Borrowing a page from her script-book for this column I would like to relate how the family of retired Army Brig. Gen. Jon Collins and his wife Joy of Canton have not only influenced my life but also the lives of many, both locally and worldwide, especially the lives of their two sons, David and Mark and their families, including seven grandchildren.
I first met the Collins in church shortly after Joan and I moved to Cherokee County in 1995. We worked with the Collins family in church callings where Jon served as a church leader.
Shortly thereafter the Collinses moved from the Towne Lake area to the Canton area. Once anyone meets the Jon and Joy Collins family they will remember them.
It has always amazed me how a quiet but spiritual man such as Jon Collins could have risen through the Army ranks to become a brigadier general leading a tank unit. Following his military service the Collins moved to Cherokee County.
Local Cherokeeans know Jon for his former service as president of the Cherokee Arts Council, or his current service as vice-chair of ‘Focus, Families of Cherokee United in Service.’ Still an active professional, he is the executive director of Adult Education, at Chattahoochee Technical College, a position where he has positively influenced the lives of both youth and adults alike, students young and old not only from Cherokee County but from all surrounding counties that feed into this fine Georgia educational system.
Last Sunday we met Jon and Joy again, again in our local chapel, where they were visiting to listen to the first adult talk of grandson Jonathon, a graduate of Etowah High School last year and the son of David and Shannon Collins of Acworth, who leaves this week to enter the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, where he will polish his youthful missionary preparation before entering the mission field to serve his Lord, Jesus Christ, for two years.
Tears came to the eyes of this battle-hardened retired Army general as we discussed his grandson’s talk. We both agreed we had just witnessed the transformation of a boy to manhood.
I shared with Jon how the spirit had touched me as I listened to the words coming forth from the mouth of this 19-year-old youth, words associated with his assigned topic of forgiveness. His youthful mastery of the Gospel of Jesus Christ simply amazed me — his association of the biblical teachings of Jesus on forgiveness was astounding, especially how he referenced how Christ, while hanging on the Cross, looked down upon those who had just hung him of the cross, said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) Forgiving those who are about to crucify you is the ultimate act of forgiveness.
As I reflected on this miracle transformation from boyhood to adulthood I reflected on the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to transform the life of any human being who willingly accepts the teachings of Him, regardless of religious affiliation, and prepares their lives to serve their fellow man, such as Jonathan is now doing.
I saw this Gospel power transform the lives of my children and grandchildren as they prepared for and served their missions; and on what they have achieved since returning from those service missions. As with anyone who serves their fellowman they who serve often learn more than they whom they serve and teach.
Those churches and family organizations who work with and prepare their youth for a life of service based on the teachings of Jesus Christ — teachings anchored in the Gospel of Jesus Christ are to be commended.
We see this type of service all about us in our local Christian culture. In Jonathon’s case his foundation was strengthened by the spiritual leadership of his grandparents, Jon and Joy Collins, and passed down through his parents, David and Shannon Collins, and supported by those early morning seminary teachers, including his father, who rose at 5 a.m. to teach a class of sleepy-eyed youth before the sun rises each day of the school year.
I wish Jonathan Collins well as he now leaves to serve his fellow man, and to strengthen his transformation from youth-hood to adulthood.
Donald Conkey is a retired agricultural economist in Woodstock.