Faith Gives Me Life: ‘La Fe Me Da Vida’

Pedro was introduced to The Salvation Army while living with his sister in Long Beach, California. He soon became a leader at the church, serving the community faithfully for decades. With a firm foundation and a passion for service, Pedro was equipped to face all the challenges of ministry that one might expect… Until the day he was forced to confront his greatest challenge yet. Watch this story of how Pedro was able to overcome a health crisis that would potentially end his ministry at the local church he so dearly loved serving.

Read the transcript of the video here:

Pedro Hernandez (Director of Del Ministerio Hispano): I was living with my sister and my sister asked me, “when are you going to come to my church?” and I said invite me this Sunday, this Sunday I’ll go. We arrived and the pastor asked a question and he was very direct, he asked, “would you like to accept Christ as your Lord and Savior?” I said yes, because I was ashamed to say no. But when I got to the altar, everything changed completely. And from that moment, God was with me always. Faith gives me life.

I went to work at The Salvation Army. I have been working at The Salvation Army for 20 years as the head of the Hispanic ministry. We collect donations, Bible studies on Wednesdays, we bring food to the senior centers, on Fridays there was Home League and Men’s Bible Study, and Sunday School and service on Sundays. And when the programs are over, I come back to pick them up. I would also pick up the children when there were children’s programs. Transportation is a ministry. Why? Because there are times that they make you wait until up to half an hour or sometimes I would come and they would tell me, “no, we are not going to go.” That’s why I say that not everyone can pick people up because not just anyone has the patience and love for people. But I love working for God. I love God, but also I love souls. 

For us, The Salvation Army has been a blessing in our lives. There came a time when the most difficult test came. In August 2011, I felt soreness here in the middle of my throat. My throat began to grow and I began to worry. I stopped eating because it hurt, I stopped drinking water because it hurt. I started to lose weight. The time came when I told my wife, “you know what, I have to go to the doctor because I’m not liking this.” They did a scan. On Friday they called me and they told me, “there is a problem.” I just asked them, “what kind of cancer do I have?” The doctor was surprised and I said, “Tell me.” He said it is fast-growing Hodgkin lymphoma. He said it is necessary that you start taking chemotherapy. The news that I had cancer wasn’t a problem for me. The biggest problem for me was telling my family.

The time came when I spoke with Angela. I told her, “They told me that I have cancer,” and she asked me a question that hurt not to have an answer to try and calm her heart. And she asked me, “Why you?” I had no answer, I just told her, “God’s in control of everything. God knows everything he does.” 

From August to December,  the cancer grew from an early stage to stage three. I talked to my family doctor. I told him, “I need to talk to you.” When I went in, he was surprised because my face was already disfigured because the tumor had grown a lot. He told me he needed to refer me to an oncologist. I made an appointment, he saw me and began to explain everything that was going to happen to me, all of the side effects that I was going to have. For some reason, we don’t know why, the nurse told me, “Only one more recommendation: you can’t go to church.” When we left the office I turned to my wife and said, “For me, they can’t take something from me that’s going to give me life.” Serving at the church to me that was what gave me life. And when I communicated to them that I had cancer, they started to pray for me together. And they did not know how much it meant for me to realize that they love me. To realize that they appreciated me. 

I started my chemotherapy and two days in, the nausea started. In those days the doctor was with me when they took me to my breakfast and I started to vomit and I would not stop vomiting. The doctor told me, “If we can’t control the vomiting of the nausea, you can’t leave on the 24th.” That night in the same way I talked to God and I told him to add years of life to allow me to continue on. After two days, the vomit disappeared. It disappeared during all the rest of my chemotherapy. The nausea didn’t return, the vomiting did not return. The side effects never came.

After the third chemotherapy session they sent me home. I would start chemo on Wednesday and finish on Sunday, but I would carry my medicine bag. I was driving, I would go to church, I would take the bus to pick up people. This gave me life. And God was working. Why? Because he had control of everything.

The doctors would see me and they were surprised and would tell me, “I do not know what is happening with you.” The nurse who attended me, she told me, “Look, I have been in this place for years, I have treated countless patients with cancer, but yours is different. And they say you don’t need more chemotherapy, that you are clean.” I know that God was working. He never left us. He was always there, beside us. Did we go through difficult times? Yes! Were we sad? Yes! But his presence was there at every moment. He took control of the situation and just as the cancer came, the cancer left. This cancer can come back, but just like he freed me from it once, he can free me as many times as this cancer can come back. I’ve been in remission for the last nine years and I can say that I am a cancer survivor thanks to him. 

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