Eugene M. Smith, Jr.

Award-Winning Jazz & Gospel Musician


Eugene M. Smith Jr.

Infinite Covenant Blessings

by Rita Bartle

From Street Derelict To Business Owner

Eugene Smith knew he had hit rock bottom when he was awakened one cold, rainy night by the nudging of an old stray dog, forcing its way into the cardboard box Eugene had erected for shelter.

Aside from being homeless and broke, Eugene was helplessly addicted to drugs and alcohol. He found himself panhandling to eat, and he slept in abandoned cars. Just months before, he thought he had reached the pinnacle of success. He was working as a research analyst for a major Charleston, SC, firm during the day and moonlighting as a Jazz Saxophonist at nightclubs.

“Whatever went on at the club, I was usually right in the middle of it,” Eugene admitted. He said he had become so impaired by his addiction, he could no longer perform at work, which cost him both jobs. It also created tensions in his marriage as he concocted one excuse after another to explain why he was never at home.

For years, his wife, Dianne, learned to cope with his alcoholism. But when she learned of his drug addiction, she asked him to leave. At the time, she didn’t want their teenage daughter, Deisha, to live with drug abuse in her own home. Dianne was also concerned about the message she would have sent her daughter by simply tolerating Eugene’s addiction. Dianne had no intentions of encouraging her husband’s destructive lifestyle.

As a Charleston, SC, public schoolteacher, Dianne felt confident that she could sustain herself and her daughter, even if Eugene failed to pay child support. However, she insisted that Eugene sign his portion of the house over to her, which he did.

“I just wanted a stable environment to raise our daughter,” explained Dianne, as Eugene nodded agreeably.

The separation forced Eugene to search for another job. After finding nothing in his fields of chemistry and biology, he wound up at temporary services earning $4.25 to $4.50 an hour.
“That was enough to pay for alcohol,” he said.

But in 1991, Dianne filed for divorce. That’s when everything Eugene loved most began disappearing before his eyes. He had pawned his saxophone with hopes of earning enough money to buy it back. Then, one night, as he watched the news, he saw the pawnshop burn to the ground. And all he could think about was his most prized possession. It was numbing, yet sobering, for him to see part of his livelihood go up in smoke, realizing there was absolutely, nothing he could do about it. Chemically dependent with no place to lay his head, he sought refuge in abandoned houses and cars and even in a cardboard box.

Just as he was settling into his makeshift bed one night, he said, a dog tried to get in the box. So, he did an honorable deed and let the dog have it while he sought shelter in what appeared to be an empty abandoned car. As he climbed into the back seat, he saw that another homeless person, who politely invited him to take the front seat, already occupied the car.

“I had sunk so low,” Eugene said jokingly while wiping a tear from his eye. “I felt useless. You have to excuse me. I still get emotional when I tell this story. God has been so good to me.”

As Eugene was sleeping on the streets of Charleston, he said a friend not only told him about a Christian rehabilitation center in Charlotte called Rebound, but also paid for his transportation there. Upon arriving at Rebound, carrying all that he owned in a plastic bag, Eugene recalled the bag bursting and spilling all his possessions onto the floor.

“It was like a sign or something,” he said, and for the first time in years, God definitely had his attention.

Within months of settling into the program, Eugene stopped using alcohol and drugs. He says the program provided him an avenue for spiritual growth at a time he needed it most. After workers in the Victory Christian Center Shelter Outreach Ministry came to Rebound and invited him to church, Eugene waited anxiously for the outreach bus every Sunday. He quickly realized the services at VCC were different from any he had attended. He said the hearty, home-cooked meals, prepared by the VCC family for its guests after each service, made him feel welcome. But what impressed him most was the orderly flow of the services and the way Pastor Robyn Goal’s messages always related to everyday situations in his life. Realizing that God spoke directly to him through Pastor Goof’s teachings, Eugene listened more intensely than he ever had in his life. Almost unconsciously, he said he began imitating Pastor Gool.

“If I found out that if he took his left foot and moved it to the left, I would do the same thing.” Eugene said, “I didn’t know how to live. I was about 40 at that time and I didn’t know how to be a man. He taught me how to be a man,” Eugene said of Pastor Gool.

And the Word of God began to elevate his lifestyle. “I started being a better father to my daughter,” he said.

After securing a commercial driver’s license, Eugene landed a good-paying job as a long-distance truck driver making cross-country runs. He sent most of his earnings back home as support for his daughter in Charleston and began visiting her occasionally.

“When I would go visit, Dianne would let me sleep on the sofa, and that was cool,” he said. About that time, Dianne said she began noticing changes for the better in her husband, especially in his attitude. But shortly afterward, Eugene relapsed.

“I relapsed because I separated myself from the church,” he said. The cross-country runs kept him on the West Coast, which prevented him from going to church.

“I wasn’t around people to uplift me,” he explains. “All I was doing was making money.”

So, he called and told Dianne he was getting off the road and coming home. That afternoon he was busted on a DUI charge, which, mysteriously, never showed up on his record. “I’m still amazed at that,” he said.

Upon returning to Charlotte, Eugene did the same thing that had worked for him before. He went back to rehab counseling at Rebound and began attending church regularly. “Now I don’t miss a Sunday,” he said. Eugene said he was willing to work any kind of job, as long as he didn’t have to miss church on Sundays.

“He would come down to visit our child, and he was always welcome to stay in the extra room in the house and be a father to her, but I had no interest in us getting back together,” Dianne said. “I didn’t either,” Eugene said

In January 1998, Eugene went to hear Oral Roberts speak to VCC. In his message, Brother Roberts prophesied a year of divine intervention and encouraged the congregation to claim their miracles. Eugene reached for it. He prayed and asked God for three seemingly impossible requests at the time. He prayed for “a good woman” (not necessarily Dianne), a house by the water that he could easily pay for and a professional saxophone. Shortly after that, Eugene and Dianne began talking about getting back together. When Dianne asked if he were planning to move back to Charleston, Eugene emphatically answered, “No!” He was not willing to give up the church that fed his spirit. That meant Dianne had to decide if her love for Eugene merited giving up everything — the only home she had known, her job of 25 years, her friends and family— to reunite with her ex-husband who had lost everything he owned, but who appeared to be truly reformed.

“I just saw him in a different light,” Dianne said fondly. Within a few months, Dianne decided to move to Charlotte and immediately began searching for a job teaching in a public school system. Rather than forfeit her retirement and benefits after 25 years in the South Carolina school system, she looked for work just south of Charlotte in neighboring York County, SC. What amazed her most in her short search was that God had gone before her and made the crooked places. After talking with the personnel manager, she received an application from the Clover, SC School System and was called in for an interview before ever turning the application in. “I got the job right on the spot, teaching 7th-grade math, the same thing I had taught before in Charleston and with $10,000 increase in salary,” Dianne said. She believes God sent her to the Charlotte area went before her to secure her job. Soon she will retire with full benefits.

“It’s not by coincidence or chance that I’m here,” she “When I came here to visit, listened to Pastor Gool and sat under his ministry, I just felt that this was where I needed to raise myself to a (higher spiritual) level. “Even though Dianne had given her life to Christ during her childhood, she grew up in a traditional church that taught little about the power of God. “I was never really taught that God wanted me to prosper,” she said, “or that He wanted me to be healed.” When Dianne saw how God was drawing her family closer to Him and elevating their lifestyle through His Word, she was thankful she had left Charleston and reunited with her husband. Not only is God answering the seemingly impossible prayers Eugene prayed at the urging of the VCC guest minister, He has blessed the couple beyond their wildest dreams. Eugene found a “good woman” in the one he already had. He and Dianne remarried three years ago. “Our daughter had reservations about our getting married again,” Eugene says. “But she’s happy. We’re real close. She’s my daughter and my friend. We were never far apart.”

A year later, another of Eugene’s dreams came true —the couple built a home on the lake in Tega Cay. Eugene now owns and operates a trucking company with hired employees to share the driving load. He’s graduated from bumming change on the streets and sleeping in abandoned cars to driving a late-model Jaguar.

Eugene is so thankful for God turning his life around and prospering his family that he looks for ways to encourage others who fall prey to drugs and alcohol. Just recently, he spoke to inmates serving time for drug-related offenses in Charlotte’s Right Turns Program. He looks for opportunities to encourage the destitute and hopeless because he’s been there, done that and knows God is no respecter of persons.

“We’re just blessed and thankful,” Eugene said. “I didn’t know I could be this happy. Everything is just coming at the right time.”

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would I leave Charleston and marry someone I had divorced,” Dianne said.

Almost like Job, Eugene was blessed by God at least seven-fold. And he quickly gives God all of the glory.

Through the VCC Shelter Outreach Ministry hundreds like Eugene are experiencing God’s life-changing power of salvation, healing, deliverance and restoration. Every Sunday morning, outreach buses pick up residents at local homeless shelters and rehab centers and bring them to service.