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Providing Hope and Help to Former Child Soldiers

“In Uganda, the war isn’t really over until the kids are healed,” Dr. Karl Benzio shares. A Christian psychiatrist, AACC member, and Founder of Lighthouse Network, Benzio will be traveling at the end of this month to Gulu, Uganda in Central Africa to train caregivers and work with rescued child soldiers.

Trauma therapist and AACC member Julie Woodley will be joining Benzio to work with those who have suffered abuse and trauma from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and Joseph Kony. These children have come to be known as the “invisible children.”

Through attempting to resume “normal” lives, these children suffer from psychological and emotional challenges as a result of their traumatic experiences. Under the LRA, they were taken captive and made victims of every type of abuse, including being forced to physically, sexually, and psychologically abuse and brutalize their own parents or siblings.

These children desperately need hope. Psychological and emotional healing. New life and a new family through the Gospel. AACC members Benzio and Woodley are on the front lines of sharing that hope. Partnering with Rev. Célestin Musekura of African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries, the Christian professionals will be training over fifty staff members and young adult mentors in trauma response and healing.

During their time in Gulu, the whole team of 7 team members will be facilitating an interactive camp experience for 334 victimized children recently released from refugee-like camps. Areas of team focus throughout the trip will include:

  1. Helping staff and mentors process the abuses they might have personally experienced, share their emotions and stories, and find healing.
  2. Equipping staff and mentors with practical skills to create a safe environment for the children to process their abuse.
  3. Training staff and mentors in basic counseling and communication skills to help them provide effective emotional care to the children and offer hope.
  4. Providing a Christian camp experience that facilitates safety and trauma processing. Campers will learn how God loves them and longs to heal them, participate in interactive activities to help them process emotions and tell their stories, and be encouraged to discover their God-given potential.

“Long after Hitler’s death, the tortured were still terrorized by Hitler’s actions. The same is true of the former child soldiers in Uganda,” Benzio explains. “We are going to help these precious kids feel accepted, forgiven, valued, loved, and healed. Then they can achieve their God-given potential as they realize they are not discarded trash, but human beings with purpose and honor.”

Benzio, Woodley and this team of Christian caregivers are tangibly living out the mission of Jesus “to bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives and comfort all who mourn” (Isai. 61:1-3). Please pray for this team as they work on the front lines of offering hope and help to those who need it most!

If you have a heart for helping those who have experienced loss, trauma or abuse, makes sure to reserve your spot today at one of our specialized workshops or pre-conference training sessions in this area at our upcoming National Conference! If you can’t make it to the conference, check out Light University’s Into the Wildflowers and Stress and Trauma Care Courses and learn from the comfort of your own home!

Each “Member Snapshots” feature on the AACC blog will give a first-hand look into the work and ministry of other members just like you. Want to share your story? Drop us a note at blog@aacc.net.