Meet Our Colleagues from 7,200 Miles Away: Steve and Marianne Smith!
For this month’s “Meet One of Us” we travel 7,200 miles away to another BethBC office, in New Braunfels, Texas! Steve and Marianne Smith work in the office of Bethlehem Bible College, our US non-profit organization, where Steve works as the Executive Director and Marianne is the US Development Officer. How did a couple living deep in the heart of Texas come to work with a Christian college in Bethlehem?
The Smiths first encountered Bethlehem Bible College in 2005 on a Journey of Understanding (now operated through the College’s Ta’Shuf Tours program). “We served as missionaries for 29 years (mostly with World Indigenous Missions), first in Sri Lanka and the Philippines, doing humanitarian relief and church planting, before moving to Texas where Steve became Director of Operations and I led short-term mission trips,” says Marianne. “We sort of guarded our heart when we traveled so many places, because you can lose a bit of it each place you visit. But when we visited Bethlehem, we fell completely in love with the people and the work of the Bible College. It was obviously a lighthouse of hope to the region, and the idea of raising up leaders for church and society was close to our hearts. Ever since then, our focus has been there.”
In 2007, Steve and Marianne’s daughter, Angela, took a study abroad semester to learn Arabic with Salwa Awad, wife of BethBC’s founder, Bishara Awad. “When we visited Angela during that time, the Awads were very kind and accepted us like family. At that time, Bishara was hoping to start a non-profit organization in the US to represent BethBC. My background is in non-profit management, and I had the experience to help in that area, so it was natural for me to create and register Bethlehem Bible College in Texas,” Steve explains. “Now I manage the office and donations, and have the opportunity to share about the work of the College. It’s something we are really passionate about.”
The Smiths travel regularly to visit the College and serve in various ways. In 2012, Marianne was tasked with shipping the furniture for the then-new Student Center; then in 2015 she took on a permanent position with the College as US Development Officer.
“I love this work. Bethlehem Bible College is something I am passionate about, and I love the opportunity to talk to people and share the vision of the school. Not only does BethBC reach students throughout Palestine and Israel, they are now reaching online students in 19 countries on 5 continents around the world! Bethlehem Bible College is more than the sum of its parts; it is like glue in the small Christian community in Bethlehem – no matter what denomination, or even what religion you are, Palestinians recognize the faithfulness, steadfastness, and perseverance of the College, and it acts like an anchor to the faithful Christian presence that has been there for millennia.”
When the idea came up about the first-ever Christ at the Checkpoint – USA Conference in October, Steve and Marianne helped in the planning committee, acting as liaison between the planners and the College. Steve reports, “Out of the Conference came a new initiative to create an Ambassador Program. There is something about this College that attracts quality people, and we want to encourage them to use their abilities to spread the word about BethBC among their sphere of influence. We’re working with some quality folks to flesh out this program.”
“Working with an amazing team of high-quality faculty and staff at Bethlehem Bible College is such a privilege for us,” says Marianne. “And to be able to do that in Bethlehem is even better. We love the place, we love the people, and we love the gift of being able to represent this life-changing ministry!”