Persecution is traumatic. That may sound obvious, but how often do we consider that it wounds victims in mind, emotion and spirit? The symptoms are not that different from a soldier who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
When we hear news about persecution we tend to think in more spiritual terms. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.” When someone is beaten or imprisoned or runs for his life, or a family spends months living in a refugee tent in northern Iraq having lost all their earthly possessions, it doesn’t feel like a blessing.
Behind each report of persecution are human stories of suffering. Open Doors trauma support teams quietly listen to many of those stories and train pastors and other leaders to deal with the trauma in their congregations.
Open Doors has always emphasized a ministry of presence. Staff doesn’t just deliver training or resources, but they put their arms around the persecuted and pray with them and encourage them. Counseling is a natural extension of that work. “The main goal of what we do,” one Open Doors counselor says, “is to help people deal with their suffering and loss, but also to see where God is in the entire story.”
Open Doors employs cutting edge therapeutic models in professional counseling. Counselors help victims understand that symptoms such as anxious feelings, flashbacks, insomnia, loss of appetite and spiritual lethargy are normal. Christians are not immune and the persecuted are relieved to know that this is a normal process of loss and grief.
At times this work can seem overwhelming. But the trauma support team isn’t discouraged. The victorious believers have so much to contribute to those who live in safety.
“These people challenge my faith,” says one Open Doors counselor.
The counselor tells about a woman she met recently in a refugee camp who had lost three homes and suffered from a severe leg problem. The woman said that in one night all of her problems came crashing in on her and she wondered “What if I need surgery? How can I live with this constant pain? What if my husband can’t make enough money to pay a doctor?”
Juggling all of those “what ifs,” the woman remembered Paul and Silas singing after being beaten and thrown in prison (Acts 16). The woman spent the rest of the night reciting every scripture verse she could remember and singing every Christian song that came to her mind. As the sun rose, the woman found that God’s joy and peace had replaced her fear. “I wouldn’t have thought to do that in that situation. But this woman showed me that this is what joy is in the midst of suffering. It’s finding God through the pain.”
Compiled by Jerry Dykstra. For media inquiries, contact Christine Cape at 404-545-0085 or Katie Rouse at 678-410-9575.