Bethany Eastvold Barnett has published her first book, “About Face: Finding Peace Within the Battle,” a compilation of the life stories of three veteran Irish soldiers, their involvement in the outlaw motorcycle fraternity, and the discovery of faith that changed their lives.
“I am so pleased to have had the privilege to work alongside these three men and their families over the last four years, bringing this project into print,” Barnett said.
Barnett recently visited Minnesota, which included a book-signing at the Good Book Store in Little Falls and a Sunday morning of talks at Grace Covenant Church.
“This book has personal life stories, it’s about military families, it tells of spiritual journeys and has a bit of military history,” she said. “The main themes are PTSD, loss and the impact of military life on families. “This is all about God’s story – his peace and his presence,” he said.”
As the sister of an American soldier, Barnett has a unique viewpoint and experiences which inspire the book.
Barnett moved to Little Falls when she was 3 years old and graduated from high school in 1998. She majored in English at the University of Minnesota-Morris and earned her master’s in linguistics at North Dakota State University. It was her fascination with Ireland that steered her life path.
As a college student, she was part of a study abroad program which took her to Limerick, in the southeast corner of Ireland. While at NDSU, that interest in Ireland began building again.
“I was always involved in campus ministry,” she said. “Through that, I could sense that I would be going back to Ireland.”
She went to Dublin in 2004, and worked in County Mayo for three years with Grace Ministries. In 2007, she went to work at a new Teen Challenge women’s rehabilitation center in Newbridge, in County Kildare.
Barnett met her husband, Billy, at a Teen Challenge event. They married in April of 2011, and Barnett took a break from full-time ministry to focus on their marriage. Billy is a rehab integration worker at Teen Challenge. They live in Bray. Their daughter, Saibh (pronounced ‘sive’) was born nine months ago.
During the past several years, Barnett could feel God calling her to do something she’d never done – to tell the stories of the people she met, to let a wider audience know of the incredible turnaround that is possible when people with broken lives give those pieces to God.
“Many people have the impression that Ireland is a Catholic country,” said Barnett. “But it’s the same battle there that’s on here; it’s become a very secular place.”
Barnett’s early vision for the project included interviewing about 10 people, but after interviewing three, she felt unsettled.
Those words were one of the ideas for the book that Barnett had once considered and discarded, but they became the title.
“About Face describes a 180-degree turn, which is a metaphor for repentance,” she said.
That is what happened in the lives of the three men featured in the book, when they decided to trust God with their lives.
“I was afraid to hear the love in the Heavenly Father’s voice,” said John, one of the book’s subjects. “But it was a chance to be finally, deeply alive.”
“I met with these gentlemen at coffee shops or their homes,” Barnett said. “I told them, ‘You can tell me anything, but if there’s anything you don’t want me to put in the book, just tell me.”
The book took four years of talking with John and Ger Corcoran, who are twins and Kevin Burke. There were hours of writing, praying, editing the stories and finally planning the book’s materials and the cover.
In the words of an Irish Facebook friend of Barnett’s, “John, Ger and Kevin are so brave to share such personal stories with us. God is so amazing, that true forgiveness has given these guys the freedom to share their story.”
The men opened up more once they realized that it wasn’t just “their story” but the story of many people in the military, even beyond Ireland.
Ultimately, Barnett’s journey with the book has included a deeper faith for herself as well. As John described to Barnett, “We start a project when we say ‘yes’ to God; then we realize that we are the project.”