Edva Smith declares it’s a new day

Photos by Marie Thomas. Makeup by Jonee Blair.

Edva Smith has encountered several extreme challenges in her 46 years, some so stressful and dark that many people would have been defeated by them. Not only has she met every challenge with determination, Edva has never given up, and has built a life for herself and her children that is full of joy, faith in God and is committed to making a positive difference in her community.

Born in San Paulo, Brazil, Edva grew up in a strict, religious family. Her life revolved around church and school, and she had little exposure to the world outside her small neighborhood. Church and cultural teachings dictated very confined roles for women — clean, cook, take care of children and always be submissive to men.  

Even at a young age, Edva had big dreams. She never accepted the limitations placed on women, and felt God gave women talents and gifts to make real contributions to the world. A caring person, Edva saw the poverty around her and did what she could, including helping care for an elderly woman in her neighborhood.

When she was 16, Edva met a man twice her age, who was worldly and charming and captivated her with his knowledge of music, art, movies and the outside world. Smothered by the teachings of her church that viewed many activities like watching TV or listening to music as “sin,” Edva was drawn to this seemingly sophisticated man. After six months of dating, they married. Edva began working right away in her husband’s family business.

“I became the family’s little slave,” Edva recalls. “We worked with all kinds of animals. I worked hard all day, cleaning up after animals and then would go home and cook, clean and be a wife.”  

The domestic abuse began when her husband started berating her for not being able to cook as well as his mother. Soon the yelling escalated to physical abuse and then cheating with different women.

Edva and Gabe enjoy the Italian waterway

“He even brought women into our own home,” remembers Edva. “If I said anything, he would hit me.”  Her husband played indoor soccer and required Edva to wash and iron the uniforms for the entire team before each practice and game.

Displeased when he learned Edva was pregnant, her husband pushed her down the stairs. She lost the baby from the fall and was bleeding and in pain for several days but was not allowed to seek medical attention. When her mother came to check on her, Edva made light of her injuries, indicating the fall was an accident. She knew if she told her mom and dad what was going on, the abuse would get worse, and her husband might even harm her parents. Although her mom suspected something was not right, Edva instructed her not to get involved.

The abuse continued. Edva got pregnant again, this time with her daughter, Karla. During this period in her life, Edva became very disillusioned with God.

“I thought God could change anything and everything, but He did not change my husband,” Edva says. “I realized later that God will only change those who want to be changed!”

Because of a banking crisis in Brazil, Edva’s husband withdrew money from his bank account and kept a large amount of cash at the cabin. This was well known by friends and associates with the soccer team, and Edva worried the money could be stolen. She hid it carefully in the cabin. One day when she was there alone, two men came to the cabin with a gun and a knife, demanding beer and money. Although they tore up the cabin and stole an elaborate stereo system and TV, they could not find the money. Edva considers it a miracle from God that she was not killed during this violent encounter.

The abuse escalated during Edva’s pregnancy because her husband still did not want a baby. When she was seven months pregnant, Edva went to visit her mother-in-law, who lived next door, when they both heard a loud noise coming from her home. When they reached the house to check on the noise, they found Edva’s husband lying on the floor with a gunshot wound. He was rushed to the hospital where he later died, murdered by an unknown assailant.

At the age of 18, after enduring extreme abuse and violence, Edva hoped her life would begin anew. Her baby was born, but she stayed secluded at home, suffering from extreme depression, and depending on her former husband’s family for food and support. Later she moved back into her family’s home and got involved with another, more nurturing church where she began to sing as part of the worship team. Because of an interaction with an American missionary group visiting her church, she dreamed of starting a new life in the United States, and the missionaries helped move her and her daughter, Karla, to California.

Eva’s dear friend, “Mima” impacted Edva’s life greatly and passed away in September of this year.

When visiting a local church in California, Edva, sat in front of a couple, Maria and Allen Broer, who heard her singing during the service and complimented her on her singing voice. They asked her if she had any needs they could pray about for her. Edva told them she needed a job. Maria, who worked for Delta Airlines, encouraged her to apply, and Edva landed a job with Delta that eventually led her to Georgia. She enjoyed working with Delta for 6 and a half years. During this time, she married again and had two children, another daughter, Cheryl, and a son, Gabriel.  

Furthering her education and her career opportunities became a passionate goal for Edva. While fluent in Portuguese and Spanish, she needed to elevate her proficiency in English and began taking ESL and GED classes at Griffin Tech (now known as Southern Crescent Technical College). An interest in law enforcement and helping crime victims then led her to pursue an associate degree in Criminal Justice at the Griffin campus. While there, Edva received the President’s Award of Excellence in 2003, and the Outstanding Student in the Field of Criminal Justice Technology Award in 2005. She graduated with honors from Southern Crescent Technical College and then enrolled at the Police Academy in Fulton County.  In 2007, Edva completed a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Organizational Leadership from Mercer University. In 2010, she completed certification to become a Certified Fraud Examiner.

Edva has worked in numerous law enforcement positions —as an investigator with the DeKalb County Solicitor-General’s Office, as a criminal and administrative investigator with Georgia Secretary of State, and as a quality assurance investigator with Georgia Department of Public Health. After a short stint in the private sector as an investigative forensic analyst to monitor and locate stolen computers, Edva returned to work for the state of Georgia. She currently works for the Georgia Composite Medical Board as a medical board agent, investigating physician misconduct, including the over-prescribing of pain medications and other controlled substances. She coordinates her efforts working with other federal agencies.

My mom is the most dedicated person I’ve ever seen. In all my years, never have I encountered someone who has worked so hard and persevered through unbelievable obstacles with the drive that she has. I admire her strength. I know I wouldn’t have achieved what she did, especially facing the suffering she did along the way. However, her strength and perseverance has been an example. My mom is the strongest person I know. She’s been through things that would bring many to their knees…Instead of giving into temporary relief from suffering, she just pushed through and came out on top. She just doesn’t give up. – Karla Smith, daughter of Edva Smith (age 26)

After 11 and half years of marriage, Edva and her husband divorced, and she is now a single mom, devoted to her three remarkable children, while advancing in each career opportunity. She is quick to point out that her husband was wonderful and not abusive, but they had a difficult time understanding each other.

“My abusive past made me cautious and scared, and I really did not know how to fix it,” recalls Edva. Her husband did not understand what she had been through or how certain situations could “trigger” a fearful response. Edva realizes now that counseling would have been the best option for them as a couple. She now cautions other women who are coming out of an abusive relationship to get counseling and give themselves time to heal before jumping into a new relationship.

A resident of Peachtree City for the past 19 years, Edva’s greatest joy is watching her children grow up, and she is grateful for their support during her years of pursuing educational degrees and advancing her career.

“I am so blessed and proud of my children. In order for me to succeed, I had to study and it often took away time from them. I could not have succeeded without their love and belief in my success.”

Edva enjoys biking, walking on the cart paths and traveling with her two younger children, Cheryl and Gabriel. Recently they took a trip to Italy, and her next goal is to take the children to Greece.  Every other Sunday, Edva attends Southside Church in Peachtree City where she serves as a greeter to welcome new people to the church. On the other Sundays, she attends a Brazilian church in Marietta where she sings as part of the worship team.

Recently Edva started a support group for victims of domestic violence called “Living Free…Love Shouldn’t Hurt.”

“If I can help just one person and keep them from further abuse, it will be worth it,” acknowledges Edva. Meetings are held the third Tuesday of each month at the Bridge Community Center, 225 Willowbend Rd., in Peachtree City, 6 – 8 p.m. For additional information, call: 770-487-8133, ext. 2003.

When asked what her experiences have taught her, Edva replied, “Within all the darkness, my faith in God carried me through. Always have goals to keep you going in the right direction, and being part of a support group is very important. Education is your best tool for advancement. Always have a positive attitude, take responsibility for your own mistakes, believe in yourself and never give up, no matter what!”

“Today is a new day, so stop thinking about all the things you cannot do, and think about all the things you can do. My life is good but I am not done chasing my dreams!”

Bonnie Helander

I am a writer and blogger with a specialty in gardening and a proud graduate of the University Of Georgia. I live in Peachtree City with husband, Dan, and enjoy hiking, gardening, being a member of the Peachtree City Garden Club and rooting for the Georgia Bulldogs!