God’s Place

We are super excited to announce that I have taken a position with Bay Area Community Church!!



Bay Area is located in Annapolis – the capital of Maryland, home of the Naval Academy, and just 30 minutes from D.C. My main role will be equipping and coaching their 60 Missional Communities (like small groups) to become a missionary family of servant disciples. Bay Area has also invited me to help with their School of Biblical Leadership as well as help equip their residents-in-training for vocational ministry. I also get to be involved in their Sent Network that has already planted 17 churches in the Mid-Atlantic region. Honestly, this is my dream job working with amazing people at an amazing church!

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Back Story

I was told that finding a pastoral call might take 9-15 months. Thankfully we had enough money in the bank to be financially stable until the summer of 2019. So there was no pressure to find a job quickly. God, however, wanted to reveal our path quicker than we expected.
 

I was randomly connected to Bay Area through a headhunter. She thought we might be a good match, and connected me to Brian Hopper. I had an incredible phone interview with him. In fact, it felt like I was talking to an old friend. After my second interview, Brian and his team invited Sandi and me to visit Bay Area. So within a few weeks, we were packing our bags for a weekend visit.
 

Sandi and I had never been to Maryland before, so we were curious to see what it was like. From the time we landed, God began to show us his fingerprints everywhere. Sandi and I had prayed that we would be in a community where we felt completely ourselves, and be a family of true friends. That’s what we found at Bay Area! 
 

One of the questions I was asked that weekend was “How do you think God has prepared you for being the Pastor of Missional Communities at Bay Area?” I re-told the story of how I was lifting weights at the gym, listening to the vision talk given by their Senior Pastor, Greg. In the talk, he said that it was Bay Area’s vision for “everyone to be a missionary.” When I heard Pastor Greg say that, I threw up my bench-press, stood up and shouted, “Yes! That’s what God is calling me too: To help Bay Area train their missional communities to be a family of missionaries.” When I told this to the search team, one guy shouted “Yes! I think we need to applaud!”
 

The next morning, I went to breakfast with the chairman of the elders to see if we were theological compatible. I had written down all my questions, ready to talk doctrinal views. The elder looked over his glasses at me and said, “Allen, there is something you need to know about me. For several years, I served as the headmaster of a boarding school for missionary kids in Germany. It’s my understanding that you have moved your daughters several times since you’ve been back from Peru. So I have a question for you: How are your two older girls doing?” I was a puddle of tears before we could even talk about theology. His true shepherd’s heart was for the well-being of my high school missionary kids. Very few people would have that kind of perception for our third culture kids. I knew that I had found elders who would truly shepherd my family.
 

That afternoon, I met with the Senior Pastor, Greg, and his wife. Sandi and I found out that he and his wife had served in Poland for over a decade before moving to Annapolis. Our stories were so similar it was spooky! The craziest part is that I found out that my college pastor, Len Woods, led Greg to Christ years ago. Greg then told me, “the position you are applying for is a mission-critical position at our church. Our mission is ‘to make passionate, maturing followers of Christ’ and we want to do that in the context of Missional Communities. However, we are not doing that very well and we would like you to help us figure that out.” And that’s exactly what I wanted to do!

Here’s one more of God’s fingerprint during our visit. There are only 9 families in the world whose children grew up with our kids in Peru. One of those families now lives in Annapolis.  It’s been said that missionary kids are the only ones who truly get other missionary kids, so knowing that this family lives in Annapolis was an amazing blessing for our family. 


Sandi and I are fully convinced that God is calling our family to serve at Bay Area Community ChurchAnd I haven’t been this excited in a long, long time!

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Bay Area flew my family up to Annapolis to meet the church and look for a house. Our girls truly loved Bay Area Church and Annapolis!
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A must see exploring the city
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God’s Plan

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Sandi and I have spent the last few months seeking God’s will for our future in Miami. Through a multitude of events, we have come to the conclusion that God has released us from planting a church in Miami. Here are some highlights of what we have discovered:

Living as a cross-cultural missionary does funny things to your psyche. We’ve heard from others who have lived in other countries for extended amounts of time that they think that they can endure anything. We have had that mindset about Miami. We thought we could just push through and make things happen, however, we discovered our limitations through a series of situational changes. We have come to the realization that for the first time in our life, we have gone beyond our limits. “We are way in over our heads!” was our common thought. In all truth, Miami is much more different than we anticipated. We thought it would be more similar to Peru, but the only thing these two cultures have in common is Spanish. Now I am a firm believer that limits are God’s gift to us, to bless and guide us.

As we were pondering our future, I took our family to Key West for a quick Spring Break trip. Driving to Key West literally feels like you are driving to the end of the earth. So we went as far as we could go and ended up at the Southernmost point of the United States of America. As I stood there looking out over the ocean towards Cuba, I sensed that God brought me to the end of my road of church planting. At that moment, God released me from church planting in Miami. I immediately felt a relief and peace rush into my soul. Shortly after I recorded this short video with my family…

The only way forward was to turn around and go back the way we came – North. So that’s what we did.

I told my gospel coach about these new developments and he said, “Allen, let’s pull together some pastors and church planters and bring you and Sandi up to Atlanta and seek God’s will together.” So my family and I flew to Atlanta at the end of April. We had a refreshing time seeking out counsel and seeing old friends. After hearing our story and asking questions, everyone agreed that the best course of action was for me to resign from Crossbridge.

Through these series of events, God has made it clear that He has released us from planting a church in Miami. I have recently submitted my resignation letter to the elders of Crossbridge and informed most of our supporters.

What’s Next 

I’m leaving Miami with mixed feelings: sad to close this chapter and excited to see what God has in store for us. We plan on moving from Miami at the end of June. We’ll land in Hot Springs, Arkansas, where my dad has our lake  house all ready for us to move into. There, I’ll begin to look for a pastoral call.

Know that Sandi and I feel like we are in a good place and are at peace.  Despite the prospect of our third move since being back in the U.S.A., our girls are doing  great and are excited about spending their summer on Lake Hamilton.  I am super thankful for my adventurous and flexible wife and daughters!

Prayer Points

  • That God would allow us to finish well with Crossbridge.
  • That we would grieve well this loss and trust God for a new beginning.
  • That God would open a door for a new call.
  • That God would continue to protect us as we move again.

THANK YOU for your prayers and support. We are truly honored that you have joined us on this journey to Miami. There has not been one dull moment.

We’ll be sure to keep you posted as God unfolds our next chapter. In the meantime, I hope that our paths will cross.

Grace & peace,

Allen & the Smith Family

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Life On Life Missional Discipleship

This past weekend, three incredible families from Miami joined me at the Life-on-Life Discipleship Clinic in ATL to dream with me what it would look like to start with several discipleship groups. Let me put it this way: If you would have told me while I was in Atlanta that I would return with these people, I would not have believed you. You know God is at work by the quality of people with whom He surrounds you. In the future newsletters, I plan to introduce you to each one of these amazing families.

Jeff Dunbar was another huge highlight of our Discipleship Clinic (see picture below). Jeff is my Gospel Coach and we have done life for the past two years. God worked it out where he was also the coach for our group at the discipleship clinic. I had been telling my Miami people how Jeff is like a gospel ninja – an anointed pastor who can get to your heart in 3 minutes flat (all those who know Jeff, know that I’m not exaggerating). Jeff is someone you have to experience to understand, and everyone from Miami agreed. What a blessing for my two worlds to collide!

First Steps

Several have asked me when I am launching my church. And I’ve answered by saying that I want to start with the right people and the right focus. My desire is to weave multiplication into the fabric of our new church at every level: disciples who make disciples, leaders who equip leaders, community groups that send out community groups, and church that plant churches. Best practices have shown that if you start multiplying at the church level without having first multiplied at the smaller levels (disciples, leaders, and ministries), then you simply plant another worship service. That is why this first step of forming a gospel-centered discipleship culture is so crucial. It will take a little longer to launch a worship service but it will have a more solid foundation.

My hope is to form several discipleship groups by this Fall that will informally gather in one as a larger group at my house. After that, we’ll begin to plan for our worship launch, hopefully in 2019. Slower is faster! Going deeper now will enable us to go farther in the future.

Family Front

Here are some Smith family highlights and happenings…

Sandi & I had the treat of seeing Gary Campbell in Miami; a longtime family friend and president of the PCA’s Retirement & Benefits, Inc.

Eva and Mary have joined me on my travels back to the South as I visited supporting churches. On both trips, they have had the privilege of spend one-on-one time with their grandparents on their farm. They have been having a blast fishing, sewing, shooting, painting, riding in “the mule” and many other fun activities.

Recently, God gifted Adeline with a free trip to Washington D.C. with her 8th-grade class. Before she went, she asked me, “Dad, how can I glorify God with this gift? Should I preach the gospel?” To which I replied, “If God gives you an open door to share the good news, then of course! Preaching the gospel is not the only way you can glorify Him. I think by simply enjoying your trip will also glorify Him. He loves you dearly!” That was a tear-jerking conversation!

Prayer Points

  1. Please pray that God would form a solid, leadership team as we take steps together in starting an Ignition Group – a catalytic group to form more discipleship groups.
  2. Please pray for me to have opportunities to share the gospel and make disciples here in Miami.
  3. Finally, please continue to pray that God would lead me to a target area in Miami. Please pray is that God would give me clarity. The way I’m seeking clarity is through the receptivity of the lost and future leaders who willing to follow me as I follow Christ.

May God bless you richly as you trust Him for your future and wait on him in the present to supply you with the riches of his grace in Jesus Christ.

Allen Smith & Family

Dodging Irma

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Everyone in South Florida immediately tensed up when we caught wind that Category 5 Irma was headed straight for Miami. You could feel the hysteria in the air. Everyone started making gas runs all over the city. Then it dawned on me that our rental house did not have hurricane shutters. My best friend – who had just gone through Harvey – called to warn me to get out of South Florida as soon as possible. I wanted to stay, but I knew in my gut that I needed to evacuate my family.

The next morning we woke up at 4:30 am to evacuate to Atlanta. It was a long 13 hour day of driving. As we rolled into South Atlanta, a beautiful African American elderly lady, saw our FL plate and extra gas cans, rolled down her window and said, “Welcome to Atlanta, we’ve been praying for you!” We all teared up with her expression of love.

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God used Irma as a mini “hurrication” for our family. We welcomed the fall weather, after fleeing the Miami heat. Our older girls stayed with their friends the entire time – we barely saw them for a week! Gary & Holly Campbell graciously allowed us to evacuate to their home and took great care of us.

Sandi and the girls were refreshed by worshipping with our Perimeter family. I even had the privilege of attending the particularization service of Christos Community Church, which is now the first multicultural, PCA church planted by a Hispanic pastor (Rev. Alex Villasana). It was a joyous morning!

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Christos Church voting to become a particularized (local) church.

After the storm had made it through FL, we said our goodbyes and began our trek back South. From Atlanta to Orlando was the worst part of our travels. When we left Atlanta last Tuesday, my GPS said our ETA would be 4:30 pm. I began to think, “Great, we’ll have time to relax by the pool at our Orlando hotel and eat dinner somewhere.” Well, my dream of sitting by the pool died when I-10 merged with I-75 southbound. The rest of the way was like a slow-moving parking lot averaging between 30 mph. Gasoline was hard to find. Most restaurants were closed. We rolled into Orlando at 11:30 pm. Thankfully, we had no problems as Waze detoured us around one accident after another, weaving around fallen trees on back roads. We finally arrived back home in Miami on Wednesday after Irma made landfall.

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Almost all our trees fell, and thankfully none landed on our home. Our once full Mango tree is damaged but not down. And that’s how most of Miami feels right now. As one mayor put it: “We didn’t dodge a bullet but a canon.” God had mercy on our city!

MangoTreeAlthough we’ve been in Miami for only a few months, I can honestly say that it is one of the most divided cities I have ever lived in. Many Miamians have said the same. My main prayer request is that God would use post-Irma to open doors that were once shut. We are already experiencing this by getting to know our neighbors. One, in particular, had our house key, called every day and took care of our home while we were gone. We are so thankful!! Please pray with me that God would open many doors and form many new friends in the post-Irma cleanup.

Thank you for all your messages of prayer and concern. We are so thankful for your friendship!

 

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The restoration begins.

 

 

Heavenly Mango Manna

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Photo credit: Hamza B

We arrived at our new house in Miami in the middle of mango season. All the ducks on our little lake had congregated in our backyard to feast from this heavenly honey fruit. After shooing them away, we began to collect about 8 mangos a day.  We had mangos for breakfast, mangos for lunch, and mangos for dinner. Mary devoured mangos as she read book after book. The best part, we got to share our mangos with our new neighbors: a three generation Cuban family to the right and a Colombian family to the left. It was like God had given us mango-manna from heaven not only to live off of but to share with our new friends.

It’s been said that only God can plant the church. Arriving at our new home ladened with mangos showed us that God had already gone ahead of us. Yes, I’ll have to plant and water the seed, but only God gives the growth (1 Cor. 3:7). I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of harvest God might have in store for us in Miami!

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Finishing at Perimeter

It is true that God only causes the growth, but it is also true that God trains the farmer. I feel so blessed to have sharpened my ax at Perimeter these last two years. Bob Cargo and my cohort have been perfect for my preparation. It was amazing to do life with Sam Kang (2nd Gen Korean), Jorge Romero (Colombian), and Dereko Robinson (African- American). I learned so much from each person’s cultural perspective. I will truly miss our times together!

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Starting with Crossbridge Church

It has been a dream to come on board with Crossbridge Church in Miami. Lead Pastor Felipe Assis and his team have been very welcoming to our family. They have given me a year to transition to Miami and learn the city. I’ve been partnered with Carter Brown and his Crossbridge campus in downtown Brickell to learn the Crossbridge and the dynamics in Miami church planting. Brickell is like the Manhatten of Miami; the financial district filled with millennials. In the meantime, I’ll continue to investigate strategic areas of the city to see where God wants us to plant a new church.

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Fourth of July Crossbridge Staff Party (Pinecrest & Key Biscayne)

Prayer Points

  • Praise God for allowing us to reach our moving goal! All of the money came in just as we were literally pulling away from Atlanta to cover our moving expenses. Thank you very much for responding. We would not be here if it were not for you!
  • A good start with Crossbridge Church.  In his helpful book, The First 90 DaysMichael Watkins says, “the actions you take during your first few months in a new role will largely determine whether you will succeed or fail.” Please pray that I would make a good first impression with our new team, learn their working culture, and become a trusted worker and asset.
  • Gospel conversions. A Cuban friend told me recently, “Miami is a very spiritual city, it just has the wrong spirituality.” I’m finding that people are very open to discuss spiritual matters and are very honest about believing in God but not being in church. As I talk to people, please pray that God would open doors to talk about the gospel. Pray that God would direct my steps and I would be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading. And join me in prayer that I would see an early harvest of 3 to 5 disciples within the first few months of living in Miami.
  • New friends. Our family at every level had vibrant relationships in Atlanta. Now, we know no one where we live. This has been the hardest part of moving to Miami by far! There have been moments where several in our family have felt an intense sense of isolation and sadness. It reminds us that we were not made to be alone and that we are pilgrims on this earth longing for our true home. Please pray that God would allow us to form a new community of friends and that we would be patient in the process.
  • God’s leading in learning the city. As I drive through Miami, I have noticed how few church buildings there are. It is overwhelming how much need is here, and it is daunting to narrow down our focus to a section of town. I have researched Doral this past year, and I plan on continuing to do so. I also see a huge need in West Kendall, where we presently live. And I’ve been told that there is an opportunity in Miami Shores. My prayer is that God would lead us to where He wants us to plant by the end of this year.

We truly need your prayers.

Thank you for joining us to Miami!

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Seldom Early, Never Late

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God is seldom early, but never late” (Mother Teresa).

This has been our experience this past month! We would like to rejoice with you by sharing how God has answered our prayers in three big ways:

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1. Selling our House  

When we moved to Atlanta two years ago, Sandi and I had zero equity – a common reality of missionary life. We knew it would be risky to buy a home for just two years. With the counsel of our incredible realtor, Steve Ostenson, he helped us find a great house in the perfect location. [A neat fact about Steve is that he grew up in Miami; his father was the former pastor of Grenada Presbyterian Church, Coral Gabels.] I told Steve to find us a house he could sell in two years. And I asked God, “May we simply break even.” But God had other plans.

The day after we put our house on the market, it went into a bidding war. It was under contract in just 48 hours! The market value of our house had increased by 20%. God went far beyond our expectations! Now we have enough money for a down payment on a future house in Miami.

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2. Finding a School

In moving to Miami, a big stressor has been trying to figure out schooling. The mere logistics felt overwhelming of trying to figure out the car pool situation for a high schooler, a middle schooler, and two in elementary. On top of that, trying to find three schools in the same district with decent ratings was extremely complicated.

So we prayed, as did many of you. Jesse Carbo, one of the Crossbridge pastors, told us about Florida Christian School (FCS) – a great K-12 school in the heart of Miami. A highly esteemed Perimeter School teacher had also recommended FCS to us. Jesse mentioned that FCS loved helping pastors’ families and that we should check it out. So we did.

Sandi began the application process. We drove the girls down for testing and paid a large enrollment fee with no guarantee that our girls would be accepted. But in God’s grace, just a few days before we flew to Miami to house hunt, we received good news: all four girls had been accepted AND offered very generous financial aid. God had provided! We flew to Miami without having to worry about school zones as we looked for a house. God is seldom early, but never late.

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3. Finding a New Home 

A final big answer to prayer was finding a house to rent. Before we went house hunting, I asked each daughter what they wanted in a house. One said she wanted a pink house and another wanted a mango tree. And in vintage God fashion, He not only provides us our needs but gives us more than we need or ask. Although we didn’t lease a pink house (we saw several in Miami!), we did land a great house with a mango tree in the backyard. God loves providing superabundantly!

For those who know Miami, our house is in West Kendall. And if you come visit us, we’ll be sure to serve you some fresh mangos 🍊 🙂

PRAYER POINTS

Here are some ways you can pray for us in the next few weeks.

  • Moving. Right after we close on our house in Atlanta on June 23, we’ll jump in our car and move to Miami. Please pray that we would extend grace to one other as we pack our house. My prayer is that though we will be sad saying goodbye to our Atlanta friends, that we would also laugh and have fun as we move.
  • Fundraising. Since our last update, we have inched up two percentage points. We are now at 94% of our moving budget. We only lack $23K! Our move alone will cost around $10K. Please pray that we would be able to raise 100% before our move date. If you’d like to give, go to the “donate now” page above.☝🏻
  • Open Doors. I am so excited to explore Miami and make new friends. Please pray Colossians 4:3 for us, “that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ.”

Thank you very much for praying for us!

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Family Update & Prayer Points

 

On the Family Front

Abbie and Addi have just finished a great track & field season. The amazing thing is their team won first overall in the State of Georgia! This is the first time in the history of their school that any sport has won State. I’m so proud of my girls for their hard work and persevering through a grueling season.

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Mary has blossomed in leading kids in worship at Perimeter’s KidsQuest. Brent, Adrienne, Cheryl, and the Impact Arts staff have inspired and invested in Mary to bring out her singing potential. Not many can sing in front of others and worship God at the same time. Mary’s expressive and calm confidence is contagious.

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Eva is ready to start packing! She is such the planner, that she has already mapped out the rest of her life and ours too (at least she would like to!).

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Prayer Points

  • Selling our home in Atlanta. The housing market in Miami is almost twice as expensive as Atlanta. Please pray that we will have a good return on our house, so we might have a good down payment on our future home in Miami.
  • Finding a new home. As I mentioned above, Sandi and I are looking for houses in two weeks. Since we are not 100% sure where we will plant a church, we will first rent. Our challenge is not only to find the right house that meets certain specs but also to find the right area to plant. The Crossbridge team has helped us narrow down to two potential areas of the city (Doral & West Kendall). Please pray that God would lead us not only to the right house but also to the right area of Miami where He wants us to begin a new work.
  • Raising the remaining 8% of our moving budget. We only have $32K left to raise! Several churches and individuals have expressed interest in joining us to Miami. Please pray that God would provide our remaining need and prompt many to begin giving before we move this summer.
We’re so thankful that you are following us to Miami!

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