Growing up in a small Newfoundland town, I did everything a typical boy did—explored the woods behind my house with my three-wheeler, pellet gun and fishing gear; built forts with my friends; and played street and pond hockey for a tinfoil “Stanley Cup.”

As I grew older, I didn’t know what I was truly interested in, so I did everything: hockey, soccer, tennis, math club, speech competitions, sea cadets, youth group and corps cadets. I was a successful student and athlete and got along with everyone, yet as I look back at those days, I almost always felt alone.

As a fifth-generation Salvationist, my parents introduced me to Jesus, but never forced a certain lifestyle on me. Every night, my dad knelt at the foot of my bed and prayed for me and my future. I searched everywhere as I struggled to know who I wanted to be and how to get there. I read every book in my father’s library, from Philip Yancey’s The Jesus I Never Knew to My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. I spent hours at the seniors’ home visiting elders from my church, fascinated with their stories, wisdom and faith.

By the time I finished high school, I still had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Eventually, I moved to Halifax to study commerce at Dalhousie University. It was during this time that I began to seek God for my identity and ask what he wanted for my life. As I turned toward him, he started to change my view of success and what mattered in his eyes.

Majors Wayne and Cavell Loveless ran the Centre of Hope in Halifax, and they encouraged us young adults to invest in the men at the centre. I remember a pivotal conversation with one man, once worth millions, who gambled most of his life away and ended up living underneath the Macdonald Bridge.

“Mike,” he told me, “there isn’t one person in this world who is not three choices away from where I was under that bridge, and they do not necessarily have to be their own choices.” This conversation changed the trajectory of my life. I believed God wanted to use me to help restore men like Rick to their families and communities.

Two other events have had far-reaching impact on my life. The second was meeting Deanne, my wife and the mother of our four children. She exudes compassion, understanding, patience, grace and, most importantly for me, home. God knew exactly what I needed when he brought us together.

And the third was a morning on a mountain top. Two years after moving to Alberta to work for The Salvation Army’s community services in Calgary, old feelings of not belonging, not fitting in, started to return. I thought about quitting, believing I had nothing to offer. Then I took part in the 4th Musketeer’s Xtreme Character Challenge (XCC), a 72-hour mountain-climbing adventure with other Christian men. It’s a time when you are forced to face yourself, explore your heart and listen to God.

That weekend has stayed with me to this day, as God broke through the noise and spoke to me through a friend who, coming into the event, had not decided what he believed about Jesus.

On the third morning, after we finally crested a mountain, he came and sat next to me. “This is how I see things right now,” he said. “Five years ago, I took a job in Yellowknife, so I would meet you—so that this morning, on this mountain, I would meet God.”

Jesus brings restoration, love and truth to the world and tells me who I am in him. When I read in Luke 4 of Jesus in the temple, reading from Isaiah 61, “ ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor,” and then saying, “ ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’ ” (Luke 4:21), it captures my heart and gives me the courage to partner with him on this mission.

It has been more than 20 years since I first felt God ask me to invest in men and their communities. It has been a journey with many diversions, doubts and obstacles, especially within me. Yet God has been faithful, my life has been fruitful and I am excited to see what he does in the next 20 years.

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