“Black Lacquered Shoes.” Fiction. Based on a True Visit to The Museum of War and Genocide.

“Let’s work on better breathing…”

-Nathanael Wolfe

“Black Lacquered Shoes”

Fiction. Based on a True Visit to The Museum of War and Genocide.

by Mingjie Zhai

This journal entry is inspired by true events. Some of the characters, names, businesses, incidents, and certain locations and events have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes. Any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional.

Trigger Warning: our program often motivates people to discuss their trauma. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, please, take a step back to address emotional flashbacks and trauma before continuing to push yourself. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or the National Suicide Hotline at (1-800) 273-8255.

Master of Baiting

You had the dream of your father walking in on you master baiting. You see the delight in evil on his face. He tells you that you are a sick and depraved girl for doing this shameful act. The look on him is one of evil delight.

You turn to your father and begin crying, “Father, I have been lonely. Waiting for a husband but he has not come. What am I supposed to do in the meantime?!”

You cry in indignation.

And a sense of overwhelming shame and loneliness overcomes you. You are beginning to wake from this dream on the first night you are staying in the Airbnb called Panorama Mostar that overlooks Old Town and New Town of Mostar, Bosnia-Heztergovifna.

But it is still the witching hour and as you begin to feel your heart being pierced by the pain of shame and isolation. You realize that it is the enemy who is attacking you.

In Jesus Name, begone devil,” you say.

Almost in an instant, the feeling disappears and once again you are left with a sense of peace and knowing that your parents both love you and have your back no matter what.

They wired another $1,000 the day before so you can pay for the transport from Budva to Mostar. It was 150 Euros to get there but you pulled money from the airport in Croatia which gave you Kunas and then you had to go to the airport currency exchange counter to change kunas into Euros because the Taxi company only accept Euros. You ended up paying almost double —$278 for 150 Euros. Had you worked up the courage to tell the first Taxi driver to have you stop off at an ATM in Montenegro, you would have only paid about $168 that’s more than $100 difference.

You realize what Christine Caine means about failing at the exchange. It’s about working up the courage to express what you want and trusting God that it will be done. You had requested the driver stop off at a place where there is both an atm and a nice bathroom but he took you past what you requested, to a less clean bathroom with no ATM and you did not protest.

Where is the fire you are integrating? It comes down to setting high expectations for yourself and for others.

This morning you wake up and you show up to breakfast on time and the Airbnb host was just walking out on your way to breakfast with the panoramic terrace view. You thank them and thank God for another day, another meal, and you eat with gratitude. You remember what your parents said, “when it comes to food, don’t be picky. Be grateful.” You now finally come full realization to this. You realize you can absorb the food here without a problem because you’ve trained your stomach all your life to eat all kinds of weird food…Chinese food to be particular—chicken feet, pigs feet, and intestines, liver, pigs blood, so when you ate last night’s hodgepodge of mixed meats and gravy from a mom and pop shop in Old Town Mostar and now you are trying out the pate with olives mixed into the ham, your hungry stomach is grateful for it. That and the driver bought you cherries and strawberries en route to Mostar, which you all consumed with no problem.  

The presence of the driver reminds you of what you once feared that Green Eyes will eventually become one day…an average man with good intentions but a shadow unintegrated, coddled, enabled, and spoiled by the codependent.

You are so grateful you had broken up with him. You smile in gratitude that he is someone else’s problem now.  

He drops you off at the destination but doesn’t take down your luggages to the room. He figured the cherry and the strawberry and a brief history lesson while driving would be good enough. It’s not. Nothing for you is ever good enough. You’ll always and perpetually notice the shortcomings of everything. Still, you tip him 20 Euros because today is a Croatian Holiday and he tells you that everybody is off since it is a national holiday. You feel bad for him and feel compelled to tip him well.

The Beggar Lady with the Starving Children

The beggar lady sits in front of the Museum and you give her 10 Marks, and she tells you to come back. It’s not good enough. She wants double. She points to her poor kid to show you that her kid needs money for medicine. But then again, you wonder why there isn’t some kind of government program that is taking care of this woman’s needs. You give her another 10 Marks and she leaves you be.  

Museum of War and Genocide

There you saw what is very similar to what you experienced in Auschwitz. All Shadows unintegrated—projecting, hating, and blaming. False pride and false humility. Anger and rage. Fear of being destroyed so it’s better to destroy first.

The simple logic is this: better to be the perpetrator than the victims.

Except worldly logic is a zero-sum game.

God’s logic is a non-zero-sum game.

You now understand why there is a worldwide campaign against censorship and against hate speech. You know censorship is not the answer. Perhaps, creative expression, a conscious contact with a God that is pure love and pure good, and a conscious effort to integrate the shadows within our own hearts before we cast blame and take up a sort of self-righteousness like the world owes you something is the solution.

Jordan Peterson’s Rule #6:

Put your own house in order before you criticize the world.

War against God’s People

Now, you see there was a war against those who are believers. This time it is the Serbs who are persecuting the Muslims and the Christians under the context of Nationalism, or the People’s republic. The perpetrators discarded the God and made themselves gods through an ideology that they created. You observe the models of the concentration camp inside the Museum of War and Genocide.

It’s the same devil’s playground. A concentration camp nothing short of a torture chamber for the shadows that, like parasitic worms, have taken control of the person’s soul, and is remote controlling the spiritually sick so they can justify their torture, rape, dehumanization in the name of some ideology which is nothing short of someone’s relative truth. They hate in the name of some higher social good that they have made up in their minds. Worse, if they bring the name of God to their sins, if they call it “good” while doing bad, specifically committing crimes against humanity, it is playing into hands of the devil. It is like the one who rapes a person and calls it love, the one who slaps her child and calls it love, the one who cheats on his wife and calls it love.

This is taking God’s name in vain.

You read how they would send people to these places, then starve them, and treat them like game by using them as human shields or as animals for hunting. These are people who are completely dissociated, perhaps not even realizing that they have become self-serving, blind to their own character defects, and discharging their own shadow through a projection by seeing their sins in others. Then the insanity starts. They think that by killing the other person first, they will have somehow eradicated sin and more so, the hidden shadow in their own hearts. The same insanity goes with the person who projects blame onto another in hopes that if they just somehow taught the other person the lesson that they secretly needed to learn and internalize themselves (i.e. love, tolerance, forgiveness, compassion, responsibility, humility, etc.), then all will be well indeed—that somehow magically, they will assume the qualities of virtue when they manage to get the other person to assume the virtue. And if they don’t, then they must be annihilated since (in the perpetrator’s mindset), the other is causing them to sin, so if they just got rid of the other, then their sin will disappear. Again, another falsehood, another manipulation tactic by the devil, and another trap by our collective enemy—the spiritual adversary that rules the dark forces that influence human beings.

One must understand the nature of the fight in order to fight it effectively.

The nature of evil is the shadow we have all absorbed within our own hearts.

But like sticks in a bundle, it is hard to break when we have 7.5 billion of us, absorbing pieces of the shadow. The shadow is too heavy for any one human being to bear the weight of in this matrix. That is why God has sent 7.5 billion people to walk around this simulation matrix for us to take a piece of the shadow, and through our hearts, learn how to contain it by leveraging God’s power to defeat it.  

The Greatest Trick of the Devil

The greatest trick of the devil is the creation of a person’s life-lie that they are the heroes while using the same methodology of the villain to fulfill their utopia—the ideal perfection of heaven on earth—if only we got rid of so and so who is causing the evil. No! It starts with the person observing….One must look within one’s own heart for the shadow before one goes about spewing one’s shoulds onto other people. This is so crimes against humanity like what played out here between 1992-1995 can be prevented.

This was also a religious war, or more so, a war against people who are religious, despite the Museum choosing to not bring it up. You now understand why they did not bring it up. They do not want to risk a religious retaliation. They want you and every other visitor to see it as humans killing humans, shedding light on the insanity of it all. It has a humanistic approach. Particularly in this context, the perpetrators persecuted Muslims. You can definitely support this way of viewing what happened because it taps into the universal truth that we are all made in God’s image according to the Book of Genesis so human beings are all innately loved and divine.

Demon Possessed Humans

You looked at the models of the camps and yes, it’s definitely the devil’s playground where demon-possessed human beings who were too disassociated to do anything about it—it came from the shadows within their own hearts and their unwillingness to humble down and ask for God’s help.

You focused on the perpetrators and realized the shame, the guilt, the realization that they were working for the devil in an algorithm set to 0. It terrifies you to think that they may have truly believed in a God who they claim told them to do such things. It seems that Satan is indeed the shapeshifter that can take the form of any deity and call itself a god and command men to create horrible torture and apathy towards one another in the name of God.

This realm is definitely the devil’s playground. Perhaps we are in the upside down world, the devil’s Shadow land. And perhaps the peace you are currently experiencing in real time here is protected by Holy Spirit, helping you to help others around you in solving the very thing that the shadow wants us to also find and yet tries to sabotage us in the finding.  This thing we are tasked to find here is the very thing that will set the shadow free from the bondage of darkness.

When someone is caught in the algorithm of 0, of emptiness and meaninglessness, so you create the meaning to everything, then anything can be justified. This is false pride, now that you’ve worked it out through the meditative process of writing the Producer’s Playbook. Paradoxically, when one omits their own goodness and gives in to injustice without a fight this is false humility, and part of that comes from a deeper feeling of unworthiness, undeserved guilt and inner shame. You know the latter negative spirit quite well…You’ve lived through it all your life.

It’s what had tormented you into thinking about killing yourself.

Hidden Chambers

(Where Shadows Hide in the Hidden Areas of the Heart)

You noticed that one of the first things the perpetrators did was to cut off all radio and communications between the victims and the outside world, so nobody will know what they are about to do to the ones they have already judged and convicted in their hearts.

Lesson #1: If you can’t talk about it openly and publicly, it’s probably not a good idea.

Next, they created massive graves. They took people in Wagons, lied to them that they were being transported from one hell (dodging bullets and bombs) to another hell (concentration camps) but in a few cases, the group of men were taken to an edge of a cliff and told to stand there while they were shot and thrown over to be buried.

This is the genocide.

This is homicide.

This is first degree murder.

There is a plot to kill. Plot to take revenge. Plot to somehow think that by making them go away, that somehow the weakness in their own hearts will go away.

This is a logical fallacy.

This is the work of the enemy, the devil, your adversary, who prowls, like a lion, to steal, kill and destroy the spirit.

Murder destroys two spirits—the murdered releases the spirit from the shell but the one who does the murdering also destroys his own spirit while still encased in the human shell.

When humans are treated like pests so that anyone can justify killing to “clean” the world on “behalf of God,” this is one of the greatest evils humanity is facing.

You follow the black arrows down a staircase spiral and there, alone with your red Nikon 3300, you are confronted by pictures of death. The corpses of people excavated, with a glass case filled with password, identity cards, artillery, skulls and bones. One that really stood out was a mother who was pregnant late term and her baby’s corpse.

This stood out to you most vividly.

The picture of the excavated corpses of the mother with her unborn baby reminds you of the wax figure of the Chinese mother getting their stomachs slit open with her baby falling out of her when you visited the historical museum of WWII when the Japanese invaded the Chinese in Dalian, China. That was when you were 12. Perhaps that’s why it did not frighten you now that you’re 35, alone, in the basement floor of the genocide museum when you were confronted with a family, displayed through mannequins, with their backs turned to you, as if to say, “You will never understand.” You whisper to the spirits staring at you and you feel the anger, resentment, and unforgiveness.

You whisper forgive.

You must forgive.

This angered them more, but you were not afraid this time because you have the sword of the spirit within your bosom, the Holy Spirit. You are encased in the grace of God and perhaps the ghosts observe you both in hatred and in awe.

Their hidden desire is to be set free from the anger that burns but does not consummate them. This continual sulfuric fire is something you have personally experienced in 2013 when you were burning with resentment, hatred, and guilt.  

Perhaps, they saw your history like you were a walking transparent life story. Perhaps, ghosts have the power to do that in the other realm. And when they saw what you went through in 2013, they ceased to blame you.

That is the power of testimony, of lived experience.

It’s no longer about, “you shoulds,” but a revealing through full transparency, so they can view your life’s history, review it and see the value, like a mirror, for them to see themselves.

That’s the key to freedom, outlined in 1 Corinthians 13:12.

You hated Sonny and the other woman so badly. You hated them. Your shadow wanted to kill them and no wonder Sonny and the other woman were so terrified of you. But you didn’t. Instead, you chose to kill yourself, but God had intervened back then just like He is doing for you today. The angry ghosts could have chosen to haunt you but they see what you’ve been through and they also could see, in fuzzy low resolution pictures, your compassionate intentions for them.

Perhaps, God is intervening in real time, or rather, insulating you, like a wall of protection that wraps you around in grace, love, and peace, so the ghosts can not harm you while you go there to offer an olive branch, or perhaps just one more piece of the puzzle they need to unlock the chains that still tie them to this fixed time/space. You could say the that trauma drama is the definition of hell because it locks the soul into one moment on replay, like Desmond who could not get out of the bunker in the series, Lost, because he thought he needed to press a button every five minutes or the nuclear bomb would detonate onto the world.

You are here to understand and have compassion for the war torn ghosts, yet still protect your inner core without losing yourself completely to the hell they are experiencing.

The Hungry Boy

On your way out, the same woman tries to goad you into coming back to give her more money. You turn away from her this time. There is a heavy spirit of neediness, fear-based enough is never going to be good enough, the Jezebel spirit perhaps within this woman sitting and seeing you as her target. She sends her boy over to you and he begs with hands up like the emoji prayer sign that you so often use. You ignore him as you walk, and he follows you and begins making a hand-to-mouth gesture to signal that he is hungry. You are on your way to a restaurant that serves traditional Bosnian cuisine. You give him a ten and you keep the twenty in your fist. He takes the 10 marks and then stares at your tight fist and says to you that he wants the other bill. You realize that this is the spirit of false humility.

He is not grateful for what little you give him but rather wants your entire wealth. This is why people hesitate to give to the poor. Then you become a target. Those who are kind become targets to takers. The mother has taught her son how to beg, manipulate, and use emotions as a weapon rather than encourage him to attend school and become a servant of God and humanity. She is trapped in trauma and has passed off this trauma to what seems like a very capable boy who has a hidden creative potential inside him. Instead he is trained how to pimp himself out through the spirit of victimhood and pity. It became quite obvious that he was now harassing you.

Now you understand Rylie’s point of view. He thinks that you are begging him for love and attention. And perhaps you were. You were like the boy. Rylie gave you a little of his time and focus, and you wanted his entire soul, the way the boy wanted you to give him the 20 Marks in your hand moments right after you have already given him 10 Marks. That was your lunch money.

You tight fisted the 20 Marks and shook your head, “No,” but he wouldn’t stop asking, hounding, and persisting. It got quite annoying. You raised your voice, “No!” and a woman who was watching this scene go down told the boy in native tongue to leave you alone. As you almost approached the entrance to the restaurant, he left.

While there you ordered a meal for 5 Marks, which came with more than enough things to eat. You gobbled it up and the naan bread was so fluffy with just the right about of salt and oil. When you were almost done, you thought to purchase a second exact order to go for the hungry boy. You took this lunch to go and you look for the boy…he is nowhere to be found. You go back to where you had given the old woman the 20 Marks and there you see a different woman. You give her the lunch and as you leave, she gets up to hound you for more money. You say no and walk away.

You realize why most tourists don’t give money to the poor because they realize that this is a never ending cycle for them. Pity just delays what they’ve been avoiding all along—the pain of spiritual growth and personal responsibility.

You wonder if that’s what this is.

Judge Judy wanted to do a retrial.

The producer called you the day before to see if you would do a retrial on the case of Roxy’s attack. Someone probably felt compelled to get to the bottom of the truth. Perhaps, they realize that the Plaintiff got off too easily by lying through her teeth, trying to make you out to look like a thief who somehow warranted Roxy’s attack by two untethered dogs in her place of business. They should have been sued for negligence at the store, but you have forgive.  You did not throw her business under the bus because this business is where artists go to flow their creative expressions and where Drinker Den meetings take place. You are a satisfied customer of Drinker’s Den. You are six months sober now. 

A contest winner wanted to re-examine the Roxy case. By now, whoever watched this trial go down probably knows that the coffee shop owner is lying through her teeth trying to look good in front of a national audience so she can continue virtue signaling and play the victim card, even if she was the one at fault.

You just told the truth.

The producer asked you to come back but you told her that you are now in Bosnia-Herzegovina and that Roxy is traveling with you and that she’s doing great. She didn’t try asking you to come back even if they offered to pay for the round trip airfare from Europe to LA like they did the first time, and you did not bother asking. You know that going back to LA now would just be too tempting to call and meet with Aaron. This would sabotage Amy and Aaron’s chances of working things out. You really are rooting for Amy to step up, show up, and integrate her shadow so she can stop projecting onto him.

You remember Mr. M telling you the horror story after he divorced his wife, after he got with baby mamma who was a worse version of the first ex-wife. He told you that his picker was off. You wonder if Aaron’s picker is off. Being with you will not solve his running away from Amy, just like Sonny running away from you has not resolved what needs to be resolved—himself. Thus, you think that by now, he’s probably deeply regretting his past choices about abandoning ship with you the way you have regretted your unforgiveness of his transgressions.

Still, you told the producer that you’ve made peace with your past and you’re in the middle of your journey right now. You take time to thank her and thank Judge Judy for the opportunity. You told her that you believed the coffee shop owner has paid the price—emotionally, psychologically, and perhaps even physically with hours of worrying and possible paranoia from the empty threat you made about suing her for slandering your name on national television.

You’re not going to do any of that.

It’s energy that can be put to good use for Jesus’ glory.

The Producer’s Playbook

You type away at a cafe that’s playing American pop music. You’re grateful that Blue, Liliana, Irish, and Locklier are taking the Playbook to heart. More importantly, it’s actually creating a type of personal self-awareness in their own shadow work. They are, for the most part, very excited to see this kind of work reveal itself through their respective personal applications. You know that now more than ever, you must learn how to be still and listen to God talk to you. One of the ways you’re finding this strengthening of spiritual communion between you and God is through the act of journaling itself. Another way is through walking the streets, driving, or snowboarding. It’s usually when you are in motion that you can tap into the spiritual frequency. Everybody has different ways. Yours look like the flow of the Mostar river.


Smartie shows you her black lacquered shoes that she has bought from the store. A few days later, you find black lacquered shoes encased on display at the Genocide Museum. The story is of a girl who lost her shoes when she was being carried away and frantically her mother and sister were helping her look for it but to no avail. For some synchronistic reason, the shoes came back to the girl when someone found it and brought it to her. The little girl, her mother, and her sister were so elated when this happened, like they found a piece of heaven on earth to remind them that heaven does still exists and are waiting for them, patiently.

The Girl with no Shoes walking in the Rain

A girl approaches you while you were typing away at your laptop, writing this playbook. She asks you for money and you give her 5 marks. She looks at the 1 Euro that you are holding onto and wants that one too. You hold onto this 1 Euro, tight fisted. No, you tell her. She tells you that she needs to buy shoes for herself. You look down and indeed she has no shoes.

You shake your head.

She goes back out into the rain and is walking on the water that collects on the side of the street, which is the gutter. She is walking towards a man with a pot belly and wearing all black. He sees this girl coming and steps aside in fear that she will ask him for some change so she can buy herself some shoes. He’s three times her height and perhaps five times her weight, yet he is afraid of her.


You realize you are just like the Jewish scholars who passes the wounded Samaritan in Judea on his way to doing something important. Sure, you give her some change, but you were tightfisted about it. You just couldn’t open your hands to give her that one Euro that she needed. In the back of your mind, you wanted to teach her the lesson of being grateful and to not be insistent or pushy, something you have done to others.

The Muslim Man who Paints Mostar Bridges in Watercolors

You keep pushing him to interview with you. He gave you all sorts of reasons why he is not the guy to do it. Language barrier for one and also he doesn’t want any exposure for his work. He believes that God has given him this talent and this eye but if he does not present himself the right way, perhaps the fear is that this will be taken away if not used for humility.

You show him the book that he would be part of. He says he is not interested in being in some sort of book. And perhaps this book is also self-serving. And you think that perhaps it is self serving since only your name is listed as the main author for Volume 1 and 2.

Vol. 3 will be Kansas’ book… and it will comprise of 13 Artists. Next volume 4, will be Blue’s book, and onwards. It’s time you learn how to let go a little bit more. Perhaps, you did not give up the Euro because you thought that by giving her this 1 Euro in your fist, it would be symbolic of giving up your soul the way the Muslim man may have thought that by interviewing his pain to passion testimony that he would be giving up a piece of his soul.

You told him the story of your near death encounter and how God showed you the meaning of this life—that it all came down to love. He listens and tells you that there will be a language barrier but that he could see that this is your job so you must persist. You realize that you are treating this like a job rather than a life long mission. Your passion has burnt out….especially when it comes to approaching random people like him to ask if they want to be interviewed. You did approach two other artists before him and they gave you their cards not knowing where this is going but with an open mind. Will you follow through and actually do the interview? Or will you just be thinking resentfully that you are still “not being paid for all this time you’ve invested in this project.”

What happened to your passion? Steven Furtick sermons on the persistence in pushing forward on something God has already anointed you in doing. Keep the faith. You were wearing the Faith sweater in the form of a cross. Perhaps, that triggered him to dislike you purely on the fact that Christians and Muslims are historical enemies. 

You look the Muslim Artist in Mostar in the eye and say this, “I know this much….There is only one God. He is love, joy, and peace.”

Cain’s Sacrifice to God

Blowing yourself up and bringing people down with you in an act of collective suicide is the Cain type of sacrifice. It is the type of sacrifice you were about to enact in 2013 and then again in 2015, when you told God you wanted to go back home, that this was all just too tiring—trying to do it all on your own, taking responsibility for everything and all. You were going to take yourself down and your whole entire family with you had you become successful.

The Cain type of sacrifice is thinking that one is getting rid of evil while becoming evil in doing it. This brings you to the awareness that still contacting Aaron is a parallel form of that Cain type of sacrifice. You can’t fall in love at the expense of someone else’s suffering. You just can’t. You can’t create your own personal love story out of someone else’s undue and unjust heartbreak.

King James

You listened to Francis Chan on your Bible App your first night in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

2 Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall and manifold temptations; 3 knowing that the proving of your faith worketh patience. 4 And let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing.

James 1:2-4

The video on Francis Chan was somehow muted even though it was playing. You thought this strange. You turn on the subtitles and the topic is on temptation—of how every temptation gives you this fantasy that it’ll be great, when you know in your heart of hearts that it’s going to be the exact opposite. You then go and block Aaron. Then you switch it back to your app and suddenly you can hear the message.

The power of temptation is strong, and you know that your will alone can’t fight this power. At the end of the day, the only way to curb this curse is to ask Jesus to break it for you.

You realized that you should have stopped what you were doing at that time the girl with no shoes had approached you and you should have walked her over to the shoe store and buy her shoes…the way Aaron would have done that for you, or at least said he would do it for you.

You realize saying and acting are two very different worlds. One is an inactive curse or blessing and the other is an active curse or blessing.

Action makes or breaks character.

But you did the right thing by holding onto what was left in your fist: takers want to take more. They are in fear based entitlement mode.

This is what Aaron was pointing out to you about yourself even though he was also secretly accusing himself of the very thing he thought he could fix in you.  

You got to see projection at its most insidious level by the way Aaron has been treating you.

Your nine month karmic relationship with him has been a bless-ful reminder of the character defect your soul is seeking to resolve. By seeing how Aaron projects onto you in the endless cycle of hypocrisy and the insanity of playing the moralizer without the fortitude and the true pride of embodying that which you preach, it becomes all null and void.

That is why God brought you and Aaron together on the balcony of Churchome—so the two Christian sociopath narcs can see each other face to face and project onto one another until we each tire out and realize the futility in projecting onto each other.

It’s quite hilarious actually. If you were to play it out in a movie theatre, the audience would be laughing at the way the two of you have interacted with each other. Perhaps, at the end of this lifecycle, you can revisit the scenes and get a nice laugh at the fact that both you and Aaron in this season are the punchline to the jokes you’ve each played on one another.

You also taught the beggars a small lesson or perhaps the beggars taught you a big lesson: be grateful for what little you have. Don’t look at the giver’s other fist when the Giver just handed you the change that you didn’t earn.

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