Oliver Smith Biography, Iowa Preacher - Applington


It was another solemn gospel meeting. Oliver Smith and John Blair were emphasizing the wickedness of sin and the dreadful plight of the lost. Frequently, they poked their pointer towards a black spot on the lower part of the "Two Roads" chart and warned listeners of the unquenchable horrors of hell.


One of Oliver's Many Tents

A young woman sat fidgeting in her seat and gazed across the center aisle of the tent at rows and rows of silent faces. "They seem to be preaching at them," she thought to herself. "Who from Aplington could be so evil?"

Soon the focus switched. The preacher began pointing more to her side of the aisle. This aroused her curiosity further, and she glanced around again. "Is the guilty party sitting near me?" she wondered.

Then suddenly, the proclaimed truth penetrated her darkened heart, and she made an alarming discovery. It wasn't just to the others around her that they preached. It was to her. The terrors of eternal judgment gripped her soul and a giant struggle ensued. Many years later, lying weak in body with her memory blurring, she clearly recollected the happy day in 1925 when she first found peace with God.

This had been the second year Oliver had pitched his tent in Aplington. He first arrived in 1924 with O.E. (Pat) Magee of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and convened meetings in the town park. A good interest developed and some were saved.


O.E. (Pat) Magee

Now he had returned and people were crowding into the tent again. Pat Magee had planned to help Oliver a second time, but a
tornado had dropped from the sky over Mineapolis and extensively damaged his home. Since a return trip was impossible, Oliver sought the help of brother John Blair. It proved to be Mr. Blair's last visit to Iowa.

All through the rural countryside the two men presented the good news of salvation to needy souls. When farm work hindered individuals from coming to the tent, Oliver offered to help with whatever tasks he could. Sometimes he milked cows right up to the meeting other times he threshed oats or picked corn by hand. People were impressed by this. Here was a preacher who was not afraid of manual labor and did virtually anything to help them make it to the meeting.

Many of these people had a religious reverence for the Word of God and were conscious of their outward conduct. Their lives appeared nearly flawless, but lurking within were deceptive thoughts of self righteousness and personal merit. Oliver met these erroneous thoughts head on, faithfully pointing out Scripture to show how utterly contemptible the natural heart is in the sight of a Holy God. One man claimed that he had always felt a nearness to God. Oliver shot back, "Have you ever felt a distance?"

In another home, Oliver encountered Mrs. Murphy who bluntly informed him that she was not a sinner. "I want you to know," she said, "that I am a down-right good woman.

"Well," responded Oliver, "Let's look in the Bible and see what it has to say about that."

Opening his Bible to Romans chapter 3, he began reading from verse 9:
"'What then, are we better than they? No, in no wise; for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin."' Then he added, "Except for Mrs. Murphy."

Continuing, he read, "'As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one,' except for Mrs. Murphy. 'There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable, there is none that doeth good, no, not one,' except for Mrs. Murphy."

His point was clear. The woman interrupted him in disgust, "Stop!" she said, "I don't want to hear anymore of that."
"The entrance of God's Word will often make people mad," said Oliver later. "As it sinks in even further, it makes them sad, and then Lord willing, it makes them glad."

To fellow laborers, he frequently would say, "Let's go and see who we can make mad or glad today," as they ventured into the countryside. When the meetings came to a close in Aplington, at least 35 young believers were rejoicing in the knowledge of sins forgiven.

Another incident worth noting occured while Oliver and Mr. Blair were standing near the tent in Aplington. In his book, Golden Lampstands of Northern Iowa, Leonard DeBuhr clearly described the scene:

....a man drove up with a nearly new 'Essex'car it was a 1925 two - door black sedan. On its black surface there were many Scripture verses printed in white, and on the front visor were the words, 'Gospel Car 'A man by the name of Tom Olson stepped out of it. He was a Gospel tract writer and also did evangelistic work. I recall him conversing with Brother Smith and handing him afew keys, saying, 'This is your car You can use it for God better than L 'This car took the place of the Ford touring car that Mr Smith had owned."

Mr. & Mrs. John Blair