A Marsh Landing couple will soon depart Ponte Vedra Beach for a three-year mission to the Dominican Republic.
Bret and JeaNette Smith will soon sell their cars and rent their home on Osprey Lookout Court in preparation for their July move to Santo Domingo, where Bret Smith has been assigned to serve as a mission president for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In his new role, he will supervise 190 missionaries, teaching and training the young people ages 18 to 26 for six days a week. At times, he will also accompany the missionaries as they teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to residents of the Dominican Republic.
“On the seventh day we rest,” JeaNette Smith said, laughing. “Although our day of rest is Monday, because on Sunday we are going 90 miles an hour from congregation to congregation.”
On their preparation day, she added, the couple hopes to climb a few mountains and walk a few beaches.
During the Smiths’ mission service, Bret will remain on the island for the entire three-year period, while JeaNette will only return to the United States in the event of an extreme emergency.
While neither Bret nor JeaNette signed up for missionary service, the church came to them and asked them to serve. In the 30 years the Smiths have lived in Jacksonville, JeaNette noted, only one other couple from Jacksonville has been called to serve as mission presidents, so the call took the Smiths by surprise – but not their kids.
“I totally saw it coming,” said Spencer Smith, who graduated from Nease High School in 2004. “My dad is so good with young people and he knows the scriptures inside and out. It was kind of an obvious fit.”
Abruptly leaving their home, their community and their family has taken a lot of faith, according to JeaNette, who will close her family therapy practice in order to accompany her husband on the mission.
“I’m really not worried about anything except speaking Dominican Spanish,” she said. “I can understand most Spanish speakers, but the Dominicans speak so fast, it will be a challenge to keep up.”
Her husband already speaks Spanish, she added, as he served a two-year mission in Argentina when he was 19 years old. Having served as a missionary himself, Bret, who will go by the title “President Smith” in the mission field, is also familiar with what the missionaries might need from him.
“Most of all they need love, and acceptance and encouragement,” he said, acknowledging that some people choose not to hear the missionaries’ gospel message. “I help the missionaries have hope, and remind them there’s no greater feeling in life than helping someone come unto Christ.”