Oliver Smith Biography, Iowa Preacher - New Decade

A New Decade Dawns

The 1920's had been a decade of great deliverance in Iowa. From Clayton to Coster, God had worked in a remarkable way. Assemblies had been planted, and most of these were growing at a steady rate.

Oliver was very busy now. He understood in some measure, what the Apostle Paul meant when he spoke of "the care of all the churches" (2 Cor. 11: 28). Along with constant gospel activity came the added task of helping young assemblies progress in the things of God. Each group of believers was unique, with a wide range of needs and assorted difficulties to work through. Oliver traveled back and forth from place to place seeking to help them in any way he could. He convened gospel meetings, ministry meetings, elder's meetings, and participated in the arrangement of conference gatherings. He helped build halls, furnished songbooks, handed out Bibles, and painted Scripture texts. He baptized hundreds, married many, and preached at funerals whenever called. It was a huge task, but God gave help, and the local lampstands prospered.

A glance into Oliver's diary helps to illustrate just how busy he was in those days. The following entries were taken from 1930.

May 11: Broke bread at Garnavillo. Had baptism at Elkport.
May 15: Drove from Kesley to Dubuque, back to Manchester by way of Hopkinton. Meeting in Manchester.

May 17: Drove around all day about baptism.

May 18: Broke bread at Hitesville. Had baptism in afternoon. Spoke at Coster in the evening.

May 21: Visit around Manchester all day.. .Had a good day speaking to souls. Fair meeting in the evening.

May 24: Took 4:35 a.m. train to Des Moines to get to Atlantic, Iowa. Spoke at funeral. Took evening train home. Got home at 3 a.m. Sunday.

May 25: Drove to Manchester and broke bread. Baptism in the afternoon. Gospel meeting at night. Home after meeting.

May 31 June 1: The Chicago Conference.

June 3: Drove home from Chicago, suffering terrible pain in shoulder.

June 7,8: Manchester Conference.

June 15: At Waterloo for breaking of bread. Drove to Stout for evening meeting. John (Dahlgaard) drove car for me... had much pain tonight.

June 16: Sunday School picnic. Drove to Hitesville to hear George Gould.

June 18: Evening street meeting in Clarksville.

June 24: Funeral in Chicago of Mr. Hoehler. Mr. Varder and I spoke.

June 25: Drove to Elgin, Ill. to lay away Mr. Hoehler. Bros. Kennedy, S. Hamilton, and I spoke.

June 28: A load of us went to Clarksville for street meeting. Had a meeting in the school yard.

July 5: Waterloo Conference. Drove to Clarksville and had street meeting. Also one in Waverly.

July 6: Conference at Waterloo all day. Drove to Hitesville in evening. Mr. Mick along. Hamilton is at Coster. White is at Stout. Rouse and Gould at Waterloo.

A great asset to Oliver as he pursued his relentless schedule was his ability to sleep peacefully almost anywhere and at anytime. He could doze off in a moment and wake soon after, recharged and ready to go. In one home, he was persuaded to stay and join a family in their evening meal. While the dinner was being prepared, Oliver, still attired in his winter overcoat, sprawled out on a nearby bed and fell fast asleep. And in another place, while a fellow preacher was discussing Scriptures with an interested soul, Oliver leaned back in his chair and slept soundly. Later, when asked by his companion how he could sleep in such a manner, Oliver replied, "A man with a clear conscience ought to be able to sleep."

One night, however, Oliver avoided sleep altogether. The early morning hours of January 31, 1933, were spent in praise and thanksgiving, as he marked the twentieth year of his conversion to God. Like Mephibosheth of old, who marveled at his ascent to the King's table, Oliver marveled accordingly at the gracious dealings of God in his own life. He never tired of telling how, when, and where God had saved him.

While moving among the young assemblies in Iowa, he always encouraged the believers to set their affections on things above (Col. 3: 2).
He once compared the Christian life to a teeter-totter. "When I'm up, He's
(Christ) down. When I'm down, He's up. And it is just nice to see Him up.
The more we go down, the more we'll see Him up."

At a prayer meeting one night a brother rose to pray and the entire gathering seemed to be lifted right into the presence of the Lord. Later Oliver approached the man and remarked, "A number of us said prayers tonight, but you really prayed."

When it came to the gospel, Oliver always exhorted local brethren to be earnest in their preaching. Eternal issues were at stake, and there was no place for lightness in such matters. On occasion, he felt the lack of fervency in his own preaching and once commented, "I fear at times that we are only playing at it."

On a Sunday afternoon in February, 1931, Oliver returned home from a meeting in Stout to discover that his father in the faith, Mr. Charles Herman, had passed into the Lord's presence. A flood of memories poured into his mind as he recalled the testimony of this faithful man. He preached the funeral a few days later. Many were moved to tears, as Oliver, his voice breaking, tenderly referred to Mr. Herman as "the most honest man I ever met." A few months later his earthly father, Eli, also went home to heaven, and Oliver sat in the crowd listening while Mr. J.J. Rouse preached from Ecclesiastes chapter 7.

Mr. & Mrs. Chauncey Yost (1) with Mr. & Mrs. Paul Elliott and their son, Paul J.

 That sunimer an interest developed near the town of Aredale, fifteen miles north of Hitesville. Chauncey Yost had moved into the area in 1930, and through his testimony many in the surrounding community were made aware of truth concerning the new birth. With their curiosity aroused, they began attending meetings nightly and a number were stirred by the preaching.The series commenced in a structure known as the Goldwater Church and eventually relocated to Oliver's tent pitched in a farm field not far away. Just as before, Oliver often helped farmers with their daily chores, thus winning their confidence and making it possible for them to attend the meetings. One entry in his diary simply stated: "Shocked oats most of day."

Some from Hitesville and Coster also attended the meetings, and in time, great joy was experienced as several souls professed to be saved. One religious woman was reached on her way home from the tent, while her husband sang the words, "Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe; Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow."

Oliver returned to Aredale with his tent for two summers, and God continued to bless in the salvation of souls. On the 24th of September in 1933, a baptism was held, and thirty-five believers went under the waters in obedience to the Word of God. Later that fall, twenty of these Christians gathered together around the Lord's table and partook of the Lord's Supper. It was a happy day indeed.

Chauncey Yost became one of the leading brethren in the assembly at Aredale. His folksy manner and happy demeanor were a real benefit to the believers there. For nearly ten years he labored among them and then moved to another work at Ontario, Wisconsin. In time, an assembly was formed there as well.

Oliver and Chauncey Yost laboring together in tent meetings.

Over the years, Oliver made hundreds of trips to the little gathering in Aredale, and it was there he broke bread for a final time before he died. On one occasion, he drove from Waterloo to nearAredale where a young woman lay dying of cancer. When he arrived, the house was completely surrounded by cars, and he could see that the doctor was there. He circled the block for some time and finally decided to go back home. That same afternoon, he felt pressed to visit the woman once more. He drove the fifty-five miles again, and this time had the opportunity to preach the gospel to her. She died shortly after. Oliver always believed that God might have saved her soul, since he had been inwardly compelled to go back and see her again.

Another child died tragically one day,when she accidently slipped into a pot of boiling water. The family, which attended a local denomination, was completely overwhelmed by the response they felt from Aredale Christians. As a result, they asked Oliver Smith to preach the funeral which proved to be a wonderful opportunity. Before he rose to speak, Oliver was seen with his hands on his head muttering something out loud. "Lord, just help me get started," he was heard to repeat. "Just help me get started." The Lord did give him help to start that day, and also help to finish. Many from that family were eventually saved and gathered unto the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.