Andrew Smither – LightShine Self-Supported Missionary
History: Andrew’s obedience to God’s calling
In 2014 Andrew first learned about LightShine Ministries through friends at church. That year, his home church decided to pray for a state each Sunday. When they prayed for Alaska, he heard stories about missions. It was then that God reminded Andrew about the call on his heart since 5th Grade. Through mutual friends, Andrew connected with LightShine. He attended a LightShine meeting that Summer to learn more about the ministry and opportunities in Alaska. Shortly after, he was signed up for our fall team that served Gulkana Village and cut wood for an elder in the area. Ever since this trip, Andrew has been a different person. We all saw the instant change once the plane hit the ground in Anchorage. Something new had been planted within him, a passion for Alaska that has only grown.
May 2015 Andrew flew to Alaska to work for Princess Cruise Line in Healy. This was a personal test for a season to see if Alaska was really where he wanted to move. Back in 5th grade, he did a state project on Alaska. Ever since that project his desire to one day move to Alaska grew over time. He even told his family that he would one day move to Alaska. Over the years he began to love the mountains over the beach, Winter over Summer; his favorite dog is a husky and his favorite animal is a bear. God was cultivating everything that makes up Alaska into Andrew’s heart from an early age. Andrew often speaks about this topic to children and youth, encouraging them that God can call on them no matter their age.
Andrew surprised a lot of friends and family when he decided to leave his career with Chick-fil-A. Everything was going well after nearly 4 years. As Marketing Director of the Berkshire Mall location he was constantly succeeding expectations for sales growth, attendance for family events, and followings on their social media accounts. That said, those who knew him well, saw this change coming eventually. Since that short term missions trip mentioned earlier, his heart was in Alaska. In the Summer of 2016 he got into his Chevy Prizm and drove across the continent to Fairbanks, AK. When he first arrived he filled the role of Program Director for G.L.O.B.E. Creek Camp. Once their summer season was over, he decided to settle where God first brought him, the Copper River Valley. Andrew still travels to Fairbanks to help G.L.O.B.E. Creek with their Snow and Summer Camps.
Ministry: Andrew’s endeavors to be a light in this valley
Once Andrew moved to Alaska he became a LightShine Self-Supported Missionary. This means that LightShine does not pay him, nor does his home church. Andrew raises his own monthly support and also works within the community to supplement his income. Through these jobs, Andrew has been able to make better connections within the community. He has taken seasonal work and odd jobs but he primarily has worked with the Copper River School District as a substitute. During the 2017-2018 school year he accepted a long-term assignment to become the high school librarian.
It was during that year that he took an out of the box approach at reaching a need in the community. Once he realized the only afterschool activities were sports related he started a game club. Part eSports, part board games, the club grew organically and became a roster of 30 high school, middle school, and even homeschool students. An average of 8-10 students would come each day, 4x/week. They also hosted monthly tournaments that were attended by community members as well. It was through this club that Andrew was able to build trusting relationships with the youth in the area. As these relationships grew he was able to mentor various students and speak into their lives.
Since settling into the Copper River Valley area Andrew has built a ministry around helping youth. The best way to describe what he does is serving the church as a whole (hyperlink to my blog with same title). Working with all ages, he primarily focuses on middle school age youth. He plugged in with an existing community Jr. Youth Group his first Winter in Alaska. It was a well timed season for him to join their team. After his first year, the main leaders were looking to pass the torch. Andrew transitioned into the main leader. This ministry meets Monday evenings with grades 6-8 and has an average of 20 students that attend.
In the Summertime Andrew assists the local churches with various Vacation Bible Schools, camps, and conferences. The Jr. Youth Group and Game Club are on hold during the Summer months. He recently started an international student ministry. There is a special work and travel program our government provides: a J1 visa for international students to come to America during their Summer breaks. This is an excellent opportunity to make new friends and share about the hope of glory, Jesus Christ. Andrew helped these J1 students familiarize themselves with Alaska, drove them to various destinations, took them on hikes, and had opportunities for deep conversation. From the various cultures where he grew up in Reading, PA to the countless international students he befriended while attending Elim Bible Institute in Lima, NY, Andrew has always had a passion for international students.
Support: How you can Invest in Andrew’s Alaskan endeavors
We have two options for people to help Andrew by sowing into his ministry:
* To use PayPal, please click the yellow Donate button at the bottom of this page.
– There is an option to become a monthly donor as well.
* To mail a check, please mail it to:
P.O. Box 777
Mount Joy, PA 17552
* Andrew Smither’s name must be put in the memo in either option or it will be designated to the LightShine Ministries General Fund and will not go to Andrew.
* All Donations to LightShine Ministries are tax deductible