Facilitating a Trauma Healing Course
Part 1: Together We Learn
Story and Photos by Harriëtte Knigge
At the beginning of March, I was allowed to fly to Moropote with Caroline Wälde to give a trauma healing course. Caroline works with Liebenzell Mission and, for years, they have regularly held week-long courses for the people in the Moropote area as a kind of part-time Bible school.
I know Caroline from Wewak, where she lives with her family. Through her I have also become familiar with the women’s prison, where we have been going every week for fellowship with the inmates since 2019.
On arrival in Moropote, it was nice to see people I knew from previous visits. We as a family spent a week at Moropote in August 2018 for our MAF PNG language and cultural orientation. Since we really enjoyed the people and place, we took my parents in law there for a long weekend at the end of January this year.
Again, in typical Moropote tradition, Caroline and I were greeted with sing-sing and a beautiful welcome letter. My name “Haleta” sounds like “highlighter” in their pronunciation. I approve!
The trauma healing course we brought to Moropote explained what wounds of the heart and grief are, as well as how we can help others. We also discussed what God says about all this, what we can learn from the Bible, and what forgiveness is. These topics are so very applicable in this country where many people do not have access to health care, and therefore die young, and where there is hardly any access to professional help for psychological needs especially for those living so remotely.
We really had a fantastic week. Forty to forty-five students, men and women, attended the course. Every morning, they gathered for four hours of lessons and another two every afternoon. It was a full program, but we learned a lot together. They shared about their culture and we shared some “Western wisdom”; together we learned from the Bible. We sang, joked, swam in the river, and prayed with people for their personal needs.
We got to know some of the women quite well. They had all kinds of questions about the course and their personal life, and came to us in the quiet moments. It can be hard for them to find a trusted person in the bush. With almost everyone being related, it is difficult to share if you don’t want your story to be known everywhere. Caroline speaks the Tok Pisin language fluently so I sat next to her and listened while she talked with the women. Even though I don’t know the language fluently, I prayed in my heart for the woman and the conversation. I marvel at the questions they asked; so personal, so varied, and sometimes so basic. The questions ranged from swollen feet during pregnancy to the role of men and women in the church; from the vanilla harvest to problems surrounding the children’s education.
In between lessons, I sold a lot of audio Bibles, Tok Pisin Bibles, some reading glasses, and Jesus DVDs. All of these materials, provided by CRMF, come from the Bible box Wilfred (my husband) often has on the plane, which he lent me for this week’s course; particular as we knew the people had asked for the audio Bibles
I admire the strength of the local people. Mrs. A. gave birth just a month ago, yet brought her little one with her in a bilum. Every day, she sat in the front row with another toddler beside her.
Mister B. couldn’t hear everything in the back, but told us that he is a prayer warrior and prayed for us during the course. If we wanted to write down our prayer points, he could take them home after the course.
Mister H. brought his son to the course every day and the child found a nice place to sleep.
The course ended on Thursday afternoon. As we said goodbye to the students, Luke (the man who sits at the HF radio every morning and afternoon) talked about Covid-19. The message was vague and, listening to it, I got a little sense of what it is like to live in such a remote village, surrounded by endless jungle and swamps, so cut off from technology and media. You just have no idea what’s going on outside your area. Is the news really true? What exactly does it mean? How far has Covid-19 spread now and is it already here in PNG?
We really didn’t know either! Caroline and I read Psalm 91 before enjoying our dinner of fish brought by local people: “my refuge, my fortress, my God! I trust you!”
Knowing we will be picked up the next morning and go home to our families, we looked back on a wonderful week. I was so looking forward to teaching this course. I enjoy training and it was wonderful for me to be able to use my gifts outside the house. We have now been out of the Netherlands and part of MAF for over three years, and for the first time abroad I felt it from my toes: Yes, I was made for this!