HIV Educational Mission to Southeast Africa
Bruce & Beth

     Bruce and Beth Smith planned to be missionaries before they met.  Bruce was first called to be a physician and was later encouraged to be a medical missionary.  A missions youth rally with David Gatewood and Kenny Sinclair sealed his commitment to missions.  Beth's association with Otis Gatewood and Ukrainian Epi Stephan Bilak in her Rochester, Michigan, congregation encouraged her to do missions.

     Bruce and Beth met at Harding, working together on Campaigns Northeast.  Medical Missions seminars there fanned the flames of their mission interest.  Bruce's medical school in San Antonio concluded with a six week trip to Cameroon and Nigeria to work in two different medical mission models and was followed by residency for which they were sent by God to Lubbock.  There they were members of the Sunset congregation, working on the Missions Committee and joining a team exploring future mission work in Brazil.  They also reunited briefly there with future partners Dr. Hop and Marty Paden, whom God sent ahead of them to northern Georgia.  

     Bruce worked for a year on the faculty of his family practice residency during which both completed Sunset's School of Missions.  They then went to Atlanta to help form a mission-oriented group practice with the Decatur Congregation.  A 1980 visit to the Pan American lectures with Hop Paden offered an opportunity in Nicaragua, and in February of 1982 they moved to Managua sponsored by the Airline Drive congregation in Bossier City, Louisiana.  

     After eight years in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Guatemala, and the birth of 3 children, the oldest then entering high school, the Smith's moved to California to give their children 18 months' exposure to U.S. culture.  Bruce worked on his Masters in Public Health and preventive medicine residency in the Adventist medical missions-oriented Loma Linda University.  Answering a call for what they later understood as stability, they remained in southern California where Bruce became an elder in the Redlands Church of Christ, and Beth directed the Praise Team.  Bruce worked in the local public health department in Maternal-Child Health and cared for HIV patients in the department's clinic.  Beth earned a master's degree in Library and Information Science and founded and built the library in a local Christian school which their children attended.  

     In late 2003 while attending an HIV course, Bruce was struck by the discrepancy between public health reports of the devastation HIV was wreaking in Africa, and the silence from medical mission organizations in Churches of Christ about the disease.  Inquiring of veteran missionaries, Bruce was encouraged to visit the quadrennial meeting Africans Claiming Africa in Ghana in August, 2004.  He went, spoke about HIV and conducted focus groups among participants, learning that African Church leaders were often also silent, but that churches and their members were being devastated by the disease.  Hearing pleas for assistance from many who were there, Bruce felt compelled to help, and Beth has come to appreciate, accept and confirm that call.

     Since then Bruce has visited a total of six countries in Africa on 4 trips (with Beth on 3), speaking and conducting seminars about HIV and investigating sites for a base and model project which their 2005 seminar team concluded was desirable.  Bruce has also spoken more than 15 times to missions meetings and churches in the U.S. about HIV and missions.  While presenting at Abilene Christian University's Missions Focus in May, 2007, he met Wes Gunn, Missions Minister for the Landmark congregation, Montgomery, Alabama, a relationship which has grown and branched to many others such that Landmark has decided to sponsor  the Smiths in the work described in their current proposal.