Brendan joined the army to build up humanity
Motivated by the human catastrophes in Rwanda, Somalia and Bosnia and trained in business finance, Brendan Smith joined the British Army to be “a force for good” in constructive efforts.
After his commissioning, he says that joining the humanitarian work of the Civil Military Cooperation (CIMIC) branch was not at all a disappointment.
“I loved every moment I was there in Afghanistan,” Brendan enthuses. “It was exciting, fascinating and I felt I was contributing for good during back to back tours.”
There were many “crazy” times too, he adds, especially during Operation Medusa in 2006, when his team averaged three enemy contacts per day.
“On my last day in Qandahar our vehicle was hit by a suicide bomber in a crowded marketplace, killing 19 civilians.
“Seeing people being killed and living in an environment where every breath could be your last is not a natural thing. It took time to re-adjust to ‘real life’ when I went home.”
For Brendan, the most important mental adjustment was remembering God’s promises in the Bible that God cared for Him because he belonged to the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Knowing that I was loved and accepted by God and talking to Him in prayer about anything was a huge help,” Brendan says of his service years.
It was evident to Brendan that God was protecting him, as vehicles were frequently hit just after he left them. It happened so often that one unit began calling him the “Miracle Man”.
Even if death had come, Brendan points out “I do not fear death because I know I will end up with Jesus for eternity.
“When faced with their mortality in a combat zone, many people asked questions about life and death. It was very simple: which one do you choose?”
Brendan is also grateful for this traumatic time in Afghanistan as he found it “the most intense spiritual experience”.
God was very real to him, he remembers, as he and his roommate prayed regularly, started a church, and saw many people come to know Jesus Christ personally.
“Seeing God transform many lives was a real faith builder for us,” he says.
In 2007, Brendan left the army after he met a NATO advisor in Counter Terrorism. This man shared the need for an African born, military trained Christian to alleviate poverty and help persecuted Christians in Africa.
Brendan has since helped alleviate poverty all around Africa, the Middle East and South East Asia in his work for The Barnabas Fund.
“I have a passion to see injustice broken. I sit on the board of the Religious Liberty Commission of South Africa and am very active in poverty alleviation, and assisting food aid and farming schemes across South Africa.
“In 2010 I moved to Zimbabwe to help ‘Foundations for Farming’, who have raised the average yield of 11,000 subsistent maize farmers from 140kg to 2600kg per hectare. These 11,000 produced 1% of Zimbabwe’s food in 2012.”
Despite what is being done about extreme poverty, Brendan remains uncertain why some endure suffering while others live comfortably, but he believes that God spoke to him about this through an old Christian man in Burundi.
This widower had little more than his clothes and a shack, and his village was starving to death because of a lack of rain, yet he still praised God, and then explained why he wanted to pray for Brendan.
“I admire you so much,” the man said, “because you come from a ‘fat country’ where you have everything.
“How can you rely on God to supply your daily bread when you have so much every day? How are you able to be so full of joy when God does not produce miracles every day in your life? It must be hard for people in your country to believe.”
Brendan recalls: “At that moment, God said to me, ‘Wait until you see the eternal inheritance I have prepared for this man in heaven.’
“It made me realise that this life is very short. And, for those who know Jesus personally, every act of kindness, humility, forgiveness or love or resistance to sin, every prayer or praise to God and every moment we spend with Him here adds to our reward in the next life.”
Brendan says he decided to trust in Jesus Christ as Saviour from his sins very early in his life, after the changed life of his parents convinced that “God is real”.
“I have been saved from the penalty of sin through Jesus’ death on the cross, and I am confident of my place in eternity, but every day brings its new challenges.”
Now back in South Africa, Brendan is a director for another poverty alleviation charity called Kwa-Care.