On Valentine’s Day 2008, a mentally ill man entered an auditorium classroom at my workplace, Northern Illinois University, pulled a shotgun from a guitar case and started shooting. He killed five students, wounded 17 more, and then killed himself.
My students and I (Jim) were the first journalists to reach the scene. Someone handed me a camera, and by the next morning my photos were on the front pages of newspapers all over the world. News photographers work their whole lives and don’t get a picture on page 1 of the New York Times. Let me tell you, it didn’t feel good.
A few days into the media frenzy surrounding the tragedy, a friend called. As a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, she was involved with something called the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma. It’s a resource center and global network of journalists, journalism educators and health professionals. Not only do journalists seek to cover trauma with empathy and better understanding, but we also can become its second-hand victims through post-traumatic stress disorder (similar to what first responders experience). Dart taught my students and me healthy ways to cope with the awful things we had seen on campus that day, and what I’d been seeing on a smaller scale for years as a journalist. For future reporting, they helped me know the right questions to ask, and when. Perhaps without realizing it, they helped me bring Christ to people who needed him desperately. At the time, I had no idea I soon would be working in missions.
Just a few years later, I was able to carry that knowledge into missions reporting from war and disaster zones. Most notably, in 2013 traumatized Syrians told me about bombings, mass killings, rapes, even crucifixions. Later, I realized these were early eyewitness reports about ISIS.
Syrian girl in a refugee camp outside Amman, Jordan, 2013. Her family had just arrived after fleeing their home in Hama, Syria.
For marginalized people, trauma is never far away. In Bible translation, we encounter it all the time – through war, natural disasters, persecution and cultural customs that tend to be especially hard on women and children. The wounds run deep.
Several of our Wycliffe friends facilitate trauma healing workshopsin some of the toughest places on Earth. They train local church leaders to lead Bible-based trauma workshops in their own communities. For many who attend these events, it’s the first chance they’ve had to process their trauma in a safe setting. It’s also the first time they’ve ever heard any story from the Bible.
If you want to see the impact of God’s Word, here it’s immediate. People find hope and transformation as they link their own stories to those of Job’s suffering, or the Lamentations of Jeremiah, or Jesus' discouraged followers on the road to Emmaus. They begin to piece their lives back together. Sworn enemies reconcile and forgive each other. Men stop beating their wives and kids. And the local Church grows and becomes the epicenter for all of this healing — even sometimes as the wars, persecution or disasters continue.
When people engage with God’s Word from the depths of their trauma, he heals. Too many of those stories are going unreported today. Reported well, they could be engaging and encouraging the global Church. That's my mission and calling with Wycliffe — using journalism to connect people everywhere with the transforming work of God.
Publish his glorious works among the nations.
Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.
— 1 Chronicles 16:24 / Psalm 96:3
As of June 3, we’re at 43 percent toward our monthly budget need for Jim to start his Wycliffe Global Alliance assignment. Quite honestly, we didn’t see a lot of progress in May. That happens some months. Meantime we are so grateful to those of you partnering with us regularly and those who have given special gifts. Onward!
Thanks to … who?
We received several anonymous donations to our Wycliffe account in May. Since there isn’t a way to thank those folks personally, we’ll thank them here. Whoever you are, we appreciate it.
Otabil, Jim's friend in Ghana whom he's been mentoring for the past two years, plans to visit the U.S. in early July. Jim is scheduled to spend time with him in Dallas. Otabil’s visa appointment in Ghana is June 13. Would you pray that he receives quick approval?
Thanks for your encouragement, your partnership and especially your prayer support.
Jim and Lauren
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