Article of the week: Called by God
24 April 2021
Cadet Marie Karickova talks to Lieut-Colonel Jonathan Roberts about her life and calling
MARIE Karickova and her husband, David, are set to be commissioned in July as the first Roma officers in the UKI Territory. It will be the next step in a journey that brought them from the Czech Republic to the UK, then into an experience of Jesus Christ, Salvation Army soldiership and a calling to officer service.
Growing up in a Roma family brought many challenges, as Marie explains.
‘I am one of six children, and my parents were hard-working people. They didn’t have any kind of education because the conditions where they grew up didn’t allow them to go to school. So it was quite hard for me as they were not able to help me with my homework.
‘It was Czechoslovakia at that time, a communist country. Roma people were discriminated against and I was quite often beaten by teachers. My parents went to the school to sort it out, but it didn’t help. Even so, my childhood was quite happy. My parents always tried to balance things out.’
Marie left school at 16 and after a few months found work as a general helper in a hospital. She later married David, whom she had met at school. In 2002 they moved to the UK with their son and daughter.
‘Our son is married with two children and lives in Margate,’ says Marie. ‘He recently finished university and is working. Our daughter lives with us at William Booth College. She is studying at university and her goal is to be a police officer.’
When the family arrived in the UK 19 years ago they quickly linked up with a church in Margate.
‘My brother was already in Britain, and we were staying with him. We went with him to the church, and at the service there was a challenge and an invitation to be blessed. We went forward and accepted Jesus. Looking back, God had been speaking to me quite a bit, even during our last year in the Czech Republic. We were going through a very hard time with our son experiencing discrimination at school.
‘The thing that we really felt in the church was love – that there was no difference between us and everyone else. I remember feeling scared, because we had never been hugged by people from a different community. I have to say that in the years we have been in Britain we have not felt any kind of discrimination – not from the community, neighbours or the church.’
They continued attending the church for six years, but everything was in English so they weren’t always able to understand. During that time Marie’s nephew married the daughter of Margate corps officers Majors David and Kathryn Blowers, and so began Marie and David’s connection with the Army.
‘We were invited to a Salvation Army home group. Because my husband is a good musician he started helping with worship at the Czech corps, the Armáda Spásy (Salvation Army). It was important for us to decide whether to stay in the church or join The Salvation Army.
‘David and Kathryn contacted the church leaders, who agreed to bless us and send us to the Army to serve the Czech community. We tried to be a blessing in whatever way was necessary. Because of that there are now four different Czech or Slovak corps in Kent.’
Marie’s call to officership came when a preacher who was visiting the corps prayed with her.
‘In that prayer he said that I would become a godly woman and an example for Roma women and the whole Roma community,’ she recalls. ‘I had to wrestle with it for quite a time, to accept that was the way it should be. But then I realised, it was not a man calling me, but God, the one who is living in me.
‘It took a bit longer for David to accept the call from God. We were invited to a two-day seminar at William Booth College about exploring our spiritual gifts. God spoke to him there.’
Marie and David became territorial envoys for a year in order to gain more experience. They were then accepted for training. Their time at college has been fulfilling, despite difficulties due to some family members becoming seriously ill. Marie’s brother was diagnosed with leukaemia and she was able to donate stem cells. Her sister passed away last year and her father is receiving treatment for cancer.
‘The college is kind of an oasis for us,’ Marie says. ‘We feel God’s peace, and we are very much supported here.’
After commissioning, Marie and David will be appointed as associate officers at Gravesend.
‘Our appointments are to the older established corps and the new Roma ministry. They share the same building and it works very well. Even in the town the two communities are blending. We feel that we will be used as a bridge between them.
‘I think we will never be completely ready, but we trust in the Lord because we know that, with his help, we can