by Mike Garber

I’d like to share my Man Camp story with you all. I feel like this is something I’m being called to do now that I have signed up for this year’s adventure. I’m seeing a lot of guys posting throwback pictures of the first MC. I found myself a little bit jealous.

My first MAN CAMP was in 2016. I decided to go after being encouraged by my friend Josh. I had been living a life of sin for a long time and had been doing things on my own. My marriage was falling apart, I had a lot of anger in my life and I was struggling to hold it all together. I decided to do something that would put me back on the right path. At that MAN CAMP I chose, after 13 years or so, to re-dedicate my life back to Christ. This was a strong moment for me and I knew that things were about to change. However, what was coming next would test me like I have never been tested before. (Trust me, when the enemy sees things moving in a direction he doesn’t like, he acts very fast and very harsh.) Before I even got on the road home, my life had been turned upside down.

To understand just how much, let me give a little context about my childhood. Mom didn’t really care much about me. My step dad was great but he worked a lot so I lived with my aunt and uncle most of the time until I was adopted by my new parents when I was about 15. My aunt and uncle were pretty much my mom and dad as a young boy. My uncle and step dad taught me how to be a man. They taught me to hunt, taught me that men drink their coffee black, taught me what a strong work ethic meant, even though we lived in a trailer park and were in the lower bracket of the lower class. My uncle was like a dad to me. He and my aunt were unable to have kids so I ended up filling that role for them.

Back to MAN CAMP Spring 2016: As MC finished, Josh and I walked back to my jeep. Being a good Man Camper, I had left my phone in the car during those great 3 days. We pack up and turn on our phones. As we pull out of the parking lot, my phone blows up as it’s catching up from being turned off for three days. I have a few texts from my wife telling me to call her ASAP and another from my brother and sister. Before we even hit the main road, I had my brother on the phone and that’s when I was hit with some news that I had no way of coping with. I had learned that my uncle had taken a knife to his throat, in his car on the side of a road. My uncle, Big Bubba (I was Little Bubba), the man who used to lift me up in the bucket of the tractor he worked on and drive me around. The news hit me like a brick wall guys. I had no idea how to handle it. Josh, being the great friend that he is, drove us home that day while I did nothing but cry. Just typing this all out brings back the tears.

Let me tell you, this completely devastated me. It sent me into a spiral that I did not think I would come out of. I allowed myself to forget the decision I had made just a day before. All of this caused me to fall into the deepest depression I have ever experienced. Depression, on and off, is something I have struggled with most of my life. This time it was different, it was worse. From that moment, sitting in my Jeep on the side of the road leaving MC spring 2016, to the end of the year leading into spring MC 2017, I would go through the darkest part of my life. (Trust me when I say, I had had some really dark moments in my short - at the time - 30 years.) The worst part is, I kept it to myself. My wife and friends had no idea what was going on. I found myself making excuses as to why I couldn’t be with my family, or why I couldn’t hang out with my friends. I even noticed that I wasn’t getting invited to do anything anymore because I always had a reason that I couldn’t be around. I’d sit in my basement, and do nothing.

Things got worse and worse. Then, one night in September of 2016, from about midnight to two thirty in the morning, I paced around my house. I sat in many different spots of my home, walked around and spent close to two and a half hours trying to convince myself to do something that would take the pain away, something that would make it all go away. This is really hard to share guys, but during that time, I held a pistol to my head telling myself to not be a sissy (used a different word). I was trying to build up the balls to finally do it. I thought I was weak for not being able to actually do it. I had the trigger pulled in to the breaking point, hoping I’d slip and it would just happen. During this time, I was not thinking about family, the impact, the reality of what the decision would mean. I didn't think about the reactions of family when they got the news, the look on my wife’s face, or how my kids would live their lives going forward. I only thought about doing it, that was it. During that time, I was not myself, I was not the “me” I have always been, but someone else. I was sitting in the stairwell to my basement, in tears rocking back and forth, Glock 19 to my head, and I felt the most alone I had ever felt in my life. It felt like I could scream as loud as I could, that a gunshot could go off, and no one in the house would even hear. I was that alone, or so I thought. I knew I just needed to get the gun down to the safe in the basement and lock it up, but I couldn’t bring myself to get more than 2 stairs down before I sat down again. God finally nudged me to stand up, and finish the walk down. After two and a half hours, I was able to finally get it locked up in a safe in the basement. I then reached out to a friend who got me connected with the VA to talk with a counselor. This friend knew the struggles I was going through and pushed me to get help. He was an instrument God used to preserve my life.

After a few months of counseling, and the lead up to the next spring MC, things were starting to get better. Then sign ups for MAN CAMP came and I was so hesitant to sign up. Strictly out of the fear of turning my phone back on after MC was over. Somehow I signed up anyways, I don’t know why, but I did. The group of men I was with (one of whom was the friend I reached out to that night in September) was the right group of men to be around. They were the men God had sent to be with me. I shared this story with them and opened up to them within a day of being at my second MC. I decided to go to the MASH tent to get prayer. At that prayer session I surrendered the thoughts of suicide, and that hold the enemy held on me from the age of 13. I felt refreshed, revived and most importantly I didn’t feel alone anymore. Men, my first attempt at taking my life was at the age of 13 where I spent 10 days in a hospital, the last attempt I’ll ever make was September 2016.

If there is anything inside you, telling you to not go to MAN CAMP because you’re scared of what could, or will, happen. Or telling you there is something “more pressing” in life where you can’t make it. I urge you to reconsider. There are struggles we all have, and there is no one more equipped to take that burden away, than Christ Himself.

I hope to see you out there,
Mike Garber
Survivor | Nephew | Dedicated to Christ

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