Roots in the Ruins: Hope in Trauma

Has it happened to you? Have you ever stepped into a pause, a threshold in time and space where, when you came out on the other side, you knew something in you had changed forever? Author Lisa Schirch in her book “Ritual and Symbol in Peace-Building speaks of liminal space as a context in the middle of daily life, but separated as if caught between quotation marks, where the rules about how to act and interpret ways of being shift and we prepare to do and be differently. Liminal space is the place of transformation, the ephemeral stage just after what "used to be" and before "what is to come;” it is holy land, where the Spirit of God gives us new perspectives and inspires us with vision.

I’ve commanded you to be strong and brave. Don’t ever be afraid or discouraged! I am the Lord your God, and I will be there to help you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9

Has it happened to you?  Have you ever stepped into a pause, a threshold in time and space where, when you came out on the other side, you knew something in you had changed forever?  Author Lisa Schirch in her book “Ritual and Symbol in Peace-Building speaks of liminal space as a context in the middle of daily life, but separated as if caught between quotation marks,  where the rules about how to act and interpret ways of being shift and we prepare to do and be differently.  Liminal space is the place of transformation, the ephemeral stage just after what "used to be" and before "what is to come;” it is holy land, where the Spirit of God gives us new perspectives and inspires us with vision.

The Roots in the Ruins: Hope in Trauma courses are an invitation into liminal space.  First in Chile, then in Puerto Rico and Mexico and later this year, in Paraguay and Argentina, pastors, lay leaders, church and community members are invited to a five day course where, on the intellectual level, they explore trauma healing and resilience development theory for effective practice in the context of Latin American and the Caribbean churches.  But in each of the courses, we have stepped together into liminal space, forming a deep- sharing community, trusting each other with our trauma stories, uplifting each other's dignity, and walking together towards reconnecting with God, ourselves, others and the world around us.  One of the ways we build this community is through a covenant; another is by having a multicultural facilitation team.  Facilitators from the Shalom Center of the Pentecostal Church of Chile along with the Rev. Beverly Prestwood-Taylor from the Brookfield Institute in Massachusetts, with the support of Global Ministries, are working together to develop materials.   In the coming years, the Roots in the Ruins program will train facilitators in different countries who will, in turn, further nourish and contextualize the materials, workshops and courses.

As a facilitator of the Root in the Ruins: Hope in Trauma course, I am a what Boris Cyrulnik calls a "resilience tutor", someone who like the stake attached temporarily to a growing sapling, accompanies others for a time shoring up confidence, promoting independence and affirming self-worth and capacity.  The encounter between a traumatized person and a "resilience tutor" can be so brief that one could doubt its importance in the development of a new way of being.  The Roots in the Ruins course is only five days, and my personal interactions with individuals are often fleeting, and yet Cyrulnik says that it isn´t the liminal space itself or the people who share it with us who are actually important.  It is the symbolic representation of that space and persons, remembered over and over again especially in the moments of greatest need, that make healing and transformation possible.  Vitally important for healing is the way I behave as I share the learning space, teach with humility and respect, and recognize that I, too, am a "wounded healer" dependent on the guidance and grace of the Holy Spirit.  What I model speaks louder than what I teach.

At the beginning of 2014, as I do every New Year, I asked God to give me a Bible promise to guide me through the coming months.  This verse from Joshua is a favorite in the Pentecostal Church of Chile, often quoted by young and old alike.  My schedule says that I will be traveling many miles this year, and if the first weeks are any indication of the challenges, I know I need to be commanded to be strong and brave, to not be afraid or discouraged.  I don´t think I would be able to be these things out of my own volition! I believe in the promise that the Lord my God will be with me and help me as I continue to walk alongside others on the path of Shalom, through liminal spaces, and on to richer and deeper relationships with God, ourselves, others and all of creation.

Elena Huegel serves with the Pentecostal Church of Chile (IPC)She serves as an environmental and Christian education specialist.