Corporal Andrew Summers of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) lost several friends and colleagues while fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2006 and 2008 and suffered for eight years from chronic anxiety, nightmares and crippling hatred for those he had fought against
His Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) worsened until, one night, after preparing to kill himself with pills and alcohol, he looked at his family photos and gave God an ultimatum.
"I told Him, 'If you are real like my wife says you are, you need to stop me. If you do, I promise you I will serve You for the rest of my life. I give you 24 hours'," he recalls.
The next day was a Sunday and his wife Tina met army psychologist Captain Alexander Thornton who happened to visit her church for the first time en route to his next posting.
She opened up about her husband's situation, which led Andrew to another psychologist who helped him talk through his feelings and to communicate with Tina.
As he began receiving counselling Andrew also returned to church despite his extreme anxiety.
Once inside the church he recalls feeling safe, as if he were "covered by a warm blanket".
"I'd given my life to Jesus years earlier, but I'd walked away from Him and only ever came to church whenever I felt like it.
"All that changed when He saved me from suicide."
Andrew joined a church men's group that met together weekly to read their Bibles and pray for each other, which had a profound impact on his internal healing.
One of the Bible passages that gave him comfort was Isaiah chapter 40 verse 31 "Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."
However, Andrew's battles weren't over.
The siege in Sydney in 2015 triggered more PTSD symptoms.
"It became impossible for me to go to the supermarket without having a massive panic attack, to the point that I couldn't do the most basic of things ... I lived in a state of hyper-vigilance whenever I wasn't at home or at work. Visiting family in Sydney itself was petrifying."
“He loved me as broken as I was”That was when Andrew felt God prompting Him "to go to a mosque and confront the very people I'd been terrified of, and hated in equal measure".
It took him three weeks to share this with Tina, who then set up a meeting with the Imam of the largest mosque in Sydney.
"At the mosque I asked the Imam to forgive me for my hatred of his people. He replied, 'I hugged you when you came in, didn't I?'
"While we sat around a table speaking, my anxiety levels went from the highest they'd ever been to non-existent. It was truly a miracle. I was healed of PTSD.
"To this day, I haven't had a single symptom of PTSD," Andrew declares.
Now Andrew says he is passionate about breaking the stigma of mental health and encouraging people to get help.
"Get professional help," he urges. "But also to call out for help from Jesus, who rescued me from suicide and ultimately healed me.
"He loved me as broken as I was. He took me, saved me and made me new, thanks to His love and goodness. I know that if He can do it for me, He can do it for others."
Andrew also says that the effectiveness of prayer cannot be underestimated.
"Together, let's pray that all in the Australian Defence Force will accept Jesus' invitation: 'Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.' (Matthew 11:28)".•