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Rebecca Smith: finding the forgotten

Chris Pepple  | 

There is a toddler in Hong Kong named Hajari who needed someone to hold him as an infant. There’s a young mother in Nepal whose husband died of liver cancer. He left her alone with an infant boy. She has no means to support herself or her child. She needs hope. There’s a 9-year-old girl in a Harka, Nepal, orphanage named Soniya who is a jokester. She has a loud, honest laugh and wears her emotions on her sleeves. She needs to be heard.

These people are just a few of the lives that have been touched by the presence of Lipscomb alumna Rebecca Smith (’05). While serving in the Harka Self-Sustaining Orphanage Home this winter, Smith spent time with Soniya daily and writes, “By living with her emotions so loosely dangled around her neck, she allows herself to hurt more and get far too upset over simple things, but she also makes herself available to love with a strong, passionate, profound, even sarcastic language.”

As she travels the globe, Smith takes time to know the individuals she meets along her journey. She seeks out the hungry to offer food and the abandoned to tell them they are loved. When Smith graduated from Lipscomb with a major in English and a minor in German, she knew that she felt drawn to international travel and service. She hopes to pursue a master’s degree in conflict resolution next year and also continue to work with marginalized groups of people. Her career options are varied, but her goal is clear.

“Whatever I do in my career, I desire to pursue the interests of Christ and the prophets: justice and righteousness for all people, toward the poor in particular. I want to expose the beauty and worth of those people the world has forgotten,” said Smith. “The opportunity to be a big sister, guardian and friend to people who have been forgotten by society and/or circumstance has been one of life’s greatest gifts. Through my experiences, God has emphasized his calling of disciples as servants bent toward showing grace and open arms to children, the widow, the poor, those who suffer. This trip to Nepal, in particular, has made me think a great deal about the sustainability of relationships. It is one thing to serve and give to others (charity), and it is something else altogether to invest in those you are serving … maintaining, or sustaining, that investment of sacrifice and love.”

Smith knows no boundaries when it comes to service. She has traveled by plane, on foot and even on the back of an elephant across national boundaries to seek out a hand to hold, an infant to rock, a child to walk to school. Her latest work in Nepal sent her to a four-room orphanage that housed 22 people ranging from a 15-month-old baby to a 27-year-old house dad. The cramped quarters never slowed her down. She used every minute of her time there to sit quietly and hold the hands of young children, to read to them, to laugh with them, to show them adventures they had never experienced. She took time to serve as God’s eyes and ears, hands and feet. She learned to truly see and listen.

“I have come to the realization that to be a part of a global family, the community of humanity, one must become an observer working always to make very sense come alive to the pain, smiles, landscape, moments of absolute peace, and brokenness within a culture and within a person,” said Smith.

“I have been thinking about love and how it surpasses any definition or expectation. It exists in gathering those who have been forgotten by society and/or circumstance in one’s arms and showing them worth through tickles and kisses and cuddles. In those moments, I saw more clearly that love is more palpable in the ways these people who exist off of laughter, hide and seek, and rice so freely usher me into their family. Who am I to deserve such inclusion, such union? Ah, the paradox of grace continues to unravel its unexpected nature.”

Smith opens her arms and shares God’s love with so many people. She takes pictures of children who have never had anyone want to remember them before. She laughs with people who seem to have no reason for laughter and joy by this world’s standards. And with those people the world has forgotten to cherish and include, Smith finds their open arms reminding her that God’s love is in their midst.