But God said, “Don’t be afraid”

Acts 18:5-10 Paul testified to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. But when they opposed and insulted him, Paul shook the dust from his clothes and said, “From now on I will preach to the Gentiles.” … One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! For I am with you.”

I have a strong streak of cowardice. So I empathize with my grandson Caleb when he says, “I want to do it with you, Grammy.” Some things are just plain scary, especially if you’ve tried before and things didn’t go well.

Caleb’s first time kayaking was a bit scary at first.

It means so much to hear God say “Don’t be afraid. I’m with you.” Even Paul needed that encouragement. It was hard for him to be insulted and slandered, as it would be for any of us.

I wrote the content that became Vítima, Sobrevivente, Vencedor (Victim, Survivor, Victor) first as my thesis for my family counseling program. Several people encouraged me to publish it, but I realized what I had written was largely theory. I lacked experience. I believed in what I wrote, but I hadn’t adequately put it into practice.

My counselor friend Gloria, however, had lots of experience. Perhaps she would be willing to co-write the book! I floated the idea to her, and she liked it. We scheduled a time to discuss details. The day before we were to meet, though, Gloria suddenly died from a pulmonary embolism. Instead of conversing with her the next day, I attended her funeral. (In Brazil, burials generally take place within twenty-four hours.)

In my grief at the loss of my friend, I set aside the book idea. A few months later, though, I had to decide: Would I face into my fear of publishing the book alone? Would I speak out for abuse victims, breaking long-held cultural taboos?

Long story short: the book was published in Brazil in 2000. A new edition came out in 2012, much improved by the experience I and many others gained “in the trenches” as we applied the concepts of recovery in small groups. Faithful, passionate women and men have continued this work, offering hope, love, and practical restoration to abuse victims, most of whom had never told their stories to anyone before.

The first version
The second version

Last week I received a text from Brazil, telling me a national-level training would be held last weekend by Zoom using Vítima, Sobrevivente, Vencedor. I rejoiced later to hear it had gone well. If you think of it, pray for the new teams taking this courageous step toward speaking out.

Don’t be afraid. I am with you. In what area do you need this encouragement from the Lord?