Beth Wilmes wouldn’t describe herself as a risk-taker. Yet that’s exactly what she did in 2019 when she founded Faith Through Fire, a nonprofit that provides hope to women battling breast cancer.
The Thrivent client from Wentzville, Missouri, was 35 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016. Beth spent the next year in intense treatment that included surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and drug therapy. Her plan was to return to her long career in sales. Or so she thought.
“When I tried to go back to the person I was pre-cancer, I realized very quickly that that person didn't exist anymore,” Beth says. “The things I cared about then were different from what I cared about now. I don’t think anyone can go through that experience and not be changed by it.”
As Beth, wife to Gary and mother to three young children, grappled with those emotions, she started feeling a calling to start a nonprofit. She knew from personal experience that breast cancer comes with fear and anxiety. She desired to replace those feelings with hope and a path toward thriving.
“I honestly felt God prompting me that I could be doing something with my experience,” Beth says. “I tried to ignore it for a little bit, which never works out well. And eventually I just decided to heed the call and go ahead and jump in with both feet, which is not like me.”
Changing her career to start a nonprofit would reduce their household income by half, but she had her husband’s full support. They worked with their Thrivent financial advisor, Brock Howard, to create a plan that helped Beth and Gary feel confident about the new adventure and their financial future.
“I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned through working with Thrivent is that you can accomplish anything you want to,” Beth says. “It’s just about finding the right road, the right path, the smart moves. And I think that has really opened us up to new possibilities, which is really exciting.”
How did you first learn about Thrivent?
We were very early in the inception of Faith Through Fire and securing our future and our children’s future was important to us. We met Brock Howard and his team and immediately felt at ease. I felt like they understood our goals.
What’s your first memory of money?
It was my first job out of college when I figured out what taxes were, and my paycheck was way smaller than I had hoped. I didn't think about it when I was younger.
What are your guiding principles around money decisions?
Money is just a tool to achieve what your goals are. It’s not something that you strive for just to have. It’s something that you can use to better the world.
What’s the best piece of financial advice you've ever received?
It was probably from my parents, and it was to start saving for retirement the minute you get your first job.
What’s your favorite volunteer activity?
I’ve really learned to like volunteering at my kids’ school. It’s a little bit like herding cats, but I enjoy it. I know that this time isn't going to be forever, and it’s fun to see them with their peers.
How do you demonstrate gratitude?
Gratitude is a big piece of what we teach women at Faith Through Fire. Even in the hardest circumstances, having gratitude completely changes how you view yourself and the world. It changes your mindset. It also makes you look more outward focused instead of inward. When we look at ourselves and we’re constantly focused on what we don’t have or what went wrong, it makes us unhappy. When you look outward and you’re grateful and you’re constantly looking at how to improve other people’s lives, it breeds gratitude and it breeds health, and it breeds wellness. Gratitude’s a big part of health.
What does it mean to thrive with purpose?
I don’t feel like you can thrive without purpose. The cancer journey taught me that purpose in your life is what it takes to thrive. If you don’t feel like you have a purpose, if you’re not making your mark on the world and trying to make it a better place, then I just don’t think you can thrive, not in the way that you should. We give survivors the opportunity to mentor the newly diagnosed through our mentor program. Mentoring provides them with purpose, which provides inner healing years after treatment concludes.