Don't Waste Your Trauma
Several years ago, John Piper wrote a short-book called Don’t Waste Your Cancer. Written on the eve of pending cancer surgery, he challenged readers affected by cancer to find hope in the painful journey; to not waste this part of their story for it was still a vital part of God’s plan.
My mom, who lived with Stage 4 Ovarian Cancer, exemplified a life radically changed by this disease. She squeezed joy and contentment out of everyday moments. Whether it was the sun peeking through the curtains, an icy cold Margarita, a good Salsa dance, giggling grandchildren; she soaked it all in with a smile. Although her body was dying, a heavenly healing entered her spirit that allowed to her to give and receive love in a way that she had never experienced before.
My mom chose to use her traumatic experience with cancer as a way to draw nearer to others and to God. Because she wasn’t working the last few years of her life, she made herself available to people. She used her time to counsel many friends and family and help their own healing process. In the same way, we all have our own sad, painful stories. Many of us have walked through trauma and even though we didn’t understand it at the time--for many of us, God eventually weaved our trauma and healing experience into the restoration of other people’s lives. God is good like that.
I grew up under the tyranny of an abusive father. He ruled over my mom, brother and me with destruction, manipulation and chaos and it wasn’t until age 20 that I was fully able to extricate myself from his abuse. I soon found myself serving inner-city teen girls through a weekly bible study. Although I was still very raw from years of trauma, my experience at this inner-city church was an inkling of restoration to come. As I walked alongside these tough 7th grade girls with their rough exterior and financial problems, something began to change inside me; my helping them brought healing to me.
In a mysterious and providential way, God brings healing to people who don’t waste their trauma. It takes one broken yet obedient person to bring healing to others.
Last Thursday, I spoke to Co-Founder of Radiate Coalition, Valina Perry and the thought I was left with after talking to her was that she did not waste her own personal trauma and in fact has shared her walk with Honduran girls in hard places. Sometimes broken people just need to know that you were THERE just like they are and your success gives them the hope they need to know that their healing is possible.
Imagine getting married at 23 years old and two months later expanding your family by 25 people in another country?
This is the story of Michael and Valina Perry when they answered God’s call to go serve young women rescued from trafficking, exploitation or abuse. They had visited a month prior to the move and in Valina’s words, “We knew that we had to be there.”
Having that affirmation kept them going through budget cuts, leadership shifts and third-world obstacles that would have sent many young couples back home to the States.
Yet it was evident right away that what these young women needed was consistency and leaving them was not an option. Even though they didn’t have prior training, Valina learned that there was much to bring to the table by just being available and that is exactly what she did through the ministry of being present.
Consistency. Care. Counsel.
Valina discovered her own inner healing from repeated sexual abuse in her past. Through her identity in Christ, she was able to be restored and, in turn, bring restoration to past relationships. It wasn’t a story she shared readily until she realized the potential of her story to bring freedom to women with similar pasts.
“Trauma-care goes hand in hand with walking each young woman through the Bible. They learn that they can overcome through His Truth, Faithfulness and the Healing He offers.”
For the leaders of Radiate Coalition, trauma-care is synonomous with discipleship and mentoring.
What Makes Radiate Coalition Unique?
While there is a world-wide movement of rescuing people from human trafficking and sexual exploitation--Valina and Michael focus on the after-care of these girls through licensed counselors, devoted house parents and discipleship. “Whole-person aftercare” is their focus and they’ve pioneered restorative practices that they wish to see implemented among other after-care practitioners.
Life in the States
As a mom with young children, Valina is in a position of leading by example and advocating for Christ-centered counseling and whole-person care. Although they now live in Conroe, her family considers Honduras a second-home and she and her husband continue to raise awareness for Radiate Coaltion so that the girls they serve can continue to come out of the darkness and step into their destiny.
I’m thankful for Valina’s transparency that is rooted in her idenity in Christ. Our traumatic stories are not easy to share but somewhere along the road, we calculate the risks of our vulnerability with the potential reward that it offers someone who needs to hear our story. Speaking our past is a way to NOT WASTE our trauma. Afterall, when you heal, you in turn can become part of someone’s healing story.
Did this story speak to you? Do you have questions or comments? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or drop a comment below!
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