Anyone who knows me is well aware of the fact that I am not often at a loss for words. But this week, having sat face to face with more than 100 boys, aged 8-18, who had been liberated from various Congolese militias within the past 90 days, and indeed, I am speechless. “I was on my way home from school when the Mai Mai fighters jumped out of the bushes, grabbed me and carried me deep into the forest” reported one 10 year old boy. He was 8 when he was abducted, given a uniform and a gun, and forced to kill for the Mai Mai. This sweet-faced, innocent-looking child was liberated just a couple of weeks ago by an amazing Congolese man, who, for the past many years has been risking his life to gain the release of Bukavu’s thousands of child soldiers. For 2 years this little boy’s mother was bereft of her child; now, while he has been miraculously freed, he cannot be reunited with his family due to the continuing violence in the area of his village—the chance of his re-abduction is too great. So they wait and they hope… We heard story after story from child after child…I have no words in my vocabulary to describe the sadness and pain our entire team experienced as we sat and listened and tried to understand the live testimony unfolding in front of us. We cannot fathom what these children had endured and what horrors they had been forced to perpetrate; as a mother I cannot begin to comprehend the depth of the fright and pain experienced by their mothers. Waiting and hoping, day after day, month after month, year after year… Now, sitting in an obscure, poorly funded, shelter, the likes of which makes the orphanages of a Dickens’ novel seem palatial, the boys express gratitude to their rescuer. They are happy for the more-than-modest meals they are now receiving, and for the bunk beds provided to them; the fact that more than 60 children are sharing a room is a complete non-issue to them. Yet, even here, amongst these children who were so cruelly robbed of their childhoods and of their innocence, and who were so viciously manipulated into committing horrible acts, the dream of a future was still evident. A group of boys had organized a band, and all of the boys want to go to school. One boy even asked if we knew of a way to pay for his college tuition if he finished secondary school. One of the very impressive characteristics of the “transit house” in which these liberated child soldiers live, was the almost surreal fact that the boys had all served in different militias, often having fought deadly battles against one another. Boys who had served in the CNDP, the FDLR, the Mai Mai, and more, were all living together in a very cramped space, and there was no evidence of any unusual disharmony. This sense of resolve and optimism is what is so compelling about our Jewish World Watch mission in Congo. When you actually come face to face with people who have suffered in immeasurable and incomprehensible ways, and who have endured immense personal losses, but who have come through their nightmare with resolve to optimistically face their futures, one cannot help but support them in rebuilding their lives. I weep for the boys I met this week; I pray that the images of what they saw and what they did fade as they rebuild their lives and society. I weep for the mothers of the boys I met this week; I pray that the sadness in their hearts will one day be replaced by the joys of reuniting with their sons so as to be able to nurture their sons out of the horrors of their childhoods and into their happier adult years. And, I pray for the people of good faith in Congo who are working so hard to overcome the years of torture, war, rape and destruction. It is they who must lead the way; our job, as people of conscience, is to support and nurture those changes.