More than 200 people have jumped to their deaths from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, but when David Dusek found himself there in 2003, 190 feet above Tampa Bay, he was reborn.
|David Dusek, pictured with U.S. Navy midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland in 2011, has taken his message to military bases across the globe. Photo by Rough Cut Men Ministries.|
“(My wife) had moved to Seattle with my two young children, and I had nothing but the car I was in and the stuff in the trunk. I got to the top of the bridge where people typically jump, and I was at the end of my rope. I said, ‘God, if you are there I need to know it,’ and every hair on my arm stood up, and I drove down the other side of that bridge saved.”
Baptized within weeks, Dusek not only turned his life around but found a passion for men’s ministry, founding Rough Cut Men Ministries in 2008.
Using images from movies like “Iron Man” and “Saving Private Ryan,” Dusek ties in biblical verses and his own no-holds-barred personal testimony to build real dialogue between men and, he hopes, create bonds beyond the superficial.
“I can walk into my church and act like everything is perfect, even though my wife wanted to throw me out of the car on the way to church. It’s very easy for us to do that,” Dusek said. “The only way to ensure a viable marriage, financial, work or spiritual life is to have someone next to us, not just for accountability—a much-maligned word in men’s ministry—but for support and encouragement.”
Dusek was attending men’s ministry training at Man in the Mirror in Orlando when the idea for Rough Cut was born. Asking for feedback after his presentation at a leadership training conference in the Florida Panhandle, Dusek heard the same song with different words: Audience members enjoyed his honesty.
“I was very transparent about my own failures as a man,” he said. “I was using examples of my own train wreck (life) before my salvation.”
Impressed with Dusek’s message and candor, one audience member asked him to speak at a weekend men’s retreat at Covenant United Methodist Church in Dothan, Alabama.
“I accepted but didn’t know what I would speak on for an entire weekend, so my wife said, ‘why don’t you use those movie clips you’ve accumulated that help men understand marriage, money and fathering and make an event out of that?”
Mixing movie clips, bible verses and his own life story struck a chord with his audience, and Dusek knew he was onto something. “It was creating authentic, real conversation among all these men because they thought: ‘If this guy on the platform can talk about his failures as a father or his wounds as a son, then it’s okay for me to (talk), also.'”
|Dusek is shown walking through the American Cemetery in Normandy, France, in 2016. Photo by Joni Dusek Photography.|
Dusek’s new wife, Joni, a talented photographer who often documents his trips, came up with the ministry’s moniker, linking it to a movie term for works in progress.
“In the movie industry, a “rough cut” is defined as the raw, first edition of a movie, which provides an idea of what the finished product will look like, giving indications of where it has problems and where it excels. Much like a rough cut movie, rough cut men are not the ‘finished product’ (Phil. 1:6),” according to the group’s website.
It’s been lights, camera and lots of action ever since for Dusek’s unique ministry. Based in Sarasota, he’s on the road an average of 120 days a year and has spoken to NASCAR teams, men’s groups and churches around the world. He also penned a best-selling book, “Rough Cut Men,” in 2016. Working with the military since 2011, Dusek has also spoken at countless U.S. military bases across the globe, including the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy.
Rough Cut’s success is no surprise to John Delaney, president of Florida Conference United Methodist Men, who has known Dusek for 14 years.
“When you are able to blend the gospel with movies that men know; it has a strong impact on men, and David also has a really compelling story about his own background. When a guy sees a clip from ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ he gets it, where that wouldn’t reach a woman. What he’s doing is awesome,” Delaney said.
Helping men forge stronger bonds with other men and their faith can only help the Church, said Delaney, citing statistics that show families tend to follow fathers in faith. “When a woman leads her kids to church, it’s about 20 percent of the time the family is active and involved in church. When a father leads his family to church, it’s over 92 percent of the time that they get active in the church,” he said.
Dusek hits topics he knows resonate with men but few are willing to talk about openly: friendlessness, isolation, emotional wounds left by a father and how to leave a legacy. Dusek helps open the door to those discussions and makes sure no one leaves his events without a connection, a cornerstone principal, at Rough Cut conferences.
|John Delaney (left), president of Florida Conference United Methodist Men, has known David Dusek for 14 years.|
“There is no reason you can’t meet someone at Starbucks and just go play golf or fish because it’s only a matter of time before (real relationships) develop,” Dusek suggested. “Time will develop trust, and trust develops a relationship.”
Non-denominational ministries like Rough Cut Men are “a fantastic thing for United Methodist men’s ministries to be involved in because (David Dusek) has a unique niche that presents the gospel in a different way that is very appealing to men,” added Michael Maxwell, district vice president of the Florida Conference United Methodist Men and a member of Jacksonville’s Mandarin UMC. “These are the groups that are growing and thriving and reaching the next generation of men.”
That next generation is more open to Rough Cut Men, said Brian Darocha, a member of Coral Springs UMC, who heard Dusek speak at a recent three-day retreat. “He’s authentic. The youth of today are very good at smelling people who wear a mask. They are looking for something authentic, especially in this world of social media that is very superficial.”
“I am a one-trick pony. All I know how to do is help men create relationships. I basically help David find Jonathon,” said Dusek, alluding to the story of the biblical heroes recounted in the Books of Samuel.
“I get in front of people, and I talk about how my life went for the first 32 years. I was a liar, a cheat, self-absorbed…the inverse of everything you would expect a believer to be.”
That was before he met God atop the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
“The irony is, anytime I have to fly anywhere today I have to drive over that bridge, but that’s how I met Him. We as men are big, dumb stupid animals, and we will try to do it alone for as long as we can, but God meets us in our moment of crisis, and there are men in the Church in crisis. They feel like they are the only one, but I level that playing field when I come in. I tell them I may be holding the microphone, but I screwed up this morning.”
--Kevin Brady is a freelance writer based in Brandon.