Under the Gun Ru, Chapter I: Trauma (Part II)
A month later, Sherilyn and I were invited to speak at one of the adult Sunday School classes of our sending church, Berean Baptist of Grand Rapids We shared our testimonies, how God called us into urban missions, and how he brought us together as a couple We recounted stories of transformed lives as well as heart-breaking sorrow among the at-risk urban students that we were discipling—-So far so good.
But when they sought prayer for us, I could feel the emotions swell. Sherilyn requested prayer for our safety with a brief mention of the gun episode, which inevitably aroused their curiosity. As I relayed the details of what happened that night, the dam burst. I didn’t just cry—-I wept hard. And I could not stop for anything that day until it gave way to sleep later that evening. For the next week, the tears came and went, and when there weren’t any tears, there were outbursts of anger, often in response to the pettiest circumstances in the rhythms of our life. When one of our close friends suggested counseling, I resisted it because of my prejudiced stigma that I attached to it. Only messed up and broken people need counseling and I didn’t see myself at that point yet. But I did find solace in my final year of seminary, with the research and writing of my Masters thesis and a class on Spiritual Formation.
Dr. Phillip Bustrum, my Spiritual Formation professor, was a seasoned, soft-spoken missionary veteran that served in Kenya, Africa. I felt an immediate connection with him when he made himself vulnerable, opening up about a traumatic event on the mission field where he and his wife were robbed and beaten at gun-point—-and the long road that it took for recovery. In the class, Dr. Bustrum created small-groups of accountability for the purpose of encouraging openness and vulnerability. Although our small group consisted of three other men involved in pastoring or training to become pastors, none of us really looked forward to bearing our souls to each other. However, since the dam had already burst, I began opening up to these unsuspecting pastors-in-training. Over the fifteen week span of the class, our once a week accountability group morphed into the Joel-Shaffer support group, as I began to share stories of violence, crisis, disappointment, trauma, sorrow, laughter, and joy in my life and ministry. I am forever grateful to Zac, Dan, and Kendall for their patience, their prayers, and their probing questions that began a slow journey of healing and recovery in my life.
But I hadn’t healed. I had only prolonged my recovery.