We change the world one smile at a time.” This is the mission statement of Smiles, a nonprofit organization that partners with individuals and groups to put smiles on the faces of children around the world. Through “Casas Smiles,” long-term missions, and sponsored trips, Smiles ministers to the daily needs of children and families around the globe.
Rafael Siordia, a member of the Alhambra church, became the president of Smiles 12 years ago. Through the work Smiles carries out and the support it offers, Siordia hopes to encourage others who have a desire to do mission work. Ultimately, he wants to see Jesus return. “We’re here to work and serve our communities, because I want to go home,” he said.
Smiles has done work in various countries, which positions the ministry to partner with other organizations and conferences to support further global outreach efforts. Just last year Smiles encountered an opportunity to partner with the youth of the Texas Conference on a mission trip to Thailand over the Thanksgiving holiday. Paulo Tenorio, Texas Conference youth director, contacted Siordia with the request, and plans were set in motion. Smiles coordinated every detail of the trip to make the experience “as easy as possible,” Siordia recalled.
“When Paulo contacted us to create this mission trip for the youth, we were more than delighted,” Siordia explained. In all, 43 people, mostly youth and young adults, from the Texas Conference traveled to Mae Sot, Thailand. The team held a weeklong VBS at the Naung Bo Deng School, an Adventist school with a mostly non-Adventist student population. “This is why Smiles was founded—to bring Jesus Christ and the Adventist message to kids who haven’t heard it before,” said Leyla Siordia, Smiles Administrator.
The Smiles team also visited a different school each day, making for an action-packed week. At each school, the team set up various stations, including arts and crafts, team-building games, and science experiments. The team also distributed book bags filled with books, pens, pencils, water bottles, sunglasses, and toiletries. “I was excited to be a part of the team because everything we did relates back to Jesus and His love for us,” said Logan Vega, a high school senior. “It was great for the students to have so much fun learning about Jesus.”
During the trip, the missionaries fellowshipped over Thanksgiving dinner. Fedly Bonneau, a missionary serving in Thailand, made an appeal for those who felt the call to longer term mission work and whose hearts were impressed by the need in those communities. Three students plus a family of eight responded; they are committed to serving in Thailand for five years.
This year, Smiles has four trips on the calendar: India, Cuba, Peru, and Thailand. In addition, Smiles is partnering with the youth in Washington, D.C. for a trip to India this July. Smiles is also looking forward to a trip to the Amazon this July 27-August 3. If interested in participating, visit drawsmiles.com to inquire.
“We invite people to global mission work,” Siordia said, “and we help the community, support the local church, and continue to show the gospel.” The mission continues as missionaries step forward and Christ’s love brings smiles.