A Friend On A Mission
Tampa area missionary faces
challenges in Africa.
By Jeff Lukens
Many Americans focus on gaining ever more
money, power and status.
Once in a while, you come across one who
could have these treasures abundantly but chooses not to seek them.
Instead, he or she strives for a higher purpose in life. This is the story
of such a person.
About five years ago, I was traveling from
Valrico every Monday night to the Seminole Heights area for a Bible study
with about 100 other men. I had been doing this for a few years, and over
time I became treasurer of the group.
One night I was in front of the class
giving the treasurer's report, and I asked for a volunteer to be my
assistant. Jim Smith came forward.
After I explained the duties, I asked Jim
what he did for a living.
"I'm the finance and administration
pastor at a church in Brandon," he said.
This surprised me. I asked, "Why would
you want to be here with a group like us? You already know the
"I just want to be someplace where I
can be one of the guys," he said. "That's not always easy for
someone in ministry."
"I can understand that," I said,
and we quickly became good friends.
Jim always had a smile and a warm greeting.
As I got to know him, I could see he had an extremely sharp mind and a
very humble spirit.
He volunteered helpful bookkeeping tips
without comment or fanfare. His organizational skills were exceptional.
Over time, he revamped the treasurer's records far better than they had
ever been before.
He confided in me that he had once held a
dream job as assistant to the chief executive officer of a
well-established company. He traveled first-class around the world
overseeing the company's international market and military contracts.
But this line of work was not his calling.
He quit to go into the ministry at his church.
One night as we were doing our bookkeeping, the
conversation turned to a missionary family that had recently returned to
our area from a Muslim country. Members of the family had been injured in
an attack. I asked, "Why would anybody even go to such a dangerous
Jim just smiled and said, "They were
following where the Lord has led them."
I had trouble understanding or agreeing
with that reasoning.
"In fact," he continued,
"our family is praying about becoming missionaries. We are hoping to
go to Africa."
Like Christ, Like A Servant
For a person of his talents to do such a
thing was amazing to me. Such hardships weren't worth it as far as I could
tell. But Jim saw it differently.
Perhaps this is what the apostle Paul meant
in Romans about offering your body as a "living sacrifice." Paul
said we should be transformed by the "renewing of our mind" and
to "test and approve" what is God's "good, pleasing and
perfect will." The mind of Christ is like that of a servant, of
sacrifice and of yielding your life.
Missionary work certainly was a sacrifice.
Soon, Jim, his wife, Hope, and their four children began to travel the
United States in search of funding sponsorship for their ministry.
Their first of many visits to Africa was in
2003. Their decision on where to settle and the relocation process were
big steps in faith.
In September 2005, they moved to the
southern province of Zambia. A former British colony, the country is
primitive by American standards. Its principal industries are cattle
farming and copper mining.
Christianity is one of many religions.
In e-mails, Jim wrote: "The longer we
live here and observe the attitudes of the general population of the Tonga
people, the more amazed Hope and I grow over the tremendous sense of
contentment and personal gratitude most Tongas have. ... In some respects,
it's easier to live for and proclaim Christ here without the influences of
Valleys And Blessings
But life was not easy. Last June he wrote:
"Since April, we have endured several more bouts of malaria, two
simultaneous computer crashes, further financial challenges due to the
weakening dollar, emotional lows from being distanced from loved ones and
the everyday strain associated with living in Africa.
"Simultaneous to these valley moments
we experienced, we saw God answer countless prayers, save nearly two dozen
souls, baptize 14 new converts, expand our family's ministry outreach in
ways never anticipated, provide new friends for each of us and
supernaturally meet some critically urgent needs."
Each week Jim rides a motorcycle 40 to 60
minutes into the bush villages of Siankope and Chilongo, following paths
inaccessible by truck.
"These are the days I most feel most
like a missionary, taking the Gospel into an unreached area," he
On New Year's Day, Jim was motorcycling to
Chilongo, loaded with gifts and supplies. He lost control of the bike on a
muddy road and wrecked, severely breaking his leg. He lay on the side of
the road for 30 minutes before help arrived. A nearby hospital could only
set him in a temporary cast and give him morphine.
The next day he was driven five hours to
Lusaka, the capital city. He had to wait until the following day for
"Every move during this time was
excruciating," he wrote. X-rays revealed both bones in his lower leg
were broken in three places.
His recovery was long and slow. A few weeks
after the accident, he wrote, "Today, I've not taken a pain pill for
almost 12 hours ... and I'm not crying :)."
He often wondered how the sudden cessation
of his motorcycle ministry would better glorify God, he wrote.
He got his answer two weeks ago.
He and his family arrived for church and
found their translator, John Halupa, waiting for them. With him was a man
named Herbert. Halupa explained it was Herbert who had pulled the
motorcycle off Jim after the accident. The Samaritan was curious about the
"I could hardly sit still during the
church services," Jim wrote. He thought, "God, if you allowed my
accident so Herbert might accept your son, thank you for allowing it to
After services, he again thanked Herbert.
"But I was also able to introduce him
to the 'kindness' [everlasting love] that Jesus Christ demonstrated toward
him. … Herbert prayed in faith, confessed his condition before God and
invited Christ into his heart.
"Praise God for using a broken leg to
lovingly draw another to himself."
Jim Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the Siankope Village, Zambia, Jim Smith presents Samuel Muloongo his
first Bible. Also pictured are Samuel's wife Elana and child.