Smith LeVan says, “It’s not about me – it’s about Jesus”
The new pastor at PEACE Lutheran Church in Grass Valley has a goal: To “help people discover how deeply and passionately God loves them.”
“The purpose of the church is to give everyone a sense that they are a valued child of God, so they can carry that on” in their lives outside of church, Smith LeVan said. “Jesus’ death is the sign of the depth of God’s love for us. That’s the treasure we have to share.”
PEACE’s church Council unanimously voted to call Smith LeVan, and the congregation ratified the call in May.
“Pastor Eileen is especially strong in the areas that are important to Peace: preaching and worship, mission and outreach, and spiritual formation,” wrote Connie Berg, who headed PEACE’s Call Committee.
Smith LeVan grew up in Allentown, Penn. She was 12 when her parents became missionaries in Liberia. Her father flew a bush plane for the Lutheran Church in Liberia, sponsored by the Lutheran Church in America (now a part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America).
Many Liberians she came to know were poorly educated farmers living simple, village-centered lives.
“In Liberia, it was all about being in community,” Smith LeVan recalled. “I learned at that young age that you don’t need a lot of stuff to be happy.”
Smith LeVan became a U.S. Navy hospital corpsman and later a registered nurse, in Pennsylvania. Her time in Liberia, the birth of a son with cerebral palsy, and her work as a nurse caring for parents whose infants had died, helped lead her to “a powerful call to ministry,” she said.
Since then, her ministry has included volunteering as a chaplain with the Reading, Penn., police and leading an originally German Lutheran church in Reading that now finds itself surrounded by Spanish-speaking Latinos.
“As individuals, there’s a limit to what we can accomplish… When the power of God works through us, the possibilities are unlimited.” – Eileen Smith LeVan
In Grass Valley, PEACE surrounds itself with beautiful music, and Smith LeVan fits right in: She is a trained singer, plays guitar during worship services, and also plays handbells and recorder.
Adding a dose of good humor always helps, Smith LeVan added. Her motto: “It’s not about me; it’s about Jesus.”
Youth: “Make a difference”
Smith LeVan reaches out to young people by helping them answer the question, Where is God asking me to use my passion, gifts and skills?
“Young people want to make a difference in the world,” Smith LeVan said. “The missing piece they won‘t find anywhere else is in the church. We can help them connect with God…
“As individuals, there’s a limit to what we can accomplish,” she continued. “When the power of God works through us, the possibilities are unlimited.”
Smith LeVan is passionate about working to end hunger, both at home and around the world. Her favorite nonprofit organizations include Bread for the World, a Christian nonprofit dedicated to ending hunger; and 1,000 Days, a campaign promoting nutrition in the first three years of life, starting with conception.
Locally, churches have a key role to play in serving the needy.
“But when the church starts seeing itself only as a charity and a dispenser of money,” she warned, “then we’ve lost the link of building relationships and sharing our connection with God.”
Everything Christians do must be grounded in following Jesus’ example of accepting those considered unacceptable, she added.
“All people are wounded human beings… We need to learn to live together in ways that recognize that,” Smith LeVan said. “All we do helps people understand they are valued, cherished children of God.”
Want to know more?
The Rev. Eileen Smith LeVan can be reached at PEACE Lutheran Church, 828 W. Main St., Grass Valley, Calif.; call (530) 273-9631 or click here for our Contact page.
Worship services are at 8:45 & 11 a.m. Sundays.