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By Sam and Emma Knutson

Last year, at our overnight teen leadership camp, we saw so clearly how each of the kids going through our workshops are carrying a heavy load. Though the topic was meant to be leadership and human rights, the kids began to share small pieces of their stories and to cry as they shared the tragic realities of their circumstances. Since then, we’ve had many similar glimpses into the fear and pain experienced by the teen leaders we’re pouring into. So, when we heard from our teammate about the program “Healing the Wounds of Teenage Hearts” we jumped on it and pushed unashamedly to make it happen for our teens!

The program combines therapeutic tools and teachings with storytelling and Bible readings to address trauma while promoting healing and growth.

What a gift it was to watch as these beloved teens begin to open themselves up to healing and to share their stories. Each one had been touched by a tragic and sudden loss of a family member: whether due to a traffic accident, gang violence, or in one case, her grandmother was crushed while in bed when the walls of her house collapsed. One boy watched his cousin who was his best friend get shot. Another girl, at 15 years old, was the one to enter the morgue and identify the already putrefying body of her cousin. On top of that, each kid also had a story of facing chronic bullying or sexual harassment at school.

Like so many, each of these kids carried regrets and heaped shame upon themselves on top of the losses they held and carried these burdens alone. Two girls shared they had been cutting to try to relieve their pain or anger and many expressed crying themselves to sleep as a habit. As you can imagine, tears abounded on all sides as they shared their stories and began to allow others into their wounded hearts. 

Each day we watched as a little piece of their burdens were lifted and the light inside them began to shine a little brighter. A favorite part of the rhythm of the week was daily reflecting on the lesson that had been most impactful for each teen that day and watching them heal and grow right in front of our eyes. On the last day, there were tears of joy as they shared the impact this time held for them.

“I felt repressed, alone, and I found myself running away from everyone and even from myself,” said sixteen-year-old Arelys. “Now I feel light, safe, [and] loved. I discovered new things in myself. I feel that I can share more of my emotions, my actions, and take the time not only to think, but also to feel and then be able to act accordingly.”

Not to be dramatic, but we walked away from this time feeling, if this is the only thing we had done during our time here in Ecuador, everything would be worth it.

Social Media Challenge:

On your social media, share the link to this blog and tap or type out a prayer for the kids mentioned in this blog post. You can also write out a prayer here in the comments. 

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