During this next season of the Heritage blog we will be celebrating individuals in our church body that are on mission for the glory of Jesus, both in our local community and even to faraway places in the world. At Heritage, we desire that the body of Christ seek ways to BE the hands and feet of Jesus to people that would otherwise be unlikely to attend our church. The individuals featured in this blog series are doing that! We pray that their stories encourage and inspire the people at Heritage to be on mission as well. If you are involved in being on mission here in the Rogue Valley, or to the world in any capacity, let us know. We would love to celebrate that, encourage that, and allow your story to inspire the body of Christ.
Heritage on Misson: Jeff Smith
Heritage family, we want to highlight the grace of God in Jeff’s life. Jeff and his family have been attending Heritage for approximately four years. Jeff and his wife were born and raised in the Kansas, and moved to Medford in 2007. They have one daughter, Hannah, who is a high school senior at Cascade Christian High School.
Currently, Jeff owns a local self-storage company. He is also on-mission in our Medford community through the ministry of Walking Tall, which is what we have highlighted in our conversation.
When did you give your life to follow Jesus Christ?
I did not grow up in a Christian household. During the summer when I was 14, I stayed with my aunt and uncle, who had always been Christians, and accepted Christ as my Savior while attending a Vacation Bible Camp with my cousins. I did not really grow in my relationship with Christ until I married at age 30.
Tell us a little about the ministry of Walking Tall.
Walking Tall is a mentorship ministry to young men in 7th – 12th grade. These young men come to us from stable Christian homes, non-Christian homes, broken homes, and a few visit us each week from the Borders to Bridges program through Jackson County Juvenile Services. One of the first things we teach them is how to shake a person’s hand and look them in the eye. Adult men like myself, called Mentors, spend time with these young men to train them in technical skills such as woodworking, carpentry, automotive, welding, metal fabrication, auto mechanics, small engine repair, and much more. A typical Monday and Tuesday evening starts at 6:00pm: first we have a Bible message, next we eat a home cooked meal prepared by volunteer ladies, and then we go to work. The young men choose what they are interested in learning and we pair them up with a Mentor who has skills in that area and can teach them. The emphasis is always about spending time with them, getting to know them, and earning their trust so they’ll feel comfortable talking about problems they might be going through. Spending this time with them also gives us a chance to share the gospel with them. We always talk to them about respecting others and themselves. Our goal is to come alongside their parent or parents and share positive Christian morals and values. The best way to do this is to show them how we act and carry ourselves as Christian men.
We also take time before we end the night to go around and ask each Mentor how the evening went. This gives us all a chance to brag on the young men we worked with and share something great they did. This is my favorite part because a lot of these boys don’t get bragged on very much and to see that big smile on their faces brings me great joy.
In the summer, we always have a big booth at the Art in Bloom Festival in downtown Medford where we showcase the items that the young men have made through the year. This is an opportunity for them to learn how to introduce themselves to people that visit and look them in the eye and shake their hands. They talk to them and explain how they made these items and then have the opportunity to sell these products. Our goal here is to give them confidence in making something with their own hands and learning how to sell a product. This process also teaches them about profit and loss because the money earned from the sales of the products help fund several different outings we take throughout the year.
You can check out more about Walking Tall by visiting our website: www.walkingtallso.org.
When did you begin serving with Walking Tall and what spurred you to serve with them?
For the last ten years I’ve been a volunteer at Grace and Cascade Schools. Serving in a role where I can speak gospel life into kids brings me great joy. I came across this ministry a little over two years ago and it really paired my love of kids with my passion for woodworking. I immediately knew that this is where God wanted me to be so I jumped right into serving with Walking Tall. I now have the honor of serving on the Board of Directors as well.
Give us a couple stories of “wins” through Walking Tall.
We have a grandmother who drives from Ruch each week and drops off her 11 year old grandson. Since she’s a teacher, she always has plenty of papers to grade so she finds a quiet place to do this while her grandson learns the art of welding. I’ll never forget the night this little guy comes up to me and shows me this piece of metal that had a bunch of welds on it. The first few were not very pretty but they got better as I looked down the line. I turned it over and looked at the last couple and was immediately blown away by how much better they were. The last one was incredible! I couldn’t believe an 11 year old boy could do this! I will never forget the look on his face as I told him how proud I was of him and explained to him that I couldn’t do what he just did. His smile said everything about how that made him feel. That’s a win in my books!!
We have a 17 yr. old young man who comes from a less-than-desirable situation; he struggles with anger issues at school and is always in trouble. He has been blessed because one of our Mentors, who also works at his school, takes an interest in him and takes him fishing and other things to try to help him out. I talked to him about woodturning and he mentioned he’d like to turn writing pens. We decided to buy a couple of wood lathes to teach them how to turn pens. He got really excited about doing this. We got the materials and started to turn some of these. He was a natural so he caught on immediately and has produced some very nice pens. Some of these pens sold at Art in Bloom for $70-80. I remember after he turned his first pen I told him I wanted to share it with everyone at the end of the night. He didn’t want to do it because he’s a little shy and isn’t used to someone complimenting him in public. I could tell he would be okay with it so at the end of the night I held that pen up and when everyone saw it they were so impressed that they all broke out in applause. It was so amazing because this kid, who rarely smiles or shows any kind of happiness, had a big smile on his face. After that I watched him take that pen around the room so the mentors could see it. I was so proud to be a part of something that gave this kid a big win. He’s now one of our best pen turners and because of his newly found confidence we’re seeing him doing better at school. He has quit smoking and his behavior has improved. When we help a young man accomplish something on their own, it’s amazing how much better they feel about themselves. That’s a BIG win in my books!!
What would be your encouragement to individuals who may be hesitant to serve in the community?
God has called us as Christians to “go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:18-20). This sounds simplistic, but figure out a way to do that. We have men that come to Walking Tall who don’t think they can do anything but it always turns out they find a purpose and fit right in. I believe God has given us all gifts that will further His kingdom. We just need to find out what that is and go do it! Pray and He will reveal your purpose. God Bless!