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Sharing the message of God’s forgiveness

By: Nadia Arandjelovic

(Originally Posted by The Royal Gazette)

Feeling blessed: Rev Lashonna Smith of Mount Zion AME Church has launched her FORGIVEN T-shirts brand. They are more than just a fashion item for the 33-year-old, but also a message of God’s love and grace for His children

After having two abortions, Lashonna Smith was overwhelmed by feelings of guilt and shame.

She felt unworthy of God’s love and grace, but when He gave them to her anyway in the Spring of 2004 her life began to radically change.

She started going to church regularly; her close friends and family even noticed the difference in her.

“I was told after I rededicated my life that I looked like a different person,” she said.

“That following December [eight months later] is when I heard God tell me I was called to preach the gospel and ever since I’ve been trying my best to do what God has called me to do.

“I don’t always get it right, but I can say I love Jesus with all my heart and am thankful for who God is in my life. If it wasn’t for Him I don’t know where I’d be. I’d really be a hot mess.”

That message of forgiveness is something the 33-year-old, who was ordained as a minister in the AME church last March, is passionate about sharing with others.

One way she’s doing that is through her line of FORGIVEN T-shirts.

Owing to the power of word of mouth and social media, the shirts have gained a substantial following in Bermuda, the United States and the UK.

“I just posted about my FORGIVEN Tee on social media and people saw it either through sharing it on their Facebook page or posting pictures of themselves wearing it and tagging it,” she said.

“It’s visible and ‘out there’ and that’s where the message has been. I just posted a picture of the shirt and said ‘they’re available now’.

“What’s most meaningful is it resonated with people and they began to share their story and what it means to them and it further spreads the message to the world about God.

“It’s amazing to see what God is doing and how He’s moving.”

Rev Lashonna said the shirts served as a reminder to people of God’s loving and forgiving character.

They show people that “despite the choices we might have made in our past we can still be who God created us to be”, she said.

“Being forgiven means that no matter what we’ve done God has given us a fresh start,” Rev Lashonna said.

“For me it’s a reminder of God’s grace and mercy.

“Even after two abortions God showed me the love that He always had for me and wanted me to walk in my purpose and destiny.

“God has called me to be a preacher of the gospel and impact the lives of people. He has allowed me to see myself the way he sees me, no matter what other people say or think about me.

“In spite of what I have done God has given me another chance. He’s given that to all believers.”

She had her first abortion at the age of 17.

It was a heart-wrenching experience; she started crying even before going in to the procedure room.

“I asked God to forgive me and not to let me die on the table,” she said.

“I was in the clinic with my medical gown on. I was by myself. My parents weren’t there.

“I lied and told them I was going on a college tour and here I was getting the procedure done.”

Four years later she found herself in the same predicament.

“I was out for my 21st birthday and was attempting to take some shots and couldn’t do it,” she said.

“I thought ‘Not again, I can’t be pregnant’.

“The second procedure I was awake for and felt everything. I went back to my apartment after it happened and was in so much pain and needed God to help me and be there for me.

“That night I laid in my bed and cried out to Him again. What I love about God is that is when He spoke to me and said ‘You need to make changes in your life’.

“I was celibate from then up until the time I got married [to Mount Zion AME Church Pastor Jahkimmo Smith] in 2008. Once God forgives us that’s when we need to turn away from those things.”

Since then Rev Lashonna has seen her relationship with God mature thanks to prayer, journaling and her quiet times.

She’s discovered how to please Him, rather than working to please people.

“Often times in the past I would try to meet other people’s expectations or feel less than or unworthy and what I’ve learnt is I’m enough because God says so,” she said.

“Other people have put expectations and labels on us based on different things that happened to us and we often identify ourselves with that, but I’ve discovered that my identity is found in God — not in possessions or people or what people have said or think.

“I decided to live for Jesus Christ. At the end of the day I have to give an account to God, not everyone else in the grand scheme of things.”

Through her shirts she’s helping others to feel this same forgiveness, courage and freedom as well.

“People say they are encouraged by these shirts and inspired by the fact I’m living my truth.

“That’s helping them to be who they are and not front and try to be something else.

“They’re understanding that who they are is enough.”

• Visit for more details on the FORGIVEN Tees. They are available in men and women’s sizes, starting at $20