Bible-Based Trauma Healing in Uganda
The Bible Society of Uganda in partnership with Trauma Healing Institute at American Bible Society delivers Bible-based trauma healing programs and resources
to help restore individuals and societies devastated by war and other horrors. Currently, four sites have started in Gulu,
Nakivale, Orukinga and Rwamwanja.
The strategy of Trauma Healing project in Uganda seeks to equip
local church leaders with Biblical and mental health resources. These equipped Church leaders
help people affected by various kinds of trauma to experience the life-changing message of the Bible. Through multiple
partnerships we provide training,
accountability, implementation, reporting and assessment to make these programs is effective in bringing God’s healing Word to people in dire need.
Facing up to trauma
Trauma refers to the effects on human beings of disruptive events like war, genocide, criminal activity, sexual abuse, human trafficking, violence and natural disasters. People are traumatized when they are overwhelmed with intense fear, helplessness and horror in the face of death or the threat of death.
Trauma can come by direct experience (as victim or perpetrator), by witnessing someone else’s suffering, and even by hearing of someone’s trauma. Little wonder that we want to turn away
from stories of trauma. Even the statistics are overwhelming and make us feel helpless. But statistics are made up of human stories, experienced one by one. While turning away is an understandable response, we know that Jesus never took that path, and neither can his followers.
Effects of Trauma
Each person experiences
the pain of trauma
their own way, but we can recognize
and even predict some of the ways they will respond when
trauma is left untended. Victims relive the memory of their trauma
face a nearly inevitable
disruption of sleep, health,
emotions, relationships and hope for the future. They face a crisis of faith.
Trauma becomes a barrier to belief in God’s
goodness. If these symptoms last more than a month, they indicate post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Dr. Diane Langberg, co-chair of our Trauma
Healing Advisory Council in the USA, says that trauma stands
not because it is rare but because it is overwhelming. She has noted four themes;
overwhelms normal human coping.
is difficult to put into words.
Trauma is experienced not only by individuals
but by families,
churches, communities and even nations.
Those who suffer directly and those who witness are all affected. And we are all tempted to deny or to ignore.
Helping people respond
trauma requires addressing all four of these
areas, as well as resisting our natural
impulses to denial. The process of healing
begins when we can name the trauma and its causes. The act of
naming has itself been shown to trigger the first stages of
relief, allowing a person to fully feel their pain.
But to heal from the pain of trauma, people also need
a new framework
and dealing with
the world and their
a voice to speak truthfully about the past, a renewed sense
or source of dignity and worth, and the recovery of the ability to choose in areas big and small.
They need a restored relationship with the God of the Bible.
The Need for trauma healing
a vision for
birthing restored individuals and societies. For people who participate
in our programs, restoration includes
the end of silence and shame. It also
involves an end to cycles of violence and
revenge as they begin to move from “victim” to “survivor” and beyond, sharing healing with other victims
and perhaps working for justice in their societies. In effect, trauma healing will lead to
decreased criminal incidents, decongesting of prisons, increased productivity,
improved house hold incomes, better society coercion, more development and
ultimately better livelihoods.
are currently targeting post war trauma healing in Gulu, Northern Uganda and
Refugees living in Uganda in the three refugee settlements, Nakivale, Rwamwanja
and Orukinga. We intend to reach out to the prisoners in Luzira, especially
those that are about to complete their jail sentences so that they can come out
Curriculum and approach
The Trauma Healing
Training in Uganda is based on a workbook called Healing the
Wounds of Trauma which was developed
by four authors then on staff
with Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) in Africa. One is
a psychiatrist, one is a professional
translation and Scripture Engagement consultant and
the other is a missiologist. Co-author Dr.
now works with American
Society and directs the
Trauma Healing Institute.
The book was developed in Africa in 2001
been in regular use since
then. It is now in
second revised edition (2013)
and is available to the public at all Bible Society outlets in Uganda.
It provides basic mental health concepts within a biblical framework, using Scripture passages and composite real-life stories
to help people connect the
with their circumstances. It has been
used with thousands of
and traumatized people world over.
Dr. Hill says that trauma is a wounding
of the heart,
and healing heart wounds
happens best in the heart
language. This is one reason materials are now translated in whole or part into more than 150 languages.
In Uganda, it is fully available in English, Kiswahili, and Kinyarwanda. Acholi
and Runynkole Rukiga translations are being worked on.
About the Trauma Healing Hand Book
The book has eleven chapters. Five of these
are “core” and the
others are selected for each session
as needed. The lesson titles are given below;
1. If God loves us, why do we suffer?
2. How can the wounds of our hearts be healed?
3. What happens
when someone is grieving?
4. Helping children
who have experienced bad things
5. Helping people who have been raped
6. How can churches minister
7. Caring for the caregiver
8. Response: Taking your pain to the cross
9. How can we forgive
10. How can we live as Christians amidst conflict?
11. Looking ahead
There is a separate edition for children,
editions for earthquake victims and other
special needs, and a
story-based version for those without written language or with no Scripture in their heart language.
Advisory Council Co-chair Dr. Phil
Monroe is one of many to note the value of lament in
healing from trauma.
Lament is a significant
theme in the Bible, and bringing our pain to God is an act of pro- found faith. Just as the biblical
of Lamentations ends with a question, the curriculum helps traumatized people resist
superficial solutions. Through the
of small group conversation and activities including composing original laments and drawing, the book
helps people express their pain without
getting stuck there. Then they are invited to bring their pain to the
cross of Christ for healing. Once
healed of their
trauma, they are often able to forgive and eventually
to be reconciled with those who have inflicted the pain.
How the program
uses a cyclical, four-stage process
that builds in leadership development
and evaluation. Selected participants are invited to become leaders for future sessions an intentional multiplier effect.
f Session Audience focus
Convening: The Bible Society of
Uganda invites regional
and national leaders to experience the program. Then they decide if this is something they want to integrate into their ministry.
Equipping: Local leaders
an opportunity to experience healing of their own trauma while they are trained to facilitate sessions in
their communities. They return for an advanced training session after they have led two or more healing
A “community of practice” provides
regular opportunities for
their encouragement, assessment and further training.