Cultivate a base of support around you through family, friends, co-workers. Support from others gives you strength! Many people you come across may be naysayers. Therefore, surround yourself with people who give you confidence, not doubt. Often the more worthy the task, the more difficult it is to succeed (but the greater the reward). When I set out to make the movie, there were untold obstacles to overcome. It was the strength and encouragement of those around me that helped push the project to the finish line.
Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Randy Hartley.
Randy lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where he has been a financial planner for thirty-eight years. He is married to Darla, and they have three children — Alyssa, Andrea, and Nate. Randy was the executive producer for the film Beautifully Broken, which was released in 2018 and he also serves as Chairman of Legacy Mission Village, the refugee ministry founded by William and Ebralie Mwizerwa.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
I am a financial planner from Brentwood, TN, just outside of Nashville, where I have been in the business since 1983. My wife, Darla, and I have been married since 1986, and we have three children — Alyssa, Andrea and Nate. I am a partner in an independent financial planning firm, where I have been blessed to have a successful career, and to have cultivated some many great clients, many of whom I have worked with for 20–30 years or more.
When our children were young, we decided to have each of them sponsor a child through Compassion International, with each child sponsoring a child of their own age. Our middle daughter, Andrea, was assigned a six-year-old girl from Rwanda named Umuhoza to sponsor.
Flash forward 10 years, and Andrea’s life had taken a left-hand turn, with her behavior spiraling downwards. As a desperate father trying to save his daughter, I told Andrea that I was going to take her to Rwanda to meet Umuhoza. Somehow, I thought the trip might shake her up and get her back on track.
We were led on the trip by Ebralie Mwizerwa, our neighbor from Rwanda who was forced to flee from the genocide against Tutsis 15 years earlier. Ebralie, her husband William, and their family of five had settled in Brentwood, and we had become friends. Ebralie leading us back to Rwanda to meet Umuhoza started a journey that was life changing for all three families. All three families had been broken through no fault of their own, and yet the bare threads of each family had been woven together in a way none of us could have imagined.
It is this incredible journey, and the far-reaching impact of it on all three families, that is the story told in the new book, Beautifully Broken.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
One day in late spring 2013 I had a meeting with a client who had been divorced years earlier to review her investment account. When I joined her for the meeting, she introduced me to her new husband. Knowing that I’m very protective of my clients, she introduced Kevin. Kevin said that he had worked for Disney earlier in his career, but he had since become a pastor, and that his current passion was working as a “media minister,” looking for great stories to tell through film.
Something struck me about what he said, and I told him “I’ve got a great story for you.” I went on to tell him about my background, my trip to Rwanda with my daughter and my neighbor from Rwanda, and about meeting Umuhoza. We talked for over two hours, never even getting to the investment update. A week later I was meeting with Kevin and his production team in his office, and a few weeks after that, Kevin joined my family on a mission trip back to Rwanda that had already been planned. That trip led to the making of a documentary about our journey called Through the Valley, which went on to win three film festival awards, including Religion Newswriters Association’s Religion Documentary of the Year in 2014.
We subsequently turned the documentary into the motion picture, Beautifully Broken, and now have written the full story behind the movie in the book, Beautifully Broken.
Unbelievably, this all started with a client meeting about an investment review! My take away from all of this is to say you never know what opportunity awaits, and don’t be afraid to share your heart with people. The entire opportunity for the Beautifully Broken story could well have been missed if I hadn’t been willing to say “I have a story for you.”
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I am fortunate that my career as a financial planner gives me great flexibility. I am essentially self-employed, allowing me the time to devote to the mission work that I do. And from the mission work first came the documentary, and then the movie, and now the book. I could have never accomplished this if not for the work of a great staff that has kept my business life on track as I pursued these other passions.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My greatest supporter in everything I have done, both in my career and in my passion for Beautifully Broken has been my wife, Darla. Early in my career as a financial planner, long weeks and late nights were the norm. The whole time, Darla was the rock that the family relied upon. Then as the movie and the book became my passion projects, Darla was always there to provide support — both in giving her insight to the projects, and in giving emotional support for a story that exposed some very raw emotions regarding our family. I don’t think it would be possible to maintain a career, these passion projects, and my sanity without Darla! Her support has made it all possible.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
I would define resilience as the ability to bounce back, to overcome obstacles. More than just that, though, true resilience is the ability to bounce back even stronger and to be made tougher because of the obstacles that were overcome.
I believe that resilient people are those who cannot only overcome obstacles, but who can take that pain of overcoming an obstacle and turn it into their passion. Resilient people learn to view obstacles as an opportunity to overcome and be made even stronger.
Finally, I have found that the most resilient people I know have a strong foundation of faith. By definition, resiliency is proven by going through tough times. I believe that a strong foundation of faith allows faithful people to have a trust in God, that no matter what, things will work out, and regardless of the outcome of a current event, the ultimate goal is salvation and eternity in heaven. That faith and knowledge is powerful.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
Courage is the ability to try or do something, even when frightened. Resilience often takes a bit of courage, as obstacles can often create fear, so courage can be a first step in overcoming an obstacle. In that regard, courage and resilience can be similar. But to me, resilience goes deeper than courage. Resilience is not only having the courage to face an obstacle, but the resolve to overcome that obstacle regardless of the trials and setbacks, and to continue trying until the obstacle is overcome.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
The people that I think of that embody resilience are William and Ebralie Mwizerwa, our friends and neighbors, who fled Rwanda. William and Ebralie were both raised from modest means in Rwanda, and overcame economic barriers to complete their educations and become successful business people in Rwanda. William was a supervisor for the Rwandan national coffee company, and Ebralie worked for the Presbyterian Church. They had built successful careers, were raising a young family, and were active in their church.
When the Rwandan genocide erupted in April 1994, the Mwizerwa family first tried to wait out the carnage, and then were forced to flee their home. Their ethnicity, their involvement in the church, and William’s position with the coffee company all made them possible victims of the genocide. The Mwizerwa family miraculously made it out of Kigali, the capital city where they lived, and eventually made their way to Kenya, with all of their children. Their four children ranged in age from 12 to 1, and Ebralie had been pregnant with their fifth child during this ordeal. Unfortunately, many in their extended family were killed, along with almost one million Rwandans over 100 days.
Despite their dire circumstances, the Wmizerwa family did their best to move forward. They lived in Kenya for three years before they learned that William was eligible to go to the US under a special asylum status. The decision to go, though, was tempered by the fact that he’d have to go alone, leaving his family behind, with no assurance as to when or if they could join him.
William took the leap of faith to travel to the US, where he knew no one and barely spoke any English. William had to go 1000 days, almost three years, before his family was finally able to join him in America. He had established a church home and had gotten a job sewing mattresses. He also discovered many other refugees in similar circumstances, and felt called to serve them. At the same time, Ebralie had to raise a family of five without their father being present.
After the family arrived in the US, William started a ministry to serve other refugees whose stories were often similar to his own. William and Ebralie founded Legacy Mission Village, a ministry that has now served over 12,000 refugees in the Middle Tennessee area.
Rather than finding self-pity in their circumstances, or simply finding jobs in the US and moving on, the family felt grateful for their blessings and chose to give back. They have displayed incredible resiliency in not only surviving the genocide, but thriving in their new lives in America. Their story, and how their lives intersected those of my family, are told in the book and movie, Beautifully Broken.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
I was told that it would be impossible for a financial planner from Tennessee with absolutely no experience to produce a movie about his faith journey and get nationwide distribution. I was stubborn enough, crazy enough, and resilient enough to make it happen, as our movie was released nationwide to over 600 theaters in August 2018.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
The discovery that our middle daughter, Andrea, had been molested when she was 12 years old was devastating. It had happened at a large 4th of July event at a public park in our city, but we did not learn about it for almost four years. Over those four years, her behavior started deteriorating, slowly at first before hitting a free-fall her junior year in high school. It is both scary and frustrating as a parent, seeing your child seemingly fall to pieces despite all the love, time and attention that you can give her.
When we finally learned the root of her issues — the molestation — it didn’t solve the problems, but it at least gave us a starting point to build back from. At that point, our daughter and our whole family needed help. The greatest help came from our fateful trip to Rwanda, and we have been building back stronger ever since.
In an odd way, the pain of that obstacle became our passion. Our daughter turned her life around, became a model student, took and led several mission trips to Africa, and moved to Kenya after college to follow her passion. I went on to produce the documentary and movie that told our story, and now have written the book.
I’d say that we are all stronger than ever, having overcome the event that initially seemed would be our downfall.
How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
I would say that the foundation for my resiliency has come from my family and my faith. I grew up in a large, loving Christian family. My parents always encouraged us to believe that anything is possible. We were a typical middle-class family growing up outside New Orleans, but we were led to believe that we could do anything through hard work and determination.
My parents both came from very modest backgrounds — my father was the first to attend college in his family, where his mother was a secretary and his father was a power plant foreman. My mother came from a family that were tenant farmers in north Louisiana, where she remembers her aunt making school clothes from the cloth of flour sacks. Despite these modest backgrounds, both my parents were optimists who believed in the American dream, and they passed that dream along to me.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Cultivate a base of support around you through family, friends, co-workers. Support from others gives you strength! Many people you come across may be naysayers. Therefore, surround yourself with people who give you confidence, not doubt. Often the more worthy the task, the more difficult it is to succeed (but the greater the reward). When I set out to make the movie, there were untold obstacles to overcome. It was the strength and encouragement of those around me that helped push the project to the finish line.
- Deepen your faith and connection to God. Spiritual strength leads to your own inner strength. William Mwizerwa had to come to America alone, leaving his family behind and unsure when or if they could join him. In making his decision to take a leap of faith and come to America, he fasted and prayed for seven days, seeking guidance and wisdom from God. William gives full credit to his faith that allowed him to survive and thrive in his new home.
- Make a mental note each time you overcome an obstacle. Success begets success! As you realize that you achieved success in the past, it gives you the strength and resolve to do it again. In my daughter’s own life, her rebound and recovery from the trauma she experienced was not a straight line from brokenness to full recovery. Setbacks are common and to be expected. However, she learned to recognize her progress, and each time there was a setback, she used her prior success and achievements to strengthen her resolve to overcome whatever any subsequent obstacles or setbacks might be.
- Stay focused on the end goal. If the goal is a worthy one, then the obstacles that need overcoming are worth the effort. For the making of the documentary, then movie, and now the book, I was faced with many obstacles and setbacks. At times, it would have been easier to just stop than to muster the time and energy to keep going. Ultimately, though, I decided that the end goal was worth the effort. As stated before, often the greater the end goal, the harder the journey. By keeping an eye on the end goal, it is easier to persevere to make it to the end.
- Find role models and mentors to help you on your journey. Despite everything stated above, our journey in life can be difficult. Therefore, it is best not to go on the journey alone. Having a role model gives us the confidence that the goal can be achieved. In my experience, William and Ebralie Mwizerwa were excellent role models in overcoming adversity. Their experiences were far more horrific than anything me or my family had faced, and yet they were able to move forward with such faith and grace that it became inspiring. Likewise, for most people it is comforting to have a mentor upon whose experience we can lean on to get us through rough spots in life.
The very purpose of telling our story through the book and the movie Beautifully Broken is in the hopes of inspiring people who might find themselves down or personally broken, and running low on hope. I pray that people will benefit from the stories of overcoming obstacles in our book. I know that people will be inspired, as so many people have reached out to us already through the movie.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I want to inspire people in general, and teens in particular, to help find a way past their depression. We live in a country of great wealth and abundance, and yet depression is rampant.
I was a dad whose daughter found herself in a situation where she viewed herself as trapped and worthless. I know that there are millions of young people who for whatever reason find themselves in the same dark place as my daughter. But I can say with certainty that no child is worthless, and anyone feeling that way is believing the lies that evil wants them to believe. We all have great worth and something to give — we just have to have resilience to get past the tough patches.
If anything, I would hope that the true stories of Beautifully Broken will help individuals see that beauty can come from their brokenness, that their pain can be turned into their passion. Take the Mwizerwa family as an example, where their survival of the genocide has led them to lead a ministry that has helped over 12,000 people.
Everyone has value — we all just need to persevere through the tough times, knowing that better times lie ahead and we will be better people for the pain that we have endured.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
The leader I’d love to have breakfast or lunch with the most is Oprah Winfrey. She is certainly a leader who has been incredibly resilient and achieved remarkable success in a time that was notably difficult for an African American woman. That achievement alone would make her an inspirational person to meet.
Oprah’s success is even more inspiring because she has been a person who has worked hard to give back, and who has been so charitable in her own right. To me, that makes her success even more inspiring and praiseworthy. I would love the opportunity to thank her for her work to lift up others, and I would be happy to do so as someone who has not directly benefited from her work, but as someone who greatly admires her unselfish nature.
Finally, I believe that Oprah may be moved by the incredible story of William and Ebralie Mwizerwa and by our Beautifully Broken story. I believe our story transcends race and refugees, and even stretches across continents. It is a story that I believe is meant to be told in our current times, and I would hope that it is the type of story that Oprah may find powerful and timely as well.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
They can go to www.beautifullybrokenmovie.com or follow us at Facebook.com/BBrokenMovie
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!