Elizabeth Perricone is House Manager at the Union Gospel Mission Crisis Shelter for Women and Children. We asked her a few questions to hear about her heart for the homeless and how she sees God working at the Crisis Shelter. Her passion for sharing the gospel and showing Jesus' love is evident in her answers.
How did you first hear about UGM?
When I was at Moody, I was a part of the Street Evangelism team. Whenever I came across a person who was living on the street I would share with them the Gospel and offer to take them to the Men’s Mission. The Men’s Mission wasn’t the only branch of UGM I knew about. I had the awesome privilege of serving in the Women’s Ministry at Fourth Memorial Church, and the main leader shared with me about Anna Ogden Hall and that she had taught there before. I still wasn’t certain about what exactly Anna Ogden was, but I was very intrigued.
Why were you interested in working here?
Since I became a believer I had a passion to share the Gospel with the lost. I started sharing my faith with my friends in downtown Chicago, and soon this strong desire and joy cultivated in my heart to share the hope and love of Christ with the homeless. When Jesus saved me, He opened my eyes to see that He is the only, everlasting, and unshaken hope. So my heart became drawn to people who felt hopeless.
While at Moody Spokane, I had incredible opportunities to build relationships with the poor. A couple students and I tried to build up a church under the bridge on Sprague. I led worship and talked to ladies who were living on the street and started Bible studies with them. After that ministry I was led to the Carlyle Care Center and I discipled some ladies staying there.
Then after I graduated from Moody Bible Institute, I could not get Union Gospel Mission out of my head. I had this powerful confidence that I was going to get a job there. So I looked online and saw the Crisis Shelter. I did some research on it, and I was immediately drawn to it.
How have you seen God “show up” at the Crisis Shelter?
God is always ready to work in someone’s life in the way that they most need. And that’s what I need to remember so I don’t get in the way of His awesome works. The key for me is to abide. I need to remain in and depend on God or else I am ineffective. The pain these women are going through is real and severe. Without God, I would have nothing to say to them. But by God’s grace, I have been able to share empowering encouragement from God’s Word.
He has shown up in powerful ways! Healings of painful ailments, recommitments to Jesus, emotional healing, and salvation: God is on the move at the Crisis Shelter!
Describe a “typical” work day.
Typical is not a word I would use to describe my job. I do have some usual requirements for every day: setting up an attendance sheet, checking new people in, checking people out, etc., but the majority of time is spent giving people what they need (connecting people with resources, giving them everyday toiletries, offering prayer, sharing encouragement, reminding them of their identity in Christ, and creating a safe, healing environment for the children and ladies.
The ladies are up at 8 a.m. and have to be checked into the Shelter between 4 and 5 p.m. The time before this, 2 to 4 p.m., I call preparing for the wave, because everybody is about to come home and it gets a little crazy!
What’s one of the most difficult pieces of your job?
The most difficult part of my job is having to tell people that they won’t be able to enter the shelter. The reasons for that can be numerous: it could be drug use, they are on an accountability list, or we are simply just full. When this happens, I try to pray with the person that God would provide for their need, and then I try to set them up with other options of where they could stay.
What’s something about your job that brings you great joy?
My greatest joy is when the ladies encounter God for the first time and they are filled with this unrelenting hunger to know Him! I love being the person to tell them all about Jesus and how much He loves them and the identity He has given them! They have heard so many lies in their lives, I consider it a privilege to be able to share with them the greatest hope and joy they could ever know, Jesus Himself.
What’s one thing that people would be surprised to know is a part of your job?
What might surprise people is that I sing, dance, joke, play ukulele, host movie nights, and teach music lessons, because I believe in the importance of childhood. I believe that childhood does not end or get put on pause when a family enters a crisis. I think God is very clear in the Bible that a child’s childhood matters and should be encouraged.
Childhood is a gift from God. When the Israelites were in the wilderness God encouraged them to tell stories about Him to their kids, Jesus was friendly to children and played with them and He even included them into one of His greatest miracles (feeding the 5 thousand). I do consider it an awesome privilege to be a part of childhood memories, so let’s fill them with Jesus’ love and fun.
Tell us a bit about your personal life. How do you like to spend your free time? Hobbies?
I love to spend my free time with my husband. I love to watch movies and go out to dinner with him. I also love to play guitar, sing, write music, and of course, eat!
How would your friends/coworkers describe you?
I hope they would describe me as a faithful and fun person. I love working with every single one of them! I learn from each of them every single day. I love how God knows how to bring together people with different gifting and passions and turn us into a powerful team.
What can you tell us about your family?
I am from good old Park Ridge, Illinois, 25 minutes from Chicago. I have been blessed with a wonderful family. My parents are faithful believers that I have loved to learn from and continue to do so. Their names are Phil and Doreen. I have an older sister named Serafina, a little sister named Rachel, and a twin sister named Gaby.
Right now my family is going through a difficult time and could really use your prayers. My father was diagnosed with A.L.S. last summer and my mother is going through some health issues now, my oldest sister, Serafina, had a kidney transplant last summer and is still recovering from that, and we could use prayers for her healing and faith to grow in this time, as well.
Can you describe a favorite interaction with a resident at the shelter?
There was this one night where this mother was in so much emotional pain, she was pretty sure her son had been sexually assaulted at a daycare and was very overwhelmed. She also was very upset about some things people had been saying to her and accusing her of doing. So I went into her room to talk with her and I asked God for an illustration just for her to comfort her, and he gave me one.
At first I wasn’t sure I wanted to share it, but then I did. I told her when a fireman is rushing to building that is in flames and he takes out his fire hose to put the fire out, would he be stopped by a bunch of people yelling at him and telling him he’s terrible at his job, or even shouting that there is no fire? No, he wouldn’t. He would keep putting the fire out because he knows it is the right thing to do. So when people come into your life and tell you that you can’t do anything or make fun of you for trying to better your life, do not be swayed by them or listen to them. Listen to Jesus and continue to put out the fire.
She was extremely impacted by the illustration and took it as God speaking directly to her heart to encourage her and empower her to be faithful. It was an amazing thing to be used by God like that, and it is why I show up to work every day. It is an honor to be His vessel.
Favorite scripture passage or worship song or something God is teaching you right now?
Right now my favorite verse is 1 Peter 4:19. “Therefore, let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful creator while doing good."
My family and I have been going through a lot of trials, as I have previously mentioned. I find it interesting that the verb in that sentence is not “know” but “entrust.” We are not to try and understand all the mysteries as to why we are suffering. We are to trust God in midst of it all, and continue to serve and love Him with everything we have, because we have a unique and beautiful relationship with Him as our Creator and our daily sustainer. He is faithful.
I do not want to fall into the trap of self-pity. I want to be focused on God and growing to be more like Him, through the trial, and entrusting myself to Him by remaining faithful. The proof that we are trusting God during a trial is if when we are continuing in faithfulness by doing good unto Him.
While Elizabeth and other staff and volunteers are already touching people's lives at the new shelter, it could still use your financial support! Click here to support this beautiful home for women and children in crisis.