Sarah Smuda: “I had hit rock bottom!”
by Glen Doss, Major –
“God, do you want me to be a Salvation Army officer?” inquired Sarah Smuda.
“I had been praying for the church as a whole to acquire more compassion,” recalls Sarah, 22. “Then it hit me—God said: ‘Your heart is the same as William Booth’s heart—if you see the lost in the street, you want to help them. Of course I want you to be an officer!’”
The trail leading Sarah to this recent epiphany commenced in Wheatridge, Colorado, where she and her older brother, Jonathan, attended the Baptist church with their mother, Shirley. After Sarah’s parents divorced, however, their church attendance ceased.
Shirley’s job with a computer software company often took her away from home. When Sarah was 9, the family moved in with her grandmother who soon became the primary caregiver.
After Sarah turned 15, significant events occurred in rapid succession. “My grandma became very sick—I took over the responsibility of caring for her. A week before she died, while my mom was away in Canada, a car hit me head on while I was riding my bike. I was hurt bad. Then—bam!—my grandma died!”
With no one to hold her accountable, Sarah regularly ditched school and often spent time with her aunt, a witch. Sarah became enamored with the occult. “Because I felt so hopeless, I was lured by the sense of power that came with it.”
Then, abruptly her fragile world was ripped completely apart. Her cousin, 18, a former gang member, moved in with the family and partied all day long. One night the neighbors called the police, and he loudly threatened to kill the neighbors. When Shirley intervened, he turned on her: “I’m going to kill you too!” he snapped. “We were caught completely unaware,” explains Sarah. After a relative confirmed that he meant what he said, Shirley hastily fled with her children to Kona, Hawaii.
“We left at the worst possible time, right in the middle of finals,” relates Sarah. “My friends, who were my support group, were all gone. I had hit rock bottom. All the despair and anger I had bottled up for years came gushing out. I questioned the purpose of my life—what am I doing here? The occult has no answers for these questions. I told my mother: ‘If you don’t get me to a psychiatrist, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m honestly losing my mind.’”
At her new school, Sarah says, “I wouldn’t talk to anyone. I hated it.” Then she met Jennifer Bordoy, who had just moved into town from Hilo with her parents, Envoys George and Juliet, newly appointed to the Kona Corps. She soon became Sarah’s only friend. There was a hitch, however: when Sarah invited Jennifer to parties, her mom wouldn’t permit her to go.
Juliet had a strategy. “You can hang with Jennifer only if you go to YPL [Young People’s Legion] with her,” she said. Consequently, Sarah began participating in corps activities. In time she and her mother and brother were all attending the corps. “The Bordoys never let us know we were lost, they just loved us,” quips Sarah with a smile.
In her senior year, Sarah accompanied Jennifer to a divisional event at Camp Homelani on Oahu. Sarah recalls: “The speaker talked of witchcraft, suicide, heavy metal music, and feeling that there is no purpose to life—all things I was into. I thought: ‘Isn’t this the way everybody feels? You mean there’s something else, there’s another way?’
“For the first time I learned there was another choice. It hit me—boom!—I was created for God! I realized I was lost! I looked up to heaven and prayed, ‘Lord, I give you my life. You can have my life.’ (Because at that point in time, I felt my life was worth nothing, absolutely nothing). In my head there was absolute silence. Then I heard God speak through that silence. ‘Are you ready?’ he asked me. ‘Yes, God, I’m ready,’ I replied.
“When I awoke the next morning, the world was brighter. Everything was alive! Back home, my mom explained to me: ‘Those goose bumps you’re feeling—that’s the Holy Spirit.’ ‘Can I have this everyday?’ I asked. She said, ‘Yes,’ and I replied, ‘That’s what I want.’”