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Today, I am excited to have one of my team members, Matt Bounds, join the blog and offer his thoughts and reflections from our N. Africa experience. It was a joy to have Matt on the trip and I think you will be challenged by some of his thoughts. He also has been a part of this blog before so you can catch up on his faith and work place blog by clicking here.
"I recently was given the honor to go on an amazing adventure to northern Africa. Me and a couple of other therapists took off under our Father's provision and direction to find what He had in store for each of us in what turned out to be a whirlwind of a trip.
I want to start by giving some background on myself. I am a 23 year military veteran. I spent 6 years in active duty and the rest I have served in the reserves. I have deployed three times over that 23 year period in support of various contingencies and missions. With this came times of extreme loneliness, separation anxiety, depression, and spiritual warfare. I am now working through this and God is healing in his own time. These experiences shaped me at my core into who I thought God wanted me to be. A strong, capable, independent, mission focused individual, which it did, but I’m finding that it also made me hard and distant, especially to the ones I love most. I say all this to lay the groundwork for what happened on this trip.
We take off and I am immediately making parallel comparisons to my previous deployments. The flight, the anticipation, the fear of the unknown all slipping into my subconscious. Then we land, and after a brief introduction to our host home are whisked off to another city two hours and 6 armed checkpoints later. We then check in to our humble hotel and settle in for the night after dinner. It is here that I am met with the demons of my past trips that I had been trying to shake off since we took off. The fear of being alone in a foreign place and surrounded by those that might not take too kindly to why I am there.
We wake up the next morning and I put on my brave face and take off into the days adventure. This is where God starts to rewrite my trauma into his perfect will. He introduced me to a doctor who has labored in this unforgiving and spiritually desolate place for years, and yet has the fortitude to continue to press on every day doing what God has called her to do. We then enter homes where we minister to families seeking any assistance they can get for their loved ones. We are able to use our God given abilities to provide life-giving teaching and instruction to three amazing women of God who are seeking every opportunity to help their community and share his love. Unlike my previous trips in the military, where my work centered on taking life, we were instead giving life through our interactions throughout this day. The next day we are able to take part in their pediatric clinic and provide what little information we can gather up from our days in PT/OT school to pass along to these workers, but God showed himself powerful once again. We all were empowered beyond our skill/knowledge level and were able to recall information tucked back many years prior to assist in treating the children.
After our time in this city we headed back to our home city and settle in with the host family. Knowing my growing anxiety and struggle with loneliness God worked the circumstances where I had to stay with the host family in their home due to lodging issues. This was like a wave grace that washed over me in this moment. I was able to relax and rest in peace surrounded by familiar, God loving people once more. We were able to minister with their team a few more days, entering homes, meeting believers, hearing their stories, hiking mountains, and seeing the city from a literal thousand-foot view. We prayed as the sun rose one morning over the city, which was a powerful moment of realization of God’s sovereignty and power over the whole Earth. And not just the micro-universe we create in our little safe bubbles. We continued our work and observation, then headed home to the safety and security of the good old U.S. of A.
As I read this it sounds very choppy, which is okay because it still is very choppy in my head as well. This trip shook a lot of things loose, and I continue to wait for everything to settle into one coherent thought. But, as I breakdown what happened over there, it has occurred to me that God was working in me while I thought I was there to work for Him. What I mean by that is, He was healing my past scars and showing me that they were merely training events placed in my life to prepare me for his work. This trip has been a soothing balm placed on my life and memory. I now have a memory of a mission that was God inspired, God ordained, and God powered. I have been in the presence of loneliness and been lifted up by my brothers instead of being left to flounder in doubt and fear. I was encouraged again and again throughout our trip that even when things are hard and lonely, our God is sufficient to help and hold us strong when we are faithful to follow his calling.
Finally, I was taught the true nature of the Church. Christ’s church is universal, not a building set on manmade foundations. It is a web of believers that stretches to the far edges of the world and it is alive and well among his people. The believers we met in these dark places shine like a light on a hill. They can be seen from miles away and are spreading their light wherever they go.
So, I encourage you to sluff off the baggage and weights that hinder and slow you down. Take on our Father's yoke because it is light and continue your journey. Fear is merely focusing on events of past trauma, and anxiety is focusing on what might happen in the future. Instead, stand firm exactly where you are and focus on Christ and his work here and now. He will hold you strong and use your past experiences to shape your future endeavors."
***Check out my book "Rehab the World" written for Physical Therapists to encourage us in our workplace and prepare us to serve those around us. If you like, please leave a review and spread the word!!***