We explored the impact of Bible-based trauma healing in our Summer 2018 issue of Words for Life. Here we look at how the trauma healing course is being used to care for traumatised refugees in Germany.

Germany has been one of the most welcoming countries to refugees in recent years, receiving over a million refugees over the past three years alone. But once refugees reach Germany many of them still suffer from the effects of the wars they have fled from. About 70% of refugees in Germany have experienced violence, and over half of them are traumatised as a result of the wars they have fled from.

To resource the German church to meet the needs of these refugees, Uschi Lautenschlager of Wycliffe Germany has been working with a team to translate the trauma healing materials used in war-torn countries around the world (see article in Words for Life Summer 2018) into German.

Taking pain to the cross as part of a trauma healing workshop in Germany

Uschi notes that, ‘In Germany we only have a small number of specialists who can deal with traumatised people, which means it is almost impossible for them to get help. But as refugee helpers who are not specialists, we do not have to watch the situation helplessly. Experts confirm that lay people can contribute a lot to help traumatised people gain new strength and new emotional stability. I realised that this was the programme we needed. It can be used with individuals or in small groups, it is simple, interactive and it combines basic concepts of psychology with the word of God’

How churches are responding

Churches in Germany have responded to the needs of refugees in different ways. Some, Uschi says, ‘are not interested. But there are other churches that are very open and have a lot of things for refugees going on.’ Some churches, or alliances of churches, have opened language cafes where people can go and get help with learning German, filling in government forms, and help with things like repairing cellphones. They arrange for church members to give refugees lifts to official appointments, and help them to navigate strange geographical and bureaucratic landscapes. Churches have also opened second-hand clothes stores and food banks to help refugees.

‘Some churches started international services,’ Uschi explains. ‘I have heard of churches that now have Iranian churches within their churches. Other churches have an international service on Saturday evening that all kinds of refugees from all over the place come to.’

A role play demonstrating how not forgiving someone is like being tied to them

The importance of listening and being heard

Now that the trauma healing materials have been translated into German, the hope is that it will help the German church in caring for traumatised refugees. During our trauma healing sessions, Uschi explains, ‘we read a lot in the Bible, we open all these passages that are about pain and about lament, and that inspires people to lament to God about their own pain.’

A trauma healing course also gives people a chance to share about what they have experienced, and to listen to others. ‘People grasp very quickly,’ Uschi says, ‘the importance of being heard and of having someone who listens.’ This attitude creates ‘such a good atmosphere,’ Uschi observes, ‘and such open relationships. It is amazing how quickly people are willing to share and to give insight into their deepest inner life.’

Building a community of help and support

Over the past year, Wycliffe Germany has run a number of trauma healing courses. In one of the first courses, Uschi said, ‘I thought if I get eight participants, it would be great. But we had 28 people come – it was amazing and people were so grateful for it.’

Uschi now plans to take the materials to churches around Germany and to train others to use them. The aim is to multiply trauma healing course facilitators, as those who have been trained then go onto train others, so that churches can offer hope and healing to many traumatised refugees around Germany. The hope is, Uschi says, to ‘have a community where we can support and help each other.

*Top picture: The pain of trauma expressed through Play-Doh by a refugee during a trauma healing course Wycliffe Germany was involved in.