Oliver Smith Biography, Iowa Preacher - Holding Fast

Holding Fast

Times were changing. With the conclusion of World War II, a new mood was pervading the land. Americans seemed bent on reclaiming a life style they had lost. Expectations were running high and consumer spending had shot through the roof. The nation's industrial complex struggled to keep up with the rising demand for products.

Economic prosperity was having an impact on virtually every segment of society. Oliver sensed the change in people's attitudes while he continued to labor for the Lord. Interest in eternal matters was not what it had been. Desire for the Word of God was diminishing.

But while conditions around him altered, Oliver remained persistent in his solemn enunciation of Divine Truth. He minced words with no one. Some were offended, but many were blessed. "When we become afraid of what people think," he said, "we are on dangerous and slippery ground."

Sinners were reminded of an omnipresent God, who "can see a black ant on a black rock on a black night." And, "If you're born only once, you will die twice. But if you're born twice you will die only once and maybe not at all."

After puchasing a plow, he asked the seller, "Did you know that the plowing of the wicked is sin?" (Proverbs 21:4). And to unsaved passengers riding with him to meetings, he remarked "I'm glad you came tonight, but I sure hate hauling all of your sin around."

If he doubted the reality of an individual's profession of faith, he told them. "You can fool men," he would say, "but you can't fool God." After enduring a funeral message in one place, he declared that "the sermon was awful, a plain case of the blind leading the blind."

He had great disdain for a haughty spirit or a proud look. On a trip to California he watched as a movie star paraded by in all of her finery. "If you could buy that woman for what she's worth," he exclaimed, "and sell her for what she thinks she is worth, you would have a fortune."

Oliver also worried that changes occuring in the world would eventually have an effect on local gatherings of the Lord's people. He yearned for their spiritual welfare and admitted to one, "We're not much, but we're the best there is." He was grieved whenever he detected a contentious spirit between brethren. The following lines were written on a back page of his diary:

Saints of Christ, why thus divided?
Christ is not divided so.
Surely all should be together
Who the same Redeemer know.

By the same blood shedding purchased,
Destined to the same bright home;
Why on earth divided?
Jesus bids you all together come.

Saints of Christ break down the barriers
Man has reared on every side.
Make a living Christ the center,
Gather to the Crucified.

Let not sects and parties longer
Separate the flock of God;
Jesus died, in one to gather
All the scattered ones abroad.
Saints of Christ, a living union
Flows but from the Living Head
Saints alas! are ever making
Union in the flesh instead.

Such a union Scripture knows not,
Such its pages must disown;
God the Spirit draws to Jesus,
Him exalts and Him alone.

Saints of Christ; oh what a witness
For the Saviour we should be,
Were we all around Him gathered
In the Spirit's unity

What a sight for men to look on,
What a truth it would proclaim,
What a glory it would gathet;
To our blessed Saviour's name.

Saints in Christ, soon, soon, our Master
Whom we love from heaven will come;
And with happy shouts of triumph
Bear us to our blissful home.

Then the cross, exchanged for glory,
Service, for the bright reward:
Then, oh blessed hope, we shall be
One forever, with the Lord.

In the winter of 1945, Paul Elliott returned from military service in England and joined Oliver in a gospel effort north of Cedar Falls. Over the next seven years, the two of them labored constantly together. "He was truly a brother beloved," said Paul, "and I learned a great deal from him."

The Lord blessed in the series, so subsequent meetings were convened in 1948 and 1956. By 1963 a permanent gathering was established in the community. Eric McCullough, son of the well known evangelist James McCullough, moved to Cedar Falls in 1951 to begin a chiropractic practice. He was a tremendous asset to the new work and was later commended by the Stout assembly to full time service for the Lord. "It does me good," said Oliver, "to hear of brethren going out and trying new places with the gospel."
In 1955, Oliver was invited to Vancouver, B.C. Canada, to preach the gospel with Albert Ramsay. He had never preached outside Iowa for an extended time and was reluctant to do so now. The Canadian brethren diligently worked to convince him, and, at long last, he was persuaded to come. In a letter, written shortly before his sudden homecall, Albert Ramsay reminisced about the meetings:

"Brother Cecil Copp asked if I would consider coming to Vancouver for gospel meetings in the Woodland Gospel Hall, which was a gospel outreach at that time, from the Fairview assembly. He mentioned that a Mr Oliver Smith from Iowa might join me. That was the first time I had heard the name. I was told that he was a gospel preacher who had seen much blessing in Iowa, and that he and I would likely make a good team.

"I consented to go, but when I arrived to start the meetings, Mr Smith had not arrived and it was uncertain whether he would.
Mr Copp went to work on him and made a number of phone calls. One night after a meeting, Mr Copp drove up to one of the
Christian's homes where we had gathered, and out of the car came this man 0. G. Smith. He was wearing a clear plastic rain coat
over a green sweater, and was anxious to tell about a lawyer he
had preached to on his way in the plane. Also, he told us how fast the plane was flying and how he knew. 'I stuck a toothpick in the
window and watched how long it took to cross what Ifigured was
a mile section of land. I counted the seconds,' he said, 'and calculated how fast the plane was going.'

"I thought to myself 'This man is different. 'In the weeks to follow, I did discover that he was one of a kind and that there would never be another 0. G. Smith...

"God worked in those meetings and many souls were stirred.
Oliver however, did not want to stay too long. Mr Copp told him that if he stayed until the meetings finished, he would take him
down to Los Angeles where he had left his car I got in on the trip which proved to be a real experience."
Mr. & Mrs. Cecil Copp, Oliver & Albert Ramsay

BrotherAndrew Bergsma also recalled those meetings, and remembered how delightful it was to hear Oliver speak. "In a very down to earth manner, he was able to reach not only the ears, but also the hearts of sinners. His ministry was practical, as he spoke on how to please the Lord and be a soul winner for Christ."

While in Vancouver, Oliver visited a number of other brethren, including Sydney Maxwell, George McKinley, George Campbell, John Frith, John Bergsma, and Matt Murphy. He fixed a sewing machine "that once was Mrs. Donald Munro's," and had the privilege of seeing Harry and Ellen Steele depart for missionary work in Japan. On March 6, he received a phone call from his granddaughter in Iowa, "Judy phoned from home," he wrote "telling me that she just got saved. It made a happy day for Grandpa!"

One year later, Oliver and his wife welcomed Mr. and Mrs. Cecil Copp to their home. The Copp's had a young preacher from Northern Ireland with them named Harold Paisley. Oliver took him to Manchester where they preached together for the first time. Mr. Paisley returned in August and had gospel meeting with Oliver at Hitesville, where a nice interest developed.


William Warke & Harold Paisley

In April of 1958, Oliver and Pearl built a duplex on 80 acres south of Waterloo. By September the home was finished. Oliver was tempted to farm the land and even purchased a tractor from Verle Smith in Central City. But Pearl was opposed to the idea because he was already very busy with the Lord's work. She wanted to rent the ground, and this was eventually done.
On one occasion, Oliver prepared to dig a drainage ditch behind the new home. He begged LaVelle to drive the tractor while he guided the plow.

"I don't know how to drive a tractor," she answered "I wouldn't even know how to stop it."

"Oh, don't worry about that," said Oliver, "If you can't stop, you'll have 80 acres to drive around in."

After repeated appeals, LaVelle finally conceded. She drove the tractor erratically across the field. Expecting her father to be upset, she was surprised when she saw him standing with a wide grin on his face. "Isn't this fun?" he yelled. "Isn't this fun?"

A few months later, Oliver was told that he needed false teeth. During a dental appointment, he discovered that the dentist was shopping for an old tractor. A deal was struck - Oliver's tractor for the false teeth.

Just after the teeth were put in, Oliver was called to preach a funeral. He grabbed a songbook as he left home and practiced singing and speaking the entire trip. By the time he arrived he felt ready. With the Lord's help, he delivered his message and everything went well.

Like Nehemiah, Oliver knew what it was to "labor in the work... from the rising of the morning, till the stars appeared" (Neh. 4: 21). A number of places demanded his attention throughout the 1950's. He convened meetings near West Union, where an assembly was planted in 1947 through the labors of Louis Brandt and William Warke. He was a regular help to Leonard DeBuhr in Willmar, Minnesota, where Christians first gathered to break bread in 1957. In Ontario, Wisconsin, he was the frequent companion of Chauncey Yost and Paul Elliott, and helped the believers finish the new hall there in 1956.

Several meetings were also held south of Manchester in places like Central City, Monticello, Viola, and Marion. In 1962 a lampstand was established in Marion. Repeated trips were made to Grandview in southeastern Iowa, where Dale Hyde and Louis Brandt were spreading the gospel. An assembly began to function there in 1959. On one trip to Grandview, Oliver recorded; "I gave out a bushel or more of wrapped tracts on my way." And near Independence, he asked a young man named Robert Orr to help with gospel meetings. This was an encouragement to Robert, who later went into full time service for the Lord.