Wednesday, May 2, 2012
The War at Home, by Jocelyn Green
Today, I’m continuing my series on Military Ministries and I want to thank Jocelyn Green again for sharing another excerpt from her book, Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq & Afghanistan. These have truly been a blessing.
The War at Home
Andrea Westfall, Oregon Army National Guard, Kuwait and Iraq, 2002-2003
When Andrea Westfall came home from her nine-month deployment to Kuwait and Iraq as a flight medic in May 2003, she knew something had changed within her.
“I reacted to loud noises,” she remembered. “I no longer felt safe and always watched doors. I didn’t like to be around people—large crowds were awful for me. I thought I was going crazy, but it wasn’t until a year after I got home that it was bad enough to get help. I was self-medicating, getting drunk every night. I was miserable and I wanted to feel anything different than the hell I was in.”
Westfall was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and went to the nearby VA Center for treatment. But she knew that wouldn’t solve everything. For her nagging questions about God, she turned to a local church.
“Spiritually, we are the most vulnerable when we come home,” she said. “We’ve been immersed in seeing death and destruction. There’s a lot of woundedness.”
Church services weren’t easy for Westfall, either. “How are you doing?” someone would ask.
“Actually, I can’t sleep, I’m really struggling—“ Westfall would begin.
“But you’re seeing someone about that right? There’s a book you really need to read . . ..”
No one seemed to understand that Westfall needed more than a pat answer or a best-selling book—she needed the body of Christ. “I didn’t need a church with a full-blown military ministry,” said Westfall. “But little things would have made a difference like someone coming over and mowing my lawn, or fixing what was broken.”
One day at work she was having a hard time dealing with a situation; anxiety was high. “What’s your problem, you made it home alive!” her boss told her.
Yeah, Westfall thought, but I wish I had died over there.
It wasn’t until the local newspaper ran an article about Westfall that the extent of her struggle with PTSD was fully told. The day after the story ran, a woman came sobbing to Westfall’s mother: “I prayed for Andi every day when she was gone,” she said. “When she came home I stopped praying because I thought she was safe. But that’s when her war really started.”
Those words traveled near and far, including up to the Pentagon chaplain.
Finally, somebody gets it, thought Westfall.
“My spirit is broken” (Job 17:1a).
Prayer: Lord, open my eyes to the hurting people around me; show me how to lift them up with your strength.
One weekend in February 2007, Andrea Westfall stood outside Times Square Church in New York City, finishing a cigarette before bracing herself to go inside. Though she still believed in God, she had given up on going to church—but she made an exception on this particular day. Today, Westfall was asked to share her story with Times Square Church leadership.
God, prove to me that people love and serve and mean it, she prayed. I have to see that a church has a heart for veterans. She didn’t think it was possible.
But as she listened to the leadership explain why they wanted to launch a military ministry, she noticed tears in the eyes of two senior pastors. “I got a glimpse into their hearts,” Westfall recalled. “My body armor started to fall apart after that, the pieces started coming off. Everyone says that at the end of that weekend, my whole countenance had changed.”
Westfall returned to Times Square Church from her home in Texas for the Easter morning service and found herself fully engaged with the sermon’s theme of being called into battle by God as the King and Commander in Chief.
“The pastor said that we’re part of God’s army,” said Westfall. “I got that. I started putting some pieces together that I was just missing: this belief in God is not a passive one, it’s active and proactive, moving, growing. It means jumping in when needed, resting when it’s time. It’s like the Army. I understood that. ‘I can do this,’ I remember thinking. ‘I can put my whole heart into this.’ And like that moment I first said my oath to join the army, for the first time in my life I made a public profession of faith and went forward for an altar call. That Easter Sunday was my birthday.”
While she anticipated that she would stumble on this new spiritual journey, Westfall understood the connection of God as king, warrior, and Lord. Still experiencing symptoms of PTSD even as she grows in her faith, Westfall shares her story through the Military Ministry’s Bridges to Healing program which educates churches about PTSD.
“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (1 Timothy 1:17).
Prayer: Lord, help me submit to your will and take delight in serving you as my God and King.
Excerpt from Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq & Afghanistan (AMG Publishers 2009) by Jane Hampton Cook, Jocelyn Green, and John Croushorn. Used by permission.
Please join LBOC on Friday, May 4th, to see a list of ways churches can help!
Does your church have a heart for veterans? If so, tell us more below.
Broken by War, Saved by Grace
Ronie Kendig—Inspiring Military Ministry
Jocelyn Green, the wife of a former Coast Guard officer, is an award-winning author, freelance writer, and editor. She is the author of Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives (Moody 2008), and Faith Deployed . . . Again: More Daily Encouragement for Military Wives (Moody 2011), along with contributing writers. She is also co-author of Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq/Afghanistan (AMG Publishers 2009). Her first novel, Wedded to War, will release from River North (an imprint of Moody Publishers) in July 2012. Visit her at www.jocelyngreen.com.