Abby Smith thought she had her life figured out, until she felt a restless urge to go to seminary at the Anderson University School of Theology. After an internship opportunity in Colombia, she realized her true calling was to serve Christ by serving people in other cultures. Her previous dream of becoming a lawyer was changed and her life of service unfolded.
Smith, a 2009 graduate of the School of Theology, is just one of the 735 women listed in the 2010 Church of God Yearbook with formal ministry titles in the Church of God. These women include 141 associate pastors, 151 associate ministers, 146 senior or primary pastors, 31 youth pastors, 39 involved in music ministry, with the remaining 227 women focusing on other ministries such as outreach, pastoral care, evangelism and administration.
Many specific events in Smith’s life led her to where she is today in full-time ministry. After attending a language school in Venezuela in 2004, she felt called to Latin America. Why or how this would play out she didn’t know, but in God’s perfect timing all the pieces would come together. Later, she visited family friends in Colombia for a short time to experience the culture. With the guidance of her father, a pastor in the Church of God, she ended up attending the School of Theology, where she earned a Master of Arts in Intercultural Service degree.
During her time at AU, Smith fell in love with the community. “My professors seemed like they genuinely cared to invest in our ministry and really wanted to see us do well in both academia and ministry,” said Smith. “I feel like their investment was a big part of me being willing to step forward and go the missions route.”
A family friend, Regional Director of Latin America Dave Miller, knew Smith was attending the School of Theology and recruited her to do an internship in Colombia. “He said, ‘We would really like to get some things going in Colombia in the future. Since you’ve been there I would feel comfortable sending you, would you mind going?’” Smith recalled. After a lot of thought and prayer, Smith packed her bags. “It was during the internship that I just knew that God had called me to go back to Colombia,” she said.
Smith returned to Colombia in April for a two-year commitment. Her assignment will be working with Church of God congregations to help establish new ministries to urban poor and displaced families. The vision for this new ministry is to include the Colombians in every aspect so they “decide on it, build it, fund it and sustain it.” This ministry focuses on the Colombians’ definition of what is needed, and it is very important that they take ownership of the ministry, Smith said.
During her time in Colombia, Smith will be visiting other organizations, including a Mennonite church where she had her first connections with urban poor and displaced families, orphanages, and feeding programs to gain ideas for her new ministry role.
Since its inception in 1950, the School of Theology has supported women in ministry. The average enrollment of women at the seminary has increased by 40 percent over the last five years. The school’s mission is to form women and men for the ministry of biblical reconciliation.
—Lydia Smith is a senior from Indianapolis, Ind., majoring in communication arts and minoring in peace and conflict transformation. Smith is an associate with Fifth Street Communications, writing on behalf of the Anderson University Office of University Communications.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2009, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the sixth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.