It has been inspiring to me to meet Erica Williams and Garrett Mills, the two young FCA representatives to East Central Community College and the high schools in the area. Last week’s article chronicled Erica’s story and this week will show the hand of God in Garrett’s life.
Garrett was born May 8, 2000, to Justin and Tamra Mills, and they have lived in Hickory his entire life. His parents both work for the Newton County School System, as Tamra teaches fourth grade and his father Justin is Technical Coordinator for the school district. Garrett has one sister, three years older than he, Chaney Mills Champion, a full-time substitute teacher at Starkville, married to J. T. Champion of Pheba, Mississippi, who serves as Youth Minister for Mathiston First Baptist near Starkville.
The Mills family were members at Hickory Baptist Church, where Rev. Guy Odom was pastor when Garrett was saved as a seven-year-old in Vacation Bible School. He told me, “Bro. Odom walked through the ABC’s of salvation in VBS, and that did it!” Garrett’s father was a Methodist from Philadelphia who had been baptized a couple years before and his sister not long after that. His mother’s father had been a pastor and all his grandparents were important Christian influences on the family.
I asked him to talk about his father, since I had written an article about his mother for this column a good while back. He readily told me, “He does everything in our church and for people and wants no attention for doing it. He was Deacon Chairman and is a deacon now. He runs sound, graphics, does all kinds of service things, stuff nobody wants to do, wants no credit for it. He goes out of his way to make sure the family and others are comfortable before his own comfort. He tells me to make sure I give all the credit back to the Lord.”
Growing up through Newton County schools, Garrett played several sports, particularly soccer and football as a kicker his last year in high school before graduating in 2018. Garrett related, “My salvation journey started when I was seven, but He wasn’t really Lord of my life then, even through high school.” The Fellowship of Christian Athletes Director at the high school, Coach Justin Chaney, had told him he was a leader and put him on the leadership team.
The summer before graduation he attended an FCA Camp in Belhaven, where Mr. Tyson Cunningham led a small group and spoke. Garrett remembers, “He taught us to encourage and lead a team huddle at our school. When I came back to school, I went straight to Coach Mitchell and told him I wanted to start an FCA group with the football team.” Coach Mitchell replied, “Praise God! That’s exactly what we’ve been wanting!”
He said, “Everything just hit at once. I’m a leader and have all these responsibilities. How can I expect to pour into the youth and all, if Jesus is not Lord? I began reading His Word and praying, making Him Lord of my life. The more I learned about Him, the more in love I felt.”
Garrett continued, “I just felt a tug from the Lord to do it. We had meetings that summer on Wednesdays after weights or practice. I would just lead devotions. Nothing real deep. The first start was kind of slow. I didn’t feel like anyone was listening, like it was an inconvenience to them. But the second or third game week, six guys from Hickory came to ask me to take them to church. They’re all still in a church today!”
While at the Neshoba County Fair that summer, some friends invited him to a party. When he declined, one of them asked, “What are you? Are you religious now?” Garrett remembered, “That hurt, but I realized, there’s a cost to being a true follower of Jesus.” When I asked for more information, he said, “The Lord just softened my heart. He opened my ears and opened my heart. Once you taste and see that the Lord is good, you don’t want anything else.”
He told of how he began to further seek the Lord, as a sophomore at East Central Community College, when his friend Brooke Morgan, who saw he was ready for more, suggested he pray Psalm 63. With doing that, Garrett said, “I went from ‘He is Lord,’ to Him creating a hunger in me for more.” Brooke’s father, Bro. Ken Morgan, is Youth Director at Hickory. Brooke, Connor Boggan, and I would go to the youth meetings and church on Sunday nights and sometimes stay till 11 at night just praising, worshiping and praying.”
He attended EC two years after high school, playing soccer for three semesters, while being am FCA intern. Then the fall semester of his junior year he began attending Mississippi State University at Meridian, planning to be a teacher. But by the third week he realized he wanted to go to Leavell College, a Christian college which is tied to the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He is in his first semester there, doing his work online presently.
As the FCA male representative at EC, Garrett told me his main job is to work with the men’s teams on campus. Right now, he is with the basketball team members at their practices and games. He shared with me an experience he had with a student his freshman year at EC, when he urged an acquaintance from an FCA Camp he went to at Belhaven to attend FCA at EC. He, this student, and a couple more attended an FCA camp in Florence, where they enjoyed a good weekend. This student called Garrett a couple weeks later to say, “I just want to say thank you for getting me back plugged into FCA. I had tried to kill myself. Without FCA and the College Getaway camp, I probably wouldn’t be here.” Garrett realized, “That’s the kind of impact FCA can have., It was just a good weekend to me, but it saved his life.”
The Courts of Faith service at the college a few days ago strongly impacted Garrett and the others working with FCA, as 25 students responded for salvation. I saw the evidence of God’s moving on campus on the chalkboard in the room he and Erica have their office space. There was a list of students wanting to participate in Bible study and a list of those signing up to receive Bibles.
Garrett has a dedicated Christian girlfriend, who also has felt a call to ministry. A sophomore at EC, she is Kelsea Archer from Purvis. She wants to work with children and is preparing in the field of Occupational Therapy. They have been seeing each other about a year.
I believe God is moving in this young generation, as we pray for Him to bring America another “Great Awakening.” Let us pray that more young people will feel called to serve Him, as young Garrett has. God bless them!
Live for Jesus! He’s coming soon! You may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 601-635-3282.