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A journey from brokenness to ministry

Heartbreak and healing, trauma and recovery, brokenness and hope. 

These dual themes run throughout “The Color of Grace: How One Woman’s Brokenness Brought Healing and Hope to Child Survivors of War .” 

In Print | Lauren BookoutBethany Haley, a member of Otter Creek Church of Christ in Brentwood, Tenn., weaves together her own story of recovery, as she pieces her life back together after divorce and trauma, and the recovery of African children who have endured unspeakable evil.

Her memoir tells of the genesis of Exile International, a nonprofit that seeks to bring healing to former child soldiers through comprehensive rehabilitative care. 

With a doctorate in counseling psychology, a master’s in clinical social work and 15 years of counseling experience, this is a task that Haley is well suited for in many ways. 

But we cannot fully appreciate what she does until we understand the “why.”

It’s easy for those of us in Churches of Christ to identify with Haley. Raised in the church, she attended Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tenn., where she met her future husband. 

But her seemingly perfect world crumbled. After 10 years, her marriage ended. In Colorado, she was treated for post-traumatic stress disorder. Her brokenness is clear as she details her path to healing — learning to rely on the grace of God.

She eventually found herself on a mission trip to provide care to women and children of the Democratic Republic of Congo who had been emotionally wounded by the country’s decades-long conflict. Some were child soldiers. Others were sex slaves. Their stories touched a place deep within her that she couldn’t ignore. 

She shares the story of Gabriel, abducted as a child and made to commit terrible acts of violence. There’s also Rebecca, forced at the age of 7 to participate in the killing of her own mother before spending the next two years in captivity.

This is not an easy read. There are times when the evil feels like too much to take. But there also is hope, such as the story of Dennis, who escaped with his siblings after witnessing the abduction of his parents and dismemberment of his brother. “When we came back, we continued to fast for God’s deliverance,” Dennis says. “I thank God we were saved. I thank God for that.” 

The inherent humility of a child who has faced horrors most adults can’t imagine — and knows only to thank God for salvation — causes us to reevaluate our own lives.

Haley writes, “If these children can endure it, how can I not be strong enough to hear it?” She demonstrates remarkable self-awareness. She doesn’t shy away from acknowledging her flaws and mistakes but refuses to let them define her. She is aware of her strengths, but she simply offers them up to be used by the one who gave them for his purpose. In doing so, she invites us to do the same.

In a 2011 speech, Haley described an inability to sleep because the world isn’t helping them. She can only conclude that the world doesn’t know. “I ask you to see them,” she said, “because they deserve to be seen.”

It seems impossible to read this memoir and not feel compelled to find some way to be a part of the healing process. The true beauty of this book is how it compels us to find our own passion and ways to be used.

“When your greatest heartbreak becomes your greatest ministry, grace has come full circle,” Haley writes. She has experienced this in her own life and invites us to find it in ours. 

LAUREN BOOKOUT is the founder of KatharosNOW, a blog geared toward high school and college-age girls. She is a member of the Jackson Street Church of Christ in Monroe, La., where her husband, Travis, serves as minister.

Filed under: Features Reviews

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