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Near-death experiences are a fascinating area of research that converge fields of psychology, neurology and sociology, but for the people that experience it, it usually feels far more complex than any sort of -ology. It transforms you. 

Josh Rodgers had 40,000 volts of electricity go through his body when climbing a tree. He broke his back in two places when he fell and then had his left arm amputated due to the burn damage. He spent five weeks in the hospital, 3 days in an induced coma, underwent multiple surgeries and had a few blood transfusions – all less than 6 months before we met him at the Forge men’s retreat this year. And he still has more surgeries to come. 

From congenital amputation, to accidents of every type of motor vehicle, to hospital malpractice, to cancer, to animal attacks, our retreat attendees come from almost every background you can think of, or more likely, those circumstances you could never imagine. And we see them at every step of the healing process, too. 

Josh is, in many ways, still very much experiencing his event. And it’s that unique place that characterizes his experience of the retreats. 

“Seeing the other guys [at the retreat] made me realize that I could still feel hopeful about my life. I realized that my version of what is ‘best’ is going to be different than what everyone else’s is and it doesn’t mean that I’m limited. Recognizing that I wasn’t the only person in the room with limb loss, it makes it feel like I’m not that different and that there are other people who have gotten along. They’ve figured out how to do things that they want in life. That was so encouraging for me,” says Josh. 

“To me it definitely felt like a catalyst. Seeing the other guys struggle and figure things out made me realize that it’s okay.” 

Despite the immense sensation of loss that usually comes with an amputation, Josh also expresses a deep sense of gratitude for his experience, his family and his faith. 

“I’ve always seen God just as much in the shadows and valleys and sometimes it even feels easier to connect with him there,” says Josh. “I sense Him in my breath and in every moment.” 

What if we could all be reminded, in every breath, the reality of a good and faithful Father? How much different might our day-to-day change? It’s worth adopting Josh’s mantra. 

With the moments he has now, Josh is excited to get back to his creative passions – namely cooking and music. Admittedly, playing the guitar again would be tough but he says that his retreat experience made him realize that trying is worth the effort – and a quick peek at YouTube shows that it is, in fact, possible. 

There were a lot of post-op firsts for Josh at the retreat: mini golf, CrossFit, surfing and wake surfing among them. Among peers and our staff, his sense of appreciation and openness for experience were his mark and you might not guess in meeting him that everything is so truly raw. 

“I think maybe that what [the accident] really taught me is to consider what it really means to be alive.” 

In his many firsts and alive-ness yet to come, we’re so honored to know Josh and to have shared the joys of life with him that, it seems, might be altogether illuminated most when we face the greatest shadows. 

Don’t let me die without restoring joy and gladness to my soul. May your frown over my failure become a smile over my success.

Psalms 39:13 TPT

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