By: Major Susie Erickson
I was born in the rural farming community of Apex, North Carolina, youngest of seven children.
Upon my father’s death, my mother became a single parent with five daughters still at home. This life crisis placed our family in a vulnerable economic situation.
I began working on the farm of a family member at a very young age. Although the work was hard, I thrived on the activities that surrounded farm life. Gardening, cooking, canning vegetables, preserving fruits, caring for animals and barning tobacco were things that brought me great pleasure. I also thrived on the bond of love that develops when families work closely and are united in purpose – unfortunately our purpose was surviving poverty.
My oldest sister was living in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina when her children were invited to The Salvation Army by some neighborhood friends during a Sunday School Campaign. Upon visiting, they made The Salvation Army their church home and brought many of our family members to The Salvation Army in the proceeding months.
I must confess that I went to The Salvation Army in my late teen years “kicking and screaming”. We lived among hard working farm families who lived off the land and were too proud for charity, so my visit to The Salvation Army was my first encounter with homelessness and severe poverty. I determined during the first visit that I would not return to The Salvation Army, but my mother thought differently!
Months later, a white haired lady named Brigadier Dorothy Langston approached me and said, “you would make a great Salvation Army Officer because you love people.” I knew so little about The Salvation Army that I wondered what this dear woman could have possibly done to cause her mother to name her Brigadier!
As I grew in my relationship with the Lord, I too came to love The Salvation Army and its mission and knew that God was indeed calling me to be an Officer in The Salvation Army. How did I know? My calling was confirmed by an inner peace as I actively engaged in the mission and ministry of The Salvation Army.
I helped my family barn a field of tobacco prior to my departure for training and had to soak my hands in bleach to remove the tobacco stains before arriving at the School for Officers’ Training. I was a farm girl with no real knowledge of The Salvation Army when God called me to be an Officer. Thirty years later, I still stand amazed!