(World Renew – 01/31/13) – How do you do ministry in a region that is ridden with conflict, violence, and uncertainty? These are the very challenges facing many of World Renew’s staff working for justice and mercy in West Africa. Not only are people in West Africa among the poorest in the world, several have also been living in fear or even driven from their homes by civil strife and violence. These men, women, and children must make a living for themselves and their families despite the uncertainty around them. Those who have been forced to flee their homes arrive in new cities and villages with little more than the clothes on their backs. They also carry painful memories of losing the possessions and people they loved. Many feel betrayed by their country—and some even feel abandoned by God.Thanks to training on trauma healing organized by World Renew, traumatized refugees and families living in the midst of conflict are finding hope and healing and being touched by the peace of Christ. Survivors of all ages are being given a safe place to open up and express their pain concerning the events they have lived through. Some faced intense pressure to give up their faith, such as a man who described how his wife had helped him stay strong by telling him “if we must die, we will die as Christians.”
“Right now is the first time I have talked about this. Because we learned in this training that telling the truth is important. And the truth is that I almost lost my faith,” he shared.
During the training parents also opened up about the heartbreaking toll the refugee experience was taking on their children. One mother shared about her seven-year-old son, Abraham, who is afraid to go to the bathroom and to sleep alone. “He is aggressive with his friends and sometimes even with adults,” she said. “He has changed schools once already since school began this month. He said he is afraid of his teacher.”
Trauma care is making a critical difference for these children and for their families by offering them a stable, peaceful space to recover from what they have suffered.
World Renew is also continuing to walk alongside the people of West Africa despite the uncertainty in the region. In the midst of unrest, World Renew staff members are working with and through local churches and partner organizations to offer a variety of community programs that can help people achieve their God-given potential. Microcredit savings groups are a great example of this.
Microcredit savings groups are small groups of men or women from the same geographic area. They meet together on a regular basis and pool their savings in order to provide loans to each other or work on joint business ventures that can increase their family incomes.
One group of 22 women, for example, is working together to make a profit off of a local crop known as “nere seeds.” Through the microcredit savings group they can purchase the seed in bulk quantities at a low price soon after the crop is harvested. They then put some of the seed into a community cereal bank where it is stored safely and can be sold at a later date when supplies run low and the price for nere seed is at its highest.
The rest of the nere seed they turn into a local condiment called “soumbala” that can be sold for a profit.“In the afternoon, we put the nere seeds in a pot over the fire and leave the pot to boil overnight by continuing to add wood,” one woman explained. “We take the pot off the fire in the morning and wash the seed to take off the hard outer shell. This takes about an hour. We let the washed seeds sit in a closed sack in a basin for 3 days. It smells bad!! Then we form it into balls, which go into the dehydrator to become soumbala.”
“It is possible to go out in the fields and collect enough nere seed to work individually,” adds another group member, “But if we want enough to produce a real profit, we need to work together.”
With more stable livelihoods, these women and their families are able to live with a sense of security and look with more hope to the future.
Please continue to pray for peace in the West Africa region and for World Renew and its partners as we work to replace hatred with love, sadness with joy, and despair with hope.
(To learn more about World Renew’s ministry, go to worldrenew.net)