Tuesday morning began with a visit to a safe house for women and children affected by domestic abuse. We had been told on Monday that the children in the house were there because they were either witnesses of abuse (but not recipients) or were pulled from their homes because they were being sold in to prostitution. It was fairly easy to decipher which children were which, based on ages and developmental levels.

The morning began with a music group with the ladies in the house. They ranged in ages from a young mom of an infant to a woman who had to be in her 80’s (at least). We implemented a variety of experiences, including a drum circle, lyric analysis, expressing feelings through instrument playing, progressive muscle relaxation, and creating a musical rainstorm. The women were receptive to us and later told the resident psychiatrist that they enjoyed the time and would like opportunities to do it again.
Allow me to pause at this point and say that while music might be called the ‘universal language,’ Bulgarian is not. I am so thankful for Marge, our translator in Stara Zagora, because she made events like this possible for us. She was instrumental (no pun intended) in the success of these sessions; we couldn’t have done it without her!
I enjoyed getting to interact with the ladies in the house, and hear a bit about their journeys through discussion. The older woman (the one in her 80’s) was certainly the leader of the group. Unfortunately, this is surprising to us Americans because of the mindset we have of older adults. I must remind myself that other cultures still revere the elderly and adhere to their wisdom. This woman even told us that she was a believer and had a strong faith in the Lord. It always amazes me how one can set out with the intention of serving the Lord by blessing others and be so blessed in return.

Bessie and I were also able to spend a small amount of time one-on-one with the young mother and her infant son. We talked with her and did some music with the baby before he got really hungry and demanded lunch for himself.

We left the safe house to grab some lunch before the children returned from school. Our translator set up a lunch with the pastor from her church in Stara Zagora- the church who lent us their apartment to sleep in while there. He was friendly and interested in what it was we were doing. It might be interesting to know that people are attached to their cell phones in other countries as well; it’s not just an American epidemic! He was a very busy and much needed man.

We returned to the house after lunch to meet with the children who had returned home from school. What a great group. There were three girls and two boys, and one boy was there with his sister. All the children had a bond with one another, and agreed that they had become their own little family while living at the safe house. We repeated some of the same experiences with the children as we did with the adults, like a drum circle, lyric analysis and making a musical rainstorm. We spent a good deal of time working with the instruments in a drum circle setting and allowed each child to conduct. They assigned instruments to each member of the group, and then played their own instrument in whatever style they wished and the group had to follow suit. This gave each child the opportunity to be in control. Understand that in the situation they come from, they often feel helpless and powerless. We discussed with each member how it felt to lead and have others do as they pleased. All of them liked it.

We spent some time speaking with the facility psychiatrist afterwards and answering questions she had. She told us a little bit about each child and how the women had a positive response to their morning music session. Everyone was happy to know that the instruments were staying at the facility and could be used when desired/needed.

Because I am fairly new to the field, I don’t have a wide spectrum of experience yet regarding various populations. I had not worked with individuals affected by abuse prior to this. As you can imagine, walking in to a situation like this can be daunting. Couple this with the fact that you can’t speak with them directly because of a language barrier and it becomes down right scary. Obviously I survived and was able to contribute to the work God was doing there. He’s so faithful!

It broke my heart to look at the faces of young girls who were separated from their families because the people who were supposed to love them the most decided to sell them in to prostitution. Even now writing this, the righteous anger is growing. But I must remember that their Heavenly Father loves them more than anyone here ever could, and he hasn’t abandoned them. In fact, he’s given them a safe place to heal and grow.