Kenneth Smith, the Director of Christian Friends of Israel - Canada was born in York, England, the oldest of four children. Kenneth attended classes to train as a baker, after he graduated from school, then immigrated with his family to Canada in 1956 when he was seventeen years old. The family settled in Alliston, Ontario where his father was the Chief of Police.
Kenneth took employment in a bakery in Alliston. The owners were fine Christians. Through them, Kenneth heard Scripture and testimonies of God's goodness. He opened his heart to the Lord in March of the following year and started to attend church.
His father was very irate about Kenneth's conversion, thinking that he had joined a cult, and said he would have to move out of the family home. A few weeks later, his father received the opportunity to transfer to a larger police force, so Ken would have had to find another place to live in any case. Eventually Ken led his father to the Lord, after his father generously donated a car to Ken and Ilene.
Ilene was born in Flint, Michigan, the oldest of three children, in a family that has a rich, Christian heritage. Ilene received the Lord Jesus as her Saviour when she was ten years old, in Faith Tabernacle, an Assembly of God church in Clio, Michigan, having made up her mind earlier that day.
She started teaching Sunday School to fifteen children under five years old when she was thirteen. No one else wanted that class, but Ilene loved those children and continued to teach them for the next five years. As the children got older, Ilene moved on with them into the next class and she continued to teach them on visits home during summer and Christmas holidays, after she moved away to attend Bible college.
Ilene's education started in a two–room school in Clio, then on to Junior and Senior High in her little town. At age fourteen, Ilene knew that the Lord wanted her to train for the ministry, but she also hoped to receive training in Art. The Lord provided this when a professional art teacher and his wife moved into the farmhouse down the road. Dave Cowan gave her special art training from age ten until she finished Bible college. There were many times in the early days of ministry when the sale of Ilene's paintings put food on the table for her family.
After High School graduation, Ilene travelled to Peterborough, Ontario where she enrolled in the PAOC Bible college. Jokes were made about "Bridal/Bridle" College, but she did not go there to look for a husband. Nonetheless, that is where she met Kenneth and they married in 1961. They graduated in 1962 and Kenneth was ordained as a pastor in 1965.
Kenneth and Ilene entered ministry in Manitoba where they pastored three churches. Four sons were born to them in Manitoba. Their sons are now married and the Smiths have ten grandchildren.
Those years in Manitoba were wonderful, full of learning experiences, a few tears, and a lot of love; there were a lot of wonderful people in those churches. They moved on to pastor a church in Saskatchewan, then a few more in Alberta, and eventually they moved to British Columbia. Kenneth and Ilene have worked in Missionsfests both in Vancouver and Edmonton, highlighting whatever ministries in which they have been involved. All together, they have engaged in fifty years of active ministry.
It was in Alberta, at a camp meeting with Dr. David Lewis, that they heard about Israel. Kenneth laughed when Dr. Lewis made the statement, "I don't understand people who say they would rather go to Hawaii than Israel. Israel is ten times more beautiful along the Mediterranean coast and the beaches are not crowded." Kenneth and Ilene had just sold their home in Lloydminster, Alberta, and were planning to celebrate by going to Hawaii.
Several days into the camp, Dr. Lewis talked about Israel and the Jewish people. Kenneth began to weep, not fully understanding what was going on. At the end of the camp meetings, he told Ilene that he felt God wanted him to go to Israel. Ken sat in the cabin with his four sons and explained to them what had happened in his heart. All four were old enough to understand and said, "Mom, Dad, you go to Israel; it will help your ministry. We have been to Hawaii." (The Lloydminster church had sent their entire family a couple of years before.)
Kenneth and Ilene's lives were changed after the first experience in 1983. Kenneth obtained a Diploma in Travel and Tourism in 1993 and a Bachelor of Theology in 1998 at Trinity Western University. They retired from the pastorate in 2006.
Kenneth says, "We have had the privilege to take 27 tours since that first trip to Israel. We have worked over the years with ministries to Israel as contacts and representatives. We count it a real honor to work with Christian Friends of Israel and we pray that this ministry will expand in Canada."