From paratrooper to police chief, Kevin Collins lives to serve: Southern Story
His love for serving people grew as God guided his career path through unexpected circumstances. Growing up, Collins wanted to be a paratrooper and eventually a history teacher. His love for planes and his family’s military history naturally led him to join the United States Army shortly after high school.
Through providential events and encounters, he did not end up where he planned.
Collins did not grow up attending church. At the age of 10, his mother began taking him to Hope Baptist Church in his hometown of Phoenix, Arizona. As Collins watched friends and cousins submit their lives to Christ and be baptized, he remained purposefully obstinate.
But, as he watched his aunt and Sunday school teacher live out their faith, consistently sharing the gospel with Collins, he saw his own sin and need of a Savior. His aunt consistently invited Collins and his mother to church and zealously shared the gospel with them before she died in a car accident.
At age 12, he submitted his life to Christ. God planned things differently, and for that he is thankful.
“I am more and more amazed by his love and grace as each day passes,” he said.
In 1989, during his last year serving in the Army, Collins met his wife, Jonanna Zion. After they married, Collins began school to become a history teacher. In this early season of marriage, he worked 50 hours a week and attended school full time. As he talked to teacher friends, he discovered teaching history was not the trajectory he wanted to pursue.
His dad, a police officer, suggested that Collins apply for the open position at the Phoenix Police Department. The initial application stage included several tests. For the first written and physical tests, 1,000 people participated. After almost six months of intense tests, training and more interviews, the department hired Collins as one of 10 out of the 1,000 applicants for the position.
This began his 22-year career of serving others as a police officer.
Collins held various roles during his time in the Phoenix Police Department, including patrol officer, field training officer, firearms instructor, academy instructor, undercover police and most recently, critical incident manager. He loves his work as a police officer because he gets to help the helpless.
“My favorite part of police work is serving, especially as it pertains to watching over and protecting,” Collins said. “I have always had a great desire to help protect those who have difficulty protecting themselves. I also have always been cognizant of the scriptural role police officers have from a Romans 13 perspective. To think that God is actually using me as one of his instruments of justice is a tremendous honor and quite humbling.”
Late into his career, though, Collins felt led to retire, despite the benefits of staying with the police department. So when his colleague told him about an opportunity for retired police officers to teach police management in the United Arab Emirates, Collins knew retirement was the right path because of the possible service opportunities.
After his first month of training in the Middle East, he came home on leave where he attended a men’s conference at Northwest Christian Church. During the conference, Collins met the keynote speaker, Dan Dumas, Southern Seminary’s senior vice president for institutional administration, and they discussed Collins’ recent retirement.
The chief of police at Southern Seminary recently retired and the seminary needed someone to assume the position. When Dumas approached him, Collins thought it would never work. But several months later, Collins interviewed for the position. When Southern offered him the job, he accepted and began as police chief in December 2013.
He loves his new work because of the freedom and opportunities to grow in his faith and help others do the same. And he continues to enjoy serving those around him.
“Being able to come here and discuss faith issues with the staff here, coming and being able to hopefully represent Christ, to be able to lead with a servant’s attitude, just to be able to sit down and talk with the other officers, and the other staff here about Christ and different theological discussions we have in points of doctrine, you’re just not going to have those discussions [outside of a place like Southern],” he said.
Collins feels like the Lord led him to the ideal work situation at Southern Seminary and he looks forward to the future of the Southern Seminary campus police department.
“I feel like I walked into the perfect professional and spiritual situation for me,” he said. “For a work environment, I couldn’t fathom it being any better.”