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Mary Smith

Serving Tirelessly behind the scenes at Tenwek
"I found it was the safest place to be, being in the will of God"
By Rachel Elwood, Staff Writer, 2010

Second-career missionaries were uncommon in the 1950s, but that didn’t stop William “Hack” and Mary Smith, both in their 40s, from packing up their home in Alabama, leaving Hack’s successful construction company, and moving to a remote location in Kenya to help build Kenya Highlands Bible College in 1955.

“Those were the best years of my life,” Mary had said of her 14 years in Kenya.

Born in Aniston, Alabama, in 1912, Mary did not grow up in a Christian home. Despite never having heard about Jesus or having received any religious training, Mary always knew that she was hungry for something deeper, but she did not know what that was. Hack was also on his own spiritual journey toward discovering Jesus. In the process, the two met at church, became believers, and got married in 1931. They had a son named Fredrick and settled down to a comfortable life in Montgomery, Alabama.

Over 20 years later, Dr. C. P. Haggard, a WGM board member, met Hack and Mary and asked them if they would consider going to Kenya to help build a Bible college. Hack was immediately on board. Mary, however, took some convincing.

“My son, Fred, had just gotten married, and I wanted to stay home and interfere,” she laughed. “But the Lord got a hold of my heart, and I gradually became willing to go. I found it was the safest place to be, being in the will of God.”

While Hack helped to build KHBC and, later, Tenwek Hospital, Mary served tirelessly behind the scenes. Her grandmother had taught her to sew when she was a child, and she used those skills to sew clothing for Kenyan children and linens for the hospital.

After completing their time in Kenya, Hack and Mary moved to Honduras to serve at Escuela El Sembrador (School of the Sower). Mary embraced her role of “Auntie” to the dozens of boys at the school, and she took care of cooking and mending as well. In 1975, the Smiths moved back to the United States to help WGM build a new headquarters building in Marion, Indiana.

Still not ready to retire, Hack and Mary then went to McAllen, Texas, where Hack helped build a guesthouse and then to Sacramento, California, to serve at Fairhaven Retirement Center. Mary got to exercise her skills in sales when she took over running a thrift store.

In 1990, Hack and Mary moved to Oaks Village in Avon Park, Florida. Soon after, Hack was diagnosed with cancer, and he passed away in 1992. Mary turned to her faithful Savior for help in dealing with the loss. She clung to the promise in Psalm 4:8 (NIV): “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”

Even in her 90s, she was still involved in ministry in Kenya, sewing school dresses for Kenyan girls. She went to be with Jesus on July 25, 2010. World Gospel Mission joins with Mary’s family and friends all over the world who rejoice that she is now celebrating with her Lord and Savior. John 15:8 (NKJV) testifies of her life: “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”

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