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Healing Trauma: The Church is a Hospital for Souls

Participants receiving Bibles during the Trauma Healing Program.

Refugees fleeing conflict and persecution experience trauma that no person should have to endure. In northern Uganda’s refugee settlements, where thousands have fled from violent civil war in South Sudan, the local church is playing a vital role in their healing process, with support from Water Mission Uganda’s Evangelism and Discipleship (E&D) team.

“The role of the Church in refugee settlements is critical because it fills a gap only the Church can fill. Different agencies in the settlement [provide safe water]. The health center… is the best place to seek medical attention. However, none of these can offer solutions to a troubled and desperate soul… The Church is really a hospital for souls.”

– Reverend James Ddembe Izimba, Water Mission Uganda

As our team interacted with residents and church leaders of Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement, many refugees shared that their horrific experiences during the war had left them traumatized and depressed, overwhelmingly angry with rival tribes and host communities, with no outlet to safely express their anger and pain.

Trauma Healing Program

In response to what they’d heard, the E&D team hosted a four-day trauma healing program for Christian leaders focused on biblically-based forgiveness and reconciliation. The main challenge of the workshop was that far more people wanted to participate than expected – upon hearing about the program, church leaders came from several neighboring zones of the settlement to join the training.

Worship during the program.

All participants received their own Bibles and discipleship materials. At the end of each day, they went door to door, sharing the love of Christ with their neighbors, and nine people devoted their lives to Jesus! In the evenings, our staff taught refugee women how to bake chapati (flatbread) and mandazi (an “African donut”), which they can sell to earn a living.

Women learn to make chapati and mandazi.

“Tears of joy rolled down people’s faces on receiving free Bibles. Participants thanked Water Mission for caring for them not only with water but with the Living Water message that brings hope and healing.”

– Reverend James Ddembe Izimba, Water Mission Uganda

Participants receive Bibles!

One of the most powerful parts of the training was watching reconciliation take place between hostile, rival tribes. Two rival tribe leaders, in particular, had never had a conversation without a fight breaking out. During the training, they shook hands and calmly spoke to one another for the very first time.

“Our houses were burned down, property destroyed, our people killed by [a rival tribe]. I was longing for a chance to make revenge for my people who were killed and whose property was destroyed. Today, I forgive [the rival tribe] so I can have a healthy life.”

– Michael Laku, refugee pastor

Small groups during the program.

Going forward, newly-formed committees of church leaders have pledged to be advocates for trauma healing in their communities. Equipped with resources, Bibles, and the comfort of Water Mission Uganda’s support, they are ready to begin the long, arduous process of restoring hope and helping their neighbors to heal. Water Mission has already hosted its first follow-up session!

Biblical teaching during the program.

“The Northern Uganda Refugee Trauma Healing Project is bringing light into dark places… healing to the broken-hearted, and comfort to those who mourn,” Reverend James shared in summary. Water Mission Uganda continues to provide opportunities for refugees to experience the healing that the Lord promises His children.

“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. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”

– 2 Corinthians 1:3–5

Give today to help us meet the needs of even more refugees and host communities in northern Uganda.

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