A Beam of Light in a Jail Cell: Testimony of Captain Ann Hawk
In 2004, Ann Hawk sat alone in a jail cell for possession of meth. By this point in her young life, she was “not actively suicidal — but (I) didn’t want to live.” It was during that dark hour something came to her mind — a memory from when she was child. That image was like a shaft of light beaming in her darkest moment.
Ann self-describes her childhood and young adult life as “a hot mess.” Both her parents were alcoholics, and her father severely abused her mother. He finally abandoned the family when Ann was seven, and her mom remarried several times. One of Ann’s stepdads committed suicide. Little wonder, then, that by age 13 Ann was experimenting with alcohol, marijuana, psychedelic drugs; and later on, cocaine and meth.
“But God had His eye on me,” she says, and thanks to the Christian influence of her maternal grandmother, seeds were planted during Ann’s childhood that would one night literally and figuratively save her life.
“I was bullied a lot in school, and I lived in a small town where everybody knows everybody, and all their secrets,” Ann says.
Despite all this, Ann remained in school and even graduated college on the Dean’s List, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration (BBA) from Georgia Southern University. Continuing to function well only fueled her rationalization during her alcohol and drug abuse.
For years prior to 2004, Ann had many close calls with the law and was arrested numerous times—each time behind bars for no more than a week. She admits, “There hardly was a time I wasn’t ‘under the influence’ behind the wheel” of her car. She was even pulled over, but “my innocent looks, and smooth talk always got me off!”
Despite an excellent job after graduation, she just could not stop using.
“I hated my life. I experienced a lot of drama and had a lot to escape from!”
It all caught up to her one night at 3:00 a.m. with a knock on her door.
“It was the kind of knock that you just know, that must be the cops!”
The police were actually looking for a friend of Ann’s on the run from the law; but since she was on “intense probation,” the drugs they found in her house landed her in jail for possession of meth — this time for nearly three months.
It turns out, “God’s will for my life came as a knock on the door by the police.”
That extended stay behind bars became “the first time I was ‘clean’ since the age of thirteen!” With a clearer mind she began thinking more about God, and the gospel truths impressed on her through her grandmother by attending Sunday school, VBS, and Christian camps. She even remembered that at age seven, she was confirmed in her grandmother’s Methodist Church — and the Confirmation Bible she received that day.
“It was like a beam of light in that dark cell — the image of that little Bible!”
She still has that Bible. Upon her release from jail, she found it and took it with her to the halfway house she was assigned to for nine months as part of her parole. Ann took Isaiah 51:11 as the key verse for her recovery: “Those the LORD has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”
Ann landed a job at a Microtel motel just around the corner from the Atlanta Temple Corps. There, she discovered “Celebrate Recovery” and began attending. She also started ALPHA, which she describes as “a beginner’s Christianity 101 course.” Involvement in Temple Corps activities soon followed, and she was mentored by (then) corps officers, Lt. Colonels Allan & Fiona Hofer. She became a soldier in 2006.
In fact, the Hofers figure prominently in Ann’s spiritual walk: as her corps officers, then training principals, then divisional leaders in Arkansas-Oklahoma (AOK) as well as now in the Potomac Division, where she currently leads the corps in Front Royal, Virginia.
Captain Ann Hawk was commissioned in 2012 with the Friends Of Christ Session. She has served in corps appointments in the Carolinas, and two in the finance departments of Texas and AOK.
“I realized in that jail cell that I didn’t want to live that way anymore,” Captain Ann explains. “I did not want to wake up every day worrying if I was going to use. I knew God had something much better for me!”
Working through Trevecca Nazarene University, she is only five classes away from her goal of a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership. She has a heart for ministry among the homeless, “Although I was never homeless myself—there’s just something about helping desperate people in need!”
Hers is a brand-new life. “God led me to the Army,” she says. “The Army became my family; something I had lacked all my childhood. People ignored me until I met the Army!”
As she approaches 20 years of sobriety, Captain Ann no longer questions the “whys” of her unfortunate circumstances before the moment a shaft of light illuminated her psyche one dark night in jail. Her life is a sermon illustration. Her message to others “on the brink” is simple.
“God steps in and does something really amazing!”
— Major Frank Duracher