I’m David Wood. Here’s more on how I’m living deeply.
Recently I’ve gotten back into ministering through social media videos like I had done a few years earlier, and this chapter of life had a wild start. Before the pandemic, my wife and daughters and I had to evacuate our home in Hong Kong. There were student-led protests and riots, and Molotov cocktails were literally being thrown right under my flat. There was tear gas coming in and it just felt like everything was collapsing. Our little girls were born three months premature -they were four at the time- and all this stuff was coming up into their lungs. I told my wife, ‘This is not going to end well. We’ve got to get out.’ So I sent my wife and girls to Lithuania, while I went to Spain. The government there was interested in working with my company (Virtus Outdoor Group, or VOG, which makes tactical clothing, gear and camo) and I needed to have an initial meeting with them. So I go to Madrid, tell them I’m going to one of our factories in Vietnam and I’ll be back in two weeks. Well, I ended up being stuck there for seven months because of the pandemic. But I used social media all the time -I didn’t have much else to do during lockdown! I went up to the roof of the hotel and did strength training and street sermon videos; just trying to be a light in the craziest, darkest times. My platform was also expanding, adding social media followers partly because my company had begun working with Spartan endurance races. These are extreme races with obstacles, led by Navy SEALs, Marines like myself, Army Rangers, and other Special Forces veterans. VOG developed our own pack system and sandbag system to take people through 4 hours, 12 hours, 24 hours of straight torture. The goal isn’t one person winning- it’s sticking through it! One of these races is a nonstop, 100-hour, crazy endurance test, and I’ve led it in places like Mongolia, Namibia, Greece, and Abu Dhabi. Yes, this has given me a platform to share the Gospel! Even emptying out the sand from the sand bladders at the finish of the races symbolically shows the athletes they’re lightening the load, putting it at the cross and laying down the baggage.
Yet it was through social media that I also realized I wasn’t being an authentic Christian. I was one person on social media and another in the Bible study. I immediately put on, not the full armor of God, but the Marine Corps emblem and my conservative political bent. I’m a Marine and a combat vet, so I think there’s this part of me that felt, ‘This stuff’s going wrong in my country and I’ve got to fix it.’ These were the credentials that gave me the authenticity to stand on my little mountain and curse others for being liberals or for being this or that. And that’s not bringing anybody to Christ. In fact, my argumentative behavior got me kicked off Facebook. Shunning people and hurting people- that’s toxic! It broke my heart thinking, ‘I’ve been kicked off a social media platform for posting stuff that I didn’t have to post.’ I realized my identity, when arguing, went to a place of fear and not of love. And I had lost souls, literally; people I could’ve reached. Lost them out of pride and fear. I cut myself off. But I also realized, ‘I’ve still got Instagram. I can still show men and women how to plant the seeds for the fruit of the Spirit- how to emulate God’s warrior virtues.’ I was growing to learn the true warrior virtues don’t just include strength, but also qualities like humility, kindness, and, most importantly, putting our families first. Pushing out posts and stories, I can sometimes reach a couple million people. 82 percent of my followers are guys ages 16 to 50. They’re interested in my spiritual walk and physical fitness. So I mix those two when talking about metaphysical alignment in the street sermons I post. I want to help people live from God’s ‘spirit, mind, body’ paradigm, with His Spirit in the lead, instead of the more common ‘mind, body, spirit’ approach. The spiritual life is about consistency. If it’s not consistent, it’s not real. Starting your day hearing from the Spirit in Scripture and taking time to let it sink in, it changes your walk. It impresses upon guys the importance of being good stewards of our families- making things like quality time with our kids and date nights with our wives top priorities.
Early this year, we moved my company back state-side, incorporating it as a service-disabled veteran-owned small business in Knoxville. Being in a place where I know the natives because I am one of the natives- it’s surreal and very relaxing. There are blessings like being able to be a friend to my dad. He just had knee surgery, so getting him back in the gym and getting him fly fishing, just having time with this man who’s always been my best friend has been priceless. And ministry-wise, it’s lovely to be able to really connect with the veteran community. It’s hard to do that from overseas. I have limitless passion for working in guys’ lives, showing them God will use their brokenness for light, and showing that if we’re metaphysically aligned, we can grow in Him every day. That’s what putting on the full armor of God is. Being able to visually paint that, having it come from a Marine who’s worn the combat gear, I can convey, ‘The service and the gear aren’t what make you a warrior, it’s the fruit of the Spirit God’s planting inside of us.’ I can break the barrier with guys and say, ‘We don’t have to meet up and drink. You know what’s cool? Taking care of your kids. You know what’s cool? Taking care of the body God gave you.’ So it’s stressing putting on the armor, doing it with consistency, and then, as iron sharpens iron, growing right next to each other. I was among the first boots on the ground when we took Kandahar, Afghanistan during the initial surge in 2001. The way we pulled out has been a train wreck for a lot of vets. So being able to be back here, having a lot of vets in my company, that’s a massive mission field. There are many people who just seem to want to prescribe veterans opiates and edibles for handling their pain and scars. That’s dark, and it’s something I’d have never seen if I wasn’t here and really getting to meet with people. As with the social media street sermons, God’s blessed this ministry over the years. He’s allowed me to lead several of my fellow veterans and even some of their family members to Christ. I’m excited to see the doors God’s opened and to see the doors He continues to open.