As you know, The Butterfly Project has been in the process of forming an innovative response to families who have experienced a crisis or trauma. The burden to step into this gap comes from personal experience, not unlike Donna and Ted’s situation which we learned about in my last blog post. In most cases, by focusing on the health of the family and all of its members, very young children can and will recover and avoid the damage trauma can cause from the very early years into adulthood. We need to help families, especially the youngest members, so that their world can once again be safe, kind, and trustworthy. We need parents to be involved so they can restore secure attachment with their children and make good choices for the safety of their little ones and foster healthy development. Parents need help because in many cases, they have grown up with trauma of their own and oftentimes stumble unknowingly into an avoidable crisis.
Through research and experience, I have identified a pathway for families to begin their healing journey in a tangible way. The vision is focused on three main areas: a place for respite, time in nature, and therapeutic art-making. At the beginning of this journey, I thought all of these things and what they encompass would be dependant on the property we purchased last year. I have begun to discover there are even greater possibilities. As I meet new people throughout Muskoka who are like-minded, I’m beginning to see the potential for uniting a large network of people and organizations, to work together to help families to get the support they need.
One of the questions I often get is, where are these hurting families and how will you connect with them? Hurting families are everywhere, however, there is a high percentage of people within our churches who are in need of healing from trauma. Knowing this, the church needs to step into this gap, because they are the first responders in a lot of cases and are the least equipped.
I wrote that sentence before the bodies of well over 1000 Indigenous children were recovered from across our country. Children who were kidnapped, abused and murdered in the Residential Schools operated by "the church". I have also recently read a book called A Church Called Tov which talks about the abuse scandals at several well known American churches. As a Christian I am sickened by the abuse and harm others who call themselves followers of Jesus have caused. I'm sorry - doesn't even come close, I know. To be honest, I almost scrapped this post because I don't know if my vision to help bring healing to others and being associated with the church is even a good idea, all things considered. I too have been hurt by the church, not like some, but bad enough. I have also experienced healing in the church and know many amazing people who are part of the church. It's a very big conversation which I am not qualified to lead but I couldn't carry on without at least acknowledging that the church has screwed up in a lot of ways.
The same hope I have for families who have experienced trauma, I have for all people, including the church. I believe that God is and has been working at redeeming the world and everything in it. His desire is to bring shalom, that is peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, and tranquility to all people. Jesus has called us, the church, to be healers. We need to take a fully integrated approach to this work. Families who have experienced trauma can be isolated from their church community for a variety of reasons such as shame, guilt, and/or fear of condemnation. It can also create a disjointed healing experience where faith and psychology can become unnecessarily opposing forces. This improperly places the burden of healing on the shoulders of the afflicted.
Jesus was very clear when He commissioned the Disciples to go forth and heal people in His name. God as Healer is professed repeatedly throughout the Old and New Testaments. There is an opportunity for the church to come alongside a family such as Donna and Ted’s, as well as families who have no idea where to turn or haven’t realized the depth of the problem of child sexual abuse or other trauma, to help them find the resources they need for recovery, even better, be a resource for their recovery.
Whether a crisis has just unfolded and a family has an immediate need to go to a safe place or a family who has been trying to figure out how to cope but are losing ground and need a supportive, healing place to help them reconnect with God and each other, the need for respite, a safe refuge, is not a new concept. The prayers of the Psalmist repeat the need for refuge throughout the scriptures. Psalm 31:1,20 says, “In You, Lord, I have taken refuge; Let me never be put to shame; In Your righteousness rescue me… You hide them in the secret place of Your presence from the conspiracies of mankind; You keep them secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues.” Psalm 32:7 declares, “You are my hiding place; You keep me from trouble.” and another example in Psalm 82:4, “Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
A commonly known expression comes from Psalm 91, “under His wings you may take refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and wall.” In its entirety, Psalm 91 is often prayed for and by those in need of protection, “for you have made the Lord, my refuge, The Most High, your dwelling place. No evil will happen to you, nor will any plague come near your tent. For He will give His angels orders concerning you, to protect you in all your ways.” Families in crisis are in need of protection. Commentator Konrad Schaefer offers some additional insight to the protection spoken of in this Psalm. He explains, “the expressions “near your tent” and “all your ways” the poet claims that God protects any sojourner who inhabits or traverses danger zones (vv. 10-11). Divine protection is articulated by two ideas, shelter and path. A well-protected, inaccessible shelter means help, shade, wings, shield, and immunity. The complement to this is the path for which God sends a special companion.” Therefore, according to the Psalmist, anyone who turns to God for help (and I would argue even the hurting family who is questioning where God was when they needed Him is still turning toward God,) they will receive asylum and a support system too, “to show them [God’s] saving power.”
One of the symptoms commonly experienced in an active crisis is the desire for relief. We see this echoed throughout the Psalms already mentioned and even more so in Psalm 57:1-3, “Be gracious to me, God, be gracious to me, for my soul takes refuge in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge until destruction passes by. I will cry to God Most High, to God who accomplishes all things for me. He will send from heaven and save me.” Respite in a safe and supportive environment is a biblical concept. Having somewhere to go and someone to help is an answer to the Psalmist’s prayer. The church needs to pay attention to these prayers and be the Lord’s hands and feet because He “is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) We can be the “special companion” to hurting families. The Butterfly Project is rooted in the biblical imperative to help others and be an answer to prayer.
As I work on defining and sharing this vision and its various parts, I want and hope I can be a resource to the Church, through the content on my website or as a consultant (that’s just a fancy way of saying I can be a listening ear and might have some experience/expertise with the particular issue you are dealing with). God has already opened up a few doors in that way, which is encouraging. I hope one day to share this vision and my hope for hurting families with individual churches, but I’m not sure I’m there yet. As I mentioned before, over the coming weeks, as I’ve done here, I will be breaking down my vision into smaller parts. My hope is that by doing that, not only will it help to clarify but also that I will grow my support network.
I am grateful for the support of my District and New Ventures! I’m grateful to each of you who has made a financial contribution to my apprenticeship. It honestly was so much fun putting together a package of art to send away in the mail as a gift for your generosity! (By the way, I’m going to continue to do this until November, donation details are below.) One other thing I would like to ask for is your prayers. I’ve had really great support that has gotten me to this point - we’re about to celebrate our first anniversary as residents of Muskoka! And it’s been awesome! Yet, I have a growing burden to have a core group of people who really care about families and will work with Mike and I - we know we can’t do this alone. Please pray God will grow our team. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Until the end of November I’d like to offer you a gift for your donation:
For a donation of $20, I will send you a small (8x10" or less) handmade print made by yours truly. (Fine art prints are an affordable way to grow your art collection!)
If you donate $30, I will send you a gift of 5 hand-printed cards with envelopes.
For donations of $50+ I will send you a hand-printed t-shirt. All you have to do is tell me your size and preferred colour.
For a donation of $100 or more, I’d love to send you the whole package.
All donations are tax deductible. If you would like to support my apprenticeship and the things I'm working on, please click here. I receive a report of donations on a monthly basis and will do my best to get your package to you as quickly as possible! And yes, I am able to ship across Canada.
Here are a few examples of the work I've done. I am always making new prints and will send you the best from my inventory.