Hi, this is Bernie Dake. You're listening to The Salvation Army's Words of Life. Welcome back to Words of Life. I'm Bernie Dake.
And I'm Cheryl Gillum. Cheryl, this has been a great series on hope and hearing other people's testimonies. Unfortunately, this is our final episode. We launched this series on January 29th. And since then, we've shared the testimonies of people from all different backgrounds to hear how God has done amazing things in their lives. I'm really sad that this series is over, but next week we start a whole new series.
And you know what? We have a YouTube channel. If you haven't seen it, check us out, salvationarmyradio.org.
There's links to everything there. And we want to give a huge thank you to Ashley Escobar for doing these interviews and bringing this series together. In this final testimony, the audio will be a little different as we weren't able to meet in person, but his story is so relatable and powerful.
We want to make sure we could share this one with you as well. And do you know who it is? We're taking this show on the road. And this week it's Denzel McClain. Yeah, an amazing man. Officially Lieutenant Denzel McClain, another Salvation Army officer. But Denzel calls Atlanta home. He's from this area of the country and he and his wife are serving the Salvation Army in the state of Florida with their gaggle of a family. They have a bunch of children, which is great when you're in ministry, because then you've got people to help you with all the different tasks.
Absolutely. But Denzel is really a gentle giant, a brother in Christ and someone that I know you will be encouraged by. Thanks for taking time to spend with us and share your story with us.
I have sort of worked with you before at the Kroc Center, but it's cool to be able to virtually sit down with you and hear more about what God has done in your life. First of all, even though I know you, tell us who you are. In our organization, I guess they will refer to me as Lieutenant Denzel McClain, the Corps officer now in West Palm Beach, Florida. Before being a Lieutenant, I am a daddy. I have five beautiful children. I have a beautiful wife, Lieutenant Erica McClain, and we're living life loving God. In your experience of your story, everything that you've gone through, how would you define the word hope? Hope is remembering what God has done before and knowing that his character is consistent and that he is always constant.
And so because he has done A, B, and C before, when I face trials, he'll do what he's done before again. Tell us your story. My story is not too different from many others. I am what would be considered a multi-generational salvationist kind of, but not really. My mom is who brought my family to the Salvation Army and they stumbled across Northwest Side Corps who was having a skate night, ran into the officer and the officer kind of just gave them something to eat and saw their need and fulfilled that need. Years down the line, my mom meets my dad through the ARC program. He became a soldier of the Corps through the ARC program and I was conceived.
Years later, they split up. We become a little more nomadic. We move around the Eastern coast, finding our way all the way in St. Thomas of the United States Virgin Islands and just moving around, just not really having stability. And eventually we find ourselves in Marietta, Georgia, where is kind of where I'll kind of settle my story for a little bit. Marietta, Georgia, I'm in sixth grade driving on an afterschool bus, knowing about the Salvation Army, but we had not been going to the church, just doing life. And I'm on an afterschool bus and I see a Salvation Army sign that I'm kind of familiar with and I go home and I tell my mom, hey, I think I saw the Salvation Army.
There's a Salvation Army here. And oddly enough, she was at the library that same day and she saw the shield as well. She's found the Corps.
I asked her, please let us go. And we walk in there. And the first day we walk in there, it's almost like out of a movie.
We meet captains at the time, captains Art and Diane Foltz, who are just so jolly and cheerful, so much different than what we were used to. And they just kind of embrace us. And from the first day, just kind of take us in.
And that's kind of the first time that we felt like we belonged somewhere, me and my brothers. But of course life happens. You get older. I started to become more invested in high school. And so when it comes around to my junior and senior year, I'm pulling back from the Corps, not going as much. So we graduate high school.
I go off to college and I get a call that my girlfriend at the time is pregnant. We were both the church kids. And so shame just enters the scene like never before, overcasted our whole lives of like, man, what are, what are our church people going to say about us? And out of that fear, we just pull all the way out. We had big dreams, big aspirations, and we just felt like we just ruined it for ourselves.
We stopped going to the Corps at all. My wife stops going to her church. I kind of gave away part of my story. So this girlfriend does become my wife. It is Erica. And we have our first son, Denzel Jr., who is affectionately known as Nunki. And that kid just begins to grow us up.
I remember that I have a home at the Marietta Corps and we start going back to the Corps. And at the time, the Ramers, Jonathan and Amanda were the officers and Amanda becomes an angel to us. She's meeting our basic human needs. She comes with formula and diapers and food when we need it and, and just really shows up in a, in a really practical way.
We see for the first time how the love that the church is supposed to have is, is acted out. So a few years past, we have another child, our daughter, Erin. We're just still trying to figure out life. We're finishing up school at this point. And right as we're getting our associates and everything, we have our third child, Dallas. I'm starting to substitute teach.
My, my wife is a pre-K teacher. Like, okay, like life is becoming a little more stable. But out of nowhere there's a big boy that hits my heart. I find myself in a parking line. I'm like, God, whatever you want me to do, I'll do it because this isn't working for me. And as soon as I say that I get a call from another officer at the time, Captain Marion Platt, who's like, hey brother, what you doing? And I'm like, why would you be calling me?
I'm a dad of three and he's, and he's the DYS in Florida at this time. And he's like, I need a counselor for the summer. And I'm like, okay, God, you're funny. Like I said, I do whatever you want me to do, but come on now. Like a counselor, I'm a grown man and you want me to go and be a counselor.
But I submit. And so I go and work in Florida and that's kind of where I start to see my heart for ministry. And so I asked God for confirmation and he sends me yet another officer, Lieutenant Chris Welch at the time. He's like, so what are you doing down here? And I kind of share my story.
He was like, you know what? I have a position for you. I have a youth director position in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. And I'm like, okay, I don't know where that is. Okay. And so I fill out the application for that. I tell my wife at the time, Erica, about it.
She's like, absolutely not. Like keep wise counsel in your lives and praise God for that because we do move to Fort Walton at the end of the summer and our lives change forever. We walk into this small core and I'm supposed to be the youth director, but I walk in and my three children are the only kids at the core. And I'm like, man, what are we supposed to do with this? We started to see God's faithfulness.
He tells us in that season that you don't have to have it all figured out. You just go where I ask you to go and I'll put the tools in the right place. I'll give you the right people. I'll be there for you.
I'll sustain you. And so we see the constant hand of God in Fort Walton Beach and the youth group there grows crazy and we grow so much. And at about three years, we get another call from another officer at the Kroc Center who is saying that he's in need of a youth director. And my brother was the praise and worship leader there and had put my name in a bucket and he offered me a position that I took and we move our family back to Atlanta.
And we start to see God even more. This is the first time where I go to a core that is so established. The kids are already there. They already have programs going on. And here we are, me with my big family, we have three kids and my wife gets pregnant within our first year of working there.
So we have a fourth on the way. Instead of we were so used to growing in Fort Walton to now we had to learn how to grow people spiritually. My wife found and saw a new side of the Salvation Army that she'd never seen before.
She fell in love with it and she became a senior soldier at the Kroc Center. And we go off to our first youth councils together because you can tell people about these things. I used to tell her like, oh yeah, I grew up going to youth councils and she didn't understand what it was, but then she sees the magnitude of it. And I feel for the first time a calling on my life.
I feel so unqualified for this calling just because of my past. So I don't tell anybody about my call. Little do I know years down the line, Erica expresses that she also had that call at that same youth councils and we just don't talk about it at all. But eventually we have a real conversation, a real come to God moment. And I express like, you know what?
At that youth councils in 2017, I heard that God wanted this for me. And she was like, no way. Me too.
I was like, what? We've been calling this back from each other. And so we pray about it.
We again seek wise counsel and we really decide if we're going to surrender our lives to this life of officership. Training was a blessed experience for us. And it's because we prayed for it. We prayed for God to protect us, protect our hearts, protect our minds, protect our family. And so we had a community like never before. And there has been so, so much redemptive power in this place over our lives and over our congregants lives. I spoke a little bit before about how in the beginning of my calling, I just felt unqualified and how the story was kind of like a dark cloud over our lives. Like, oh, we had the kids out of wetlock. We don't fit the mold of regular officers. We don't look or talk like how officers who have encountered and encouraged us look and talk.
We're not going to be accepted. And then boom, he sends us to this place who we have to pastor these people who are basically going through the same things that we've went through. We see that how God has redeemed our story to forward His kingdom.
And it's been a blessing. The through line of God calling for you to be obedient and just like redeeming your story. I think there's many people who probably feel inadequate and unqualified because of their past, how they grew up, or even just what they're experiencing today. Those things do not discount us.
For someone who feels inadequate, for someone who might feel like they don't have what it takes, they don't have the perfect track record, what would you say to that person to encourage them? It sounds cliche, but I would say trust God. It has become a cultural saying to say trust the process because you may have done something that was out of the will of God for your life, but He redeems it. He can redeem it. You're not too far gone. You haven't messed up too much. As long as you have breath in your lungs, you can turn around.
You can change it and allow Him to use it. You'll be able to speak to someone in ways that others who just read about the problems that you've been through could never. They could never do it the same way because you've lived it. So trust the process, trust God, and let Him redeem your story.
Yeah. Well, thank you so much, Denzel, for taking time out of your day. I know you're a busy man over there in Florida, and so thank you for sharing your story with us. There's so many people who need to know that their story isn't over. What they've gone through is not a waste. God will use it. So yeah, thank you so much.
Yeah, no, 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. Call 1-800-229-9965 or visit salvationarmyradio.org to connect.
Tell us how we can help. Share prayer requests or your testimony. With your permission, we would love to use your story on the show. You can also subscribe to Words of Life on your favorite podcast store or visit salvationarmyradio.org to learn about more programs produced by the Salvation Army. 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. Join us next time for the Salvation Army's Words of Life.
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