"Before this week, I feel like we had only dipped our toes in, now we've jumped into the pool!" -Tim Norton
After a week-long Beauty for Ashes training session in Anchorage, Alaska, LIM staff in New Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii, and Kansas returned home, mentally exhausted but better prepared for the Kingdom work ahead of them.
"It was extremely emotional," Bob Prue, LIM staff at the Haskell LIGHT House recounted. "We spent the week in a full Beauty for Ashes program with people from all over the country, though most were from rural Alaska, who had come to Anchorage to begin healing from their past trauma and help others to do the same. While we went to learn the process, you couldn't help but get wrapped up in the stories that were told and the journey these Native people were on."
According to the Southcentral Foundation, the Beauty for Ashes program is:
"A faith-based conference designed to educate and train individuals on how to interact with, work with and respond to those whose lives have been impacted by domestic violence, abuse and neglect... This training builds effective communication skills, specifically addressing issues of domestic violence, abuse and neglect. Individuals experience personal growth that ripples into all fields of work, ultimately increasing positive relationships and communication skills."
These are precisely the skills our ministry staff needs as they "provide resources to assist in the healing of social sufferings while valuing Native cultures." (LIM mission statement)
"I wouldn't call it a great week," Tim Norton explained. "It was so intense, and you felt like you were carrying around a ton of bricks the whole time. The environment and the topics were heavy. But at the same time, it was meaningful and powerful. People opened up in our small groups and the stories they told were horrific, but the support and love they got in return were amazing. Many were telling their stories of abuse for the first time, and you could see the change in them. I left heavy-hearted because we saw the damage and hurt of the Native people, but at the same time I saw the hope and healing that LIM can provide to our Native brothers and sisters through this process."
Clarence DeLude, LIM staff in Hawaii, added, "I've heard Rick McCafferty talk about the importance of telling your story and now I've seen it in action. When it comes to dealing with trauma, we just need to listen. We need to hear their story, let them talk as long as they need to and exhaust themselves. God will give us the opportunity to counsel when the time is right."
"When Rick came to Navajo last fall," Tim recounted. "It was a great opportunity for our community to begin the healing journey and to create a safe space within our church. But after my week in Alaska, I realized that was just the beginning. Before this week, I feel like we had only dipped our toes in, now we've jumped into the pool! There is so much more to it, and there is so much good we can do for God's Kingdom by having these tools."
Unfortunately, Tim had to put those tools to use upon returning to Navajo when a young woman attempted suicide.
"I thought I would get a small break where I could process what I had learned, but I was also grateful to have the experience to work with the woman and her family. It has made me a better pastor for the Navajo people."
Clarence was also able to take his new knowledge home to serve his community.
"A few weeks before the conference, a close friend committed suicide. This young man had been working closely with me, and, along with his mother, we had been helping him through his past trauma. His suicide was very unexpected, and it was really hard for the whole community. I supported his family as best I could in the situation, but after the Beauty for Ashes conference, I had a better understanding of what they truly needed and how I could assist them, and the rest of the community, going forward."
CREATING PROGRAMS for communities
Storytelling is natural for Native people. Now our ministry staff is using their experience and background, along with this new training to create safe places for sharing and healing.
Bob hopes to hold a large Beauty for Ashes type conference at the LIGHT House and follow it up with weekly small group meetings and one-on-one sessions for the students of Haskell and the larger Native community in Lawrence.
"We really saw the way a few people sharing in a big group helped to break this ice for people to open up in small groups with their own stories. I think that, along with follow-up programs will be pivotal to the LIGHT House." -Bob Prue
Clarence is looking to incorporate the strategies and tools into the traditional concept of ho'oponono (which means "to put to right").
"Ho'oponono is often a family metting of sorts were people came together to get to the root of a problem. We don't worry about what happened since then, but we focus on the heart of the matter. What was the original problem that sent things sprialing out of control. Then we find forgiveness and closure and move forward together. Often times there's a fire and the problem is thrown into the fire where it can no longer hurt anyone. Ho'oponopono resonates so well with the Beauty for Ashes program. We just each need to find that concept in our own ministry sites and tailor it to fit our own people while keeping our focus on the Jesus." - Clarence
Tim is working on creating the "next step" for the men and women who participated in the Cultural Exchange at Shepherd of the Valley.
"We are planning a men's camp out this summer that will piggyback on the skills I've learned and the event we had last fall. Plus, I heard a pastor at the conference talk about how he used the Beauty for Ashes concept in his Sunday worship, so I'll be working on modifying this program to suit the needs of the Navajo people, particularly those who live in small communities." -Tim
The Beauty for Ashes concept will soon become a cornerstone for Lutheran Indian Ministries' healing mission, as we work to train more staff, build more relationships within our ministry communities, and modify these programs to meet our organizational and Lutheran standards.