Hi, this is Bernie Dake. Welcome to the Salvation Army's Words of Life. Your faithfulness and your tenderness, they are drawing me to you. You are making all things. Your mercy and compassion, they are new every morning. New things done in your faithfulness, your tenderness, they are drawing me to you.
You are making all things new, all things new. Welcome to the Salvation Army's Words of Life. I'm here with co-host Bernie Dake. Welcome, Bernie. And I'm here with co-host Cheryl Gillum.
Hey. We're now on the eighth episode of this series, Barefoot Cinderella's. And it's a series that is following along with Major Susie Erickson's new book of the same name. As a reminder, you can find links to purchase this book, read the companion blog, and subscribe to the show to hear the rest of this series at salvationarmysoundcast.org slash words of life.
Today is certainly a heavy episode as Susie is joined by Vicki Perez. They discuss how God can use the greatest tragedies in our life to shape us and turn a crisis into purpose. Now, you're going to learn during the episode that Vicki is a cancer survivor, and that is certainly part of her journey. Add to that, during the cancer process, her husband decides that he doesn't want to be married anymore or in the ministry that they were in together. And so they go through a divorce in the midst of all that, and then they have three children that needed to have to learn about that as well.
And it caused quite a bit of turmoil. But I can say to you that Vicki is an incredible woman of God. The only thing I can't understand is her love for the Alabama crimson tide.
You know, that's certainly an American joke in a sense. There's a school here in Alabama. Vicki calls Alabama home. And every time you talk about that school, you have to say roll tide. But we don't want to promote any kind of that stuff on this program.
No. What I love about Vicki is she's not only passionate about her sports and her team, but she's also passionate about the Lord. And she's such a strong woman of faith, and she has certainly overcome a lot of tragedy in her life and a lot of crisis in her life through the Lord's help. And so I'm excited for us to share this particular episode. One other little thing that we just have to kind of share with our listeners is my favorite part of moving to the southern part of the United States has been just hearing different accents. I don't think of myself as having an accent being from upstate New York originally. But now when I moved to Atlanta, my wife and I have met so many people from other states south of here and west of here that have these great accents. So you will enjoy listening to Vicki as she lilts you into this mesmerizing southern accent.
It's beautiful. If you've recently experienced a crisis, I pray that you find something really helpful in Suzy and Vicki's conversation. Remember that God is right there with you in the midst of the storm. Hello, I'm Major Suzy Erickson with the Salvation Army.
And I'm in the studio today with Major Vicki Perez. You had a pretty normal childhood, right? Right. Yes. You had one of those childhoods that some of us dream about with a mom and a dad in the home.
Right. I was born into a family where I never knew fear. All the rest of the typical childhood woes were present, but fear never darkened my mind.
Ever. I was fortunate to be the youngest of six children. As I aged, I knew that I was their last naturally born child, so I became and have remained their little one. And you kind of probably felt like a princess, right?
Yes, exactly. Always. You know, growing up as the baby born into the family with four older brothers and a sister, and because my parents were ministers with the Salvation Army, I can't remember a time when other people weren't present in our family. And so I have lots of older siblings that I consider family because they lived in our home when I was growing up. And so family for us was anybody who God had placed, not just blood, but were in our hearts as well. The story of Cinderella reminds us that the fairy tale doesn't always last, does it?
Right. And the stroke of midnight really happens to all of us, and it happened to you as well. As a young adult, I married and we attended the Salvation Army Seminary College for Officer Training. And we were blessed with two sons, Zachary and Caleb, and who are still a blessing now. And then we lost a child in utero, Kaylee. And that is when I first understood heartache and pain like I never thought I could. And so I can't put on a happy face about that because that pain is still present.
Right. But I have to emphasize there was still no fear. And by this time, my dad's health was failing, and he looked at me with tears streaming down his cheeks, and he kissed my forehead, his little one's forehead, and he said, Kaylee is in the hands of the only one who loves her more than you do. And, you know, my good and precious dad was right. And then just a few months after experiencing that stillbirth, we found out we were expecting another child, and we named her Grace, for we had found favor in the eyes of her maker. And she's now my little one. And so, you know, my husband and I continued in our ministry roles. I felt like everything I had ever dreamed with Grace's birth had come true, you know, my dream, my fairy tale, because I had just wanted a little girl, and with her and all that her birth brought and taught me, and the healing that took place, because she was born one year to the day that we buried Kaylee.
Wow. And so it's a remarkable sense of the love and mercy that God shows us. And so we continued in our ministry. God blessed us by opening doors we never expected.
Laughing at home, ministering to others, and then ministering to us. It was joyful and full, and then until it wasn't anymore. And the death of my father seven years ago, and then my brother two years later, was very difficult for me. I lost two of my protectors, and I was heartbroken. But when I doubted, God held me closer to himself. And then five years ago, just six weeks after my brother was promoted to glory, I was diagnosed with stage four metastatic breast cancer. My life became a series of scans and tests and surgeries, radiation and treatments, and the treatments continue to this day. But God was faithful, and there still was no fear. I was still surrounded by my band of protectors, and the God of miracles was present. My sweet mama cared for me, my family and friends prayed me through those difficult days. And then, for reasons not related to my cancer diagnosis, my husband and I separated and then divorced, and life became very complicated.
I found my version of Cinderella's glass slipper was not just broken, it was shattered. My life verse, found in Jeremiah 29, 11, took on a whole new meaning for me. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. There were days that that verse propelled me to get out of bed and seek his face because I was so unsure of what the future held for me. And I came to understand and believe that whatever goes bad, God will work it for good. Yes, he will.
It's what he does. He will turn the broken into beautiful. There's many details that I have not shared, for God has refashioned all the broken pieces of that shattered slipper of my life and formed it into a vessel useful for the ministry in which he's placed me. What did you learn about yourself in that? If someone told me that I would be where I am today, five years ago, that I would have lived through what I've lived through and be strong, I would have said there's no way I would make it through that.
But today, the strength that comes from the Lord, without even having to think about it, I just do every day. Because having faced my own mortality, it changed my view on life. It changed my priorities. It changed things that would normally upset me or would concern me.
Not anymore. The little things, they don't concern me anymore because I know God has proven through the miracle that is my life that I'm able to sit here today and share my story. He has proven to me that he's faithful, that even on those dark days when we don't know how we will get up and make it through that darkness, that he is there with us and he is guiding us. What would you say to a woman today who has faced the diagnosis that you faced, has maybe even had a spouse that's left in the middle of a crisis of her health?
What would you say to her today? Well, don't take anything for granted. You know, you can live through those experiences. God is greater than any fear or situation or circumstances. He will keep holding you up and carrying you through and making a way out of the fears and difficult situations and circumstances. And the thing that caused you the most pain in life might just be the thing that produces the greatest power. 2 Timothy 1 says, For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. And we have to grasp hold of God's promises and choose a life with him.
I think about it this way. When I was young, late at night, I would walk to the kitchen and get some cold water. And in that darkness, I knew exactly where everything was, including the glasses and the ice and the water. And I would take that water down the long hall to my room in complete darkness.
I'd take a drink and put the glass down on the bedside table. I knew where everything would be. I had faith to know the bed was there to lay back down and gently go to sleep. There are maybe some that are going through an unknown darkness, and they're afraid, and everything around seems strange. But we can trust that God knows exactly where we are, and he will guide us through.
Oh, yes, he will. Thank you so much for coming today and sharing your story and for encouraging those who are in a season of darkness right now that can't quite find their way. These words today, we pray, give them hope in their journey.
Yeah, thank you. The Salvation Army's mission, Doing the Most Good, means helping people with material and spiritual needs. You become a part of this mission every time you give to the Salvation Army. Visit salvationarmyusa.org to offer your support, and we'd love to hear from you. Email us at radioatuss.salvationarmy.org. Call 1-800-229-9965 or write us at P.O.
Box 29972, Atlanta, Georgia, 30359. Tell us how we can help. Share prayer requests or share your testimony. We would love to use your story on the air. You can also subscribe to our show on iTunes or your favorite podcast store, and be sure to give us a rating. Just search for The Salvation Army's Words of Life. Follow us on social media for the latest episodes, extended interviews, and more. And if you don't have a church home, we invite you to visit your local Salvation Army worship center. They'll be glad to see you. This is Bernie Dake inviting you to join us next time for The Salvation Army's Words of Life. 🎵
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