We’ve all had mentors; people who gently guide us through hardships, self-discovery, and new chapters in our lives. Our mentors can range from a friend, a teacher, a parent, or even a coworker, but universally, they have a significant influence us.
It’s indisputable that the teenage years are full of questioning and introspection, and often it’s the people that help guide us through this unique time that have the most impact on us.
Sometimes these mentors feel like guardian angels, and many wouldn’t be surprised if Daniel Smith, a youth pastor at I-90 Church, really is one.
Smith was mass nominated for the ‘Living Snoqualmie Hero of the Week Award’ by his youth students, all singing his praises as a positive role model and influence in their life. “He is always a good role model to tons of kids and is making our society a better place to live as he teaches the next generation,” says Gabe Humpries, one of Smith’s youth students, “He’s an absolutely awesome dude who loves to talk about God with you.”
He’s been the youth pastor of the church for about a year and a half. However, Smith says that he’s been involved with the youth ministry on and off since he attended youth group himself. He didn’t initially seek out this role, but as fate would have it, the job landed in his lap. “When our previous youth pastors left after less than a year, Dan willingly took on the role as the new youth pastor, even though he works another full-time job,” says Isabella Kerr, one of the many students who nominated Smith.
The particular youth group he leads, grades seven through twelve, is an age group Smith finds important. He says his youth students go from being a kid who might have been under the wing of their parent’s involvement in the church, to deciding the type of person they are going to be as an individual. These kids thrive with people who love them as they are while showing them through example and conversation what it means to grow into a mature adult, claims Smith.
Trinity Diviney, another nominator of Smith, remarks that his sermons have brought light and hope to her life, unlike others she’d listened to before saying, “He invests in everything he does at our Youth Group and doesn’t hesitate to go all in.”
When asked about what led to his decision to become a youth pastor, Smith replied, “I think it’s important for churches to provide a space in which young people can explore their faith. I wanted to be a part of ensuring that our church community has a ministry that provides a space like that.”
According to his youth students, Smith takes time out of his busy schedule to catch up and make sure they’re doing okay. He sends words of encouragement, and if they need someone to talk to, he is there. His youth students say even not when they’re not at youth group, he is always ready to listen and talk when they need it, even if he’s busy.
It’s unarguable that Smith goes above and beyond in any and every way possible. “He has continued to be there for me through my struggles with my mental health and is intentional with every individual student he has a relationship with,” says Kerr.
Smith seems to have perfectly balanced being a teacher and a friend, something his students sincerely appreciate. His students say he is someone who they can laugh with and engage with in deep conversation. According to his youth students Smith is known as a fantastic guy that they all look up to and respect immensely.
When Covid-19 closed many churches nationwide, Smith didn’t stop supporting his youth students. Instead, he transitioned the youth group to an online platform, enabling him to connect to his students during a time when they needed him most. “We couldn’t be together as a youth group, but he managed to balance being a husband, having three kids at home, doing remote learning, working at home, and still made sure we were in connection with one another, even if it had to be over Zoom,” says Kerr. Kerr goes on to say though Smith’s life has gotten a lot more hectic with the changes that have come as a result of this pandemic, one thing that hasn’t changed is the kindness and care he showed her time and time again.
Smith notes, “this time of COVID and quarantine has certainly been interesting in finding ways to help them continue to explore their faith. It’s a different environment than they previously had, but I’m still enjoying it, and I hope they know we are here for them. I enjoy the times when I see them grasp that they are unconditionally loved and that they should love others in the same way. When I see them live out Jesus’ teachings by giving to our community and people in need, that is the best part of what I get to do.”
When asked why Daniel Smith is a hero, the youth students seemed to agree that his selfless dedication, authentic compassion, and consistent efforts to support them are the reason. “He’s a hero because he could be doing anything with his free time, yet he chooses to do this… He makes the parts of church that might’ve been boring fun, but still manages to get us to take the important parts seriously. It’s not an easy job to do, and I think that we all respect him for that,” says Diviney.
So, perhaps Daniel Smith really is a guardian angel, but all I can say for sure is that he truly is a hero to the students in his youth group. He’s a hero who supports the youth, always prioritizes others over himself, and has genuine and rare compassion for others, reason enough why he is this week’s recipient for the ‘Living Snoqualmie Hero of the Week Award.’
To nominate your own local hero for the ‘Living Snoqualmie Hero of the Month Award’ fill out this form.