Oliver Smith Biography, Iowa Preacher - New Creation

"A New Creation"

Oliver's new found joy and love for his Lord became apparent to others immediately. Traveling by horseback to neighboring farms, he told with delight what the Lord had done for him and of the need for all men and women to be born again. Along Oliver's milk route, customers retrieving their milk now discovered gospel papers tucked in with their purchase. And on occasion, the milk in his delivery wagon came close to souring as he visited with people along the way.

His Bible became increasingly precious to him. He had a burning desire to read and meditate upon it. Recalling this some years later, he remarked; "I'd catch myself out in the cow barn with my Bible on my knee reading as I milked." Frequently, he would slip away to Mr. Herman's home, where they would spend wonderful hours together poring over the Word of God. The truths he encountered left marked impressions upon his young heart, and many of his old habits began to change.

Prior to his conversion, Oliver had been personally motivated by a number of issues confronting America. When once convinced of a candidate's cause, he would drive the wheels of his buggy off in an attempt to elect him. On one occasion after he was saved, he stopped with fellow voters at the home of Mr. Herman and encouraged him to participate in the national election. Mr. Herman politely declined and told the enthusiastic group that he could do more for the country on his knees. That statement caught Oliver "right between the eyes" and he turned his buggy for home.

 
Oliver, Pearl & hired man, William Dunbar, searching the Word

Another habit which Oliver acquired in unsaved days was that of chewing tobacco. He was very fond of it and was rarely without a tobacco plug. The inside panels of his white Buick were dyed brown from spit. Visiting with his hired men one morning, he was tempted to take a "chew", when across his mind like a flash came the thought, "Where will I spit?" As he stepped from the house he gave the plug to a hired man who afterwards left it lay on a window sill of the barn. Spotting it later, Oliver grabbed it and tossed it far out into the hog lot. "The filthy thing," he said, "wasn't even fit for the hogs." Not long afterward while traveling in his buggy, Oliver met a neighbor. The man lifted a hand to his mouth and moved it back and forth in a curious gesture. Realizing that the man was out of tobacco and wanted to borrow a "chew", Oliver reached into his pocket and pulled out a small New Testament. To the startled, wide-eyed neighbor, he read the words of John 3:16. "It would be far better if you chewed on that," he said.

These changes in Oliver's behavior puzzled Pearl. What she once had believed to be only a passing fancy turned out to be quite the opposite, and this disturbed her greatly. She resented the news that her moral life and religious inclinations had profited her nothing spiritually. And when Mrs. Herman stopped by their home to see their newborn daughter Vivian, she was outraged to hear her speak of the child as "another little sinner."

Anxious to see Pearl saved, Oliver would leave his Bible lay out each morning hoping that she would read it. "I used to lay the edge of my Bible along a certain line on our dresser. When I came home at night, I'd see if she had moved it. I always found it just as I had left it." But unknown to Oliver, Pearl had been reading, and each time she returned it she carefully placed it exactly where she had found it.

While Oliver continued to pray that God would save his wife, he himself was engaged in an inner conflict over truth concerning baptism. Previous experiences with baptism had left him disappointed, and he failed to see the need of it again. Years later he commented, "I wasn't baptized right away, because I didn't see it, and I really didn't want to see it." But the brethren from the Waterloo assembly continued to teach him from New Testament Scriptures that this was an important first step in obedience to his Lord.

During this period of hesitation, he asked Mr. Samuel Keller to pray for his wife Pearl. Mr. Keller responded, "You're asking God to do great things for you, but you won't go under three feet of water for Him." The very next Lord's Day, in obedience to the Word of God, he was baptized by Mr. Keller. The day of his baptism, Pearl threatened to be gone when he returned, but when he arrived home she was still there.

Less than a week after Oliver was baptized, he came home from a sale and noticed something he had never seen before. Laying on his bed was an open Bible, and scattered around it were a number of gospel tracts. "My heart almost jumped for joy," he said. He found Pearl in an adjacent room quietly rocking their baby daughter Vivian ("a baby that was born between the time I was born again and the time Pearl was born again"). Sitting down beside them, he told Pearl what he had bought at the sale. Pearl was completely uninterested. Oliver casually picked up a tract and began reading it. Pearl stopped him.

Pointing to a page of the tract, she said, "What would you say if I could believe what it has written along there?"

Quickiy Oliver read the line; "It said as soon as a sinner finds out that he can't do anything to save himself and that God doesn't ask him to do anything, but only believe that God did it for him, he'll be saved." Oliver looked up at Pearl and she smiled back. The peace of God had filled her soul.

Outside, Oliver told a hired man that he thought Pearl had gotten saved. "I think so too," said the hired man. "She came out here and told me to kill a couple of roosters, and I never saw her look so happy in all the years I've known her."

"Ah," said Oliver later, "it's nice to be saved and know it and even nicer to be saved and show it.

Thus the happy day arrived when together they were received into the fellowship of believers in Waterloo. In these early days, their buggy made many trips to the hall on Commercial Street. In his book William J. McClure, John T. Dickson recalls a time in 1915 when the evangelist came to Waterloo for gospel meetings:

"Souls began to be awakened and soon a number of souls were saved, giving the believers much encouragement and the
ministry of the Word was a great feast. Oliver Smith a young farmer living a number of miles out in the country, not long saved, attended the meetings and to this young believer the ministry was wondeiful, giving him a real lift heavenward in his early Christian life, but he wanted others to hear the same precious truths. So Oliver rigged up an old hay wagon with seats, and appeared every night at the Gospel Hall with from twenty to thirty people packed in his homemade means of transportation."

One Lord's Day evening, Oliver stood up to preach publicly for the first time. He promptly read from Matthew 20: 16; "So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen." After a moment of silence he said, "I guess I don't have anything to say." and then sat down. Mr. Herman approached him afterwards. "Oliver," he said, "I was wondering what you were going to make out of that verse.

On another occasion, he stepped out to preach at a street meeting in Waterloo, and again his entire message left him. Glancing around, however, he noticed three companions from his unsaved days standing in the crowd. Immediately, he began to preach. "I didn't know where the words came from," he said later.
 
In December of 1915, Oliver helped Mr. E. G. Matthews while he was preaching the Gospel in an old brick school house near Manchester. One anxious woman told Oliver that she couldn't understand the cruelty people had shown to the Saviour. Oliver told her that she was no different than they and would have done the same thing. Deeply concerned by this, she went home and later found peace through the words of Matthew 11: 28; "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest." "I didn't even know where to find that verse," she said. "So I called Mrs. Smith and she told me."

When World War I erupted, the family's tranquility was disturbed for a short time as Oliver rode into town to register for the draft. But because of his large milk route, he was not called to serve. He remained at home fulfilling his daily tasks and spending happy moments with his young family.

One day as he prepared to fill a silo on his farm, he thought it rather strange that none of his neighbors were present to help. Usually a number of them would gather and lend him a hand at this. Inquiring around, he soon discovered the reason for their absence. Someone, in response to Oliver's "funny religion", had climbed the silo and printed the word "Quarantined" on its side. Other neighbors, fearing that a contagious disease had plagued the farm yard, stayed away. "You don't have to worry about that," Oliver told them. "What we have over here isn't very catchy."

Generally Oliver had several hired men working either full or part time for him. He had great joy in seeing thirteen of these men saved, among them John Dahlgaard, Glen Hollipeter and William Dunbar. In time, he left some of these men in charge of the farm while he held gospel meetings in various places.

As he became more occupied with gospel work, he found it increasingly difficult to concentrate on the business of farming. Hours he had spent working on the pedigree records of his cattle were now spent with his Bible. In a farming accident in 1916, his right hand was severely injured in a corn sheller leaving him temporarily disabled. Sam Keller, who had noted spiritual gift in Oliver, said to him one day as he visited, "The next time it might be your neck. God can find anybody to plant corn, but He cannot find many to preach Christ."

Four years later, believing that God was indeed calling him forth to preach, Oliver arranged for a sale at his farm. It was a difficult day. Gazing around at the machinery and livestock, which for several years had been his livelihood, he felt a strong, empty feeling of loneliness creep over him. With a tear in his eye he walked into the parlor of his home and sat down at the piano. In his clear, ringing voice he sang:

"O who will go and find them?
Who for the Saviour's sake,
Will search with tireless patience
Thro' brier and thro' brake?
Unheeding thirst or hunget
Who still from day to day
Will seek as for a treasure,
The sheep that go astray?

"O come let us go and find them In the paths of death they roam
At the close of the day t 'will be sweet to say, I've brought some wanderer home."

Rising from the piano, he stepped onto the veranda and looked into the faces of fellow farmers and cattle buyers who had come from all over the state. He called them to attention and then announced; "In a few minutes an auctioneer is going to stand here and encourage you to bid higher and higher, but for a little while I would like to speak on something which I hope will bring you lower and lower." The crowd's attention was captured and for the next half hour Oliver preached the gospel to them.

 

"Go ye therefore...I am with you aiway, even unto the end of the world." Matt. 28:19-20


Years later, while traveling these same rural roads with a fellow believer, he pointed to a lovely farm place and said, "See that farm, it could have been mine had I continued farming." Further on he pointed again, uttering similar words. Then turning abruptly in his seat he asked, "Do you think that I made a mistake?"

To thousands of souls across Iowa reached through the labors of this committed man, it was definitely not a mistake.