This past week, we were privileged to attend a four-day trauma healing workshop. This workshop, put on by World Renew using a curriculum developed by the Trauma Healing Institute, is actually a “training for trainers,” specifically tailored to train others to lead workshops for church members, teaching them about walking through trauma, grief, and how to help others do the same. Learning about this was especially interesting for me (Bethany) because of my psychology background, although David really enjoyed himself as well!
It was a very interesting experience to talk about these subjects within a culture so radically different from our own. For example, while talking about grief, the speaker asked if anyone came from a culture, either a country (for us and one Nigerien lady) or tribal ethnicity (for the rest of the participants who were Malian), where it was acceptable for someone to cry while experiencing grief. David and I were the only ones who raised our hands.
The more I think about this, the more it shocks me. Here in Mali, it is quite taboo for men to cry. The expression they have here is “cry like a woman” (which I liken to “cry like a baby” in our Anglophone western culture)– I’ve even heard a story about a fiancée breaking off the relationship because her partner wept while she told him of some past hurts in her life, saying “If he cannot handle his own emotions, how will he be able to handle a household?!?” This is different from our culture in Canada, yet not shockingly so, as western culture still holds on to the (harmful) idea that strong men don’t cry, at least in public. Yet this question posed at the workshop was not about men – it was about everyone, and during a time of grief, the time when it is most acceptable to cry in our home culture!
This trauma healing course helps to correct these types of harmful cultural ideas, and is also very biblically founded. We both passed the written and the oral tests at the end, so now we are certified to lead these workshops ourselves! The next step is to lead one workshop before June, when we will have an advanced training session, and another test. I am really looking forward to leading these workshops. Dealing with grief and trauma is important for mental health, and education about mental health is so important! This course helps to take steps towards managing all different kinds of trauma with all different ages in a healthy and constructive manner. For example, it is educating and enabling women, who are often told to be submissive to their husbands in everything, to leave if they are experiencing spousal abuse.
In other news, we have bikes now and are having quite the experience on the bumpy dirt roads to work! As well, “La chaleur,” or the hot season, is ramping up, and will be going full tilt by April, apparently. While we had one morning of light rain, called the “mango rains”, which made it a very enjoyable temperature, most days are still quite hot (around 40 degrees). We’ve just started using the air conditioning at night, and are sweating it out through the day! Quite a difference from southern Ontario at the moment, but it is very nice because this time of year also brings an abundance of mangoes!
Blessings to all of you!