“I, Garett Collins, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…”
This was the honorary speech I repeated at the Military Entrance Processing Station. I was 18 years old and fresh out of high school. I thought that the military was the right path for me and my future was set. I would fulfill four years in the army reserves while getting a degree in business and marketing. I would graduate and become an officer in the US Army. I would serve my twenty year term. And at the ripe old age of 42, I would retire and start my second career.
Soon after swearing in to the army, my base commanding officer approached me. “You don’t belong here,” he said, locking eyes with me. “This is not a good fit for you. Your scores are much too high. And you are missing out on a better career choice whether in the U.S. Army or elsewhere.”
As his words sunk in, all of my confidence in my decision to join the army seeped out. I felt a deep chasm growing in my heart. Maybe I wasn’t ready for life away from home. Maybe I wasn’t ready to become a man. What was I supposed to do now? What was the right path for me?
Looking back, I realize that I didn’t really know myself at all back then. So, how on earth was I supposed to know what to do? Thankfully, I was allowed to be indiscriminately discharged from the army and I started over.
One month later, I discovered YWAM Madison and their ministry focused on helping women and children in dangerous situations like human-trafficking (sex slavery), extreme poverty, and deadly diseases like Aids/HIV. I hopped on a plane and joined their Rescue Ops DTS.
I spent the first three months of DTS at a training facility surrounded by corn fields. There was limited internet, no cell service, no TV, and basically nothing that could distract me from pursuing God and discovering a relationship with Him. And there were 55 other staff and students living out there who were passionate to seek God and love one another. These 3 months radically altered my life. I discovered who God really is and who I am to Him. I felt God showing me again and again that I was made to be… A son. A man. A husband. A father. A leader. An inspiration. A builder of courage. A warrior. When I heard these words from God, I longed to fulfill them. I asked God to shape my character and help me pursue integrity in every area of my life.
After my training phase, I went with a team of a dozen others to Nepal and India. I traveled to villages who’d lost their daughters to human trafficking. I traveled to homes full of children with AIDS. I traveled into the very heart of brothels where women and children were being sold. And I realized that God had been shaping me during the training phase so I could represent Him to all who were hurting.
If the old Garett could look this new me in the eyes, he would probably scoff me. But secretly inside, he would be jealous and wish that he too were on this grand adventure to bring hope, light and love to a hurting world. He would wish that he could sit with a six year old dying from a deadly disease and bring laughter and light into that little boy’s eyes. He would wish that he could trek to villages high in the Himlayas to bring them the light of Christ. He would wish that he could rush to lands ravaged by earthquakes to bring disaster relief.
And, if I could look that old Garett in the eyes, I would tell him this is what it means to be a man.
This extraordinary journey… this amazing adventure… this courageous calling is mine. But it is not mine alone. I get to share it with my wife and my family and friends around the world. And most special of all, I get to share it with the One who planned it for me.