area being deemed the rape capitol of the world. You’ve heard it is an area rich in minerals. You may have heard recently that Rwanda has been accused of supporting the M23 group. But, you probably find it hard to keep the various acronyms clear in your mind and the situation in Gaza and Israel get most of the conflict attention these days.

Please pray for those in the DRC. Pray for rescue. Pray that the international community will care about them and put proper pressure on the various parties. Pray for the restraint of evil. And if you would like more information, read this link:


Filed under Africa, Rwanda

Animated Short Movie About Trafficking

For those interested in anti-trafficking media, you might check out this almost 4 minute animated movie about woman in Africa lured into a sex trafficking trap.

Warning: while it contains no graphic visual material, the content of the video may still be triggering for some.

UPDATE: I believe this link contains the full 6 minute movie:

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Filed under Abuse, Africa, Movies

Booknote: Broken Memory

Just posted a short book review over at Global Trauma Recovery Institute. It is a novella about a child survivor of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. If you are interested in getting an inside look at life after a trauma, dealing with memories and spaces in memories, and a common recovery process, I commend the book to you.  Quite moving, easy to read (not triggering for most), and gives some good illustrations of actions of the survivor and other caring individuals that help the young woman regain control over her internal world.

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Filed under Africa, counseling, Good Books, Rwanda, trauma