Dustin Garrett: Free from heroin addiction because of God's grace

By Michael Miller

Aug 30

Dustin Garrett used to lay on a cot at Peoria Rescue Mission at bedtime and look out the window at the city’s Civic Center a block away.

Nearly 10 years later, the former heroin addict stood on the stage of that Civic Center as Samaritan Ministries’ representative to Winter Jam Tour Spectacular, telling thousands of Christian music fans about health care sharing.

Dustin, a Membership Development specialist, shared the Samaritan message at each of Winter Jam’s 46 stops last winter. He’ll do the same this November on the tour’s West Coast swing, and then board the bus again for its East Coast concerts January through April.

The West Coast tour will include concerts in California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington November 9-19. During each concert, after a video about Samaritan is shown, Dustin will explain health care sharing to the audience—in about a minute and a half.

The message of health care sharing is what he offers onstage, but offstage he offers even more. The 33-year-old Indiana native shares his story of addiction and salvation freely as a message of hope to anyone he might meet or who needs direction and help.

“I’m a living, breathing testimony that God is changing lives,” he says.

The road to addiction

Dustin started down the road to addiction early, first using a mild opiate similar to codeine prescribed for tonsillitis. After experiencing that, he would steal drugs from medicine cabinets at his friends’ houses to get the same feeling. That led to more drug experimentation and “perpetual partying,” resulting in two expulsions from school. 

The downward spiral he was in grew tighter and faster. From age 15 to 22, “my life was dedicated to getting heroin every day.”

Despite treatments and counseling, clinic visits, jail time, withdrawal agonies, and seeing friends die, “I found myself slavishly crawling back to heroin.”

Finally, at one point, while lying naked on the floor of a suicide-watch jail cell, Dustin remembered who his grandma prayed to and cried out, “Jesus! Please save me.” He says he knew that Christ was Who he needed, but didn’t know “what that looked like in my life,” meaning more time in the throes of addiction.

Finally, in 2006, at age 22, he had nowhere to go. Family members and friends had kicked him out of their homes for the last time, and he had resigned himself to being “a junkie for the rest of my life.”

But his father had heard of a place in Peoria, a rescue mission, where people living in spirals of sin find a straight path in Christ.

Dustin agreed to go.

“I still vividly remember to this day the three-hour drive in silent desperation from Indiana to the Peoria Rescue Mission,” he says.

Growing in Christ

Through living and working at the mission and its Victory Acres facility, Jesus answered the prayer Dustin had cried out in jail. By being immersed in a Biblical atmosphere, studying and memorizing Scripture, and receiving consistent Biblical counseling, Dustin began to grow in Christ. 

“The life I now live free from heroin is because of God’s grace and the power of the Cross,” Dustin says.

After two years at mission facilities, Dustin headed to Calvary Bible College (now Calvary University) in Kansas City, Missouri, where he studied Biblical counseling and music for seven years. He had learned to play guitar at the mission, and wanted to take that further. But he also appreciated all the hours of Peoria Rescue Ministries counselors “pouring into me,” and wanted to offer the same to others. 

Things continued to develop for Dustin.

In 2011, he began dating Kyndra, the young woman who would become his wife. Then in 2013, he started working full time for Calvary as a field representative, speaking at churches, schools, and other venues about the school. In the process, he gained skills that would later come in handy for representing Samaritan at the Winter Jam concerts. It was during an appearance for Calvary at Liberty Bible Church in Eureka, Illinois, that Dustin heard about Samaritan Ministries. He applied for a job, and, after some Skype interviews, joined Samaritan’s MD department in May 2016.

Three months later, he was asked to represent Samaritan on the Winter Jam tour, and said yes.

“As my wife and I prayed, it became clear that God had prepared us for that sort of work,” Dustin says.

He and Kyndra moved down to Winter Jam’s base in Nashville. Dustin would head out on the road on a Wednesday or Thursday and be back home by Monday morning. He developed close relationships with musicians and crewmembers, but, most importantly, he relayed the message of the Gospel and Christian health care sharing to hundreds of thousands of people.

Getting the message of health care sharing out to Winter Jam audiences

Samaritan will apply what it learned as far as connecting with concertgoers to the tours this fall and winter. So will Dustin. At concerts, he had to relate Samaritan’s message about health care sharing in only a minute and a half during the tightly scheduled evenings. He also had a couple of minutes to talk to pastors and youth group leaders at a meeting held right before the concert started.

He’ll be applying the lessons of last winter to this year’s tours.

“We’re going to build on some things from last year,” Dustin says. “There will be new ears, people there who have heard about Samaritan Ministries but never looked into it. And people hearing about it again.”

Being a national sponsor of the Winter Jam tour “makes sense logistically,” Dustin says. It’s a way to connect with thousands of Christians at once.

Dustin also made connections on the tour with Samaritan members who volunteered to staff the ministry’s tables at concerts.

He says it’s important as well to get the message of health care sharing out to a younger audience.

“Our department gets calls all day from people lamenting that they wish they had heard about Samaritan Ministries earlier,” Dustin says. “It’s our responsibility to tell people what God is doing here, especially at a younger age.

“Young people I ran into were so relieved to hear about how Samaritan works. All they know about insurance and health care is how much of a headache it is. Health care sharing is a relief for them. The organic nature of Samaritan Ministries and direct sharing is very refreshing to them and something meeting the needs of what they’re looking for.”

Amanda Wilton, Samaritan’s marketing coordinator, says Dustin is a good fit as the ministry’s representative on the tour. “The partnership between Samaritan Ministries and Winter Jam has been an enormous team effort,” she says. “It has been a special blessing to have Dustin as the Winter Jam tour rep, because he brings with him previous experience in speaking and presenting to audiences. Beyond that, though, Dustin truly loves Jesus and conveys that in how he presents our ministry to others. It takes a special person to present to thousands of people from a stage, and he does a great job!”