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!
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!
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.
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 Days, Michael 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.
Things are getting real!This week we put our house on the market. Sandi and I will fly to Miami in two weeks to go house hunting. We have begun the official transition to Miami. We have stepped onto the transitional bridge and moved from being settled
to unsettled – chaos is coming very soon (see former post)!!
I’m in my last months with Perimeter Church’s church planting program. My supervisor, Bob Cargo, has graciously allowed me a large portion of my time to focus on fundraising. Our original prayer was to raise 80% of our moving budget by this May. God has answered our prayer by bringing in 92%!!We are so thankful for His provision! We only have $32K left to raise before we leave.
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.
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.
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!).
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!
I apologize that our communications have gone “dark” since April. The process of figuring out Miami has taken longer than expected. The past few months City-To-City has been making the transition of decentralizing from NYC, and Miami is now their hub for Latin America. We praise God that we now have clarity!
In the past few years when people asked us, “Where would you like to plant a church?” and many times we said: “Miami.” However, we didn’t have the connections from Peru to make a direct move to South Florida. So it took God moving us to Perimeter Church in Atlanta to get connected. About a year ago, my boss, Bob Cargo, convoked a meeting of key Latino leaders in the United States. It was there that I was connected to the Crossbridge team. The rest is now history.
We will stay in ATL one more year as I continue to be equipped by some of the best in church planting. Miami is a very hard city to plant a church and we will need many partners to survive. I’ll be in touch soon with more details.
We appreciate your past support amidst the many twists and turns from Peru until now. We could not have made it this far without you!
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Next week Sandi & I will travel to Miami for a one-week assessment to see if we are a good fit to plant in South Florida. If you remember from our last update, we were suppose to go in early March, but they moved the assessment to April. We are very thankful for Sandi’s parents driving all the way from Louisiana to take care of our girls in ATL.
The need for gospel centered, missional churches in Miami is huge. The challenge is also immense. I’ve been told by many that South FL is a graveyard of failed church plants. That’s why we are interested in partnering with Redeemer City-To-City as well as with Perimeter Church in ATL to form a solid support network. Next week is all about whether or not our family is up for the challenge to plant in the rocky soil of Miami.
This month I (Allen) turn 40. Reaching midlife has made me reflective. I can honestly say that in the next few weeks, Sandi and I will be making one of the biggest decisions of our adult lives. Just this week, I read an article by David Brooks in the NY Times on Middle-Aged turning points. Brooks quotes the theologian Karl Barth about reaching midlife:
“The sowing is behind, now it is time to reap. The run has been taken, now it is time to leap. Preparation has been made; now it is time for the venture of the work itself.”
We truly feel that our entire life up to this point has been preparing our family for something like Miami. From all the short-term mission trips I took as a child, to living in Guatemala post-college, to raising bi-lingual daughters in a Peruvian urban city for nearly a decade – we are ready to make the leap.
So please pray for us!There are 3 requests that I’m asking God:
For clarity about the Redeemer City-To-City partnership in Miami. Are we a good fit?
For confirmation in our hearts. Is God opening or closing the door for us in Miami?
For conviction. Is God calling us to Miami in a way that if we don’t go, we will be disobedient to his will?
We covet your prayers next week as we go through assessment.And we so appreciate your friendship and interest in our family as we make this life decision!
We’ve been in Atlanta for a little over two months. This is our first time to live in the suburbia. I thought that the suburbs were mainly a white-flight area, with repetitive model homes, and strip malls everywhere. Why much of that is true, what I didn’t expect to see is so much ethnic diversity.
My suburbia-stereotype was blown apart when I visited our bank last week. As I stood at the ATM, I noticed that I was the only white person among a Pakistan teller, an Afro-Caribbean family chatting in some creole dialect, a Latina señora making a deposit, and two Middle-Eastern women in hijab head-coverings. Wikipedia says that our county “is the most racially diverse county in the state of Georgia, and one of the most racially diverse counties in the country.” I thought of the suburbs as primarily white, but according to a recent study, almost 60 % of Pan-Asians, half of all Hispanics, and 40 % of African Americans live in suburbia. The cliché is half-true: “the nations have moved to the cities of America” – its probably more correct to say “to the American suburbs.”
I don’t know what all this means for our family’s future in church planting, but I’m praying that God would lead us to take advantage of this unique opportunity in American history. The need is tremendous! We’ll see where God leads.
Our biggest news this month is that we officially have our first teenager in the house. Abbie turned 13 on 9/2. I’m so grateful that God has entrusted us with such a caring, generous, missionary-minded daughter who truly loves Jesus and others. I wish I could be more like her in so many ways.
Sandi & I celebrated our 16th anniversary last month. We took the Marta Train to Decatur to enjoy a night out on the city as we reflected over our many adventures. I appreciate more every year what a special woman God has given me who continues to follow me no matter how difficult the change.
School is in full swing. The older girls love Perimeter Christian School. I’ve been impressed that they are learning much of what I learned in seminary. Their teachers truly view their job to equip our kids to enter pubic high school as gospel missionaries. Abbie & Adeline have also joined their school’s volleyball team and love it. Mary Allen is in an elementary school right down the street and has become an avid reader. And little Eva is still at home as Mom’s daily sidekick and turns five at the end of this month.
Future Church Plant. As I introduce myself at Perimeter as a Church Planting Intern, the next question is always: “So where are you going to plant?” To which I reply, “We don’t know yet.” Some follow with a question, “Where would you like to plant a church?” And I usually say, “Somewhere hot. Somewhere urban. And somewhere multicultural.” I’ve begun networking with key leaders to investigate where God might be leading us. We are anxious to find out our next steps, so please ask God to help us be patient for His timing.
Wisdom Developing Relationships. We have opportunities all around us. Many of our neighbors are unbelievers. Also, we are helping launch a new worship service at Perimeter, and we will be hosting a small group in our house. Also, our girls are in discipleship groups. Please pray that we’ll have wisdom in deepening relationships that will result in friendship that last longer than our internship.
Thank you for being our friends as we prepare for church planting.
This has officially been our longest summer of our lives. Since Peru is south of the equator, it’s seasons are opposite from the States. Summer in Peru begins in December and ends around April – the month we returned to the States. So, we have enjoyed 9 months of ongoing hot, sunny weather. We landed in a family lake house in Hot Springs, AR. While being back in Allen’s home state, it’s been jammed packed with family reunions, high school reunions, weddings, summer camps, cookouts, hiking, tubing, skiing, tons of Magic Springs, and many other American customs.
Back in March we asked you to pray for our girls that they would all get into the right grade. When our girls took the entry exam here in Hot Springs, we were wondering if our Peruvian schooling + a little English homeschooling combo would set our girls back a grade. Turns out that they all did very well and tested into the exact grades for which we were praying. God answered your prayers – thank you!
Now that school is in full swing, I plan on hitting the road this fall and visiting many of you and our supporting churches. My speaking & travel schedule thus far:
Oct. 19 – Trinity Grace, Rogers, AR
Nov. 2 – Christ Presbyterian, Oxford, MS
Nov. 19 – First Pres., Gulfport, MS
Dec. 7 – First Pres., Stamps, AR
Jan. 7 – Trinity Pres., Jackson, MS
Jan. 13 – Grace Presbytery meeting
Jan. 18 – Faith Pres., Clinton, LA
Jan. 25 – Pear Orchard Pres., Jackson, MS
Feb. 1 – Faith Pres., Brookhaven, MS
Feb. 8 – Tuscaloosa, AL
Feb. 15 – Christ Covenant, Hernando, MS & Memphis area
Feb. 18-22 – Dallas
later March – Central America, Guatemala
April 12 – First Pres., Aliceville, AL
If you would like for me to pay you a visit, please do not hesitate to email me or call me at 501-400-2202. I hope to see you soon!
We are only a few weeks away from returning to the States for our year furlough. We will land in Hot Springs, Arkansas on April 13. Right now we are busy in many areas: Allen is handing off his responsibilities to various leaders, Sandi is packing up our house, the girls are finishing up their school work and we have 8 plus “despedidas” (going away parties) to attend. Our Peruvian friends & mission team are sure making us feel loved!
Good Moment for Furlough
In the past two years, God has blessed the Cristo Rey Church. New members have joined the church, new leaders are being trained, new ministries have been formed, and we have a new location. Sunday worship now averages 92 each week. If the church continues to grow at our present rate, in just a few years, the church should become completely sustainable in both its funding & national leadership. It is a great relief to know that we are leaving Cristo Rey at such a good moment with such capable leaders!
Falling Behind on Supporters
One of my responsabilities as a missionary is to keep my supporters up-to-date on our financial state. After receiving our last month’s financial report, I discovered that we are at an all time financial low. Several churches are unable to continue supporting us this year, and on top of that, we have extra travel & moving expenses that come with going on furlough, placing our finances even further behind. It is good that we are going on furlough to raise more money.
You Can Help!
However, in the mean time, we need your help. We have already raised $5K in the last few weeks by simply making a few phone calls. If we could raise another $10K in the next month, would should be fine.Would you consider giving a one-time donation to help cover our financial downfall?Even if you can only give $25, it will help! Here are the two ways you can make a financial contribution:
You can send a check to the following address, with a memo note saying “Smith Family Support”:
Christian Missionary Society
P.O. Box 14563
Greenville, SC, 29610-4563
Formation of Peruvian Church Planting Team. Our hope is that through the Apprenticeship Program, God would form a church planting team. Please join us in prayer that this year God would confirm a Peruvian church planter and his church planting team.
Leadership Transition. Right now Allen is turning over all his responsibilities to other leaders. With change always comes tension and opportunity for conflict. Please pray that God would make these transitions smooth and promote greater national leadership.
Children Education. Upon arriving back to the States, please pray that our girls will be able to test into their appropriate grade for their age. They will take their entrance exam in late April. They are also nervous about fitting in & making new friends at their new school. Pray that God will provide great friends for each of them.
Financial Support. We are very thankful for your ongoing financial support. However we just found out that we are at an all time financial low. Several churches cannot continue to support us, and we have extra travel & moving costs in returning to the States. Please pray that we will be able to raise an addition $10K in the next several weeks.
With only several weeks left in 2013, we are finishing up our first year with the Apprenticeship Program. The goal of the Apprenticeship Program is to form a church planting team to be sent out in a few years. All three apprentices have grown in their knowledge of the Bible, deepened their walk with Jesus, and developed better leadership skills. Esdras told me that the program has really deepened his love for God and the church. I am very excited to see what God has done in such little time!
To see an introduction video to the Apprenticeship Program, click on the You Tube video above or go here .
Please pray that the future church planting team would continue to take form, deepen friendships, expand their vision, and development a more robust theology.
Our family is behind on financial support. Our prayer is that God would raise $14,000 by the end of this year to meet our annual budget. In the past, God has provided for our needs through unexpected gifts from many of you. We still depend on your support in order to be able to minister the gospel in Peru.
Support the Smiths
A one-time gift of $30 or $50 can go a long way! If you would like to contribute to our family, here are the ways you can give:
Our family SO enjoyed having the talented photojournalist, Jesse Abbott, in our home earlier this month. He came to Peru working with Silent Images, an incredible NPO that provides photography and videography services to other nonprofit organizations seeking to tell stories of hope in the midst of persecution, poverty, or oppression. These stories and images are used to educate people about global and domestic needs, empowering them to go, give, and pray. Before arriving in Trujillo, he and his videographer partner, Lydia, had shot a story on sex trafficking in the jungle and after he left our house he was off to cover a skateboarding ministry in Ecuador.
A BIG thanks to Silent Images for coming to Peru to serve us! And thanks for the fun family pics Jesse snapped of our family for the Peru Mission website.