Living a Surrendered Life“The Salvation Army is where I truly found God.”
I was born and raised by a single mother in Portsmouth, VA. As I got older, I began to protest and asked my mom why I had to go to church on Sundays or Bible study. It took years before I understood the significance of church. When I was 12 years old, I experienced tragedy. My father was a drug addict and killed my grandmother while high and looking for money. My life was turned upside down. I felt alone, and for the first time, it didn’t feel like the life I was living was my own.
At the age of 12, who could comprehend what was happening? Everyone was so supportive and tried to anticipate my every need. Those who loved me wanted to do everything they could to make me feel better, even though I didn’t know what that was myself.
The day my brother invited my family to The Salvation Army impacted my life forever. The moment I entered the building, I was greeted by someone in uniform. In the chapel, everyone was singing from a red songbook, and to top things off, during the welcome, everyone went around hugging one another to the song, “Family of God.” The 12-year-old introvert that I was decided at that moment that this was my first and last time attending The Salvation Army. However, someone mentioned there would be food and youth activities after the service. That announcement changed my mind, and those programs changed my life. I was loved on, and that was something I didn’t think I needed.
Before I knew it, The Salvation Army became a second home to me. I was about 16 or 17 when I truly accepted Jesus into my life at Youth Councils. Now, I had been to the altar quite a few times and confessed Jesus Christ as my Savior, but I still didn’t fully get the concept. It just felt like something to do because my friends were all doing it.
That night was different. The speaker’s message was for me. For the first time in my life, I went to the altar fully aware of what accepting God as my Savior meant. After the altar call, there was a call to officership. I was back in my seat, but I heard God whisper to me, “Go!” I ignored it; I thought He had to be talking to the person next to me (which happened to be my future husband, who had been sure of his calling since he was 13). See, I had my plans and dreams; becoming an officer was not a part of any of them. At the time, I hadn’t realized that it wasn’t my plans that mattered but His plans for my life. I went on my path and denied His call.
At the age of 19, I became a mother to Tayonna. I was unmarried and thought that the officers and leaders in the Army would reject me. Instead, I was shown love, and God’s forgiveness was shared with me. In January 2010, Antonio and I got married and continued our journey at the corps. We had our son, Antonio Jr., in 2011. I noticed that the people we served in the Portsmouth Corps weren’t just random people, but people I knew. They were my classmates and their family members, and sometimes they were even my family members. I saw the need being realized and met by the Army holistically. Soon after this, I realized that I had a passion for ministry and serving others. I could never deny that; I knew God had called me to do more. Unfortunately, I continued to follow my path. I received a Bachelor’s Degree in applied behavioral science and a Master’s Degree in psychology. I was content with my degrees, and I had a career as a behavioral therapist. I thought the job gave me purpose, yet I still wasn’t fulfilled.
I never stopped being involved in church. Whenever I was at church, I was at peace. I had a different sense of purpose, doing God’s work. As a young mother and wife, I shared my story, hardships and, more importantly, God’s faithfulness throughout my life. One of my favorite ministries at the corps was our Teen Ministry. The teens held a special place in my heart because I grew up in the environment they were living in when I was their age. I knew and related to many of their stories. It was one of my teen’s stories that led me to make the most significant and best decision of my life.
One night after programs, one of the teens asked to talk to me. She told me everything that was going on in her life, and she broke down crying. God kept giving me the word “surrender.” I kept praying that over her. Little did I know God had given me that word for me. By the end, we were both crying. See, she gave her life to Christ that night, but I gave up the life I thought was my own and surrendered to God’s plans for me to become a Salvation Army officer. Shortly after my husband and I began paperwork in 2019, our family entered the Evangeline Booth College as a part of the Messengers of Grace.
Today, I am in awe of God’s faithfulness. I look back at the beginning of my journey and laugh as I remember trying to run away from the Army because of a uniform, red songbook and affectionate soldiers and officers. I am proud and grateful to God that He has called me to be a uniform-wearing, songbook-singing, affectionate servant. The Salvation Army is where I truly found God. It is where my life was changed, where I met my husband and where I discovered the importance of pastoral and Christ-like officers.
I am guided by Philippians 2:3-5 (NIV), which says, “then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your interest but each of you to others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.”
I am living a surrendered life to Christ. As my faith increases, I decrease and become more and more like Christ! I am proud to be doing ministry alongside my husband, our two exceptional children and the many hands and feet of Christ.
Lieutenant Shawnte Hodges completed training and was commissioned as a Salvation Army officer in the Southern Territory in June.