GGC: OK, this is Norm Gordon with Germantown Global Connection and I have here with me Kristina Smith, one of the Program Coordinators at Black Rock Center for the Arts, who has an amazing story of how she got here. So, Kristina, you’re originally from Germantown but you lived in Miami for several years, right?
KS: Yes, I was in Miami for about ten years.
GGC: So, I’m curious what your journey was from Miami back to here.
KS: I was living in Miami and I was bartending at this really great beachfront bar – very trendy and popular – and living a lifestyle that on the surface seemed glamorous and on social media seemed like a lot of fun, partying and being out constantly, but it was a lifestyle that left me feeling drained and empty. In January, 2020, an old friend of mine reached out to me and we began talking and my friend said, “with this lifestyle that you’re living, what is your relationship to Christ?” And I said, “That’s a great question. It’s a pretty long-distance relationship.” And so my friend bought me a Bible and sent it to me and I just dove in January 2020 and the Lord started to speak to me. On March 16, when COVID hit, I lost my job in Miami and I kind of didn’t know what I was going to do. As the airports were shutting down, I panicked. All my family was in Maryland – my mom – and I was scared that if anyone got sick, I’d be trapped far away, or if I got sick I’d be trapped, jobless, and potentially homeless. So I came back originally for that reason.
GGC: And, so then what happened?
KS: I was fortunate enough to get on unemployment from Florida Unemployment Assistance. So I was staying with my mom and my family during the shut-down portion of the pandemic. I was really just working on my faith and listening to a lot of podcasts and just diving deep into the Word and strengthening those bonds with Christ and I heard God speak to me very clearly saying, “Come back to Maryland. You need to move back to Maryland.” I didn’t know why or how I was going to make it happen, but I said, “Alright, I’ll do it!” I started searching for an apartment, I started calling Craig’s List, and I was looking online. The only place I heard from – the first place I looked at – I took it. I went back to Florida, had to put all my stuff in my car, and moved back here to Maryland. As I was here the first month applying for jobs, jobs I thought I was over-qualified for, nothing was sticking, no one even called me in for an interview. I started to feel depressed, I was like, “God, I stepped out on faith, you told me to come back here, I thought you had a plan and purpose for me.” And he spoke very clearly again and said, “Kristina, I didn’t bring you here for what you can do for yourself. I brought you back her for what you can do for others.” Coincidentally, Black Rock Center for the Arts is less than five minutes from that apartment, the only apartment that called me back, and I saw online that there were opportunities for the food distribution, so I began to volunteer here with Grace Rivera-Oven and her son, Marco Rivera-Oven. Coming here every day, this almost became a full-time job. I came daily, packing boxes with food and non-perishables, and then also delivering those boxes to families in need.
GGC: So how has this job and this whole experience affected your faith?
KS: It’s really been transformative. It’s very difficult to step out on faith when culture and society seems to want to pull you in one direction and the Lord is calling you to go in an opposite direction – that just doesn’t seem to make sense at the moment, but you have to trust. And additionally, when you just kind of jump back into faith, you have this fire and this passion and this burning and what happens is sometimes over time you can start to lose that same passion you had. Working in this industry where you are constantly out in the community and seeing people keeps me connected and keeps my faith strong because I am so humbled and grateful for everything I have because so many people do not have. It’s also a reminder to stick strong to my faith because at any time I could lose my job, I could lose my car or my apartment and I could be the person on the other end so to always treat people with kindness and to always make sure that I am carrying myself as Jesus would and always loving my neighbor and loving the Lord, and always trying to spread that within the community.
GGC: Well, thank God for Black Rock and thank God for you, Kristina. We really appreciate it.
KS: Thank you, Norm!