Bryant Wood looks to make a difference after a rough childhood.
Bryant Wood’s journey is one shaped by two fathers: one he is still searching for, and one he has found.
The senior soccer player for Briarwood Christian School had a biological father who was bitter and angry as a result of his dad not treating him well, leading him to lash out at Bryant, his mom and his three siblings.
With his father always yelling, throwing things and getting angry, Bryant felt as if he had to tiptoe around him to get any sense of peace. But despite his attempts to avoid trouble, Bryant’s “pretend safe” didn’t help him escape a house that was in turmoil.
He still heard the screaming and the yelling and saw the fights that often ended in tackles to the ground, things being thrown or someone being pushed up against the wall.
It led to Bryant seeking out a new father figure, but it felt like everyone he turned to ended up being forced out of his life until he turned to the true father.
His Lost Father
Carrying anger from his father’s treatment, almost like an infection, Bryant’s biological dad created nothing short of a terrifying environment for Bryant and his siblings.
“Some of my first memories of my dad are him yelling and throwing stuff,” Bryant says. “I remember one time, me and my brother were out in the yard doing yard work, and he started screaming and yelling at us for doing one little thing wrong. At that point we didn’t want to listen to it anymore, and so we went inside to our upstairs bedroom to get away from it. My dad came upstairs screaming and yelling and mainly targeted my brother.”
Bryant says his dad got right in his brother’s face and started yelling at the top of his lungs at him before eventually pushing him up against a wall.
“The fear from something like that is just something that kind of stays with you for a long time,” Bryant says.
His story is full of different horrifying events just like that throughout his childhood.
One scene he describes sounds like one out of a horror movie.
“There were a lot of times where my dad would just throw things around the house,” he says. “I remember one time where he threw an air freshener can across the room and it slammed into the chandelier above our kitchen table. It shattered the chandelier and as the pieces of glass fell to the ground, all I remember is seeing my mom standing behind it on the other side. That’s something that is still etched into my mind.”
Eventually it got to a boiling point where Bryant’s brother and their father got into a physical confrontation that ended in his brother tackling his dad to the ground and telling him to get out of the house.
“Just seeing how my dad failed me throughout my younger life and still kind of continues to do so, has had a huge impact on me,” he says. “I didn’t feel much love and felt alone. The idea of a father-son relationship is so crucial to kids, and I didn’t have that.”
It led to Bryant doing some stupid things growing up to try and fill that emptiness inside of him, but his mom’s courage and Camp Briarwood helped him through it.
Before he was able to find his true father, Bryant was able to hold a stable life thanks to his courageous mom, who became an inspiration to him.
“Thank goodness the Lord put my mother in my life,” he says. “She was really that one solid anchor that I always had to look toward.”
His mom became the mother and the father, and the person that Bryant went to when he needed any sort of advice.
“She had dealt with my dad for so many years with so much patience and endurance, hoping and praying that he would eventually get better,” Bryant says. “She was able to handle it for so long until the time came that they needed a divorce, but even through that she was so strong.”
Her courage and strength inspired Bryant, who recalled writing a paper his freshman year of high school about his hero.
“I remember looking back and saying my hero is my mom,” he says. “I remember thinking about that and thinking how many people call their mom their hero. It was such an easy decision though because of everything she went through even more than I did.”
His Real Father
Growing up, Bryant went to Camp Briarwood every summer, which became a week that allowed him to get away from home and be happy, free and a true kid.
In July 2013, that camp changed his life forever when he found a new father that started to put his life into perspective.
“I remember singing a song called Sanctuary,” Bryant says. “It talks about trying to be a sanctuary for the Lord and being a cup for him to fill. I remember thinking back to that moment and thinking how empty my heart was and how it needed something to fill it.”
Bryant remembers crying at the end of the night, knowing that his life was changing for the better. He couldn’t wait to get home and share the news with his mom, who was joyful that her son had found his new father in the Lord.
People in His Life
While things were starting to get better in his life, Wood still couldn’t help but wonder why he had to deal with so many difficult situations growing up and why other father figures continued to go in and out of his life.
“When I was younger, my siblings were really protective and we all looked out for each other,” he says. “Then as we grew up, my brother went into the army and my sister went off to college, which just left me and my other brother Matt.
“It seemed like every time I tried to look for a father figure, they just got pulled out of my life a little bit.”
Matt, who was three years older than Bryant, ended up being the person that turned that around. Bryant, who is an extrovert that dresses different from everybody and is very vocal, says he got a lot of his characteristics from Matt. Whether it be the crazy patterned socks he wears with his pants rolled up, the briefcase he carries, his wild hair or the red, white and blue head band he wears at every soccer game, Bryant says his older brother had an impact on it.
“He was one of the first people to ever roll up his pants legs, and I immediately said ‘I like that,’ and started doing it myself,” Bryant says. “He was just his own person and helped me find myself.”
As soon as Matt graduated from Briarwood to go off on his path, the school hired Shawn Brower as its next soccer coach. He eventually became the next role model and father figure in Bryant’s life.
“If you didn’t know his story, you’d think life had been perfect for him,” Brower said. “He’s always so happy and positive. He chooses to deliberately focus on the positive and use what God has given him.”
Soccer as an Escape
Brower’s entrance into the Briarwood program also marked Bryant’s first year as a starter for the Briarwood soccer team. It quickly led to Bryant being a part of more than just a soccer team, but more of a brotherhood—something that gave him even more support and stability in his life. After one year on the varsity team, Bryant earned the right of being the team’s captain his junior year.
“It wasn’t a hard decision to make him captain, but I still gave the team an opportunity to vote on who they wanted to lead the team,” Brower says. “He was on every player’s ballot as someone they wanted to follow. It’s rare to have a junior captain, but he embraced it.”
His “get-after-it attitude” leads to Bryant boosting morale by yelling encouragement at his teammates, or falling to the ground from hustling after every ball. During his first year as captain, Bryant helped the team get all the way to the Class 4A-5A state championship game, where the Lions lost a heartbreaking 3-2 game to Randolph.
A picture from the game captures Bryant kneeling down with his head in his palms, overcome with emotion after the difficult loss, while one of his friends pats him on the shoulder. Wood set the picture as the background on his iPhone to remind him of that disappointing end to the season so he would be hungrier than ever to chase down the title in 2018.
Wood has put in plenty of thought into what the future holds for him. It wasn’t difficult for the 4.0 student to get into college. He is playing soccer at Covenant College and is working toward his career goal of becoming a youth minister.
“I always asked and wondered what a man of God looked like,” Bryant says. “Coach Brower is now the first person that comes to mind. He’s the greatest example of what a man of God should be, and he set such a good example for me, which is why I want to go be a Bible teacher.”
He was lost for a long time in his life, and what Brower and others at Briarwood did to help him get a sense of confidence and pride is something he wants to do for other kids who have had a difficult past. “I want to help kids that are lost and don’t really know what to do with their lives because of unfortunate circumstances,” he says.
Sharing his story is something he now looks forward to because of the impact it can have on others. “I used to be scared to open up and share my story, but honestly bottling it up and keeping it inside felt worse. Keeping something bundled up really tears you apart. It’s like razors to your heart. You have to have somebody to talk to, and I want to be that person for a lot of people.”
Bryant says there are many options for him to work as a youth minister, whether it be working in the inner city, with fatherless kids or coming back to Briarwood at some point. But no matter where he ends up, his main goal is to change lives.
“I only got a snapshot of who he is,” Brower says. “He’s such a special kid that’s been through so much that I can’t wait to see where he is in 10 years. I just know he is going to impact so many people in such a special way.”
It’s not the childhood any of us wish for or envy, but it’s one Bryant is using to make a difference in the world.
“If I waste everything that I’ve had and the story I’ve been given to share, I’ll be doing an injustice not just to the Lord, but also my mom who sacrificed so much for me,” he says.