One of the Bayside team members is a Canadian lady called Barbara Wilson. I've gotten a chance to chat with Barb and sit in on one of the classes of a workshop that she is doing for Pastor Chantha's students. Barb is the founder of Freedom Bound Communications and she speaks internationally to youth and adults with her message of sexual bonding and healing. She has been ministering to child prostitutes in California and teaching them a message of freedom, forgiveness and healing so that they can break free from the trauma of their past. She is educating Pastor Chantha's students on how to minister to kids in Svay Pak who are dealing with sexual trauma but before equipping them with the tools they need, she has been having the students go through an 'inventory' of their own lives to help them to understand and gain insight on how their own family history and background has impacted their journey of brokenness. They are learning the importance of expressing their emotions, their feelings and grieving their losses as they share their pains in a safe setting. This is such a valuable exercise especially for this younger generation in Svay Pak to go through for the Asian culture is such that often 'saving face' is more important than expressing ones deepest needs, pains, vulnerabilities or hurts. Many of them have parents who grew up during the Khmer Rouge Era who are still experiencing PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and who have buried their emotions instead of dealing with the pains from their past.
Barb was explaining to the students how trauma can manifest itself in a person's life as she talked about such symptoms of drug abuse, alcohol abuse, violence against others or against ourselves etc and as they reflected on their own family lives they began to learn and see connections on why their parents treat them in a certain way and how this has affected their own lives. As some of the students went through this exercise they were in tears but I believe that God is using those tears as a first step to release healing and freedom in these students lives as they mourn losses and pains that they didn't even know they had. As they learn about their own wounds and embrace the pains of their lives they begin a journey of healing in which they turn their mourning into dancing. A journey in which they become wounded healers to the traumatized kids in Svay Pak. Henri Nouwen says it bests when he says 'mourning makes us poor; it powerfully reminds us of our smallness. But it is precisely here in the pain or poverty or awkwardness, that the Dancer invites us to rise up and take the first steps. For in our suffering, not apart from it, Jesus enters our sadness, takes us by the hand pulls us up gently to stand and invites us to dance.' We find the way to pray as the psalmist did, 'You have turned my mourning into dancing (Psalm 30:11) because at the center of our grief we find the grace of God.
This is what Christ is doing with Pastor Chantha's students. He is inviting them to dance as He lifts them up from their own pain and suffering. And as 'they dance, they realize that they don't have to stay on the little spot of their grief, but can step beyond it. Instead of centering their lives on themselves, they can pull others along and invite them into the larger dance--the dance of the Lord. This is the hope of this workshop--- that Pastor Chantha's students indeed will be viewed as the safe person for the little ones here in Svay Pak to come to as they are in the midst of their own trauma. As Barb said, by being that 'safe person' you give hope to a traumatized person because you give them a place where they can share their pains and begin a journey towards healing as they discover that there is indeed one person who cares and loves them. So join us in prayer, that as this new generation of students learns to express their emotions, to share what is going on within their hearts they will set an example for the kids in Svay Pak to be more open about their own pains and in so doing begin the journey towards an emotional healthy spirituality where they are no longer imprisoned by the shame, pain and guilt of the abuse but move towards a journey of healing, forgiveness and freedom.
As I think of the wounded healers in this community, I see it in the face of Paulie--whom I blogged about a while back along with her sister Lim. Pastor Chantha believes Paulie has great leadership potential and he hopes that one day she will rise up and be an influential leader not in Svay Pak but in the government. Paulie certainly has that ability. She leads the Sunday morning worship alongside Ratanak, she is always the one leading the Kids in the kids club through various songs and when the teams leaves, she initiates the prayers and songs to bless them. Today I saw in her the servant heart of God in a wonderful gesture of humility. She was actually cutting and filing the finger nails of the 5 teenage boys who used to pimp the girls and have now become key allies in our fight against child sex trafficking in Svay Pak. She was being a big sister to them, serving them in a loving way and no doubt commanding their respect as she showered them with the gentle touch of Christ. This from a girl who has experienced abuse at levels we cannot truly understand. Yet as I look at Paulie, again I see the grace of Christ, giving her the ability to give love with humble and Christlike compassion. Indeed, in this little community of Svay Pak, we see the seeds of God's love rising up in this younger generation as He shapes and forms their character into His image using their brokenness and their woundedness as the first fruits in which His beauty is displayed