But now, in this place, Farideh sits on the edge of her chair, taking in everything. In the exercise she’s hearing about, each person is invited up to the board to draw something on a figure that’s been put on the whiteboard. Each person changes the figure in some way, communicating their internal emotional trauma in a way that will help the others encourage and stand with them.
When it’s her turn to share, Farideh draws lines on the shoulders of the figure. She turns around and tells the group what the lines on the shoulders stand for: This is what she feels physically if she has stress.
Despite the difficulty in sharing, Farideh shines with the opportunity to speak openly about her struggles with other Christians.
“Coming here feels like I stepped out of the darkness into the light,” Farideh says, with a shy smile when we sit down to talk in the hotel lobby after the session. She lives in a strict Islamic environment, a place where she has to keep her faith a secret to the outside world. She also has some stresses in her family life. Both of these realities visibly weigh on her.
“At home I feel like I have to be the strong one,” Farideh says. “I always have to take care of others. But here, I can talk to believers my age; here, people pray for me, and here, I can talk freely. And most importantly: it is here where I learned to listen to the voice of God.”