Bring Our Boys Home

5/20/2014 02:29:00 PM sendtheroths 0 Comments

Some of our Peacemakers who are in secondary school.
Congolese young people all over the country are scrambling to collect their final payments for school fees, prepare for exams and make it through the last part of the school year.

This marks the end of the first year that we officially started the Peacemaker Program, a program that brings children past the demobilization and rehabilitation process and into reintegration. This is so key for villages and micro-communities who need their young people more than ever to thrive in the face of an ongoing war.

We put our boys into school as an approach to bringing stability, hope and vision into their lives. The vast majority of them passed and thirty percent of them are at the top 10 percent of their class. 

But the Peacemaker Program has never only been about school and academics. Our vision for these boys runs much deeper. We want to bring them home to the Father.

The idea of art healing in the program was formulated because we believe that artistic expression is a pathway to encountering God.

I (Amethyst) would have never met God if someone wouldn’t have told me to dance, even if it meant looking like a heathen at times—if someone hadn’t told me to write, even if it meant writing like a heathen, or to play the piano even if the songs were only an expression of the darkness inside of me. 

Andrew and his Land Rover Discovery XD, his first
introduction to technical off-roading: a skill he now
uses on a weekly basis here in eastern DRC.
Andrew would have never met God they way he did, if it weren’t for a Land Rover. He would have never even considered world missions, if it weren’t for his obsession with 4x4 technical off-roading. He would have never been trained with Overland Missions if he hadn’t known that the guy who was training him was the coach of the top team of the most popular technical off-road completion of its time: Camel Trophy. (Camel—yup like the cigarettes.)

Sounds pretty carnal, doesn’t it? God took those things that seemed….                              
Well, off the point and hit us point blank with destiny.

I can’t say that either of us would be here if we were expected to hear the Gospel at an open air meeting, repented, went to church, sought discipleship and so on. Not that I’m diminishing the importance of doing any of those things.

One of our Peacemakers drawing about a bad memory he
experienced during one exercise. This was followed
by him drawing a picture of a good memory. 
We tested the waters last year of what art therapy with kids in this situation looked like by going to see other programs who work in similar ways, we tried implementing a simplified version of the Hero Book, we spent time with the boys learning about what they LIKE to do: soccer, cards, dancing, singing, farming and drawing. We learned about their home situations directly and indirectly. Now we’ve got a foundation to work with. We have an idea and now understand where they are spiritually, mentally and physically.

The boys formed a relationship with their counselors and have established mutual trust and respect for them. We are now working with Congolese from the Goma Community Center to create a youth friendly curriculum that goes through the same principles of Phase 1 in a more simplified way. The curriculum is meant to take complex foundational principles like forgiveness, reconciliation, identity, self-discipline etc… and break them into 1-2 hour meetings that they have weekly with their counselors. The meetings entail games, traditional African proverbs and group projects.

The Arts Component 
After a group has thoroughly learned a concept, for example reconciliation, identity, forgiveness or justice--- we assign the group a project that has to do with using creativity to illustrate the concept in that they have learned. This can be through a skit, song, dance, painting/or drawing or any other method of expression. Local Congolese artists from the community center volunteer their time to teach them the basics about their particular art and offer a foundation for each group of boys to work with and  we give them the proper supplies. The boys are loosely guided by us, the artists and their caretakers to create and illustrate what they are learning.

Sharing with the Community
The groups are able to present their work and/or performances in a safe environment to their family and friends when we hold a special party/presentation get-together. We invite leaders of the community, family members and even visitors from Goma to come to see the boy’s presentations. We allow the boys to explain their presentations to the people after they finish. Our counsellors and coordinators work hard to make sure the boys have a good grasp on the concept and help them to formulate ways to explain why they drew, sang, painted or moved the way that they chose to.

This reinforces the concept that they have been studying with their counsellor. They learn it, they interpret it and they explain it back.

We don't force any of the boys to participate in the performance, they can choose to, if they want. But most are eager to try something new.

We are still in the process of formulating this program by organizing the curriculum, training the counsellors, partnering with local Congolese artists and finding locations for their performance for the community. It's no small task.

This is not the only way to bring these boys home. But we believe that it's one way.