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The Greatest Mission Field
Once a Week
“Not far from us, flames, huge flames, were rising from a ditch. Something was being burned there. A truck drew close and unloaded its hold: small children. Babies! Yes, I did see this, with my own eyes…children thrown into the flames. (Is it any wonder that ever since then, sleep tends to elude me?)”
I knew reading Night, memoir of Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, would be difficult. But I was not prepared for descriptions like this. As the horrific account progressed, I struggled choosing when to read. Not at night, too dreadful before sleep; not in the morning, too depressing for starting the day; in the middle of the day then? But no, time was not really the issue, because I found other books to read, and Night stayed on my shelf.
I started reading Night because Diane Langberg, Christian psychologist and trauma expert, says that some of her first teachers about trauma in the 1970’s (before PTSD was even a diagnosis) were Holocaust survivors. Dr. Langberg has been challenging the Church to see that “trauma is the greatest mission field of the 21st century.” She also calls trauma “a place of service.” Are we ready for such a mission field? Are we ready for this place of service? Answering that question takes time and community. I am still answering it myself. And the question starts with an eye exam.
Are we ready to see? What do we see? How do we see? Can we honestly ask ourselves whether and to what degree our eyes have the same astigmatism as the passersby in the parable of the good samaritan, or the German workers who “would stop and look…without surprise” at Jews bound by train for Auschwitz?
Reading Night wasn’t easy, but eventually I noticed my avoidance and excuses. I was convicted that my resistance to reading a painful story reflected my avoidance and withdrawal from real, present-day suffering in those around me. I needed a new pair of glasses, or at least a stronger prescription.
Quote from Canadian rancher Don Campbell
“If you want to make small changes, change how you do things. If you want to make major changes, change how you see things.”
Are you interested in learning more about trauma and how we see it through a Christian lens? We would love to share resources for further study and join you in seeing suffering in our churches, communities, and world through the eyes of Jesus.