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Author’s book promotes strength in adversity

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Theological message: Dr Sharon Smith-Apopa with a copy of her new book, The Encounter

After her husband died in 2013, Sharon Smith-Apopa learnt one of her most trying life lessons: tomorrow isn’t promised so be grateful for what God has given you today.

Back then the local author never got the chance to thank her husband, Thomas, for all the support he offered throughout their marriage.

These days she seizes every opportunity to teach others how to live life intentionally and not take their blessings for granted.

Her latest book, The Encounter, touches on that very topic.

Released last week, the book tells the story of four female strangers whose lives cross paths after the train they are travelling on crashes.

“As a result of the train wreck the women meet and start talking,” Dr Smith-Apopa explained. “The discussion is led by a pastor and an EMT and they look at the benefits of managing life from an internal or external locus of control.

“The external locus of control is looking at their spirituality and how successful we can be if we are driven by God versus solely by ourselves.

“So there are theological principles underneath that.

“The message is even when we are at our most hopeless moments — one woman is battling breast cancer and another is going through a divorce — if you believe God’s word and phrases like ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ with that basis we are able to find strength even when we are going through the worst.”

She wants readers to know they have a choice about whether they react positively or negatively to the hand they are dealt.

“If you live intentionally you have the choice to look at things in a positive or negative light — no matter what comes your way,” she added.

Dr Smith-Apopa discovered this lesson herself on September 27, 2013 when her husband died suddenly four days after she released her last book.

“When he was alive I was always complaining, but once my husband was gone I realised I couldn’t have completed four degrees without him,” the 59-year-old said.

“He used to do the laundry and cook the meals for me and if I put my clothes out he would iron them. I also had the opportunity to study and go away while he looked after our daughters.

“We tend as humans to look at the negative more than we do the positive. But now I say to people you know at the end of the day make a decision to be grateful. I make an effort to tell people in my life just how much they mean to me because each day is the only day you have to be intentional. You aren’t promised tomorrow.”

Dr Smith-Apopa described the months following her husband’s death as being “almost a blur”, but in the midst of the tragedy she tried to look for a silver lining.

“In 2014 I went to Kenya to do a memorial service for my husband a year after his death and while there we saw people who had much less than us, but who chose to be grateful every day,” Dr Smith-Apopa explained.

“By the end of 2014 I said ‘I have to write this next book’, but I didn’t want it to be about me and grieving.

“I thought how can I write something that is palatable and exciting but still gives a principle that people can leave with? I started interviewing a few other ladies and said I can’t do it just about them because Bermuda is small and there is always the possibility of someone knowing you. So I made it a fictional story about the many women I have met over the years and the men in their lives too.”

One of the characters in the book is called Je’su. When the women are going through their various highs and lows he’s one character who is always there.

“I want people to get this symbolism that there is someone who is always there for them and supports them, but they have to make this decision a be intentional about having a relationship with him — His name is God.”

Dr Smith-Apopa has attended church her entire life.

Her mother worked with the missionary department at a local Pentecostal church and also played the piano on Sunday mornings. Her father was an evangelist and spent time preaching overseas in Jamaica.

Her faith became more real to her when she was 16 years old and was encouraged by her parents to give back. She spent the next few summers living with a travel evangelist and growing in her relationship with God.

“Sometimes the travel evangelist would say ‘We don’t have food, we need to pray’ and later on someone would knock on the door with a basket of food to get us through,” Dr Smith-Apopa said. “My faith started to develop seriously after that and I never left my beliefs. Of course as a young person we go all around the mulberry bush, but these principles always stuck with me.”

Since then God has taught her the importance of submitting to His will and being obedient.

“About ten years ago Pastor Terrence Stovell was preaching somewhere and said if we want to have a successful Christian life we have to do everything God asks of us — whether it looks stupid or not. Myself and a friend said let’s try this out and we’ve been doing so for the last nine years.”

One day Dr Smith-Apopa was on a bus with a new leather knapsack she had purchased for herself, when she noticed a little boy on the bus with a backpack that was falling apart.

“I heard God tell me to give my leather bag to this boy. He said ‘Take everything out of your bag and give him the leather bag’. I was like ‘God, I just got this thing’.

“I didn’t do it and got off the bus and came to work and 15 minutes later who walked into this office but the same child and his mother. I said ‘Okay God’. I took out all my stuff and gave the boy the bag and his mother was in tears and told me of how the children had been teasing him. I said Lord thank you that you gave me a second chance to be obedient.

“I’ve realised from that and other instances in my life that sometimes our obedience isn’t just about us. It’s actually God’s way of answering someone else’s prayer.”

Her latest book, The Encounter, has already proven to be a blessing to people’s lives. So far two ladies have called her to tell her how impactful the book has been.

“I wanted to know people’s lives would be changed as a result of reading this book, so I’m happy to know the goal and the mission is being fulfilled.”

The Encounter is available at Brown and Co for $20 or by e-mailing toapopa@yahoo.com.

Proceeds from the book will go towards her late twin sister Caron Assan’s Scholarship awarded each Autumn to a student in financial need. Dr Smith-Apopa will also be having a book signing on November 21 from 3:30 until 7:30pm at Kingdom Dynamic Bookstore at First Church of God on Northshore.

A good read: Dr Sharon Smith-Apopa(Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Life lesson: Dr Sharon Smith-Apopa(Photograph by Akil Simmons)