Neso, one of the boys we had taken from the army a few years ago and had in our care, was forced to become a soldier again because of the intensifying conflict. This is Neso's story in his own words:
"Being a soldier was so difficult I had to run away…but almost died when I did! Soldiers were chasing me everywhere like crazy. I didn’t know where to go or hide myself. Every evening, they had us strung up in a line and tied to each other ankle-to-ankle with soldiers in front of us and soldiers guarding us from behind and two guards below us and above us on the mountain. It was only by the grace of God that they didn’t see me when I ran away.
I traveled all night and into the grey of dawn, running up and down mountains and through the rice paddies. Sharp stones and sticks troubled my bare feet, and hordes of mosquitoes tattooed welts across my skin. All that next day, I travelled under the baking glare of the sun from village to village and house to house, till finally one family kindly took me in, fed me and gave me a corner to sleep in.
After that, I came into a region I’d never seen before. I didn’t know the villages I passed or any of the people I met. Every day I became more discouraged because no one offered a place to rest or even a small bit of help. But finally, at the end of this difficult path, I came back into an area I knew and then finally to my old city…I was so thankful.
Three days later, the soldiers found me and put me in jail for deserting. For three or four days, I couldn’t eat or sleep. The food was horrid. The smell was worse. We slept in our own feces. I cried and screamed for mercy. During the days, we were slave laborers with no sleep at night. Then, I began to worship and set myself to live as a servant of God. People saw me as a child, but I found my spiritual life in God.
I had been in jail just a little over a month when one of the staff from Project: AK-47 came and negotiated my release. It was so amazing because now I’m back at the Project: AK-47 home and going to school again like I’ve always dreamed of. I’m grateful to God that he didn’t throw me away in the army and every day His love surrounds me."