Notable UM Newsmaker of 2012 – Lorenza Andrade Smith

The Rev. Lorenza Andrade Smith

The Rev. Lorenza Andrade Smith stands just 4 ft. 11 inches, but she carries a high profile—and lifts the hearts of many—through her highly unusual ministry of living on the streets.

For that, she’s a Reporter notable United Methodist newsmaker of 2012.

Ms. Smith, 43 and a member of the Rio Grande Conference, lobbied for and finally obtained from Bishop Jim Dorff an appointment to street ministry.

In the summer of 2011, she opened up the parsonage where she’d been living, invited her congregation, family and friends to help themselves to her possessions, sold her car, and began living on the San Antonio streets, with no salary.

She wanted to show solidarity with the poor and, as she is always careful to say, learn from them. But she nearly gave up in that first stretch, when the temperatures were in the triple digits, and she found herself struggling with everything from fatigue to hunger to her own body odor.

“When I felt the lowest, it was the hospitality of the people living on the streets that opened my eyes,” she said. “I clearly saw Jesus in each of my friends. God was indeed with me.”

Ms. Smith’s story made a San Antonio newspaper, leading to coverage in the UM press. That helped prompt speaking engagements, and she has used donated bus passes to travel on Greyhound (“on ‘the Dog’ again” is how she and Bishop Dorff put it) to far-flung churches, seminaries, colleges, United Methodist Women events and other venues.

She said she does not accept honoraria, and tries to stay in a shelter or on the streets when traveling. Indeed, she attended General Conference as a visitor, and slept outside the Tampa Convention Center, while delegates and others occupied high-rise hotels nearby.

Even before her street ministry, Ms. Smith was arrested in a Dream Act demonstration, and last summer she spent a night in jail after being ticketed for sleeping on a park bench. She remains a passionate voice on homelessness and immigration issues.

But she insists her ministry is not focused on advocacy.

“My calling is to do nothing but communicate the love of God,” she said. “Communicating the love of God is, for me, to be present, to listen and to learn. And when I am obedient to my call, I am at peace and empowered.”

Ms. Smith travels, at Bishop Dorff’s insistence, with an iPhone and tablet computer, to stay in close touch. She posts regularly to her more than 2,000 Facebook fans, offering inspiration—and wit.

One feature on her page is a regularly refreshed photo album titled “Tall People and Me.”

Sam Hodges, Former Managing Editor, UMR

Sam Hodges

Sam Hodges was the managing editor of The United Methodist Reporter from 2011-2013. A formee reporter for the Dallas Morning News and the Charlotte Observer, Sam is a respected voice in United Methodist journalism.

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2 Comments on "Notable UM Newsmaker of 2012 – Lorenza Andrade Smith"

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 
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[…] Lorenza Andrade Smith shines light on our systematic bias against impoverished and homeless persons. Classism is an issue in which we are uncomfortable with, especially in a land of “equal opportunity.” […]

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Thank you!! What an inspirational life!!

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