Brokenness and redemption are common ground in two vastly different cultures—that of a middle-class white woman in rural America and war-affected children in Africa. Author and psychologist Bethany Haley shares how her own emotional healing led her into treacherous war zones, where she provided care to former child soldiers, and how stepping into the unexpected stories of their strength, resilience, and ability to forgive changed her own life.
Determined to provide these children with opportunities for a new life, Bethany founded Exile International, a non-profit that helps emotionally restore child soldiers rescued from a multitude of rebels groups, including Joseph Kony’s LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army).
One of those rescued young men is Solomon. Solomon was abducted at the age of ten after being forced to watch LRA soldiers maim and murder his father and grandfather. His younger siblings were left behind, and his mother was instructed to “raise them well…for one day we’ll return to take them too.” During four years of rebel captivity, Solomon was under the command of Joseph Kony himself. Apprenticed as a field medic, this young boy regularly removed bullets from fellow boy soldiers without anesthesia and in filthy conditions. Solomon is one of hundreds of thousands of boys and girls who have had their innocence stolen and are forced to do the unthinkable on a daily basis. But their horrific experiences are just the beginning. The real story is what happens after.
Once the children escape or are rescued, they must find a way to live again. This is where Bethany Haley comes in. Faced with her own battle with shame and a rocky journey toward healing, Bethany founded Exile International as a catalyst to implement art/expressive therapy and long-term, rehabilitative care programs to restore and empower war-affected children. Once these children learn to face their pasts, they are given hope for a future and a vision for changing the fabric of their countries by becoming leaders for peace and advocates of the power of forgiveness.
“If the world could learn forgiveness, resilience, and joy to this level, it would be radically changed. And these young survivors would be our greatest teachers.” —Bethany Haley