When the Smartts left the home they've lived in for 31 years in Hurricane Creek Saturday, they knew it was the last time they'd see it for two years. They are moving to Bosnia as the first missionaries to ever represent the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints there.
"Our hope is to get the church established to where it can grow, to lay the foundation," said Phil Smartt, who is a member of a congregation on Ooltewah-Ringgold Road with his wife, Gloria. "We feel these people need Christ, and we want to bring him to them. You've got to realize it was a war-torn country in the mid-90s and there's still a lot of hurt feelings there, a lot of anxiousness because of that war."
The Smartts will fly directly from Utah, where they are currently undergoing a brief training session, to Sarajevo this week, where they will make their new home.
"We're looking forward to meeting people and building a relationship with them," Phil Smartt said. "We went to Croatia, which borders Bosnia, in April and found people to be very friendly, very nice. We found that because of that war over there and America helping stop that war, people have a lot of respect for Americans. It's a different attitude for America compared to the rest of Europe."
Although the Smartts have traveled outside of the country before, this will be their first foreign missions trip.
Phil Smartt spent three years as mission president over the Bay area in California when he was just 19.
The hardest part of this trip will be the language barrier, he said. That and getting used to a new diet, said his wife, who is already preparing herself for two years without peanut butter.
The couple said they plan to travel while abroad. They, like all LDS missionaries, are funding their entire trip. They recently sold the Phil Smartt Insurance business they owned and operated on Airport Road to help pay for it and free them of other obligations.
They are leasing their house to a family member for the duration of their stay.
"Everything is falling into place," said Phil Smartt. "We feel blessed and fortunate for that."