Trauma healing has an eternal impact on families, communities, and churches.
Lisa’s trauma began as a toddler and was woven throughout her life, although some of the more painful experiences remained buried for decades.
After encountering World Impact’s Trauma Healing program, made possible through a partnership with American Bible Society’s Trauma Healing Institute, she brought her trauma to the cross and is now an empowered minister to those struggling with trauma in their own lives.
But it took many years to get there.
Sources of Childhood Trauma
Lisa has an early memory of being at a bar with her stepdad when she was seven. He set her up on a barstool and got her a Shirley Temple, and started introducing her to his friends as his daughter. “That’s the first time I was confirmed—on a barstool.
”She was the eighth of nine children and never met her biological father who was deployed to Vietnam the year she was born. He was brilliant: an inventor, and served his country.
He returned decorated with medals but was followed by demons that he couldn’t shake. He started drinking heavily and ended up leaving his family.
But he and Lisa’s mom had been married when her mom was only 13; she had only a 4th-grade education and struggled to support her family. Lisa recalls being in the hospital for a month alone with pneumonia as a toddler.
“My mother didn’t have a car, and someone had to be with the kids. I learned to walk in the hospital.”
In place of her mom, Lisa’s younger sister was put in charge of her. Her sister wasn’t always nice, and Lisa grew resentful of that arrangement.
She went to a faraway college and started leading a promiscuous lifestyle, fueled by heavy drinking. She returned home pregnant with her son. Little did she know, two of her sisters had also gotten pregnant, but terminated the pregnancies.
But years later, as Lisa heard about God’s love through His Son and came to faith, she started reflecting on her past. And one day, her past caught up with her as she sat in a pile on the floor. She cried, prayed, and lamented over her unshakeable drive to self-medicate with alcohol and partying.
At that moment, God brought to her mind a clear picture of the moment she had been molested as a child. It became clear that she and her sisters had endured abuse. When she had asked her mom if she was aware, her mom was devastated. In that moment of vulnerability, she confided to Lisa that she too had been sexually abused.
When World Impact’s urban church leaders encounter neighbors suffering from trauma, they need to be equipped to provide basic trauma care so that every barrier to engaging with God is removed.
This was the case for Lisa. She needed basic trauma care, but instead, her family became victims once again.
She and her son were involved heavily in their church, and her son was a part of a young men’s program led by the pastor. Lisa’s older sister who had “parented” her previously, was suspicious of the pastor and warned her. Lisa reflected:
“But I wouldn’t listen to her because of the unforgiveness in my heart, compounded by the trauma of our childhood.”
Unfortunately, Lisa’s son had been molested by their pastor and still struggles with his mental health. As you can imagine, there are layers upon layers of generational trauma that are compounded by family dynamics and life circumstances.
As Lisa started unpacking these things, she started sharing with others. Inevitably, if you choose to live in an authentic community, you will eventually bump into someone’s trauma. And if you are open to sharing God’s restoring work in your life, it can be used to help encourage and heal others.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
Trauma Healing Begets Trauma Healing
Lisa was opening up for the first time in two different ways:
- She began hosting dinner groups with her friends. Her hospitality and openness about what she had experienced invited others who had experienced trauma to share.
- She started ministering to the homeless in Atlanta and had the opportunity to attend a World Impact Trauma Healing training online with her ministry team. The training helped her identify what the Holy Spirit had already been doing in her own life.
Once the trauma healing began, God was already using it to help encourage restoration in others’ lives.
The Trauma Healing Program
The Trauma Healing program equips urban ministry workers and leaders to facilitate Bible-based healing groups. Participants can then choose to become certified to lead their own healing groups, which multiplies the ministry.
To ensure healthy churches, we must create a space for people to heal from trauma, which:
- Can create barriers to people engaging with Scripture.
- Overwhelms human coping mechanisms.
- Is difficult to express.
- Shatters dignity.
- Destroys choice.
As a result of her involvement in the Trauma Healing program, Lisa was able to identify her trauma and take it to the cross. Being able to articulate in clear terms is an invaluable tool for healing. It has enabled Lisa to listen actively and navigate difficult conversations.
Lasting Impact of Trauma Healed
Lisa currently ministers at a shelter for evicted women and children in Atlanta.
She recalls a single mother with six living in one room. The woman wanted nothing to do with Lisa. She cursed, yelled, and screamed at Lisa and her team. Lisa recognized that the woman was trying to protect herself and her kids, so she didn’t take it personally. She simply loved her and gave her a place to stay.
That woman is now attending a trauma healing support group, and relationships with her estranged family members have begun to be restored.
God’s people are conduits of God’s healing. World Impact believes in empowering people like Lisa with tools to help them on that journey.