- Faith & Family
“Come to Kenya or I’m gonna die,” a young man said to Rev. Dr. Gilbert S. Smith, 81, pastor of Apostolic Revival Church in Liberty City. This was a vision that Smith had about 33 years ago, and only three weeks after the vision he traveled to Kenya to find that man. He went to different churches searching for him, but was unsuccessful. Finally he was able to locate the man from the vision, after inquiring with another local.
While speaking with him, Smith was told that the young man was praying those exact words to God at the same time he had the vision. On that day, Smith started working with the individual and helping out in Kenya. Rev. Smith helped him minister to over 1,000 people and lead 25-30 churches until the young man tragically died in a car accident. Consequently, his associate pastor took over and kept the work going as Smith returned home.
The reverend has allowed God to lead him both as the pastor of Apostolic Revival Center for 42 years and also as the CEO of Apostolic Evangelistic Association; which has produced more than 180 churches overseas. There are churches in Nicaragua (13), Kenya (150), Tanzania (1), Uganda (1), Guyana (13), Trinidad (3) and Grenada (1).
His mission leads him overseas about four times a year to foreign locations where he stays for about a week. Smith’s ministry has built churches and water wells and provided food in Africa. It has also sponsored motorbikes for ministers, educated foreigners about healthcare issues, trained young ministers and of course spread the word of God.
“We don’t change the culture, we just take the word,” Ernestine Cowart, a member and a missionary of Apostolic Revival Center.
She said their goal is “saving the lost at any cost.”
However, traveling doesn’t stop Smith from successfully managing the church.
“I’m seldom out of the country for two Sundays,” he said.
In fact, recently, the pastor had returned to his congregation, from Trinidad and Grenada, right in time for his 42nd pastoral anniversary. At the celebration, a minister said that there were angels carrying the pastor every where he went. Also at the event church members expressed their steadfast gratitude to Rev. Smith and First Lady Geneva O. Smith.
But the pastor isn’t alone in his commitment to volunteering, while at home and pastoring the Apostolic Revival Center, he and church members are all active in the community. The church has a street ministry that goes to Overtown and to the ‘Pork and Beans’ every week to minister to members of the community. The church also several impactful services that target prison inmates, senior citizens and even students taking the FCAT.
Smith was honored in 2009, for 50 years of service to the Liberty City community, with the renaming of 15th avenue from 62nd to 71st streets after him.
“Everybody loves Rev. Smith because he practices what he preaches,” Yvonne Lewis, a loyal church member who nominated Smith for Pastor of the Week.
By Malika A. Wright