Tuesday, October 23, 2012

.to hold.

I'm in Texas for a week at a training in Trust-Based Relational Interventions for kids coming out of traumatic backgrounds.
Just listen to that title... trust-based, relational interventions.
Can you think of something better?

I'm so thankful to be here for more reasons than I can say
and my heart and mind are exploding all over the place.
(Some of you may be noticing this from the amount of texts you're getting from me hourly or so...
sorry, yall.)

As we learn how to create connection, presence, mindfulness, felt safety, nurture and structure, gentleness and playfulness,
I have been aching for a house of girls and the amazing staff who live out these principles in a city in Bolivia.

A re-post of something I wrote in February 2010,
when I had been back just weeks
and those faces were on my mind every minute of every day.

...I spent the last six months cuddling with 15 Bolivian teenage girls. Really. It is a big joke among my HNGR class that every single one of my twice-monthly assessment letters included at least something about physical touch. But trust me, to leave it out would not have given a good picture of my time. Of course, it makes grad school applications somewhat complicated. "Description of Clinical Experience: Please list job title and responsibilities". Responsibilities... um... is there a way to make "Rubbed backs and braided hair" sound professional?...

I loved it. I loved every minute. Bolivian culture involves a lot of physical touch; these girls in particular were way affectionate. And plus hugging doesn't require perfect Spanish. But, it felt more important than that.

Did, in holding these girls, I get to communicate to them that they were unconditionally accepted?
Touch can say so much more than words sometimes.
To feel held is such a big deal.
Did loving touch from the staff and from me communicate safety to them,
when before, physical contact had been a tool for their pain and harm?

Did they feel loved when we lightly touched their head or rubbed their back?
When we cupped their cheek or tucked their hair behind their ear?
Did they feel known, like they belonged?
Was it easier, then, for them to visualize the love of God that Gonzalo told them about in devotionals every morning,
Tino taught to them as he structured and organized their days, counseled them on work, disciplined them when necessary,
that Gladys led them to in their counseling sessions?

One girl I literally spent probably an hour every day just cuddling on the couch with. She was a shyer one. She took awhile to warm up to me. But once we became friends, about half-way in, she wanted to be leaning on my shoulder or laying quietly with my arm around her as I chatted and laughed with everyone in the living room as much as possible. Mosoj Yan threw a goodbye dinner for me two days before I left, but I had forgotten some stuff at the house and had to run back the next day to grab it. I was going to try to make it a really quick trip in because I didn't want to have to see everyone again and start crying... "Yes, that's a good idea, don't let the girls see you. Maria Eugenia cried the whole night after you left." What did I even do that would be that important to her? I held her.

We receive love by having material needs being met: Mosoj Yan gave them good meals, clothing, warm and safe beds. We receive love by having hope and a future: Mosoj Yan teaches them skills, counsels them that they are worthwhile, works to get them education. We receive love through words: encouragement; through memories: laughter, dancing, pizza parties, good conversations.

And, we are bodies. We are physical bodies with physical needs, with needs to be touched and held and loved physically.
At times when my language skills weren't enough
but even more than that my brain and heart failed to be able to communicate to them
how deep God's love for them is,
how much I hated what had been done to them,
every hope and dream I had for them...
I could lovingly touch them.
I could pray that as I held them they could receive that they were hold-able,
worth knowing and loving,
deserving of more than abuse.

What a privilege, to be able to hold.

Don't miss the amazing pictures Tim and Ash have been posting from our time with the girls at Mosoj Yan this summer.

1 comment:

Kim said...

will you take notes at your training for me? pretty please? :)

Human Needs Global Resources Covenant, 2009

As fellow travelers on this journey, we commit to this covenant before God. Lord, in Your mercy, hear these our prayers:

When confronted with scarcity, need, and inadequacy, may we be nourished by the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation. Abundance overflows from Your table, sustaining all who come in faith. Father, help us.

When monotony blurs our vision and dulls our senses, may we encounter others as Christ did, through intentional presence in daily life, submitting as clay to be formed into vessels filled with the Spirit. Christ, guide us.

When wounded by the fractured condition of Your people, may we be united by Your Lordship in faith, hope, and love; seeing, as through the facets of a diamond, the beautiful spectrum of Your light reflected onto Your holy Church joined in praise. Spirit, empower us.

When all Creation groans, afflicted by injustice and driven to despair, may the promise of redemption root us in the hope of Your Kingdom: "Behold, I am making all things new!"

Holy Trinity, send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve You with gladness and singleness of heart.