It’s rare that you meet a man like Kim Smith who quite literally stepped into the unknown in obedience to God's call on his life. He arrived in Liberia nine years ago and began by walking from village to village sharing the Gospel.
Story by Sarah Newnham. Photos by Mark and Kelly Hewes
His organisation Wordsower Liberia, is based in Zwedru, SE Liberia. 'We call ourselves Wordsower Liberia because we're sowing the word of God. And I love the name as that's what we do,' he shares enthusiastically.
'I never went with a denomination or a church board. The Lord just said to show up. I was a high school teacher, completely untrained, and I think the Lord likes that sometimes. He says, "Show up, I'll take care of the rest", and He has.'
'We call ourselves Wordsower Liberia because we're sowing the word of God.' Kim Smith
Indeed, as we sat with Kim under the shade of the eucalyptus trees which whispered with the sounds of the afternoon breeze he had us enthralled with stories of God's miraculous provision for his ministry and testimonies of lives that have been transformed. Stories of men who committed heinous crimes during the war, were addicted to drugs and alcohol, whose lives have been changed by the Gospel and are now discipling others.
Kim’s face lights up and he comes alive as he shares the thrill of being involved in what God is doing in rural areas of Liberia.
Print shop and bookstore
There are thousands of villages in rural Liberia. Many don’t have churches and most of the pastors are not trained.
'When I first was going back into the villages, the only printed literature I'd ever see was Jehovah's Witness Watchtower. It broke my heart and I believe it broke God’s heart too.
'So God provided a printing shop, a whole print shop, with which we can print 40,000 pages a day. It was not my planning, but God spoke to several donors who donated the equipment, paid for shipping and it all came together in a way I could not have orchestrated if I had tried.
'The print shop has allowed us to print Bible teaching materials and deliver them to thirteen counties across the country.'
'In the southeast there are no Christian bookstores, so we sell concordances, study materials and different translations of the scripture all at cost price. Literacy rates in Liberia are very low so we give out audio Bibles in the dialect.'
It’s a strange juxtaposition of cultures. One can walk into a village and be surrounded by thatched roofs on mud huts and a man will walk out with a cell phone. We can put the Bible in their dialect, teaching material and music onto micro SD cards, so even a person who is unable to read can access all this teaching via their cell phone.
He has also started a Bible school. When Kim and his team visit villages they invite pastors and believers to come and spend two weeks training at the Bible school. The training takes place at four different levels; basic doctrines, discipleship, church and church planting and finally being a missionary. 'We're praying that one day this will be a base from which we send missionaries to unreached people groups,' shares Kim.
'When I first came, we walked from village to village. And now we're up to 10 motorbikes and we have 60 disciples. They travel for a day to two weeks, visiting between sixty and one hundred villages a month. They'll go from village to village evangelising, discipling, church planting. In the churches they find, they will help by giving them teaching material. We've probably put out 200,000 Bibles throughout these villages that didn't have Bibles.'
With a passion for seeing the lives of people improved physically as well as sharing the Gospel, Kim has looked for other areas where Wordsower can make a difference.
'We can put the Bible in their dialect, teaching material and music onto micro SD cards, so even a person who is unable to read can access all this teaching via their cell phone.' Kim Smith
'We've got a couple of men who have completed the Bible school training, that we have been able to train in basic dentistry. With no other dental clinics for hundreds of miles, there are plenty of people that are suffering from toothache and in need of basic dental care. The dentists are kept busy with people coming for safe extractions at a fraction of the cost it would be if they travelled to the nearest big town.
'The plan is that we're going to send them into the unreached people groups. Because they're dentists they can be self-supporting. There's not a village around that doesn't need a dentist.'
'Do you know that the biggest killer in Liberia is malaria and treatment for malaria costs 75 cents (58p in UK money). Think about that for a minute. Seventy-five cents will save a life. So when we travel to villages we take malaria treatment with us that we can give out.'
'The second biggest killer is dirty water. Many people in these small villages are drinking dirty water. Water you wouldn't want to walk in; black, murky water. We have teams going into the villages putting in Sawyer water filters. These filters last a lifetime and they never need chemicals. So far we've put them in over a thousand homes. That's just an expression of God's love. We give them the living water, but we also give them water to sustain life.'
'When I first came, there were no planes flying around. MAF wasn't here. So we'd have to take the road all the time. On one occasion, I bought a brand new computer. I kept that computer on my lap from the United States to Zwedru and when I got here, the case was cracked. It had been sitting on my lap the whole time. That's how bad the road is!'
'Flying is heaven and the roads are hell,' Kim laughs. 'Commonly it takes 20-30 hours to go 300 miles. If the roads are flooded it can take a week, and our belongings are destroyed. MAF comes regularly and they fly in our supplies.They flew in our print shop. We fly from Monrovia in an hour and our equipment arrives without getting damaged. It’s very helpful and we appreciate it.'
'MAF, thank you. You've helped us many times, and I appreciate it. You're given by God, and you are sacrificing and suffering, that the word of God can continue to spread in the hardest of areas.'
'Flying is heaven and the roads are hell! It takes 20-30 hours to go 300 miles. MAF, thank you. You've helped us many times.’ Kim Smith