Motorcycle accident, jailtime changed young
To look at Captain Tony Perez
today, you'd never know that his life before accepting Jesus Christ was the
opposite of a role model for youth. But as youth secretary for the Texas
Division, Perez now sees his conversion experience as a way to connect to teens
and adults heading down a dangerous road.
blood-alcohol level was way above the legal limit on March 23, 1993, the night
he was riding his motorcycle near his home in Hattiesburg, Miss. At a high rate
of speed, he lost control of the bike and crashed into a bridge
"The motorcycle was totaled when it was
smashed between the guardrail and the ground," Perez said. "I was
thrown just above the guardrail, and received only two torn ligaments and a few
The arresting officer, Sheriff Billy McGee,
took the teenage Perez into custody upon release from the hospital. A judge
sentenced him to 14 months in the Forrest County detention center, with a
work-assignment at The Salvation Army in Hattiesburg.
"Being assigned to The Salvation Army was the best thing that
could have happened to me," Perez said. "For the first time in my
life, I was around Christians. My role models were Lieutenant Jonathan McBride
and (corps administrative assistant) Danny Dickinson."
Young Perez found in McBride and Dickinson the mentors he
desperately needed. Perez soon gave his heart to Christ and began considering
"The only problem was that I kept
thinking that God was crazy to be calling someone like me!"
His jail sentence expired in October, but by then he developed
what he calls a strong desire to stay and work around the Army corps. By
February 1995, he was enrolled as a soldier.
A few months
later, Perez fell in love with Cadet Vicki Keith, serving in Hattiesburg on her
summer assignment. The couple later married and Perez began his cadet-training
to become a Salvation Army officer.
Some years into his
career, Captain Perez was invited as the featured speaker for the Army's
annual meeting in Hattiesburg. As Perez told his story, one listener in the
audience was particularly impressed at the change in this young man's life.
Sheriff McGee, the arresting officer nearly 10 years earlier, was very pleased
to see Perez again and to hear firsthand all the good that came after that
fateful night. McGee was so taken with Perez's story that the sheriff is
working to have the arrest expunged from Tony's record - as though it never
"Praise God, my conversion experience will be
with me always," Perez said.
Captains Tony and Vicki
Perez are dedicated to reaching youth for Christ. Their work exclusively with
young people began in the Maryland-West Virginia Division and now continues in
"I see youth all the time who are hurting the
same way as I was," he said.
Perez points to his DUI
arrest as the turning point in his life."The enemy tried to destroy my
life, but God used that accident to bless my life, get my attention and turn me
New officers reflect on first 30 days in the
Captains Michael and Laura Cox were
commissioned June 4, 2006, as members of the Visionaries session. They reported
to their first appointment, as corps officers at Houston Aldine-Westfield.
Major Frank Duracher of the Southern Spirit staff recently met them to
record their observations of their first 30 days as Salvation Army
SS: You've already had an
interesting start to your career. Tell me about your first month as corps
MC: It's been both great and challenging.
We didn't really know what to expect going in, and some of what we've
had to do is based just on common sense. The Evangeline Booth College staff
prepared us as much as possible, but you really don't know until you get
out there and experience it.
It's a little spooky at
times, just knowing that you are the one that has to make the decisions that
will affect the ministry of your appointment for possibly a very long time. If
you make a wrong decision, you have to live with it.
When we first arrived, we dealt with a break-in and theft of equipment from the
corps building. We also had a fire.
MC: Yes, one of the
thermostats caught fire, and the only reason it wasn't a big fire was
because our staff turned the power off. When they went to the power breaker
panel, they saw the thermostat smoking just a few feet away. Part of the wall
did catch fire, but we put it out - it could have been a lot worse!
SS: Have the people here embraced you?
Both the staff and the corps people really loved our predecessors. We know we
are the "new kids on the block" and I know we'll make our own
LC: We feel accepted, though, and we are anxious
to build on what has already been done here.
something that your training college experience could have prepared you for a
MC: I think the training college did a marvelous job. The
staff always said that they can only teach us so much - the rest has to be
SS: Did you learn anything
during this first month on the field that you didn't learn at the
MC: I've learned that if you don't get
your reports in on time, headquarters will give you a headache over that!
LC: We've already put into practice some of the
pastoral counseling methods we learned about. A young lady came in the other
day who was struggling with a relationship at home. Talking with her
face-to-face made me realize that this is for real.
SS: Your appointment is among a low-income, urban area of Houston.
The Boys & Girls Club program there is very strong. Did that intimidate you
in any way?
MC: Not at all. I've worked on the staff
of Boys Clubs before, and among families that have very little means. If
anything, it prepared me for this in a very good way.
When you were given your appointments and the announcement was made -
"Houston Aldine-Westfield corps officers" - what went through your
MC: I felt very shaky, and I thought, Wow, way
over there! But then again, I've heard great things about the Texas
Division, and the wonderful ministries under the umbrella of the Houston Area
Command, so I got excited right away.
LC: I wanted to go back to the
Carolinas, because that's where we're from. Coming to Houston is a
little overwhelming, because it is such a large city. I didn't know what to
expect. I didn't know where to start. But God is so good, and He is already
giving us the strength and wisdom to know what and how to do things.
SS: What do you hope to accomplish at the Houston
MC: Mainly, we want to emphasize
spiritual growth and leadership development. This ministry has great potential,
and we are very excited and anxious to do what we can to build God's