DeVandis Smith, a 44-year-old communications major, saw and experienced the world before he ended up at Northwest University.
Having grown up in a Christian home, Smith was raised in the church but rebelled against religion as a teenager. Finishing high school and seeing that college wasn’t for him, the young teen joined the Air Force. “The military was good for me. I had to grow up. Get my heart straight.”
Though Smith wasn’t a practicing Christian at the time he entered the army, the prayers from his youth were answered. “I’ve been around the world twice,” Smith explains. “I had asked the Lord; I told him I want to travel around the world.” While serving 23 years in the Air Force and Army, the young soldier saw 25 countries and attained the rank of Master Sergeant.
His time abroad, however, wasn’t purely pleasure. While he experienced the beautiful sights in places like Turkey, Germany, and Bahrain, he also experienced combat in the first Gulf War, Afghanistan, and flying with the B-52 bombers.
It wasn’t until a time of leave halfway through his time in the military when Smith was visiting his family that he found the Lord for good. He hadn’t been home 24 hours when his sister asked him to attend a revival happening at her local church. He would make a personal commitment to Christ that night.
“Before I was a Christian, I had no compassion for the enemy. Drop a bomb. Kill them. Kill them all. That was my mentality,” Smith explained. “But, after getting saved and going to Afghanistan, I thought twice about pulling the trigger. I’d be praying for God to provide an answer before action was necessary.” Just a short time after committing his life to the Lord after years of spiritual battle, the new believer would find himself once again on a very different battlefield.
During a convoy ride, he and his fellow soldiers were forced to pass through a notoriously deadly valley, all the while surrounded by enemies with AK-47’s. “We had to sleep on the side of the road. And I had the best sleep of my life,” he explained. “I came back to base and the 23rd Psalm just popped into my head. We were in the valley. We had been in the shadow of death.” Just a few days later, another group of Americans would pass through the same valley and get caught in a firefight.
After the military, the veteran pursued a business degree in Florida. It wasn’t until his wife had a career opportunity in the Seattle area that the Smiths packed up and moved. His love for his wife led him to move, but his passion for video editing and film led him to communications and Northwest.
While it isn’t always easy being an older student in a younger crowd, the seasoned Eagle thinks it keeps him young. “I joke with my wife how I have been in the Air Force longer than some of these kids have been alive,” said Smith with smiling eyes. ”But you can always learn from younger people. Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you don’t have value.”
Smith has truly experienced more than most will in a lifetime. “I break down thinking about the goodness of God. What he brought me from and where I am at now,” he reflected. “I never in a million years would have thought I would have lived the life I had. It’s truly the grace of God.”
Written by Marlene Pierce