“God, let me get home alive.”
When I was deployed I was always praying small prayers like that. “Please don’t let us get shot down,” as I moved patients brought down from the combat zone. “Don’t let this patient die” as I tended to their wounds.
I came home in May 2003 and realized I suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I started isolating myself more.
When I felt like shutting the entire world out, my therapist at the veterans center mentioned that Rahnella Adsit with Cru's Military Ministry was doing research on PTSD.
She tried asking questions and I refused to let her in. Instead, I let her have it. 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 email from Rahnella about how they wanted to do a video to pass out to churches letting them know say 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 the DVD, “Bridges to Healing.” I didn't think anyone would want to watch it because no one had wanted to listen to me before.
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, saw their tears and listened to why they felt it was important to set up this ministry. The armor I had built around myself began to fall apart.
They invited me back at Easter. For the first time, Jesus was presented in a way that I could understand.
I went to all three services. 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. Someone 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 veteran of the Oregon National Guard and Army Reserves. She works part-time with the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) task force of the Military ministry, a part of Cru for servicemen and women and their families.
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