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02 May 2011

Meet Mr and Mrs Smith

Meet Mr and Mrs Smith

by Chine Mbubaegbu

As lead singer of Delirious? - probably the most successful Christian rock band of all time - he played to thousands all over the world, toured with U2, and penned some of the world's most recognisable worship songs. These days, Martin Smith is adapting to being more family man than frontman and, with his wife Anna, is taking life in a new direction...

Meet Anna Smith. Hillsong's Darlene Zschech describes her as a "gorgeous, talented, creative, funny, inclusive, godly, and compassionate dynamo". And she's exactly that when I meet her at their home in West Sussex. The Smiths are holding a party to celebrate the launch of their new autobiographical books. Delirious charts Martin's journey with the band, while Anna's book Meet Mrs Smith tells the untold story of life behind the scenes when Martin was journeying with the band.

The books are the flip-sides of each other and it's unusual to be able to see two sides of the same story at the same time. Anna's book begins with an amusing tale of Martin ringing her from India following an epiphany he has had in which his heart has broken for the povertystricken there, just while she's dealing with the "supper-time craziness" associated with preparing dinner for their six children.

"I want him in the kitchen with me now, pouring out his heart to me, like a proper married couple going on this journey of discovery together," she writes. "Not tonight though. He's somewhere in India, and I'm watching Pop Idol on TV."

Just as the books are different sides of the same story, their authors are the opposites of each other. Entering their house, you would be forgiven for thinking she was the international superstar. She is glamorous and larger than life. The life of the party. Martin is quiet, contemplative and maybe a little bit shy.

"We're very different," Anna says. "I'm very pragmatic and practical. I like to do things well. Martin can sit and write a song with all this craziness around him. He gets into his musical head space. I've learnt to love that about him. It's there where God speaks to him."

She writes in the book: "We were chalk and cheese, but opposites do attract, and our personalities complemented each other." 

Life-changing

The book charts the couple's early days, their courtship, marriage and the horrific car crash which changed their lives forever. While making a four-hour drive home late at night, Martin had fallen asleep for a few seconds and missed a bend in the road and ended up driving head-on into a brick wall. While Anna and band member Jon Thatcher escaped with only minor injuries, when paramedics arrived on the scene, they thought Martin wouldn't make it alive.

During his two-week stay in hospital, he pondered the reasons for the accident. He writes: "People kept on telling me that I was lucky to be alive, but somehow that word lucky didn't fit... The night of the crash I'd been singing 'thank You for saving me,' and now it was clear that God had done it again - He had saved me from death. The question was, what was I going to do about it?... The crash was more than just a collision between metal and brick. It was the point at which my life changed forever."

It was after the crash that Martin asked the other band members Stu G, Jon, Tim and Stew if they wanted to go full time as Delirious?. And the rest they say is history. For 17 years, they reached heights not previously reached by Christian artists, wining a Dove Award, being nominated for a Grammy, singing before popes and princes.

But the Delirious? days are over now. And Martin tells me that in this semi-autobiographical book he wants to "carry on leading an army of history makers, just as he did with the band".

"I want to keep on inspiring them," he says. "I felt it was time to tell my story in a way that was honest; to tell them I have made some mistakes and that these are the things to watch out for in their own journeys.

"I'm so honoured that God let me be a part of this. And now it's time for everybody to look in their own hands and ask what it is they can do. It will be different for everybody. For me, it's writing songs."

Compassion

This is the idea behind CompassionArt, the couple's new venture. It's a charity that aims to "join the dots between art and poverty" by creating music and using all of the proceeds of album sales and royalty cheques towards helping those living in poverty around the world.

They are joined in this ambitious project, which was started in January 2008, by 11 other friends from the Christian music industry, including Matt Redman, Michael W Smith, Israel Houghton, Graham Kendrick and Darlene Zschech.

Michael W Smith recently said of the project: "The time spent writing and recording these songs was one of the highlights of my life, and my hope is that these songs on the CompassionArt album will help feed the poor, satisfy the needs of the oppressed and reach out to the downtrodden."

CompassionArt is very much a project that Anna, Martin and the children are committed to. Anna writes: "We wanted to help breathe life into some of the poorest communities we'd visited, restoring hope and igniting justice.

"It was increasingly difficult to see this desperation and just to return home and get on with life. Our hearts had changed, and we needed to act."

And it is through this project that the couple are able to balance their faith, their passion, their relationship and their family life in new and exciting ways. With Martin spending more time at home rather than constantly touring, Anna is now coming to the fore, although she insists she was never "in the shadows".

So what does Martin think of his wife's new book? "I love it," he says. "I'm so proud of her. She's not used to this world, but this is a whole new season for her. I think women will especially love her book, but guys will too."


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