11 July 2017

My sermon, part 1: "Focused on Relationships; doing the will of the One who sent me"

This was my second time to speak at Crossroads Tabernacle in the Bronx, the church my daughter and son-in-law attend. I always look forward to worshiping there whenever I'm in New York City, as I have come to love the pastors and the congregation.

Below is the full text of my sermon from May 21st. I hope you'll enjoy it and perhaps you'll learn a few things you didn't know about me.




Good morning church.

It’s good to speak to all of you again. Speaking in front of a group of people is certainly not my favorite thing to do. However, I do appreciate the opportunity to intentionally put my thoughts into an organized format. I believe God has given me a message for you this morning and my prayer is that each one of you will take home a nugget of truth for your own life.

When I was here a few months ago, Pastor Joe asked me to speak about what my ‘relationship ministry’ looks like in Kenya.

Jesus said,
“I came down from heaven not to do my will, but to do the will of him who sent me.”
~ John 6:38

My ministry originates with God’s divine purpose and I serve for an audience of one. I live in Kenya, not to follow my own whim, but to accomplish the will of the one who sent me.


Living outside the box and my unwavering trust in God

I grew up in a Christian family, with a sister and a brother. We did a fair amount of camping in all corners of the US. Perhaps that’s where my love of traveling was birthed.

We attended a Christian and Missionary Alliance church. The denomination often says their middle name is ‘missionary’. I was riveted with the stories and slide shows of various missionaries who spoke at our church.

Sometimes they brought samples of strange food from foreign lands.

Despite all that, becoming a missionary and living in a foreign country on the other side of the world was never on my radar.

I married a black man in the mid-70’s… and to top it off, it was in middle-America. Needless to say, it was quite out of the ordinary! God blessed us with four children.

Living on 20 acres in rural Nebraska, we had chickens, ducks, geese, dogs, cats, and a rabbit… plus a big vegetable garden. There was a lot of space for the kids to play, plus a treehouse for adventurous imagination.

My husband was a railroad engineer, and I was a stay-at-home mom. We were on the forefront of the modern-day homeschooling movement. In fact, it was illegal in Nebraska the first three years we did it.

Just short of 12 years into the marriage, it sadly ended. My husband moved out of our home and later filed for divorce. The kids and I moved to Omaha in 1988, where I had grown up and where my family lived.

Meanwhile, I continued homeschooling. With no time to pursue a career, we lived on a dime, but we were happy and content.

Shortly after we found a church to attend, the five of us were hired to clean their rather large church building. Along with a couple paper routes, anonymous money orders in the mail, and complete faith in the Lord, we never lacked a thing.

In fact, we have many amazing stories of how God repeatedly provided for us through his people.

My life has been characterized by a steady walk with the Lord and obedience to his Word. I long ago placed my absolute and complete trust in his watch-care and provision for my children and me. I dare to believe what God says and I’m not afraid to live outside the box, to do something out of the ordinary.

A mixed-race marriage long before it was commonplace and homeschooling before it was legal, AND as a single mom are just two examples.

To be sure, God has proved himself faithful and I never cease to be amazed at his love for me.


A season of spiritual growth with an intentional posture of obedience

Oswald Chambers has had a huge influence on my life. This is one of my many favorite quotes of his, from My Utmost for His Highest


Let’s fast-forward to the approximate time frame of 1998-2000. My four children had grown up and were out on their own. My years of single-parenting after an unwanted divorce had basically come to an end.

During this time, I did remodeling and worked part-time at a new church. I also mentored two children in the public schools and led a few small groups for single parents.

It was a season of significant spiritual growth for me. I intensified my private and public worship and did a fair amount of fasting. I put myself in a receptive posture to hear from God.

It was within that atmosphere that I stood up one Sunday morning, riveted for the entire sermon. I knew God was speaking to me.

Even though I didn’t fully understand what he had in mind, I took the first step in faith by applying for a passport the very next day. It was May 2001.


Genesis 12: 1, 4 tells us -
“God told Abram, ‘Leave your country, your family, and your father’s home
for a land that I will show you. So, Abram left just as God said.” 

Eventually, and rather dramatically, God revealed that he wanted me to live in Kenya, East Africa. Like Abram, when I got the summons I did what God said. I went to Kenya not knowing at all what he had in mind.

God literally interrupted my life and set me on a new course.

Amos had a similar experience, found in Amos 7:14-15
“I never set out to be a preacher, never had plans for that. 
I raised cattle and I pruned trees. 
Then God took me off the farm and said, ‘Go preach to my people.’” 

You see… God has had me on this trajectory my whole life. It was his plan from the beginning for me to love my neighbor in the foreign land of Kenya… on the other side of the world.

In October 2001, a mere five months after I had applied for my passport, I joined two other ladies from my church for a one-month, short-term missions trip to Kenya. I assumed that after the end of that month, I would return to my ‘normal’ life.

However… God had other plans! In a remote rural village, as the sun set, I not only heard a distant traditional drum, I also heard the Holy Spirit. He very distinctly whispered these few words, “I want you to come back.”

Although quite unexpected, I received what God said.

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End of part one. Click here to see part two.

Click here to listen to the audio of my sermon.
Just scroll down to the title, Focused on Relationships | Deb Smith

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