Rising from the Ashes

Suffering refugees in Uganda are finding new life through the power of God’s Word.

When Joyce Zaninka arrived at Uganda’s Nakivale refugee camp, she kept her eyes fixed on the dusty orange ground. She did not greet anyone. She did not ask how the other refugees were feeling or why they had fled to Uganda for safety.

She had already experienced enough sorrow for a lifetime.

After losing her husband and seven of her ten children to rebel violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joyce fled over the bloodstained border into Uganda. In the refugee camp, Joyce simply existed. She barely slept. She didn’t trust anyone.

That’s when Joyce heard about a Bible-based healing group for suffering widows in Nakivale. That’s me, Joyce thought. So she went. In the group, Joyce heard a message that cut through her suffering. She heard that God loves the brokenhearted. She learned that God walks beside the widow, enters into her grief, and offers eternal joy. These words changed Joyce’s life forever.

Through the support of American Bible Society’s prayer and financial partners, this Scripture-based trauma healing ministry organized by Bible Society of Uganda is moving Joyce and her fellow refugees from hurt to hope.

By combining the restorative power of Scripture with mental health best practices, Bible-based trauma healing helps people in brutal conflict zones encounter a Savior who understands their suffering and grief. Laying their sorrows at his feet, they find new life. Now refugees like Joyce are paying it forward—sharing the hope of Christ with their suffering neighbors in Nakivale.

And as the eighth largest refugee camp in the world, Nakivale needs hope.

“The need for trauma healing in Uganda is so great,” says Bible Society of Uganda’s Trauma Healing Director Esther Achieng. “There are wars everywhere in our neighboring countries.… People have lost so much.”

To care for the millions of refugees fleeing atrocities in their homeland, Bible Society of Uganda is equipping local church leaders to engage their communities with the healing message of God’s Word.

“The first place [suffering people] run to is the church,” says Achieng. “So we need to train the church in their communities so people … can identify with their pain.” The most effective way church leaders reach refugees in their pain and isolation is through Bible-based trauma healing groups, such as the one Joyce attended.

Healing groups provide a safe space for traumatized refugees to cry out to God with raw, honest questions, just like their suffering Savior—My God, why have you forsaken me? Supported by a loving church, they express their pain through tears, stories, and prayers of lament.

During a key exercise, participants write their darkest memories on strips of paper. They bring the papers to the foot of a large cross and burn them, reminding them that Jesus’s death and resurrection brings unbreakable hope and peace.

Through her own encounter with Christ’s love, Joyce found rest from her struggles.

“I feel comfortable somehow now,” Joyce says. “I can just pray and give everything to God.”

Now refugees who have been released from the grip of trauma are serving their suffering neighbors in Nakivale—and it’s making a difference.

“There is unity [in Nakivale] now,” Achieng says. Since the launch of Bible-based trauma healing in Nakivale, more refugees are taking care of one another.

“Once people have trauma healing, they have a heart to help others,” Achieng explains.

This is certainly true for Joyce. Although she used to distrust others, she’s now sharing the hope of God’s Word with her fellow refugees.

“After obtaining the [trauma healing] lessons … I’m so bold,” Joyce says. “I can laugh with people.”

Joyce recently became the president of the same trauma healing group that showed her God’s love for the brokenhearted. She even invited a woman who is HIV-positive to live with her—showing God’s love to someone who would normally be shunned and rejected in Nakivale.

Through word and deed, Joyce and her fellow trauma healing leaders are embodying a simple but powerful truth: God loves the refugees of Nakivale. And Joyce says they’re not done spreading the Bible’s message of a God who is near the brokenhearted.

“We’re going to tell others,” Joyce says.

To bring the healing power of God’s Word to those who need it most, visit ABSRecord.com/Bibles

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