Dennis and Maribel occasionally return to the U.S. and are available to visit congregations. Email them to extend an invitation to visit your congregation or organization.
As regional liaison for South America, Dennis has three main responsibilities: developing the PC(USA)’s relationship with its 16 mission partners, accompanying PC(USA) mission co-workers, and providing resources and advice to presbyteries and congregations that have mission partnerships in South America. Maribel serves in ministry in the home.
Country Context: For more than 170 years, the PC(USA) has participated in God’s mission in South America. The first Presbyterian mission worker in the region was Rev. Dr. David Trumbull who began his ministry in Valparaiso, Chile in 1845 and went on to establish a Presbyterian denomination there. Ranging from Colombia and Venezuela to the north to Argentina and Chile in the south, from Brazil in the east to Perú in the west, the PC(USA) now has partnerships with 16 denominations, theological seminaries, and faith-based organizations in nine South American countries. Their priorities include evangelism, promoting social and environmental justice, and contextualized theological education.
Most countries in the region have made progress in reducing income inequality over the past decade, but social tensions continue between privileged elites, mostly of European descent, and the lower and middle classes, mostly people of indigenous, African, and mixed heritage. Roman Catholicism is the majority religion in the region, but both mainline Protestant and Pentecostal churches are growing.
About Dennis and Maribel Smith
After more than three decades of service in Guatemala, Dennis and Maribel Smith moved to Argentina in January 2011 when Dennis was appointed as PC(USA) regional liaison for South America. Maribel currently serves in ministry in the home; in Guatemala, she served as part of a network that treats post-traumatic stress and seeks alternatives to violence.
From their home in Buenos Aires, Dennis and Maribel continue to practice the gift of hospitality that so enriched their lives in Guatemala. “Our home is known as the Hotel Smith Pérez,” comments Maribel. “Over the decades, we’ve had the privilege of welcoming hundreds of people into our home – especially young people. Helping guests discover how and where God is present in Latin America has been a special gift.”
“The PC(USA) has been engaged in mission in this region for over 170 years,” Dennis states. I am grateful that through my years of experience in the region, I already know many women and men now in positions of leadership with our partner churches and ecumenical institutions. They are valued friends and respected colleagues.”
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Dennis was an honor graduate in speech communications at Wheaton College in Illinois, and subsequently completed a one-year graduate fellowship at the National College of Education in Evanston, Illinois. The following year, his new home church, First Presbyterian in Evanston, sponsored him on a one-year volunteer assignment as a communication consultant to the National Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Guatemala. Following this volunteer year, Dennis returned to Chicago and worked for two years in the private sector. In October, 1977 he accepted an assignment with the United Presbyterian Church (USA) continuing his communication work with Guatemalan Presbyterians. In 1984, Dennis received a new appointment at the request of the Latin American Evangelical Center for Pastoral Studies (CELEP), based in San José, Costa Rica. From Guatemala, he coordinated CELEP’s Education for Communication program. In 1996, Dennis’ work came under the umbrella of the Central American Evangelical Center for Pastoral Studies (CEDEPCA) where he served until 2010. In 2011, he was appointed as Regional Liaison for South America and the family moved to Buenos Aires.
Maribel was educated in Guatemala and received training as a bilingual secretary at the National Secretarial School in Guatemala. In 1983, Maribel, a Roman Catholic, began to minister in her neighborhood with a congregation of Italian nuns. Together they discerned her gifts for ministry and her commitment to her community. She was trained as a lay pastoral agent and worked with base ecclesial communities. In 1987, Maribel began working at Centro de Estudios, Publicaciones y Servicios de Evangelización (CEPSE), an educational resource center for base communities. In 1989, Maribel and Dennis were married and Maribel was appointed as a mission co-worker of the Presbyterian Church. In 2004, Maribel began to be mentored in holistic therapies designed to help people manage stress and seek wholeness by Karen Woehler, a PC(USA) commissioned lay pastor and retired nurse from Minnesota.
The Smith family are members of the San Juan Apóstol Evangelical Church in Guatemala City, where Dennis was ordained to the office of elder and Maribel to the office of deacon. They currently attend St. Savior Anglican Church in Buenos Aires. Dennis and Maribel have two sons, Lucas and Benjamin.
Dennis – November 1
Maribel – June 22
Lucas – September 22
Benji – August 21