Westmont Magazine A Family Matter
Dr. Donald Smith ’50 had to leave Westmont after two years because he ran out of money. But both his children, Vance ’85 and Julisa Rowe ’86 graduated from the College — and so did his mother, Nina ’54. His father, Leslie, taught education classes on campus. “Westmont has meant a great deal to my family,” he notes.
After earning a B.S. and M.S. at the University of Oregon, Don went to South Africa in 1952 to teach at the Evangelical Teacher Training College in Zululand. “The Lord made it clear to me that I should be a missionary while I was at Westmont,” he explains. “My spiritual foundations were built there.”
In 1955 Don and his wife, Faye, started a publishing house in South Africa that produced tracts, Sunday school curricula, and a monthly evangelistic magazine, Our Africa, which became the fourth largest periodical on the continent. Despite apartheid, Don worked with a staff of black Africans, who became responsible for the ministry. He then founded Daystar Publications in South Rhodesia, intending to work himself out of a job again.
The focus of their ministry changed when Don and Faye started providing training seminars for churches. They even invited people to stay in their home, mentoring them around the kitchen table. This outreach grew into Daystar University, which they founded and led until 1979 when all-African leadership took over. The school, which educates more than 2,000 students from 20 African countries, just celebrated its 25th anniversary in Nairobi, Kenya. It is the only accredited Christian university in black Africa.
Meanwhile, Don had earned an M.A. in journalism and a Ph.D. in foundations of education communication from the University of Oregon. Returning home, he chaired the division of intercultural studies at Western Seminary in Portland, Ore. Currently, he is distinguished professor of intercultural studies and missiology, and he and Faye teach full time at the seminary. As founder and director of the Institute for International Chris-tian Communication, Don trains people around the world and at WorldView Center in Portland.
Dr. Vance Smith ’85 is also involved in a kind of intercultural communication: he specializes in medieval literature and teaches at Princeton. Fluent in Middle English, he studies medieval theology and political economy. His book about “Piers Plowman,” “The Book of the Incipit,” is forthcoming from the University of Minnesota Press.
Growing up in Kenya, Vance always planned to attend Westmont, which he learned about from his father. He has no regrets about his choice and took full advantage of overseas opportunities by participating in the England Semester and a Mayterm trip to England. He also met his wife, Lucia Wallis Smith ’85, at Westmont.
Initially, Vance planned to study computers and business. But a first-year honors seminar with English Professor Paul Delaney changed his life. “I attribute what I’m doing now to Dr. Delaney’s influence,” Vance notes. “His excitement and rigor challenged and inspired me.
“Good conversation with friends was also an important part of my education,” he adds.
After working for a law firm for two years, he decided against law school. Instead, he entered a doctoral program in English at the University of Virginia while Lucia earned an M.A. in English from the College of William and Mary. Vance returned to England to study at Oxford and the University of London and won a Fulbright Scholarship. His dissertation was on “Piers Plowman.”
Vance’s teaching career began at West Virginia University, where Lucia earned a second master’s in counseling psychology. A specialist in educational testing, she works in a Princeton clinic and is setting up her own practice.
This year, Vance is on leave at the National Humanities Center in North Carolina studying economic theory and practice in 14th century England. “Medieval people believed their possessions came from God, and using them wisely posed a serious ethical problem for them,” he notes. “They were born with an obligation to give.”
Julisa Smith Rowe ’86 believes that drama and music can break down barriers and communicate Christ effectively. Members of Artists in Christian Testimony, she and her husband, Bill, use acting, directing, and teaching to evangelize and help others develop their dramatic gifts in ministry.
Julisa majored in English and theater at Westmont and earned an M.A. in intercultural ministries at Western Seminary, where she is now working on a doctorate in missiology.
For her senior performance at Westmont, she presented a one-woman show about Emily Dickinson. Today she dramatizes the lives of remarkable Christian women such as Mary Slessor, a Scottish missionary who served in Nigeria, and Amy Carmichael, a missionary in India. For six years she has toured and performed for churches and conferences. Bill acts as the technical director and also ministers in music.
“I’m interested in integrating drama and the arts into churches and missions because they are such powerful communication tools,” she explains. “They engage us on both an emotional and intellectual level, which allows the Gospel message to slip past our defenses.
“Sometimes we forget that theology is meant to be lived,” she continues. “Drama helps us remember. As humans, we are hard-wired for stories, and stories are a great way to communicate the Gospel.”
In addition to performing, Julisa teaches others how to minister through the arts. Her interest is international, and she plans to do field work in both Kenya and India for her degree. “I want to be able to provide resources and training for drama in non-Western cultures,” she explains. “I call myself an ‘ethnodramatologist.’” In Kenya, she will be based at Daystar University.
Like her father and brother, she appreciates her education. “Westmont has given each of us a solid foundation for our future work in the kingdom,” she notes.