When I was deployed, our job was moving patients brought down from the combat zone. I did my little arrow prayers: "God, let me get home alive." "Please don't let us get shot down." "Don't let this patient die." There wasn't really any meaning behind it.
We came home in May 2003. Struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), I started isolating myself more. My therapist at the veterans center mentioned Rahnella Adsit with Campus Crusade for Christ's Military Ministry, doing research on PTSD.
She asked questions, and I let her have it. Because I had been burned by pastors and church leadership, I was angry and bitter [with the church]. I assumed I wasn't going to hear back from her. Then, I got an e-mail from Rahnella about how they wanted to do a video to pass out to churches, [saying PTSD] is a problem. She asked if I would be interested in participating.
I answered questions about coming home, how the church helped and how it did not. They put it into this DVD, Bridges to Healing. I didn't think anyone would want to watch it because no one had wanted to listen to me up to that point.
I went to a training at a church in New York City on how [churches could] set up a ministry for veterans using this video. If I didn't like what I saw, I was going to pull my name and face.
They could see how angry I was, but it was ok. I was invited to sit with the pastors and got to see their tears and listen to why they felt it was important to set up this ministry. The armor I had built around myself began to fall apart as I was loved on.
They invited me back at Easter. When I sat through all 3 services, for the first time, Jesus was presented in a way that I could understand.
Each service had a common theme of Christ as King. Their focus was on being called to battle. Jesus, having been there, has the right to lead.
As a soldier, I have more respect for officers who have gone through the ranks. Soldiers want to follow a leader that has that experience that we can trust. That's what I started to see about Jesus. As a man, He went through the ranks even though He was God.
I went up to the stage for the altar call and said, God, I want to follow Your leadership.
The pastor came up to me and said, "Now you serve a new Commander in Chief." After I made this decision, I started telling my story.
Andrea Westfall is a 13-year veteran of the Oregon National Guard and Army Reserves. She works part-time with the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) task force of Military Ministry, a part of Campus Crusade for Christ for servicemen and women and their families.