Monday, July 28, 2014

The Women of Gressier, Haiti part 1

And then God answered: "Write this.
Write what you see.
Write it out in big block letters
so that it can be read on the run.
this vision-message is a witness
pointing to what's coming.
It aches for the coming-it can hardly wait!
And it doesn't lie.
If it seems slow in coming, wait.
It's on its way.  It will come right on time.  Habbakuk 2:2-3

After months of planning with my dear friends Sally and Jen, elevateher entered Gressier, Haiti to work with the women within that region of Haiti. 50 women leaders from 10 different churches gathered. Though we had a sense of the issues the women were facing, we really had no idea what we were walking into in terms of the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the women. Because of this reality, we started the conference by asking the women of the issues that are most pressing in their communities. 

We prefaced that first session with a reminder that they were sisters and to treat each other as such, to not gossip or betray their sisters' trust when they hear of certain struggles and challenges during the conference. They received bracelets that said "ou se se-m" "you are my sister" to communicate this truth.

We used the text Ruth 1 to help the women look at the many challenges Naomi was facing to connect and to help set the foundation for their own struggles. At first the women hesitated to speak of the challenges they were facing but Naomi has a way of helping women get real with their pain.  Once they got started, we could not get them to stop. One woman said of course we have struggles and they're very similar to Naomi's. Several others chimed in saying: "The earthquake on January 12th, things were hard before the earthquake but they've exacerbated after, hunger, lack of resources, no work, infidelity, diseases, sexual abuse, lack of security...on and on it went. Each time a sister would speak, my heart would break because I knew that behind every struggle were 10 other complications.

And it was with those challenges in mind that we opened our first session on trauma and how to heal from the wounds of trauma. Of all the traumas the women suffered they zeroed in on one in particular: sexual trauma. The challenge with sexual traumas in those communities is that everyone suffers alone. Everyone hides and holds the secret and shame of sexual trauma alone.

So we presented the women an opportunity to receive information and enter the process of healing from shame, guilt and suffering alone.

I'm never sure how the women will respond when they receive new information, I'm always fearful that it's too much or too foreign for them to handle. But the response is always the same: women fired up to find out how they can protect their families and communities and encouraged to enter the journey of healing. One woman said "I came in empty handed and now I'm leaving full". 

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