Lonnie and Debbie Smith
Church Planters, ReachGlobal (formerly EFCA International Mission) – Marseille, France
Lonnie was born in Kansas in 1957, and moved to Nebraska jut before Jr. High School. The son of a printer, he learned the printing trade from his father. Debbie was born in 1956 in Connecticut and attended Calvary EFC in Trumbull until leaving home for college. Both received Christ through the influence of their churches at an early age. Debbie went to France for the first time in 1974, participating in a summer missions program with TEAM. Lonnie and Debbie met while attending Taylor University in Indiana, and found they had a mutual interest in missions. Lonnie was a Pre-Med/Chemistry major, hoping to someday be involved in medical missions in French speaking Africa, and Debbie studied Music/French. They spent the summer of ’77 in France. Lonnie worked with Slavic Gospel Association in the north of France, and Debbie studied French in various locations around the country. They were married in 1978 and moved back to Lonnie’s hometown of Omaha, Nebraska where Lonnie finished his baccalaureate degree and began a Ph.D. program at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. He continued working as a printer for Grace College of the Bible, and later for Nebraska Engineering Company when his department at the Medical Center closed. Lonnie applied for acceptance into another department. The same week he learned this was not to be, he was approached by a representative for Slavic Gospel Association who was earnestly looking for a printer to open a publishing house in northern France (where Lonnie had been in ’77).
Lonnie accepted the challenge, support was raised in six months, and they moved to a small northern town, just outside of Lens with two-year-old Lauren. So began the family’s involvement with ministry in France. Alyssa was born in Lille in 1984, and Rebekah was born early in 1987 in Illinois while the family was on Home Assignment. When it was learned the Rebekah would require open-heart surgery, plans to return to France came to a halt. The family took a leave of absence from SGA and Rebekah’s heart surgery was successful. When Rebekah’s doctors requested that they not leave the country for one year, Lonnie began a one-year program at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and they sought out what their future possibilities might be. Changing avenues of ministry entirely, returning to France or??? Finally they sensed the Lord leading them back to France to work in Evangelism/Discipleship/Church Planting. Lonnie continued at Trinity, completing the Master of Divinity course there. The family moved to Wisconsin to complete an internship with Stonebridge, at that time, an EFC church plant in Menomonee Falls where Katharine was born in 1989. They moved into Milwaukee in 1990 to work with Ebenezer EFC as intern, and later on a part time basis, and made formal application to the Evangelical Free Church Mission, now ReachGlobal. Lonnie and Debbie were accepted in 1992, and spent the next three years Support Team building. The family arrived in Albertville, France on December 13, 1995 where Lonnie and Debbie continued French language studies and all the girls were integrated into French public schools. Nicolas was born in Albertville in June 1996, and one year later, the family moved outside of Sallanches in the Haute Savoie to begin a year of Pastoral Internship. Following this year, in the summer of 1998, the Smith family moved to Romans-Sur-Isère, and Lonnie pastured a French Free Church there for two years. The family spent July 2000-July 2001 in the US for Home Assignment, and then moved to Marseille, France to work with the Merlan Church there. Olivia was born in 2001 in Marseille. Lonnie and Debbie are thankful for the privilege of serving the Lord in France. They are grateful to God for his guidance and provision over the years and in every circumstance.