“Does it work?”
This is a legitimate question that I am often asked when telling people about the ministry of trauma care. This can be a hard question on the long days in the Cape Flats because the barriers seem too big to overcome. Access to mental health resources have year-long waiting lists, doctors give harsh treatment, schools are overwhelmed with COVID restrictions, and generational trauma creates new cycles every day.
So I will tell you a story of hope. Last year a mom came to me with her 7-year old daughter whose behavior was out of control. The child was screaming and hurting herself, and others and the whole family felt the chaos. One year ago, the mom sat across from me in tears as she said she had lost her daughter and her family was falling apart. So together we began the long road of trauma care. The mom and I met weekly but often inconsistently with COVID lockdowns, but in the process, we found doctors to help with an underlying medical diagnosis for her daughter.
The child had been feeling pain and had extreme anxiety because of her condition. This manifested in “naughty” behavior. Every week that we could, mom, me, and the child met outside with our masks on- playing games, learning about feelings, and talking about self-regulation, often with the three-year-old little brother interrupting us every five minutes. I had asked mom about dad, and she said he didn’t believe in the weird stuff that we taught at the school and thought they should use the traditional wooden spoon approach. So we journeyed on learning new coping skills and parenting strategies. I helped make phone calls and sat in waiting rooms, and together we learned how to take deep breaths with scary diagnoses.
One year later, I go to open the gate and dad is with the family. I had never met him and I was a bit concerned as to why he had come. I will not lie to you- fathers often struggle to connect with the material and can resist when I propose changing family systems. When I asked him why he was joining us, he said, “My wife and daughter have changed. They are calmer and they talk more. I want that. I want to help my family too.” We had a great session drawing our feelings and the daughter explained how her brain works- with a lot of prompts from mom and me. We then came up with strategies for the whole family to use when they are scared or angry.
So here it works. Not with perfection, as I know the family is still struggling to have healthy relationships while navigating a complicated medical diagnosis. But this mom and kiddo had brought moments of peace into their home. They worked and learned to value connection and I am so proud to have been with them in their journey as they learn how to care for each other.
While I have left some of the situation vague to protect identities, the feeling I have while typing this story is hope. After a complicated year with so much disconnect, my heart swells with pride as I watch this mom and daughter duo navigate their relationship together.
With this hope comes the desire to grow. The ministry of trauma care is greatly needed in South Africa. I hear stories of political corruption, addiction, family abuse, and gang violence regularly and the question of how to help seems impossible to answer. So I turn to Jesus, and he says to love your neighbor as yourself. To care. And what I have learned in my years in South Africa is that love and care abound. Parents, teachers, kids, and churches have so much love- and with the knowledge of trauma care, they can love their communities and neighbors in a trauma-informed way that breaks cycles on the individual level- like a dad learning to love his daughter in her fear- and systematically when schools like Trinity Children’s Centre change their discipline policy to focus on the connection before correction.
And so, we are growing the ministry. As some have seen on social media, our organization of trauma care is the White Orange Journey. This training and consultation organization is partnering with organizations, schools, families, and churches to create trauma safe environments. This means that the focus will be less on us (Autumn and Venesch), the missionaries, and more on the organization and how it can become more sustainable. We have so many ideas- online training, support groups, internships- and our partners are asking us to grow. If you are already giving, this is how we are using your monthly support in the ministry:
We are also looking for new partners for our ministry! To grow, we will need monthly partners at each of these levels. We are making new contacts and would love your support. If you can introduce me to your friends and share this message the ministry can flourish!
Thank you for all that you do! Prayers, notes of encouragement, and your financial investment are such big blessings in our life! It works because of you.
Love from South Africa,
Autumn & Venesch