Adventure & Suffering: Kate Smith’s Impact on Uptown Fellows in Dallas
by Martha Roszak
Growing up as a missionary kid who spent many of her younger years in Israel, Kate Smith is no stranger to spontaneity and adventure; that’s why she does Fellows.
Kate was raised with the belief that you moved for your vocation, not the other way around – so that’s exactly what she did. Hiking the Camino de Santiago in Spain, living in a monastic community in France, and raising three young kids in Africa, Kate saw life as one “crazy, awesome adventure” as she followed where the Lord led.
Then, in February 2011, Kate found herself in the last place she ever hoped God would take her: widowed with three young children.
Her husband Rob tragically passed away while working on a construction site in Africa, and life suddenly became less about the thrill of the journey and more about just getting by.
“I Just Wanted to Keep My Brain Alive”
Kate and her children moved west to Canada, where her extended family lived, as she faced the new, unforeseen realities of her life. In the midst of her suffering, Kate noted that reading poetry and other affective writings were not always the most helpful (albeit, most common) coping devices. Rather, Kate found that opportunities to keep her “left-brain” active were often the most helpful to her as she grieved.
“I just wanted to keep my brain alive while I put yogurt in my children’s mouths,” Kate said, so she enrolled in seminary after the encouragement to do so by a wise mentor.
While in seminary, Kate studied theology and development, writing her thesis about the structure God has given for caring for orphans and widows in the Old Testament. In God’s kind provision and timing, Kate also met her second husband-to-be there, Tom.
What It Means to Start - and Suffer - Well
Tom and Kate moved to Dallas, Texas in July of 2016 shortly after he accepted the role as head pastor of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. In a new season of life, Kate found herself rooting to a new place and searching for her vocation there.
Kate was soon recommended to apply for the role of Uptown Fellows Director at the Church of the Incarnation. “My husband loves routine,” Kate says, “I love spontaneity and adventure – I get that with Fellows.”
The Fellows Initiative seeks to help recent college graduates ‘start [the next stage of their lives] well.’ Principally, Kate agrees that this is her vision for the Uptown Fellows program too, but from a personal vantage point she hopes that Uptown Fellows will learn what it means to ‘suffer well’ throughout life too.
No stranger to suffering, Kate brings her unique life perspective to the Uptown Fellows Program, meeting fellows where they are in the face of various challenges during the course of their fellows year, while also preparing them to suffer well in the face of the trials that are inevitably to come.
God’s Blessings Don’t Always Come From Him Honoring Our Plans
Like most Fellows programs, a strong emphasis of the Uptown Fellows program is living life together. Kate is acutely aware that we need each other in order to find hope in the midst of our shattered dreams and worst-case scenarios. Just as we serve a compassionate God who suffers with us, “we are called to suffer alongside one another,” Kate says. Today, that’s where Kate Smith has found her calling. “Sitting and drinking coffee with people going through tough stuff, that’s when I am doing what I feel called to.”
In this, Kate urges the Uptown Fellows to lead robust lives of faith marked by a genuine “trust in the God with nail scarred hands.” She wants her fellows to know that God’s blessings don’t always come from Him honoring of our plans for our careers, relationships, or interests. Rather, God often seeks to bless us as we walk through the pain of life when things don’t work out the way that we had planned.
Kate Smith’s life experience has lent her the authority to tell fellows that there is life on the other side of pain—and that that life, marked by offerings of thankfulness and trust in the valleys of suffering, is a vision of life lived to the full.
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