As a follow-up to my review of Passport Through Darkness, please allow me to present an interview with the book’s author, Kimberly L. Smith!
Kimberly is the president and co-founder of Make Way Partners, a mission organization combating human trafficking. She has made many mission trips into Sudan and Passport Through Darkness is based on her experiences in that country.
Can you tell us about Make Way Partners ongoing and future projects in Africa and Eastern Europe?
I am so excited about the growth that Passport through Darkness is affording us! I really have two goals for Passport: First, yes, I pray it helps Make Way Partners to save more vulnerable women and children from slave raiders and genocide. Second, I pray it helps every reader to see more clearly the unique dream God has for their lives, and how no one else can live that dream but them.
In Sudan, we have expanded beyond Darfur, which is much of where Passport is set, to Southern Sudan, down near the border of Uganda. We’ve already opened the first phase of that new orphanage and have saved our first 50 children! Now, we are building the second phase; eventually, we’ll house and care for an additional 500+ orphans, just like we do in Darfur. We lead multiple short-term teams each year to both of these sites. Anyone can apply at www.makewaypartners.org
We have another orphanage in Congo, in the worst region for slave raiders and mass rape; Goma. There we have a small orphanage of about 50, but are actively seeking land on which to build a much larger one. My daughter and son-in-law are about to move to Congo to serve under our indigenous director as we grow!
In Eastern Europe, we have the only shelter for survivors of trafficking in all of Romania. The demands there are enormous, being the only shelter, and our indigenous director needs much help. She not only does many rescues, but also manages the daily shelter needs. We are currently looking for missionaries to serve under our indigenous director in Romania.
Do you still go into Sudan for mission trips?
Yes! This is the first time in nearly 7 years that I have not headed back to Sudan immediately after New Year, so it feels a little strange. I am on book tour right now through May. So I will not be able to return until this summer; I can barely wait!
Now we have a fulltime Field Coordinator who leads all of our trips…sometimes I tag along just because I love it so much! You can track my blog at www.kimberlyLsmith.com to read about ongoing trips and get live reports from the field.
Do you have any regrets about your trips into Sudan?
Zero. I have faced many hard things, and many dark days…and nights. As I God carried me through some of that darkness, I did cry out to Him, a lot. The hardest thing was to face some of the stupid things I did; during those days—when everything seemed to be going wrong—I really questioned God if he was sure He had the right gal. The only answer I ever got was, “Not everything is going wrong. Children are alive today who would be dead or enslaved without this work…just keep going.” In time, I began to see the power of God working through my mess just as much as when I got it all “right,” It’s very humbling—and assuring—to see God deliver me, the situation, and others even when I mess up.
Has writing Passport Through Darkness further strengthened your marriage?
Powerfully so! When Milton suffered organ damage and could no longer travel to the field, I began to overprotect him. I had thoughts like, “He loves me so much and it is so hard for him to let me go to war zones without him by my side to protect me, is it really fair for me to come home and dump all my pain, fears, and mistakes on him?” I worried that the stress it would cause him would make him more sick; I also feared if he knew how tough it really was, he wouldn’t let me go any longer.”
So instead of trusting God and my husband, I started hiding a lot of my experiences, walling big parts of myself off from him. Of course, this caused a huge cavern in my marriage. But, even in my fear and mishandling of things, God didn’t give up on me! He kept using me, and pushing me to get real. To trust Him, and the man He’d given me. Just because our roles were shifting didn’t mean I was on my own…but it felt that way for a long time.
As God showed me His love for me even as I messed up, I remembered the work I did wasn’t MY mission, but God’s. It helped me to see my place under God rather than being ultimately responsible for the success of the mission. My work was to simply be faithful with what He gave me.
I began re-opening to Milton. It was hard because I’d made such a mess of things during those years of hiding. As Milton heard the things I’d been hiding, at first he was really angry with me. God met us both in that painful place. Slowly…painfully…we began rebuilding our relationship. It took a lot of forgiveness on both our sides as we each discovered and admitted mistakes we’d made along the way. God seemed to hover over us during a dark time of dismantling the destructive shell we’d built and then helped us to lay a new foundation—one built on trust, and risking with each other.
I’ll admit this new way of living–risking so much with each other–is scary at times. Sometimes we still disappoint each other or make mistakes ourselves, but the depth of intimacy and joy of knowing we are really sharing all of life is so exciting. It’s a whole new adventure all by itself!
Can you tell us more about your family?
Milton and I have been married for more than 20 years now, but we were both married before. We each brought three young children into the marriage. Early on, we resembled Barnum and Bailey circus—complete with backyard brawls—more than we did the Brady Bunch.
All eight of us came into our new family with our fair share of pain and baggage, certainly enough to keep us from ever really gelling. But knowing the pain of divorce, Milton and I were both determined to find healing, forgiveness, and restoration. The work paid off not just for our marriage, but for our children. All our children are adults now and most of them are so close–sharing each other’s story–that they call themselves The Tribe.
Passport Through Darkness reveals Milton’s response to your trips into Sudan. How did your children respond to those trips?
At first it sort of felt surreal. “Mom’s going to work in a war zone with active genocide and slave raiders?” They were proud, scared, excited—and yet, it didn’t quite seem real. As I would return home and tell the many heartbreaking stories, it broke their hearts and transformed their lives. Two of them work fulltime with our mission organization, Make Way Partners. Others volunteer and sponsor orphans.
Is there anything about yourself that you would like to change?
I pray daily for more humility and trust…as I reflect upon the past, I see that the more I choose to act humbly, the more humble I become. It works the same with trust; the more I step out—risking, the more trusting I become.
What prep talk would you give to anyone wanting to go into the mission field?
Make sure you are working UNDER an indigenous person, and check your Americanism at the customs counter. Spend your first term immersing yourself into the culture, feeling its pain and shortcomings while finding its beauty and abundance. Christ shows up revealing Himself within every cultural context, look for Him there rather than taking your American version of Him with you.
Find a wise-sage missionary who will correspond with you, guiding you through your failures and triumphs…mentoring you as a Spiritual Director in your missionary journey.
What is your hobby?
I love to read, swim, dance, really anything out of doors, but especially late-night talks around a campfire with my Milton.
Liver and onions!
What is something about yourself that most people do not know?
I broke my left ankle as a kid horsing around on a swing and to make it fair, I broke my right one just a few years ago when I did an accidental 360 flip in the air on a motorcycle that landed on top of me!
Anything else you would like to say?
Don’t compare yourself to others…especially people you may tend to hero-ize. Instead ask God, “What dream did you hold for me as you first knit me in my mother’s womb?” Then, wait until you hear…and step into that dream…that life. Nothing you will lose will compare to what you gain, for your Father’s Dream for you is far more beautiful than the American Dream.
Thank you, Kimberly, for doing this email interview with me!
To learn more about Kimberly and the retreats that she conducts, please visit her website at www.kimberlyLsmith.com. She also regularly blogs about the work she is doing at her blog, www.kimberlylsmithblog.blogspot.com. You can read my review on Passport Through Darkness at Review: Passport Through Darkness: A True Story of Danger and Second Chances.
Giveaway has closed
Kimberly is giving away 2 copies of Passport Through Darkness. Leave a comment below to be entered into the giveaway. The winners will be drawn using random.org. Kimberly will mail the winners each a copy of the book. This contest ends on March 22, 2011. The winners will be announced on March 23, 2011. If the winners do not reply within 4 days, another draw will be made.
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