Oliver Smith Biography, Iowa Preacher - Wartime Work

Wartime Work

History was repeating itself, but the world tried not to notice. The ruthless regime gaining strength in Germany threatened for a second time in less than half a century to thrust the world into international chaos. Austria became the first casualty in Germany's defiant display of agression, followed soon after by Czecholovakia, Poland, and the Scandanavian nations. By 1940, German forces were advancing into France and Great Britain. With the bombing of Pearl Harbor on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu in 1941, the United States became actively involved in the conflict. A second world war was rocking the globe, and the lives of millions would never be the same.

Like other Americans, Oliver Smith anxiously watched these events unfold. While preaching the gospel in Austin and Lyle, Minnesota, in the spring of 1940, he penned the following words into his diary; "Germans gain ground in Europe. Signs of the Lord's coming to take us home; wars and rumors of wars." Two days later he added; "Germans getting nearer Paris and the English Channel. Looks like the Lord's coming must be near. Thank God for all who are saved and ready for the marriage of the Lamb."

Deeply impressed by the momentous events of his day, Oliver preached with even greater passion. Sinners trembled as he expounded on the imminent return of Christ and on the calamity facing those left behind. When news reached him in October of 1940 that the beloved preacher John Ferguson had died, he noted the death by writing; "John Ferguson has gone home to be with his Lord, just a little ahead of the rest of us ."

At train stations, Oliver gazed sadly as a steady flow of young men bid farewell to family and friends. Realizing that some of these men would never return, he attempted to place gospel tracts in their hands and speak a kind message to them. While preaching in a park near Colorado Springs, Colorado, he captured the attention of one soldier who was disillusioned with life. As Oliver spoke from portions of Scripture, the man's understanding was opened and the peace of God filled his soul.

Several brethren from various assemblies in Iowa, were called to service during the war. "John, Lowell, William, Ernie, Louis, Willis, Orville, Gerald, Paul ,..." on and on the names continued, and Oliver constantly endeavored to remember each one in prayer.

Throughout the war years, Oliver remained steadfast in his work amongst the local gatherings of the Lord's people. In conjunction with them, he reached out to other communities where thousands came under the sound of his preaching. From Horton to Hawkeye, Clear Lake to Clermont, Semore to Strawberry Point, the Gospel progressed. Preachers like Lorne McBain, William Warke, Louis Brandt, Walter Eltjes, Sam Hamilton, Elgie (Buzz) Jamison, George Gould Jr., Archie Stewart, and Leonard Sheldrake were frequent companions in these labors. With fuel and other commodities scarce, the preachers had to make due on very meager fair, but the Lord gave help and souls were saved.

Near the end of 1938, Oliver preached the gospel for almost seven weeks at Hitesville. Leonard DeBuhr and his wife Edith attended these meetings and became very concerned. After much soul trouble Edith was saved on December 22. The following day Leonard also found rest in his soul, through the finished work of Christ on Calvary. Later he commented; "I felt that morning, that now Jesus is Lord and I belong to Him. He has bought me with His blood." Leonard eventually went into full time service for God, and had the privilege on several occasions, to preach with Oliver Smith, his father in the faith.

Edith and Leonard DeBuhr

In 1941, a man named Verle Smith, deeply distressed about his soul, traveled 150 miles on a wintry day to visit Oliver Smith and William Warke. "He was a man," said Oliver, "whose ambition had been to have 160 acres of land and a fine herd of purebred Holsteins. He had double of both and was still not satisfied." Not long after, while listening to Louis Brandt and Buzz Jamison preach the gospel, he was saved. Instantly, he let his light shine for the Lord. Oliver painted a large gospel sign for him which he prominently displayed on the front lawn of his farm for many years. Verle also printed thousands of gospel tracts which he Edith and Leonard DeBuhr
handed out personally or provided to fellow believers who would use them.

"I like to print tracts," he once remarked, "which God has been pleased to use."

Oliver often wrote letters to people he was concerned about. He mailed the following poem to one elderly gentleman:

"In the year 1863 A life was given by God to thee; And now by grace you 're 77, I hope to meet you soon in heaven.
"But remember remember if this is to be, You 'ii have to look to Calvary; For on the cross He bore your load of sin. So looking to Him, you are born again."

To a couple, who had suddenly lost a loved one, he wrote:

"My dear friends and brother and sister in Christ. Just a word in a time of what we term 'sorrow'. There is only One who we can go to in times like these. 1 am sure we allfeel a little of the burden which has come upon you at this time...

"I remember when my dear Mother died and I did not have the assurance from her lips that she was saved. It almost broke me down. I felt like the 29th verse of Isaiah 40, as pertaining to faint', and it was here that I found refuge in God our Father through Christ Jesus. It just seemed at times, I just could not give her up without knowing she was in heaven. But let us remember our God is not unjust, but judgeth righteously, and doeth all things well. This will renew our strength and make us bear the trials and sorrows, which are so common in this dark and evil world. Death surely is a terrible thing and God looks at it as such, for He hangs the destiny of every soul on the death of His Son. Surely, these times should make those of us who are saved cleave very close to the One Who has conquered death by His death, burial and resurrection. And also, it should be a warning to the unsaved..."

During World War II, Oliver was called to preach at nearly 140 funerals, with no fewer than 33 in 1940 alone. Also, he was hospitalized a half dozen times himself for minor problems. After surgery for a double hernia, he wrote; "Feel worse. Nurse said too much company! Put a sign on door; 'No Visitors!' " Seven days later, he felt much better. "Many visitors," he said. "I wrote cards and visited with a nurse."

On August 14, 1945, the Japanese government unconditionally surrendered to the allied forces, and World War II was officially over. Weary Americans celebrated in the streets. Oliver, busy with tent meetings in Waterloo, heard the whistles blow and heaved a sigh of relief. "The boys would soon be coming home," he thought, "and the door to heaven was still open wide."