There is often the temptation to hide our past, burying our pain deep within us. Maybe it’s embarrassment or shame. Maybe it’s fear. Maybe it seems too difficult to ever face. Yet, God desires healing and wholeness for His children — not pain and brokenness.
Enter Corazones Abiertos (Open Hearts). The grace groups of Corazones Abiertos focus on bringing grace and healing to the wounded hearts in Latin America who, in turn, are empowered to lead others through the same healing process.
Keren recently participated in a grace group in the Dominican Republic. She shares her testimony of pain and anger as well as taking steps towards healing with Christ through Corazones Abiertos:
My childhood memories are of a screaming alcoholic father (who was sometimes at home, other times not) and of a mother who sacrificed a lot, working all the time to provide for our needs.
After the divorce, our economic situation worsened as my father withdrew what little financial support he had given to us. My sister and I went to live with an aunt, while my younger brother and my mother went to live with my grandparents. Our family was separated for a year before we all could move back together again with my mother.
The abandonment of my father and seeing the heavy load on my mother filled me with resentment towards my father. Later, the death of my little brother and the lack of interest on the part of my father made me question the existence of God.
By 17-years-old, I hated my father, but I began to repeat many of the patterns I had seen in him. I began drinking and moved from one relationship to another looking for affection and value in the eyes of men, but never wanting a serious commitment.
At 23 I was filled with pride, hate and frustration, and I saw God as one who could never resolve my problems. I thought my work, my profession and everything I had built with my own hands was sufficient, but I had come to a place where I had lost myself.
My father died of cancer and we never had reconciliation. My relationship with my boyfriend of four years fell apart and it smashed my heart into a million pieces. I lost the job I thought was secure and realized that I really did not have a relationship with my family. It was then that I felt like I had fallen into a deep pit and had nowhere to turn.
A friend who had been observing my life took advantage of the opportunity to invite me to church. I went filled with pain, exhaustion and a deep emptiness and decided to accept the Lord as my Savior. I entrusted Him with all the garbage that filled my life.
It has been six years since I made that decision. I have had highs and lows, but God has been faithful and has helped me to stand firm. My family is being restored and I have recovered my dignity and value as a woman. Although the battle is constant between flesh and spirit, I have decided to serve the Lord and put Him before anything else.
RG: How did you find out about Corazones Abiertos and get started in the ministry?
K: My pastor invited me to participate in the grace groups.
RG: What has been the single most impactful thing you’ve experienced throughout the 12-week session?
K: I was able to share openly about an incident that has been difficult for me to talk about. It was very liberating and for the first time I was able to cry over the pain that surrounded that event.
RG: What has been the hardest thing or greatest struggle you have had during these 12 weeks?
K: The most difficult thing for me was to take a serious look at a past filled with pain and frustration. Listening to the stories of others in my grace group helped me to discover things in my own story. There were a lot of sleepless nights and, at times, pain that was overwhelming.
RG: What kind of support have you received? What type of support do you have in place for continuing your journey?
K: I had the opportunity to be with a leader [in the grace group] who was willing to listen to me, and I am counting on my friends in the church who have experienced a grace group. My pastor was very understanding to allow me to step down from my worship responsibilities to concentrate on my healing journey.
The manual for the grace group was excellent. We had assignments each week that made such a difference in helping me to recognize a truth about God that touched me deeply.
My group plans to continue meeting once a week to continue our journeys. Part of my discipline is to put into practice the things I have learned. Breaking patterns that I have established to survive in my life and recognizing when I am choosing to take the role of the victim are two areas that I want to change.
RG: What are the benefits of working through this with others who need healing?
K: It was of great benefit to be in a group with others who have their own stories of pain and betrayal. Knowing that I was accepted because I have value and not being judged for decisions I have made in the past were things that made me feel loved and affirmed.
I also recognized that opening up and sharing my story gave others the encouragement to be vulnerable and receive healing from my experience.
RG: Are there certain verses in the Bible that you have found especially encouraging?
K: Yes, there were stories from the Bible that helped me process my pain and distorted thinking. The story of the rape of King David’s daughter, Tamar; the story of Joseph and the abuse he suffered in his life; and David’s constant failures and yet God received him with open arms when he repented.
The verse in Genesis 50 regarding the abuse that Joseph suffered at the hands of family members where [Joseph] says that his brothers meant it for evil but God meant it for good.
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- That Keren continues to experience healing and God’s grace in her life.
- For the multiplication of Corazones Abiertos as it equips past grace group participants to serve as leaders in the ministry.
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