Charlie Smith was a man known for his vision, love, Cajun cooking, heart for the marginalized, and perhaps most of all for his spirit of giving.
Born in Louisiana, Charlie graduated from Louisiana Tech. He and his wife Karen, a nurse, joined the Peace Corps and spent two years in Malaysia. Later he pursued a PHD in Applied Anthropology at the University of Kentucky, then taught sociology and anthropology at Warner Southern College (now Warner University) in Florida.
Charlie was known for his visionary spirit. His great thrill in life was translating vision into reality. His first vision with worldwide implications was for a simulated third world village to train missionaries. This dream became the H.E.A.R.T. (Hunger, Education And Resources Training) Institute. Hundreds of students and missionaries have prepared themselves on this acreage adjacent to Warner University in Lake Wales, Florida. Noted sociologist Tony Campolo says, “No college in the country has anything to compare with the brilliant vision of H.E.A.R.T.”
In 1988, working for Mercy Corps International in the Honduran village of San Isidro, he imagined a new a ministry to the poor through the church. Social and humanitarian outreach was good but rice and beans failed to fill the spiritual vacuum in the hearts of the people.
Using theories learned at the University of Kentucky, his experiences in Malaysia, and techniques learned at H.E.A.R.T., Charlie put together a holistic ministry that integrated heart and hand or Bible and beans. He began working with local pastors in Honduras and partner churches in North America to create the ministry Heart to Honduras and turned this vision into a reality.
Though not proficient in the Spanish language, Charlie had his own special way of communicating through his warm smile, his teasing, and his ability to really see people…especially those that the world had forgotten or overlooked.
Within a few years of launching Heart to Honduras Charlie became sick with an incurable lung disease. So strong was his identification with the people of Honduras that he chose to spend his last weeks living among them. At the time of his death, he was buried on Ambassador Mountain in the village of Canchias…the place he worked to bring God’s vision to fruition.
Charlie began something that has continued to expand, grow, and mature over the past years. The work and impact of Heart to Honduras is now being felt throughout the countries of Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. The realities of poverty, injustice and isolation that first moved Charlie to do something are being transformed. Today pastors and churches are formed as disciples, and take the lead in bringing about healthy transformation in the community where God has placed them.
Heart to Honduras is no longer just about one man with a vision who wanted to make a difference. Our past, present and future is always about the God of the Universe fulfilling his Kingdom through humble servants like you and me.
The way forward is defined by our collaborative efforts to form disciples who will transform their world. It won’t be to our credit but to the glory of God at work in all of us. There is still much to be done as people from both North and Central America walk together and see each other not as poor and rich, blessed and unfortunate, but only as God has created us see each other…as brothers and sisters. Together we call forth the best in each other, encourage each other, and equip each other to be God’s agents of transformation in His world.