Although Lt. Christian Smith is in his first week as director at the Columbus Salvation Army, he's no stranger to the area, having served as a volunteer here three years ago and, as a 5-year-old, joining his parents, who were directors in Columbus 22 years ago. Photo by: Slim Smith/Dispatch Staff
August 10, 2018 10:19:46 AM
What Lt. Christian Smith lacks in experience as the new commander for the Columbus Salvation Army, he makes up for, well, in experience.
Less than two weeks into his first command and a little more than a year removed from Salvation Army College, Smith nevertheless has a lifetime of experiences with the organization to draw upon.
"My parents were here with the Salvation Army about 22 years ago," Smith said Thursday. "As a matter of fact, I'm living in the same house that we lived in back then. Only now, I get to sleep in the master bedroom."
Smith, 27, remembers little from that time, but has more recent experience with the Columbus operations to draw on.
"I was here as a corps assistant about three years ago," he said. "So I have a pretty good grasp of things."
Smith's appointment to his first command assignment came unexpectedly. He had been working as a corps assistant in Hattiesburg when he learned on July 23 he had been selected to replace Jennifer and Damon Graham, who were commanders in Columbus for about a year but recently moved to Alabama to tend to the needs of a family member.
Smith was excited, obviously, to have his first command.
So was his dad, Major Mark Smith.
"Absolutely," Mark said. "I have to tell you, if I would have gotten the call, I would definitely have come back to Columbus. It's a great assignment."
The elder, along with his wife, Major Chiffonia Smith, are just a month into their latest command, at Chattanooga, Tennessee. It is their 12th assignment in their 32 years in the Salvation Army.
The couple commanded at the Columbus Salvation Army from 1995-98.
"We made a lot of special friends there and found the community to be very supportive," Mark said.
Christian, meanwhile, said he hopes his familiarity with Columbus and his lifetime of exposure to the Salvation Army's mission and operations will help as he transitions from helper to the guy in charge.
That's important. Most commands are held by married couples who can divide the duties.
Smith, who is single, doesn't have that luxury.
"Everybody has things they are good at and things they are not as good at, things they like and things they don't like so much," he said. "With a couple, you can divide those things. In my situation, I'll have it all, but I'm confident I can rely on my corps family here to keep things running smoothly."
Smith said he has a special passion for youth ministry and social work service and he'll look for opportunities to build on both.
Mark said his son has qualities that are bound to be an asset.
"He's always had an ability to connect with people," Mark said. "Christian has a knack for putting people at ease. He's very approachable. I can't tell you how important that is for this job. So much of what we do is about relationships. He'll be great at that."
His son does have one weakness he'll have to work on, though, Mark said.
"I tell ya, he was a lousy bell-ringer," he said, laughing. "He's gonna have to step it up there."
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]
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