Smiths Share El Amor de Dios

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Do you know what the Spanish word amor means in English?  Or Dios?  Or even iglesia?  Greg and Sue Smith do.  Greg and Sue work with the Hispanic or Latino community both in Virginia and beyond Virginia, and they use the words amor (love), Dios (God), and iglesia (church) all the time.  They want all Latinos to know that God loves them, and that there are Baptist churches in Virginia who love and care for them, too.

Greg and Sue are missionaries with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship living in Virginia.  They also serve with the Virginia Baptist Mission Board as Latino Ministries Kingdom Advance Ambassadors, and help coordinate the Latino Network of Virginia Baptists.  Across the commonwealth of Virginia, Latino communities are growing at a fast pace, reaching 7% of the total state population.  Greg and Sue support local Latino pastors and churches in their efforts to reach the Latino community with the message of Jesus Christ and his love.  The primary goal of the Latino Network is to provide churches and leaders with opportunities for fellowship while offering training that helps them tell others about Jesus.  As people come to know Jesus, they also become members of churches that help them to grow in their faith.

Greg and Sue also lead a local Latino agency in Fredericksburg called LUCHA Ministries.  In Spanish, LUCHA means “Latinos Unidos por Cristo en Hermandad y Apoyo” (in English, this translates as “Latinos United through Christ in Solidarity and Support”).  The focus of LUCHA Ministries is to provide social and community outreach services to the Latino community in Jesus’ name.

But the word lucha is also a Spanish word that means “struggle.”   Greg and Sue understand that many Latinos struggle hard learning how to live and work in the United States and raise their families here.  They see Latinos struggling to work 2 and sometimes 3 jobs just to feed their families, or struggling to adapt to customs that they don’t understand, or struggling to teach their children to value both their new life in the United States and also the cultures that their families come from.  But they know above all that God walks alongside Latinos in their struggles because of his great love for all people. 

Dios es amor means “God is love.”  This is the message that all people, including Latinos, need to hear.  Do you know any Latinos where you live?  Can you tell them Dios es amor?  Can you also show them God’s love in the way you the way you live?

Story from Our Work

School has never been easy for Juan, and he really doesn’t like it very much.  He wonders many times if he’s just stupid, because he doesn’t read as well as the other kids in his class.  And while his mother would love to help him with his school work, she doesn’t speak English and doesn’t know how to read or write in either English or Spanish.  But Juan is thankful for people like Greg and Sue Smith in his life, caring adults who help him and his mother in many ways.  With their help, Juan found out that he has a learning disability that makes it much harder for him to learn to read than other kids.  Juan has just finished the 7th grade, and while school is still a struggle for him, he feels better about himself as he is finally getting extra help to improve his reading skills.

Last summer, Juan was able to go to camp with the Smiths as a part of LUCHA Ministries’ youth group.  At camp, he worked on a mission project in a poor, dangerous neighborhood that looked very much like the one where he lives.  His work team cleaned up an inner-city park in Boston so that it was a safe place for the neighborhood kids to play.  Juan and the other youth cut the grass and weeds, picked up trash and broken glass, and repaired and painted the playground equipment.

While Juan may not be the best student in his class, he has discovered that he is a good leader and that he enjoys helping other people.   He is particularly sympathetic for kids who have struggles in their lives like his, who do not have a dad as a role model, who do not speak English as their first language, and who are poor.  Juan is an example of how God can use each and every one of us to be a blessing to those around us, whether it’s in our own neighborhood or on a mission project somewhere else.