In parts of the world that are racked by war and violence, World Challenge’s partners are offering survivors a listening ear and a message of hope.
The Swahili word tutapona means “we will be healed.”
The word would come to have deep significance for Carl and Julie Gaede. They were living in Wisconsin with their two daughters, working as psychotherapists. Life was good and pretty normal, but they began to feel as if they needed to be doing something…else.
Then Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army swept across northern Uganda, abducting and brainwashing thousands of young people to be part of his military.
As therapists, Carl and Julie were following the news and were heartbroken at the thought of the severe trauma these child soldiers were enduring. Not only that, but they were often alienated from their communities, even if they were able to escape Kony, because of their involvement in the violent LRA.
Putting Belief to Action
Survivors’ trauma is something that can shape their entire life, if it’s left buried.
With this in mind, Carl and Julie began building the nonprofit organization now known as Tutapona to reach those who had endured unspeakable tragedy, introduce them to a God who grieves with them and then walk with them through therapy.
“The most important tool we use is a group-based trauma rehabilitation program,” explains Tim Manson, Tutapona’s director in Uganda. “This walks people through a process of recovery, dealing with building emotional resilience and also a strong emphasis on forgiveness.”
Their work began in Uganda, which has 1.5 million refugees from the LRA and other conflicts in the sub-Saharan region.
From Uganda, the Gaede family moved outward to help those who were caught in the Syrian refugee crisis, and the first center was set up in the Middle East in 2016. Their main focus was helping the Yazidi people, a minority group that has been the target of recent, genocidal attacks.
In November 2019, World Challenge joined with Tutapona to support a trauma rehabilitation program in northern Iraq for Kurdish refugees fleeing ISIS violence.
A Promise for All
Despite COVID-19 lockdown measures and curfews, local Tutapona members have been using the time to make individual calls and, as restrictions have slowly lifted, scheduling smaller therapy sessions with families or those sharing the same home. They’ve also taken the last few months to build a new trauma recovery curriculum for children and provide robust trainings in it for their staff.
“Tutapona is not me, and Tutapona is not the Gaede family. Tutapona is a movement of people that have come together to say, ‘We see God changing lives’,” Carl explained, expressing the heart behind their name and mission.
“Because healing is a ‘we,’ because healing takes community, we have an opportunity to be part of something much bigger than ourselves.”
We live day-by-day with the promise of the soul-healing that God offers and in the hope of ultimate healing in heaven, and we are called to bring others into this new, hopeful life. Every believer ultimately trusts in the promise of “tutapona.”
We will be healed.