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Shelvis and Nancy Smith-Mather

Mission co-workers in South Sudan since 2011
Serving with RECONCILE International, the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS), Across, and Yei Teacher Training College (YTTC)

Contact: Shelvis Smith-Mather
Contact: Nancy Smith-Mather

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Give in honor of the ministry of Shelvis and Nancy Smith-Mather

Nancy and Shelvis periodically visit the US and are available to speak as their schedule permits.  Email them to extend an invitation to visit your congregation or organization.

The Reverends Nancy and Shelvis Smith-Mather have discussed their peacebuilding work at churches and presbytery meetings across the nation. They have also shared at conferences (e.g.-Montreat & the New Wilmington Mission Conference (View full Sermon), universities (such as Yale, Princeton, Emory & Oxford), National Public Radio (Listen to the full interview) and CNN News (View full interview).

About Shelvis and Nancy’s ministry

Many outside organizations enter war-torn countries hoping to encourage peace, yet they lack local partnerships to help them navigate cultural complexities. As a result, peacebuilding often lacks the nuance and shared ownership needed for long-term solutions. Through the PCUSA’s longtime partnership with RECONCILE, Shelvis and Nancy are contributing to peacebuilding in South Sudan in more sustainable ways.

Shelvis and Nancy were jointly appointed to RECONCILE International in 2011 by the PC(USA) and the Reformed Church in America (RCA). RECONCILE is a South Sudanese, ecumenical, Christian organization created by their national council of churches. RECONCILE welcomes people of all faith traditions and ethnic backgrounds to work together to address the ongoing conflicts in the country.

Currently, Shelvis serves as the RECONCILE Peace Institute (RPI) Advisor. For ten years, he worked as RPI Principal, during which time he coordinated strategic planning and an RPI assessment to ensure institutional sustainability. Within five years (2011-2016), short courses were revamped, internships created, e-technology incorporated, and an alumni council established to ensure better follow-up with graduates. RPI doubled international financial support, tripled the number of female participants and increased local funding ten-fold. RPI also expanded participation to every state across the nation as well as the refugee settlements in the three neighboring countries.

In 2014, Nancy’s role expanded from RECONCILE’s Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator to managing the South Sudan Education and Peacebuilding Program (SSEPP). The SSEPP is a $1.3 million collaborative effort of four PC(USA) global partners: the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS), RECONCILE, Across, and the Yei Teacher Training College. The program addresses the gap in educational development caused by years of conflict. Nancy directed this program for seven years (2014-2021) supporting partners’ efforts to train teachers, build schools, equip PTA’s and encourage girls to stay in school. The SSEPP also provided counseling for war survivors, training for local peacebuilders, and financial support for starting small businesses while living in the refugee camps.

In 2016, military forces seized the town where RECONCILE resides, displacing 70% of the population. As a result, the Smith-Mathers were asked to relocate across the Uganda border to assist RECONCILE in establishing workshops and trauma healing trainings in the refugee camps. Shelvis and Nancy also facilitated courses at Bishop Allison Theological College (BATC) training South Sudanese seminarians to better address community trauma (Video highlighting BATC).

In 2019, Shelvis began studying barriers to securing peace in South Sudan at the University of Oxford. This research emphasizes the vital role of the local church in securing peace in South Sudan. From these studies, Shelvis is working with RECONCILE to develop peacebuilding resources. (To learn more click here).

Most recently, escalating violence in Sudan ushered in a refugee crisis within South Sudan. Shelvis joined South Sudanese church leaders to visit the displaced at the border (to view footage of the tragic scene they encountered click here).  The Smith-Mathers are involved in RECONCILE’s response while also helping to secure strategic partnerships by meeting with humanitarian agencies, foundations, academics, church leaders and Embassy Officials at the United Nations. These collaborative efforts help the South Sudanese church facilitate healing in war-torn communities. To God be the glory!

Country context

South Sudan is a beautiful country.  The South Sudanese people come from a rich diversity of ethnic, linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Christianity and African indigenous religions are the most commonly practiced faiths, followed by Islam. The PC(USA)’s partnership with the South Sudanese church spans over 100 years.

In early 2011, the people of South Sudan voted to separate from the Khartoum-based government of Sudan and form an independent country. The referendum was part of a 2005 peace accord that ended decades of civil war between rebels in the South and government forces from the North. Years of war eliminated opportunities for development, including formal educational development.

Great expectation accompanied the birth of South Sudan, and the country’s descent into civil war in 2013 brought great heartache. Nevertheless, many local churches are deeply committed to building peace, to healing emotional wounds from violent conflict and to bringing development.  Their ministry exemplifies hope in the midst of struggle.

About Shelvis and Nancy

Shelvis and Nancy, who are both ordained PC(USA) ministers from the Greater Atlanta Presbytery, took their first ordained calls in Africa. They began in Kenya with the PC(USA) Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program in 2008. While in Kenya, they connected with other countries in the region and felt drawn to South Sudan.

In 2012, the Smith-Mathers’ son, Jordan, became the first child born in South Sudan to U.S. born parents (Click here to view the CNN News Story). Jordan and his younger sisters Adalyn (2014), Nicole (2016) and Alice (2020) all received East African names from community elders.  Jordan’s name, “Yopay,” is given to a child who is born early, as he was born prematurely. Adalyn’s name, “Keji,” means “home” and was given to her to let the Smith-Mather family know they are welcome in South Sudan. “Nyepal” means “prayer” and was given to Nicole by a South Sudanese pastor.  She explained that many in East Africa were praying for Nicole’s healing when she was hospitalized as an infant. Alice received the name “Beleta” meaning “praise.”

Both Shelvis and Nancy grew up in Atlanta and attended the Westminster Schools, Furman University (Greenville, S.C.); and Emory University’s Candler School of Theology together.

The Smith-Mather family is humbled by the opportunity to be a part of the South Sudanese church, PC(USA) and RCA’s ministries. Please continue to partner with them as they lean into God’s work of peacebuilding in South Sudan and beyond.


Nancy–December 27
Shelvis – March 5
Nicole – October 13
Jordan – October 20
Alice – October 26
Adalyn – June 1