“People can put on brave faces and pretend that all is well, but in their closets they are hurting,” said Kollie, who was displaced during Liberia’s civil war. “When you talk about what is deeply buried in your heart, that is healing. It’s able to equip you to face future challenges.”
Kollie and Writebol use curriculum adapted for Liberia from the American Bible Society, offering what they say is the only Biblically based trauma healing in the country. The curriculum goes through basic principles of grieving, anger, and forgiveness, and then addresses specific situations such as domestic abuse, rape, or living in the midst of conflicts. Kollie helps too with cultural contextualization. The word “trauma” implies going mad to Liberians, so the facilitators use words like “heart wound.”
On ministering to women who have been raped, the curriculum says, “They should be allowed to say how angry and ashamed they feel. It is very common for rape victims to be angry with God. This is okay. God is able to accept their anger and still love them. It is better for them to be truthful about their feelings than to hide them.”
Kollie and Writebol have led healing sessions with rape victims, the paramilitary, the police, firefighters, children orphaned by Ebola, and men who worked in the national crematory during the Ebola crisis.
The crematory group had to take infectious bodies from families and burn them instead of giving the traditional washing and burial. Because those men did something culturally horrific, they felt the full stigma of the country while also occasionally coming across the corpses of people they knew. Their work felt like a “crime,” Kollie said.
Many of the crematory workers turned to alcohol and drugs to cope. When Writebol and another Evangelical Church of Liberia pastor hosted the first trauma healing group with them soon after the crisis ended, she could tell the men weren’t ready to discuss what they had been through. She told them to call her when they were ready. A year later, they did, and went through the entire program. Some are doing well now, although one that Writebol knows of is still struggling and drug-addicted.