Soft spoken and benevolent, 86-year-old Audrey Smith is a giver. She gives her time, her faith and her heart to things that matter to her, while helping others.
For 18 years, the entire length of time that Smith and her husband Doug have lived in Buena Vista, she has given. Together they work as volunteers with the Buena Vista Prison Ministries in the two local correctional facilities.
“We share life principles with a Christian perspective with the inmates,” Smith says. “My husband and I are both fluent in Spanish and we work with the Spanish speaking inmates. Currently, we are exploring a 12-week program from Focus on the Family called ‘Truth Project Video Series.’ Doug leads the life principle classes and Smith responds to prayer requests, helps facilitate discussions and plays music.
“In this work, I have really gained a greater understanding of what brought these men (ages 30s-70s) to prison and the hope to help re-direct them. It is very rewarding work.”
For 18 years, the couple has enjoyed being a part of the Buena Vista Valley Fellowship Church’s intergenerational ministry and outreach into the local community, as well as into communities beyond.
They have also both worked in translations of text for Bible Studies in Leadership Training (iTIM) manuals. “We translate from English to Spanish,” Smith says.
Smith has been a part of Buena Vista Writer’s Exchange and Bloc for 18 years, that she says, “takes us from home to home to share our assigned prompts, laughter, and our hearts. We follow Natalie Goldberg’s style in our freestyle writing approach.”
Of her love of writing she adds, “It keeps my pen moving, challenges my thinking and deepens the friendships our writing group has cultivated over the years.”
Smith says that writing groups encourage her to write honestly with vibrant details. “When I was younger I would tear out pages in my poetry writing until there was nothing left. My Buena Vista writing group has really helped my writing to take root, and I hope to begin work on my life story for my kids in the near future.”
Smith says, “I love living with a purpose in life: To bring honor to my heavenly Father. A Christian life is not just being involved in activities; it is a close relationship with Jesus. I have grown to appreciate this relationship, especially as I have grown older.”
Smith was born in Neillsville, Wisc., and raised “on the run/moving until age 15. We moved yearly from town to town, state to state as my father was employed by J.C. Penny and Montgomery Ward Companies.”
Smith earned a BA degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in English and literature, with a music minor and later an MA degree in Education from Azusa Pacific University. It was during her college years that she met her husband while they were serving on a month of leadership training, sponsored by the Inter-varsity Christian Fellowship in Ontario, Canada. With Doug’s master’s degree in Old and New Testament Studies from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and a doctorate degree in Cross Cultural Communication from Fuller Seminary, he was equipped to begin what would be a 20-year career in South America.
“Our time in South America was rich and diverse,” Smith says. “We identified with the people of Bolivia and Ecuador. We left New Jersey with 2 and 2/3 children in tow by train, plane, and boat and landed in Bolivia in 1962 where we lived in the cities of Cochabamba and La Paz.”
Smith says that as a young mother, it was a bit of a culture shock, being away from their families and friends for 5-year periods. “I made a lot of missteps culturally speaking,” she says, “but I learned as I went. I made lasting friendships and there were just so many positive impacts of the Bolivian and Ecuadorian values on our lives. Our five children remember these years fondly and feel quite at home in Latin cultures.”
Smith says, “I particularly remember how affectionate the families were. The children always greeted their parents with kisses on each cheek and a hug and did the same when they left.”
Another fond memory that Smith has was of the Sunday night after church treats called anticucho.
She says, “I remember a wooden stand over a charcoal burner. Thinly sliced beef kidneys were cooking on bicycle spokes. The meat was topped with potato and a piece of yucca, and we would dip these into peanut sauce. They were delicious. And underneath the table, where the woman was cooking the kidney slices, sat her 3-year-old daughter, with such delicate little fingers, peeling potatoes for her mother.”
Smith loves the Spanish language and makes time to continue learning the language, which Latinos call, “The language of heaven.” She meets with friends from Columbia for coffee often to keep up with her Spanish and helps them with their English. “I love these times with my friends,” she says.
Smith says she and her husband will soon be re-locating to Seattle near Puget Sound to be closer to two of their children. “We will settle in some sort of cottage with a bit of land and two guest rooms,” she says. “That would be adequate. But I need land around me for gardening. I’m not as strong as I used to be, but I still like to see things grow.”