Celebrating the Smith Family’s Ministry
Nathan and Belinda Smith’s fingerprints can be found in nearly every corner of Show-Me Christian Youth Home. In ten years, they have served in the roles of relief houseparents, Leadership U Coordinator, coach, teacher, 4-H sponsor, missions team leader, photographer, and nurse just to name a few. Each of these outlets gave them a chance to build relationships with the kids in different and powerful ways to teach life lessons and build bonds that last a lifetime.
“Building a relationship is critical. Until you have that, kids are not going to listen to anything you have to say,” said Nathan. “All they will hear is meaningless words.”
Home Away from Home
Being relief houseparents gave the Smiths the opportunity to build deeper relationships with almost every child at Show-Me. Children stayed at the Smith’s home whenever their houseparents were off-duty. They also stepped in to provide extended care for kids, as well as crisis intervention.
Anytime they had kids, the Smiths wanted them to feel like they were part of the family. They made their house a relaxing, non-stressful place where each child felt loved and safe enough to open up and be themselves. “I loved being able to share life with them – through the ups and downs – and walk with the kids through those times in their lives to whatever extent they would allow or wanted us to,” stated Belinda.
“I always looked forward to going over there because they always made me feel loved and accepted when I visited,” said Josie Koebel, a 2020 graduate of Show-Me. “I felt like I could talk and be myself around them.”
Actions Speak Loudest
Many times, the lessons that had the deepest impact were the ones without words. The everyday moments of life provided time to deepen connections: working out together, feeding the animals, or riding in the truck on an errand. “It was not what Nathan said, it was what he instilled in me,” stated Steven Durst, a 2015 graduate. “He always led by example from the disciplined, responsible way he ran his program to how he was always willing to help. He showed me how I needed to be purposeful with my life.”
Sean Hensley, a 2008 graduate, had only been at Show-Me for a few months. A turning point for him was what the Smiths did not do. He flipped over a railroad tie which crashed into a wooden fence and created a large hole to the pasture. When asked, Sean denied being involved, until a few hours later his conscience would let him keep silent no longer.
As Sean explains it: “I felt so bad that I had lied to Nathan and Belinda because they had been so forthright about wanting us kids to be able to come to them about anything. When I told him, he didn’t yell at me or get irritated. He said ‘we will get this fixed and obviously you will be a part of it.’ After that, I felt like I could tell these people anything because they really did care and would try to do what was best for me. The Smiths laid the groundwork for me to finally be able to trust adults.”
Victory Beyond the Scoreboard
The Smiths served key roles in sports and extracurricular activities, including the 4-H program. Nathan coaches basketball, while Belinda coaches volleyball and archery. Belinda created and ran the 4-H program at Show-Me for many years. These venues provided great outlets for kids to discover their talents and develop self-confidence.
Confidence comes from accomplishment. Accomplishment comes from perseverance. Perseverance comes from a desire for something better. Without desire, you will not try. This is true in life as much as it is in sports or the classroom.
Every child has a different personality, strengths, and weaknesses. The Smiths feel God called them to help each child grow in the unique way they needed. “Lord, help me to see through Your eyes to find and develop the things that You love about this child.” Nathan prayed.
While they both taught the fundamentals of the sport, the final score was never the main objective. Attitude, teamwork, and character mattered more. Not everyone could score, but all could encourage. “Coach (Belinda) taught us that we have to be intentional in our encouragement,” stated 2021 graduate, Sadie Puckett, a former volleyball player. “This experience has the potential to shape and mold us in either a positive or negative way. We determine if we are going to waste it or use it to turn us into something beautiful. We are going to work hard either way.”
Learning to Lead Like Jesus
The iconic ministry that led them to dedicate their lives to the mission of Show-Me: Leadership U. Working with horses and dogs to overcome challenges, students develop character and purpose as they embrace the principles of learning to lead like Jesus. “Working with the animals opens the kids’ hearts to receive instruction,” said Nathan. “When they see how your advice makes the horse do things they never thought possible, they begin to trust and are willing to listen to what you have to say about horses, life, and even God.”
“Learning to be a leader can give them the confidence and skills they need to break the generational cycle many are caught up in,” stated Belinda. “They realize that they have the power inside them to take a different path than the one they came from.”
The Essential Element: Relationships
How does a person measure their greatest impact? Nathan and Belinda Smith could point to numerous accomplishments: developing and running the Leadership U program, uniting a previously win-less volleyball team to become state champions, or helping to raise dozens upon dozens of children that have grown up under their influence. While the Smith family has made a difference in many areas over the last ten years at Show-Me, their biggest impact will always be in the relationships they built with the children that call Show-Me “home.”
“Nathan and Belinda have been a role model for my marriage,” stated Josie. “They are always going to be a part of my family and life. I don’t think I would be the person I am today without their guidance and love.”