Healing Arts and Brave Hearts


Trauma and emotional pain are constant realities in the lives of women in the  Tenderloin. We know God’s heart is to heal. His plan is for every person to find peace and healing through His love and presence. So, one of our goals in every interaction, relationship, group or event is to share God’s heart for healing with women who are looking for change.

During nearly 1 ½ years of weekly Art for the Heart group meetings, women used art to understand feelings, share dreams, and create together. In spring of this year, God said it was time to go deeper.

We decided to offer an invitation-only, trauma-recovery group for a very small group of women.

The process of exposing and exploring deep hurt and harm felt daunting. But, the women wanted change in their lives. And, we all believed God’s presence was the key to that change.

So, BraveHearts was born. This intimate, closed group integrated healing prayer with the heart-work of exploring and sharing about trauma and hurt. The goal of this group was to support and affirm each other on a journey through hurt to forgiveness.

Art was a touch point for understanding and sharing emotions. Collages became visual images of emotions, dreams, and hopes. Writing personal stories gave women a safe place to share difficult memories. Sharing those stories became a beautiful experience – discovering no one was alone and others had also experienced pain and loss.

As part of a safe, self-honoring journey of forgiveness, the group took its time, giving women space to look at past hurt without pressure or shame. For some women, BraveHearts was the first place they had felt safe to honestly describe a hurtful, harmful traumatic experience.

Women were empowered by permission to feel deep feelings without pressure to “just forgive” or “don’t dwell on it…move on.”

At every point, group members learned to find understanding for confusing, painful memories by “just asking Jesus.”  Hearing God’s voice was key to each turning point of healing and change.

After 16 weeks of laughter, tears, painful honesty and beautiful new self-awareness, the women wrote private, not-to-be-mailed letters to the person who hurt and harmed them in the past. Being able to acknowledge the wrong done and the debt owed offered women a chance to be powerful and self-honoring. Choosing to forgive offered women new freedom and hope.

“I had to forgive myself first,” one woman said.

“I didn’t want to do this, but I need to be free of my past,” said another.

“Thank you for letting me be part of this group,” said one staff member. “I thought I’d be leading a group – instead, I received healing, too.”

Tate Callejas