Faith Worked Out: Joan Smith, LIV Village
This summer, I heard Tich and Joan Smith speak at a conference and was absolutely blown away by the amazing work they are doing in LIV Village, South Africa. There is SO much to say about their incredible journey and inspiring faith, but I will leave you to watch the video below as an introduction to this very special organisation...
Could we hear your story, and how you came to be part of the Liv Village family?
In November 2001, I heard about the orphaned and vulnerable children in a community, called Amaoti, which is only 25km from where we lived, who were starving. It began to stir my heart, and, with a group of ladies in our church, we started to make peanut butter sandwiches and began feeding a few children under a tree. This grew to hundreds very quickly, and sandwiches once a week became soup every day. Over the next 7 years we had over 600 children on a Back-to-School and After Care programs, supported 32 creches, feeding over 2,000 children every day, developed a Sports Academy, and assisted entrepreneurs to develop their businesses.
In 2007, Tich handed over our business to our younger son to run and he joined me full time in the community. In 2008, God showed us that the time for the village was now. We handed the day to day running of the projects in Amaoti to the young adults we had raised up from the community, and the building of the village began.
When I look back over this extraordinary journey we have been on, I am amazed at how unqualified we are to be doing this and what a risk God took entrusting us with His village and His children.. I realize that the only qualification we need is to be passionately in love with Jesus and say “YES” to Him. I never doubted that Tich had heard clearly from God, even when he said ‘God said we must buy the land ourselves’. Sometimes we just need to say Yes Lord and do it without thinking it through, as, logically, we could have talked ourselves out of it, although, when Tich said we needed to do a banquet in the city for 4,000 people and we would raise the money to build the village, I did question it...!
What are some of the hardest sacrifices you have been called to make? How have you seen God's provision and faithfulness since then?
When we bought the broken down chicken farm I did say to Tich that he mustn’t ask me to move from my dream house on the beach to live on a farm in the middle of an African community. 2 years later the question came, and although I said to him I would help him pack and visit him on weekends, I knew the question ‘will you go…’ was coming from the Lord. I argued for a while, cried a lot, and then packed my bags and moved. That was one of the hardest things, and I had moments when I asked God if this was really what He had asked of me, but very soon I realized that we had been building the village and now we needed to ‘live it’. We could never expect others to live there if we weren’t prepared to do it. That was in December 2012.
And after this?
Nearly 3 years later, if Tich told me now that we could move back home to the beach, I would say “I’ll help you pack and visit you on weekends”. It is amazing how, when you say, ‘yes Lord’, He always gives you the grace and the ability to do it. I have come to love the children, mothers and staff on the village as my own. I am mother and granny (Gogo in Zulu) to all of them. We are doing life together, and although, as with any family, life gets messy, and is sometimes impossibly impossible, I wouldn’t change any of it.
When we bought the land, God showed Tich that He would bring the finances and the expertise. We have stood in amazement at how He has supernaturally supplied our needs in both these areas. We have never had to go and look for staff. Teachers, doctors, nurses, finance staff, social workers and many more have come with stories of God supernaturally ‘arresting’ them and showing them they were to come to LIV. In fact the only time we tried to find someone, we messed up, so mostly we try to stay out of God’s way as HE builds His team and His village.
We realized that if we do HIS plans then HE will pay for them, but if we do OUR plans we must pay for them. We also realized that God has much more money than us...
What daily habits do you have in place to keep drawing near to God?
Routine is a very rare word in our daily life! We wake up early on the village so I try to spend time at the beginning of the day, focusing on Him, His word, and asking for His wisdom, discernment, knowledge and understanding to help me make the right decisions: HIS decisions.
Daily I ask for HIS Kingdom to come and HIS will to be done… I have to confess that this is sometimes a quick 10 minute moment, and other times I have spent a couple of hours in His Presence and wonder why I don’t do that every day as it is always so special, and helps me to feel so close to Him and to be confident in who I am in Him and He in me.
During the day, at times I consciously, and often, ask the Holy Spirit for His guidance and advice on something, but mostly I fully trust that He is leading me. It is a daily walk of faith, believing that He will always guide me and change my direction if I am moving in the wrong direction. I fail often, and have to repent of my unbelief.
My two favourite scriptures that I go back to often in my mind are:
1. “Show me Your ways, teach me Your paths, lead me in Your truth and teach me…” Psalm 25
2. "Do not fret; be anxious for nothing… Keep doing good; fretting leads to sin…” Psalm 37
These words have become flesh for me many times. Since 2003 I have read Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest daily readings and never tire of being challenged and provoked to examine my heart, where I am at with my walk with the Lord, and my motives.
I am usually so tired at the end of the day that our conversation is usually: "thank you for leading me today, forgive me… Hope I did the right thing today Lord, love you madly.. goodnight and please help me to sleep at least 7 hours…!"
What vision for the future has God placed on your heart?
We have always known it is many villages on God’s heart, throughout South Africa and Africa. We have no idea how He is going to roll this out but we do know He is wanting us to help others, with the same vision and heart, to set up their villages.
Many groups have come to the village to learn and meet with us and our department leaders, and we are putting together a manual to assist them. We pray one day that the LIV businesses we are developing to create jobs and to contribute towards the self-sustainability of the village, will, in the future, also contribute to the sustainability of many villages.
We have bought the farm next door and are starting the farming project on a large scale. We have built a clothing factory and are developing LIV Clothing that we hope to export all over the world, starting in the UK… but for now we are very reliant on people supporting LIV and we believe that young people around the world are the ones who will look after the orphaned and vulnerable children of the world.
A final challenge...
God is in the business of multiplication: Imagine if one million young people who have, gave one pound a month, or one dollar, for children who have not, they would be able to fully support 10 villages with 1,000 children in each village.
We believe God’s vision is for 10 000 churches to do these villages across Africa, and He will use these children that nobody wanted, to change Africa and beyond… If you continue to multiply you can begin to imagine how God intends doing it: through the young people of the world. Just imagine….