In my post last week, A Ride to Church, I briefly shared the stories of how three members of my family- my maternal grandfather, paternal grandmother, and my husband- all came to Christ because of someone inviting (and taking) them to church as a child.
Today, I want to share a little more about my grandpa, Keith Smith– remembered in our Pentecostal circle as Rev. K. A. Smith.
As alluded to in my post, my grandfather was not raised in a Christian home. He was the youngest of three children, born to Llyod and Rachel (Stonehouse) Smith. He was at least twelve years old when he first encountered the Lord at a little country church in Michigan.
His neighbors (I have no idea what their names were, but God bless them!) stopped by regularly to invite Keith and his mother to church. From the stories I’ve heard, their invitations were met with regular disinterest. The story goes that Keith was even known to hide under his bed to avoid the neighbors when they came by!
He eventually did accept the invitation to attend Church and soon thereafter came to the Lord.
Around age 19, Keith wanted to start up a boy’s Sunday School class but was told by the pastor that the only available room in the Church house was the broiler room (a tiny room which housed the wood-burning furnace). Undaunted, Keith rounded up a passle of boys from off the street and ended up filling that broiler room to capacity! He was eventually given a larger area for his class, simply because all those boys wouldn’t fit!
A few years later, he started his own church (in another state) with the same zeal and gusto… he simply went out and did it!
After graduating from Ozark Christian College (Springfield, MO), my grandpa married Grace Hance, a missionary and pastor’s daughter from Kansas. God blessed them with four daughters, and for twenty years they pastored Broadway Assembly of God Church in Lorraine, Ohio.
In the 1970’s, my grandparents resigned their church and accepted the call to foreign missions in Latin America. My “Grandpa Keith”, as we called him, was still active on the mission field at the time of my birth (’81). My parents joined my grandparents in mission work when I was 6 years old. I have many memories of the four years my family spent in Mexico and Guatemala.
My grandpa was diagnosed with ALS (also known as Lou Garret’s disease) around this same time (the late 80’s). Two years later, he passed away.
Most of his eighteen grandchildren never met (or were too young to remember) my grandpa, but the legacy of his life and work for Christ continues to inspire and challenge us to this day. The missionary work that he started is still going on, now under the supervision of Ozark Bible Institute & College in Neosho, MO.
When our son was born two years ago, Jeremy and I gave him his great-grandpa’s name- Keith- in honor of the man who left such a godly heritage to our generation.
Obviously, no man is perfect and I don’t want to idolize a man, any man. But there are a few men in every generation who pursue Christ with an undying passion– and my grandfather was one of them.
I never knew my great-grandmother, Rachel Smith (Keith’s mom), but she, too, became a Christian shortly after her son’s conversion to Christ. My great aunt and uncle, Keith’s older siblings, also accepted the Lord in later years. I’m not sure about his father, Lloyd Smith, as very little about his life has been passed down over the generations. Because of the Smith family’s soul-winning neighbors, the direction of my entire family changed– and many, many souls were won to Christ in the ensuing years.
My husband recently attended the funeral for a man in our community who passed away suddenly. Our town is rural and very small and this man had spent all of his 50+ years as a local citizen, so everyone knew him. The man (I’ll call him Mr. B) was raised by a devout holiness mother, but unfortunately strayed far from Christ in his early years. The only “legacy” left of his life were years of alcoholism, abuse, shattered marriages, and scattered children.
As I lay in bed the night following Mr. B’s funeral, I couldn’t help but think how things could have been different, if only he had made the right choices.
Every day we have a decision to make- will we live for Christ, or for ourself?
In the midst of living we often lose sight of the bigger picture- of eternity. So many in our world are caught up in gratifying the flesh, of pleasing self– and they leave a shattered legacy behind for those who follow them.
If you were to die today, what kind of legacy would your family have left to remember you by? It’s worth thinking about.