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From Anegada to the White House: Bishop Lionel W. Smith

- Former soldier in the Vietnam War, who turned a ‘Man of God’, has plans of returning to the VI & may even enter politics!
Bishop Lionel W. Smith (right) had the distinct honour of being invited to Washington DC to the West Wing of the White House with his family where he met former President Barack H. Obama. Photo: Provided
Former soldier in the US Army during the Vietnam War, Bishop Lionel W. Smith was licensed to preach the gospel in 1979 at the Hollywood Baptist Church of Christ. Photo: Provided
Former soldier in the US Army during the Vietnam War, Bishop Lionel W. Smith was licensed to preach the gospel in 1979 at the Hollywood Baptist Church of Christ. Photo: Provided
Bishop Lionel W. Smith delivering the Gospel. Photo: Youtube/File
Bishop Lionel W. Smith delivering the Gospel. Photo: Youtube/File
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI- From the lowlands of Anegada to the war in Vietnam, then to the top of the Gospel Ministry, and being a guest of the former US President Barack H. Obama, Anegadian Bishop Lionel W. Smith has an inspiring story.

In a one on one interview with Virgin Islands News Online on Wednesday February 8, 2017, Dr Smith, who was born on Anegada, attended the Anegada Methodist School and the Charlotte Amalie High School in St Thomas, US Virgin Islands before moving to the US in the early 1960’s, said he recently retired after 36 years in the Gospel Ministry of the Faith Missionary Baptist Church.

Prior to that, he spent two years in the US Army, including one on the battlefield in Vietnam, where he was wounded near the enemy lines.

Stint in the US Army

Bishop Smith related to this news site that he was a Communications Specialist in the US Army.

On one of their army attacks about 2:00 AM when they were close to the enemy’s camp, Dr Smith was the perimeter guard that night when they were attacked suddenly and was hit with shrapnel from an explosion.

The Vietnam War veteran received the Army Commendation Medal, the Vietnam medal (Purple Heart) but recalls this being a real wake-up call to the at times frightening and hard life as a soldier. However, Dr Smith surmised that it made him a better person.

“My experience there [Army] made me a better person and because of the discipline that I had growing up on the Island, I saw some of my American colleagues cry like a babies, but I was able to go through this, didn’t lose my mind, I cannot say at times I wasn’t afraid, because at times I was, nobody wanted to die, but my mind was always sharp and I was always placed in a position of leadership.”

He continued, “God has been good to me. It made me appreciate what I have, the little bit that I have because in Vietnam there was real poverty.”

Called by God

After his army stint, Dr Smith said he “went into the Gospel,” saying it was a calling from God.

“In the Baptist Organisation, we strongly believe that preachers are called by God. I had for some time had the strong feeling that God wanted me to be one of his ministers,” he said. “But what really, really brought it home and convinced me was the fact that I had this vision of myself preaching and I was preaching in a building, and I want to tell you that the building that I was preaching in my vision, ended up being the building that we bought in New York!”

According to Dr Smith, he never knew that building existed, “…And that’s when I knew I was called to be a preacher of the gospel.”

He described his tenure in the ministry has been “unbelievable.”

Wants his story told

Bishop Smith said he wants the Virgin Islands to know his story as a testimony of the goodness of God.

“I thought that people on the islands know that one of their boys from Anegada made good. When I was a little boy, we didn’t have electricity, we used to come to Road Town in Tortola on a boat, we had a little generator on the waterfront, that’s all they had there, they had three cars on Tortola. And when I think of where the lord has brought me from, walking around mining cattle and barefooted to where I am…the story needs to be told.”


Bishop Smith was elected to be the Moderator (One in charge) for the Long Island Progressive Baptist Association for nine years, and was also the President of the Baptist Progressive State Convention of New York, a post he recently retired from. He was second Vice Moderator in Nassau, Bahamas, as the Regional Director for the North East Division of the National Baptist Convention of America, which covered from Virginia, to Washington DC, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and was elevated to the post of Bishop about 4 years ago.

As Bishop Pre-Lay of the True Foundation Ministries International, Dr Smith was responsible for a number of churches.

In the process, he was invited to Washington DC to the West Wing of the White House with his family where he met former President Barack H. Obama.

Bishop Smith received an Associate of Science degree from the State University of NY at Farmingdale in 1980, and continued his education at SUNY Old Westbury and SUNY Stony Brook. He has a Bachelor of Arts from New Life School of Theology and has received certificates from Princeton Theological Seminary and The Graduate School of Theological Studies, Regent University, as well as having attended theological intensives at Harvard and Yale. 

Almost 10 years ago he was bestowed the Dr of Divinity title.

Bishop Smith is married, has 6 children living in the United States and abroad and 12 grandchildren.

The Virgin Islander recently moved to Asheville, North Carolina with his family. He plans on coming back to Anegada for good and maybe even become involved in politics!

32 Responses to “From Anegada to the White House: Bishop Lionel W. Smith”

  • ABC (09/02/2017, 11:25) Like (15) Dislike (1) Reply
    so nice we need people like this in our local politics
  • Gumption.Official (09/02/2017, 11:31) Like (14) Dislike (0) Reply
    Amazing story. Congrats on the so far journey and yes we need all the positive support we can get for and in the bvi!
  • blow (09/02/2017, 11:43) Like (36) Dislike (36) Reply
    Nice inspiring story!

    But you left us almost 60 years ago. Don't think that because you were born here that you can come back to in our politics or be a leader. Where were you through our struggles over the past 2-3 decades? All your offspring in America. But now life coming to an end so now you remember us? We needed you during our suffering years but you have your best years to America.
    • negativity (09/02/2017, 13:05) Like (33) Dislike (5) Reply
      Why so negative 'Blow'? Sometimes experiences 'abroad' as you call it, can give persons insight in to how to fix 'internal' problems. Do you think that only those that live in the BVI 'suffer' or endure 'struggles'? Hardships?

      We all endure hardship/struggles in some way. Geography determines not a man's individual or collective struggle. If we are serious about moving forward, let's band together and encourage each other. Now is not the time (not that it ever is), to tear down. We progress and move forward in unity. We thrive when we acknowledge each others efforts, highlight the positives and assist in making perceivable weaknesses into strengths.

      Divided we fall, together we stand and conquer all. Peace to you my friend.
      • blow (09/02/2017, 16:42) Like (14) Dislike (17) Reply
        Not negative. just being real. He has a great story. Glad and happy for him and his family. But the truth is that many left when the BVI was nothing. Those who stayed behind and struggled, were able to build up the BVI to what it is now. While those who left scorned the BVI. But now that the BVI is on the map, they want to come back and act most proud and like most BVI. Meanwhile they never flew a BVI flag in America, and never showed BVI pride. But Barack was here, so now everybody proud to be a BVIslander. They are all welcome to come back home, because BVI will always be there home, but tell them to hold their corner and don't bring no foreign style here.......trying to tell us what to do and what we need to change. If we need to change anything then tek you butt back America where the change done deh!
        • kunta kinte (09/02/2017, 17:08) Like (21) Dislike (0) Reply
          Mental as mental slavery can produced. Keep tearing down your own and not paying attention to those who quietly coming in and making decisions over you. Blow that.
    • Yep (09/02/2017, 13:11) Like (27) Dislike (2) Reply
      Dear Mr. Smith. Blow''s comment is exactly the kind of mindset that you will encounter when you move back to these Virgin Islands. Good luck....You'll certainly need the Lord's help on this one.
      • All I have to say (09/02/2017, 18:17) Like (15) Dislike (8) Reply
        is that - Everyday is Crab Season in the BVI - And Everyday we're Crying for Change. We might as well keep what we have, Shut Up, Stop Complaining, and continue taking the Political Abuse. Yep - You're soo right.
    • agreed (09/02/2017, 13:37) Like (11) Dislike (11) Reply
      Retirement is at 60. He is a stranger to our island now. Maybe he can preach and mentor kids, but not our politics or a government paycheck. Nice life story.
    • @big blow (09/02/2017, 18:28) Like (14) Dislike (2) Reply
      Loinel Smith a proud ANEGADIAN has visited his beloved Virgin islands every year for the past 35 years and has spent time on all three larger islands, thus he knows and feels our struggles especially after having development proposals after development proposal for his native Anegada pushed aside by government year after year. Projects such as international golf course, 5 star hotel and marina and a cruise ship dock. He even went so far as to give residents complementary shares in his company. Everytime he met with government their were promises made but when he came back to government there was some issue. Environmental impact surveys made and paid for, town and country planning documents submitted but no success for him. This went on with both Administrations and it is still going on. He has experienced the suffering and stuggles first hand, and still is. Lets commend him for wanting to return to be a apart of this rat race . KUDOS MR.SMITH ( hush blow )
      • FDI (13/02/2017, 13:36) Like (3) Dislike (1) Reply
        Even though it seems unpopular, I agree with blow. Dr. Smith has not contributed much to the Virgin Islands. Where are his proposals? I don't think most people heard of them.

        Even so, if foreigner investors or government bring big scale proposals like 5 star hotels and airports or deep water harbours you bet Anegadians will oppose for opposing sake.
    • Correcta (13/02/2017, 20:49) Like (0) Dislike (2) Reply
      Check your facts to avoid sounding so ignorant in the future. Two of his offspring are actually living in the BVI adding to their economy thru daily hard work and entrepreneurship.
    • Hateful (02/06/2017, 09:25) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      stop kicking up dirt! WHAT have you done???
  • Belonger With A Broader Perspective (09/02/2017, 12:09) Like (17) Dislike (6) Reply
    @ blow
    You can't expect different results with the same behavior. You may not like the fact that he went abroad and is now coming back after all these years but he's coming back with a different perspective. A different perspective due to his experience from all those years away. The people with positions of power now come from what you know. They've been here in your struggle. Have they done anything? BVI needs a fresh pair of eyes to look for solutions to its many problems.
  • pat (09/02/2017, 12:47) Like (20) Dislike (0) Reply
    Thanks vino its AlwYs good to see our people moving on up
  • Existance (09/02/2017, 12:52) Like (14) Dislike (2) Reply
    Very proud of my Uncle. Although he did leave the islands he always visited and it was always in his heart! He never forgot where he came from! I think that is excellent to return home.
  • bbq (09/02/2017, 15:18) Like (13) Dislike (0) Reply
    Actually Noel Lloyd spent a lot of time overseas in Africa and other countries where he gained his experiences. This helped him when he returned to be the great man he was. This man's experience could be an asset to us if he wants to contribute to us. Lionel Smith cane from a very small Island but he went to a foreign land and achieved a lot even though he was not born there. We should celebrate his achievements instead of being so negative
  • Vinny (09/02/2017, 16:03) Like (4) Dislike (11) Reply
    @ Blow, you are right! People always try to sugarcoat things instead of being real. The man has been in the US for 60 years, that's 2 generations he missed here in the BVI! Politics what? He needs to come home and relax himself.
  • TurtleDove (09/02/2017, 16:03) Like (11) Dislike (2) Reply
    so good to note when our people leave the BVI they fly like an eagle...too much local oppressors
  • Ajic (09/02/2017, 16:52) Like (5) Dislike (3) Reply
    I hope this is not another charlatan preacher returning home to run for politics and fleece the flock. We have had our fair share of duty preachers!
  • oh (09/02/2017, 17:24) Like (10) Dislike (3) Reply

    So that's how it is now. If Mr. Smith had mentioned that he is coming home with a Well-Fargo truck full of money, rested assure we would be welcoming him with opened arms and pulling a seat for him at the table. Don't worry - the Chinese will be here soon. Let's see how much they are willing to invest.

  • Welmaboi (09/02/2017, 17:49) Like (13) Dislike (0) Reply
    Da#n if you do and Da#n if you don't, while we all "hide behind banana trees' and won't step-up, as Calvin would say.
  • Yes I (09/02/2017, 18:55) Like (6) Dislike (0) Reply
    Nice to see an Anegadian recognized in the White House. Big tomyour daddy Lynol you should be proud. Thanks Obama for putting us in the map. Big up to Sir Branson also.....
  • Come home brother (09/02/2017, 19:08) Like (8) Dislike (0) Reply
    If you plan to live in Anegada on your return and the people of Anegada push to get their own representive to take care of their concerns and they accept you for the job, why not run for politics? We already know how Hubutt roll. Jost Van Dyke should fight for their own representative as well.
  • Wheatley to the bone (09/02/2017, 19:19) Like (16) Dislike (0) Reply
    Anegadians NEVER forgot their home or their people. Because of America and other places throughout the world that they were fortunate to migrate to when opportunity was limited in the BVI, they educated themselves, worked hard and NEVER forgot from whence they came. Barrels of food and clothing returned to the BVI in order to feed and clothe their family, friends and neighbors who were not as fortunate to migrate. It is on the backs of those BVIlanders we stand today! Respect and never forget it!
  • foxy (09/02/2017, 19:42) Like (14) Dislike (0) Reply
    Most Anegadians had to leave the island when they were young in order to find work. Other than fishing, farming and teaching, there were no opportunities so do not knock folks because they want to return and contribute to their homeland. If you could vote for two Virgin Gordians for the past thirty or more years, surely you should welcome someone from the island who is willing to stand up and represent. Bishop Smith was able to gain vast experience and a good education that will enable him to contribute more to the island. In the meantime, he started a family and had to raise them and allow them to have the same privileges that he was able to achieve. It is time for us to broaden our horizons and our way of thinking and look at life positively.
  • We are doing it to ourselves (09/02/2017, 20:50) Like (15) Dislike (0) Reply
    We have already become a minority in our own country. People coming from all over the world and getting ahead, while we continue destroying our own, tearing each other down, pushing away our own people who are willing to come back home and contribute what they can, and denying each other opportunities right here in our country. Are we ever going to change this crab in the barrel mentality. Just Sad. We will be the cause of our own extinction - and it's not to far off either. Just take a hard look at our developing voting population if you don't think so.
  • Yep - Part 2 (09/02/2017, 23:45) Like (7) Dislike (0) Reply
    Mr. Smith, dealing with these people will make you wish you were still in the Vietnam War....
  • Proud (12/02/2017, 22:33) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    You are an amazing man, UNCLE LIONEL. I am so proud of you.

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