A current area coordinator and a former regional liaison with Presbyterian World Mission are among the four people recently named to the board of the American Waldensian Society. The Rev. Dr. Valdir França, World Mission’s Area Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean, and Dennis Smith, who retired in 2020 after 43 years of service, most recently as Regional Liaison for South America, will begin their board service to the American Waldensian Society in October.
The American Waldensian Society is a longtime partner of World Mission. The Waldensian Church is the oldest evangelical church in existence dating back to the 12th century, about 400 years before the Reformation.
Born in Southern Brazil and raised in Manaus, Amazon, he became a Christian and Presbyterian as a teenager. After completing his theological studies, he was ordained as a minister in the Independent Presbyterian Church of Brazil in 1984. He also served as an adjunct professor and director of missions at Faculdade Teologica Sulmericana (South American Theological Seminary).
In the late 1990s he was a missionary in Birmingham, England, serving in a variety of multi-cultural urban ministries. In 2002 he moved to the United States, working with new church development among Portuguese-speaking immigrants in Florida. He also ministered to two Spanish-speaking congregations.
Smith became a mission co-worker in 1977. He earned a bachelor’s degree in communication from Wheaton College in 1973.
“There was a time when I thought of mission as something we as Christians do — a function of our devotion, our initiative,” Smith wrote in a 2021 column called “Bearing Witness.” “Little by little I learned that wherever I went in mission, God was already there. In some mysterious way, every people of every tongue — even in our common brokenness — was embraced by common grace. I came to understand that all are called as servants of God’s mission — not the mission of my religion or my denomination.”
“To walk alongside those of a different culture, a different lived experience — and specially to walk alongside those on the edges of our society — broadened my understanding of how and where God is present in this world,” Smith wrote. “Indeed, I came to understand that my salvation was bound up in the salvation of all of humankind.”
The two others named to the American Waldensian Society Board are:
- Mary Kinsler Ruck, a high school math teacher and the daughter of a Lutheran pastor who in 2008-09 served as one of the Young Adults in Global Mission with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
- Peter Makari, the executive for the Middle East and Europe, for Global Ministries, the common mission board of the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). He is responsible for mission partnerships, which include the Waldensian Church and Mediterranean Hope.
by the American Waldensian Society | Special to Presbyterian News Service