Danville pastor who served in WWII is lending a helping hand in his community

Veterans Voices

DANVILLE, Va. (WFXR) — A Danville reverend who was drafted to serve his country almost 80 years ago has made it his mission to not only feed the soul, but nourish the body as well.

Rev. Willard Smith, 97, served in the United States Army and then he returned home to serve God’s Army.

Smith has been working with North New Hope Baptist Church for more than 60 years. He says he got his call to the ministry because of his experience in World War II.

“I promised him if he would’ve asked me to go through the war and return safely back home to my family, I would serve him as long as I live,” said Smith.

Smith was 18 when he was drafted into the Army, where he was a part of the 553rd Quartermaster Service Battalion.

“We brought supplies to the front and we brought prisoners back to the prison, the camp,” said Smith.

It was the message his parents instilled in him as a child that carried him through those tough days and nights.

“I spent a lot of nights, I cried. But I knew what my mother and my father had told me. My mother, my father were very religious and they told me to always trust in the Lord,” said Smith.

And trust he did.

“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the Lord,” said Smith. “And the only reason I’m here is that he took good care of me.”

Ever since the war, Smith tries to return the favor that God placed on him, by taking care of others.

“He never turned me down for anything,” said Andrew Lewis, member of the North New Hope Baptist Church.

North New Hope Baptist Church members in praise. (Photo: Hazelmarie Anderson/WFXR News)

Every harvest season, Smith makes the journey to Patrick County to support local farmers and share the bounty with those in need.

“His church has been coming to the country store for more than 20 years,” said Felecia Shelor, owner of Poor Farmers Market.

“Warms your heart and made you feel good, knowing that, uh, you’re gonna get something special,” said North New Hope Baptist Church member, Mable Scott.

From apples to cabbages, Smith enjoyed being a blessing to those the way God was a blessing to him.

“It’s fun. It makes you feel good, just give, give Christ. Give, give, give,” said Smith. “I enjoy giving”.

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