Beauty in Brokenness | Bethany's Story
Discovering Purpose in the Depths of Pain
In the wake of a traumatic divorce, counselor Bethany Haley Williams, Ph.D., paused her private practice to attend an intensive counseling program in Dallas. There, the Lord began planting seeds in her healing heart — reminding her that there was purpose in her pain. That He could weave together her gifts and the most broken parts of her story in ways she couldn’t yet imagine.
On her last Sunday in Dallas, Bethany heard about the conflict in Congo for the first time. Searching for purpose and clinging to faith, she soon boarded a plane to Central Africa with a Dallas ministry to help lead a trauma healing workshop for displaced women who had recently escaped rebel militia armies.
In the heart of an active conflict zone, she met rescued child soldiers and children orphaned by war for the first time. As she listened to their stories, one thing became certain — doing nothing was no longer an option.
Living in Exile | Made for More
During her trip, Bethany witnessed the devastating effects of war and displacement on children. She heard stories of boys and girls forced to kill their parents at the hands of rebel leaders, and she sat with children so traumatized they no longer displayed emotion.
These children were living in Exile — physically and emotionally pushed to the margins of society. Bethany quickly discovered that little was being done to care for their PTSD — a troubling reality that stuck with her long after her plane landed on American soil.
The Lord began stirring a new passion in her heart, and Bethany began to dream. What could happen if these children could overcome such deep wounds of trauma and learn peace-building and leadership skills? Perhaps they could become the next generation of leaders introducing peace in their communities.
Could this be how to stop the cycle of war? To take the smallest child and teach them peace rather than violence.
From Vision to Reality
With the guidance and support of two Congolese community leaders, Bethany founded Exile International in 2008. With few resources and a mountain of faith, they began working with 24 rescued child soldiers in a shack on the outskirts of the city.
In 2011 Bethany met Matthew Williams — a master’s level trauma therapist with a passion for empowering rescued child soldiers and trafficking victims. Beginning as a volunteer, Matthew jumped in immediately and began visiting Exile's programs overseas — quickly taking on more responsibilities and stepping into a leadership position.
Little did they know, God had plans for the two other than mere co-workers. In 2014, Bethany and Matthew married — becoming one to lead their family and the organization together as co-CEOs.
From humble beginnings, Exile's programs flourished to radically transform communities spanning across Congo and Uganda. By God's grace, 7,800 war-affected children have experienced redemption and healing through 45 peace and healing programs led by local staff and program graduates!
Art-Focused Trauma Care, Discipleship & Peace building
Education, Professional Skills & Leadership Development
Safety, Food, Medical & Other Basic Needs
Exile International practices holistic, rehabilitative care utilizing a three-tier, curricula-based model called the Hope Initiative — created to restore the spirits, minds, and bodies of war-affected children and youth.
Bethany Williams, Ph.D. LCSW developed the Hope Initiative alongside other certified clinical counselors with years of biblical counseling and trauma care experience and African experts in the field. Created specifically for child survivors of war, the curricula center on art-focused trauma care, conflict resolution, and leadership development.