San Antonio native Mark “Rev” Smith is all about good, sure, but he also has a secret. You can tell by the way he talks.

But what Mark “Rev” Smith doesn’t know is that I know he’s hiding a secret, and I plan on finding it out in three simple steps, with three simple questions.

The first: “What is IMPACT?”

The former pastor starts to tell me how, over the past 25 years, he’s headed up an initiative to bring clean running water to villages in South and Central America. He throws out facts like “The average [one-way] trek to a fresh water source in these areas is 3.7 miles” and “on average, women and children are hauling 42 pounds of it per day.” He also mentions that because this work takes up a large portion of the day, many children are forced to drop out of school, which keeps them marginalized and virtually powerless.

What I’m really doing is priming the pump – there’s something he’s still not telling me.

Question number two:

“The gringos you bring over from the U.S. to spend a week laying miles of pipe to bring water to remote areas: how are they affected by the experience?”

IMPACT volunteers and local villagers are paired side-by-side to spend a week laying pipe for fresh water. (Photograph courtesy John Langford)

He’s on to me, I think. He can see where this is leading. But he goes on to talk about how his organization’s mission is to change “the heart of a man and the life of a village.” He tells stories of what happens when you take a man – comfortable in his life – to live and work with villagers, to stay with them in their dirt-floored homes, with no clean water.

Some of these men have gone back to the U.S. so moved by their experience that they quit their jobs to pursue something more meaningful. Some start their own good things in their own home towns. And every time any one of them takes a drink of water, he remembers how he helped provide that same basic need to people who didn’t have it.

He pulls out a stack of photos, of people crying the first time they had running water in their backyard, of people smiling. He talks about how waterborne illnesses have all but disappeared, and how children, free from the chore of hauling water home, can now attend school… but I’m on to him.

As smart as he is, as passionate as he is, as good as he is – he can’t hide the real reason he does all of this. I deliver the hammer:

“What’s it like for you every time you get on that plane with a new group of guys, heading to a new village?”

For the first time in an hour-long conversation, he laughs and shakes his head.

I nailed him. And he knows it.

Mark “Rev” Smith – despite what he says – can’t hide from the truth.

Because Mark “Rev” Smith simply enjoys helping people – from both sides of the coin.

Mark “Rev” Smith simply likes doing good.

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Comments

  1. Bob Yawberg
    Ft Wayne, IN
    June 8, 2012, 7:51 am

    Good wirting! Mark served with me in Ft Wayne as our youth minister, then a teen ager. His heart even then was to do good for the youth of our city, which he did. He loves the lord and he loves people. A great story about a man of God who sacrifices for what he believes. Untold numbers of lives have been changed by this untiring servant.

  2. Scott Jones
    June 10, 2012, 11:43 pm

    Mark Smith is the real deal. I’ve done medical work on 4 continents in some of the worst places imaginable. However, the week I spent doing medical work in Central America while Mark’s team brought in fresh water did more to improve the health of a village than I have ever done on any medical trips alone. And, yes, he has a heart both for the villagers and changing the hearts of gringos he takes on the trips.

  3. Jerry Hoadley
    February 6, 2013, 4:50 pm

    I am one of those gringos Mark speaks of, having gone to Palmira, Honduras in October 2010. And yes, ‘Rev’ does have a huge heart for the villagers, to bring clean water for the first time in their lives, and just as importantly, to see the gringos leave it all behind, to hit the “reset” button while there. Although I was moved by the project, and Lord willing, would like to go again and truly let God use me. I resisted and did not ‘reset.’ I did see other men that did, and for that I am ever grateful. God’s speed Mark!

  4. […] Read the National Geographic interview with Mark by Aric S. Queen. […]