Photo by Tony Cece

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Tuesday 7/31

Today was the second day of our conference for pastors, held in the chapel at Into Abbas Arms (IAA). Our team gave presentations on pertinent issues, some of which are highly sensitive subjects in the Kikuyu tribal culture. After each presentation, the team facilitated process groups in which the pastors could discuss what they learned, along with positive and negative feelings attached to the material presented.
The first presentation was entitled Treating Traumatized Families. The pastors learned how to identify the causes of trauma within the family system and its associated signs. Once the symptoms of trauma are identified, the affected individual can receive treatment to regain normal levels of functioning. Though we did not intend for pastors to become clinical mental health counselors, we wanted to equip them with tools to assist in caring for their congregations. The knowledge gained will help the pastors assess the amount of help they can give and guide them to resources when more expertise is required.
The next presentation was on the topic of Domestic Violence. We discussed how the relationship between a husband and wife can transform into that of a batterer and a victim. Domestic violence affects the the entire family system, children usually finding a place in between mom and dad. This lead to a discussion about the negative developmental effects of family trauma on children, most of which persists into adulthood.
I noticed that many of the pastors sat with an uncomfortable posture as I scanned the room. There were several snickers and short interjections as the presenters jarred their status quo. During group discussions, some of our team members noted that the harshest opinions on the subject centered around the topic of divorce. Some pastors had little grace for a women that left their husbands, even if subjected to violence. A woman leaving her husband is a sin and grounds for removal from the church. 
Though this view was not expressed by all of the pastors, it illustrates the divergence of modern relational equality from traditional Kikuyu culture. There are relatively new laws in the nation of Kenya that promote equality in a marriage relationship (modeled on the American Duluth Model). However, the culture needs time to adapt. The law cannot be enforced useless unless people are willing to report abuse. Though most of our team was greatly disturbed by the pastors’ remarks, we must remember that American culture was in the same position only 45 years ago.
Though their hesitance to receiving the information was noticeable, the pastors were thankful for the opportunity to learn. The breakout groups were used well, as we discussed ways to approach this material from the pulpit and integrate changes into church culture. Additionally, the groups allowed the pastors to practice newly learned counseling skills such as the Modified Sand Tray Technique, in which small stones are used to represent people, gathering a remarkable amount of information on the client’s family life and support system. After hearing the presentation on domestic violence, one pastor said, “I’ve never thought about it this way; God is trying to get our attention.”

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