Kay Smith’s Legacy—Part 4

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Kay Smith’s Legacy, Part 4: Godly Comfort, Genuine Love

Story by Christmas Beeler

In this final article on the legacy of Kay Smith—recently departed wife of Calvary Chapel founder, Pastor Chuck Smith—Kay’s friends and family recall her way of sharing godly comfort and living with genuine love for God and for others. Kay passed away peacefully at her home on August 13, preceded by Chuck in 2013.

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Gail Mays (left) was invited by Michelle Randall (right) to help train women's ministry leaders at Calvary Chapel San Juan Capistrano, CA, in 2016. Aside from training women at various churches, Gail also leads a Widow's Might ministry at Calvary Chapel Murrietta, CA. Her husband, Calvary Chapel Pastor Steve Mays, passed away in 2014.

Gail Mays sat at her home in Torrance, CA, her stomach a giant knot of worry about her 17-year-old daughter Heather—who had run away from home. Gail had prayed until she ran out of words—and tears. Still, she could think of nothing but her daughter, even though there were always dozens of things to think about with Calvary Chapel South Bay thriving and growing under her husband Pastor Steve Mays. Today Heather’s situation was heavy on her mind and deep in her soul, and Gail wondered how her beautiful daughter could have gotten wrapped up in the gangs that plagued the rough streets of Los Angeles. In 1990 alone, 329 people would be killed in Los Angeles County from gang-related violence, a horrible record. The bloodshed was out of control.

Gail knew about the troubled young man who had come to the youth group—how he had been torn between a desire to change and his deep ties to his gang. Even though Heather had grown up hearing and seeing the stories of God working in people’s lives, she had forsaken her biological and spiritual family for his—and that world of drugs and violence and darkness.

Once again, Gail tried to push away her biggest fear: that she and Steve would get a call any day that her daughter’s body had been found—shot or stabbed—another young casualty of LA’s notorious gang violence. Every news report of another young victim broke her heart.

How did this happen, God? Tears filling her eyes, Gail begged God again to protect her daughter and bring her home, and to show Gail what to do. Negative thoughts pressed in on her: How could she and Steve govern a church when they couldn’t govern their own family? She shook the thought away, fighting off despair, shame, and fear.

Then the phone rang. Taking a deep breath to steady her nerves, she answered, and was relieved to hear the voice of her mentor and friend, Kay Smith—wife of Pastor Chuck Smith, who founded the Calvary Chapel movement.


A Word from the Lord

“Hello Gail, it’s Kay,” she said gently. “I know you’re going through a very difficult time because your daughter has run away, and I’ve been praying for you. I believe that God gave me a word for you.” Gail reached for her Bible, and the two women read the passage together on the phone:

Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7, KJV).

The words deeply comforted Gail, for she had felt this same “heaviness,” the “manifold temptations,” and the trial “with fire” in her heart that the passage described. The Holy Spirit assured her that God was giving her this Scripture right now for her current situation.

Repeating the phrase “for a season,” Kay emphasized, “It’s only for a season, Gail. This shall pass; it shall not last.” Gail clung to those words, knowing God was speaking directly to her. Then Kay added, “If need be —that means because it is necessary. What you’re going through, God deems it necessary.” God was working something in the midst of the sorrow and suffering, something that was needed for Gail or her daughter or someone else. Gail nodded, realizing that the situation was in God’s hands. She focused on those two precious truths: that this trial was for a season, and it was necessary in His eyes. A fresh faith and trust arose in her soul, and she felt the comfort of God like a balm on her aching heart.

After a time, Heather came back home and back to the Lord with a deep, lifelong passion for Jesus. “Now, 30 years later, this kid is still so on fire that she puts me to shame,” Gail said, chuckling in wonder.

That experience with Kay shaped Gail’s approach to the many hurting women that God has brought into her life over the decades. “Kay taught me that we are always to take that person to the Word of God,” Gail explained. “First you listen to them share their problem, then you listen to the Spirit of God for direction and pray. And the Lord will give you something from His Word to minister to His people.” It’s a lesson she uses when she counsels individuals, when she teaches other pastors’ wives, and in her leadership training classes. “As a pastor’s wife, you encounter hundreds of people with so many problems—family, marital, children, prodigals. … They don’t want to know your advice or your opinion. They want to know, What does God say about my situation? Because it’s so hard, I can’t bear it. Kay’s intercessory prayer was key, Gail noted; “I was so touched that God gave Kay a Scripture just for me. That’s how she was with everybody.”

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Gail Mays founded the Widow's Might ministry, so named to illustrate "how God will be mighty in the life of the widow who knows Him,” she explained. She also does leadership training for women and encourages women in their walk with Jesus through various speaking engagements.

A New Calling

Kay was there for Gail when another tragedy struck. After the sudden loss of Gail’s husband Pastor Steve on October 2, 2014—one day before the one-year anniversary of Pastor Chuck’s passing—Gail received a special call from Kay’s daughter, Janette Smith Manderson. She said that Kay would like Gail to come by their home for a visit. When Gail arrived, Kay sat down with her and asked her to share everything that happened. To Gail, it seemed clear that Kay wanted to be there spiritually, emotionally, and physically for Gail in her time of sorrow. They spoke, laughed, cried, and ate popcorn together as friends. As Gail was leaving, Kay’s daughter Janette—who was also widowed—commented, “We widows have to stick together.”

Kay looked at Gail and said, “You know, that’s true, Gail. We widows do need to stick together. We need to comfort each other as only we can.” That comment prompted Gail to think and pray about how she could help other widows as Kay and Janette helped her.

Gail had thought her ministry days had come to an end; however, it seemed the Lord had another plan in mind. Gail recalled, “The Lord reminded me of His promise in Jeremiah 29:11, which says, ‘I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Shortly after her visit with Kay, Gail started a new ministry called The Widow's Might. “It’s a play on words,” she explained, “Not mite like a coin—but rather how God will be mighty in the life of the widow who knows Him.” Gail is now continuing in her ministry to encourage women in their walk with Jesus in whatever season of life they may be.


Love for the Hurting

At her memorial service, Kay’s friend of 50 years, Diana Brokate, recounted, “Kay had such a powerful passion for anyone that was hurting or who seemed lost. The days today seem very similar to the days of the 1960s. Kay taught us to look for the one that was hurting and the one that was lost.” Though some balked at the young hippies’ dirty feet or unkempt appearance, Diana noted, "Like Chuck, Kay didn't care [about that]. She just ministered to them from her heart.”

Chuck and Kay’s oldest daughter, Janette Smith Manderson, agreed: “Mama was a very loving person with an intuitive sense when someone was lonely or hurting or just uncomfortable. She chose to reach out to those people, and she urged other women to do the same.” Janette sees her mother’s compassion as evidence “that she was filled with the Holy Spirit and that she walked in the Spirit, prompted by Him to live a life of love— being rooted and grounded in love (Eph 3:17b).”

In fact, in her book, Pleasing God, Kay wrote about reaching out to the hurting and lonely. She cited Luke 12, in which Jesus urges His followers, “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 12:13-14). She challenged, “How long has it been since you invited someone like this to dinner … [or] reached out to someone whom nobody else cares about? The world is full of lonely, hurting people. … Look around, see who is hurting and lonely, and do what Jesus said. … [This] motive pleases the heart of God.”

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All Glory to God

One Sunday, Kay’s friend Diana and her daughter drove Kay to the third service at CC Costa Mesa. When they pulled up, Kay looked up at the church in amazement and said, “Diana, can you believe what God has done?”

Diana recalled, “The sanctuary was filling, the fellowship hall was already filled, and the gym, the overflow. She said, ‘Can you believe what God did, and that He let us be part of it?’ That was her heart. It was never, Look what I’ve done, or what Chuck did. It was, All glory to God.

When someone had a family member who passed, Diana recounted, Kay would ask that flowers be sent from the Joyful Life ministry team, along with the Scripture Psalm 116:15, Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. Diana reflected, “We can only imagine what it was like for Kay, when Jesus’ precious saint Kay saw Him face to face, and then was reunited with Chuck and all those that she loved so dearly.”


A Heart for Jesus

Several at the memorial service testified that Kay's love for Jesus was inspirational. Diana shared, “Kay was a beautiful example of a godly woman who made all of us want to love Jesus more, and love the Word more.”

Cathy Dickinson, whose husband Dale pastors CC Jericho Road, CA, did women’s counseling at CC Costa Mesa years ago and also helped write Bible lessons for the Joyful Life studies with Kay. “My teaching style is nothing like Kay’s, but I hope that it will have the same effect that hers had on me. Leaving her studies, I would always feel that I wanted to know Jesus more, and that I wanted to please His heart."

In her book, Pleasing God, Kay wrote, “I’m here to tell you that He does know your name—and He loves you. First John 4:19 says, We love Him because He first loved us. Once you begin to know God’s love for you, you can’t help but love Him in return. And when you love God, you want to please Him.”


A Godly Example

Jeanette Graves, wife of Pastor Ken of CC Bangor, ME, testified of this very thing: “The biggest way Kay impacted me in my walk and in my ministry as a pastor's wife was by her love for the Lord, her love for Chuck, her love for God’s Word and for God’s people.” Jeanette shared, “By the love she showed to each one of us, she taught me how to truly love the women in our church and to always be available for and minister to the younger pastors’ wives that have come after us.”

Being a pastor’s wife can be intimidating, but Kay was an example of authenticity. Jeanette added, “I’ll never forget my first Pastors Wives Conference at Twin Peaks, CA, over 35 years ago—getting to know Kay and finding out how genuine and real she was. She was herself with us, and that gave me the freedom to not try to fit into any kind of 'pastor’s wife' mold, but just be myself! I am proud to call Kay Smith my mentor and Pastor’s Wife.”


Chuck and Kay: Love for God’s Word and Each Other

Vanessa Smith, Kay’s granddaughter, lived with Chuck and Kay for several years during her childhood. “They genuinely loved each other. She would call him her ‘boyfriend.’ I would wake up and hear them singing in the kitchen. They were so precious together.”

The Smiths’ oldest daughter Janette recalled, “Dad loved the Word, and we would often see them reading the Bible and talking about it, discussing, ‘What does that mean? And how do we apply it?’ Hearing those discussions was really instructive; it was just the normal, everyday activity of our home. Dad would be baking some specialty of his in the kitchen, and she would be cooking, and they would be talking about the Word. I loved to hear them talk about God’s Word because they both loved it so much and knew it so well. They both had a love for it, respect for it, and a complete obedience to it. That was the path of the joyful Christian life.”

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Pastor Chuck and Kay Smith in the early years of their marriage.

She added, “Our parents were phenomenal. I knew that we had wonderful parents who created a home for us with the love of God and saturated by the Holy Spirit.” Since all of the children were raised in the Word, Janette explained, “So many times, a situation would come up, and we would know a Scripture for it. But we were taught not to weaponize Scripture; the Scripture is there to comfort, teach, and guide us. That’s how the Word was used in our home.”

Janette testified, “They lived a consistent, Christian life at home. Who you saw at church was who they were in the home. We had a very happy home life, filled with love and laughter. They left us a legacy of love—to love God and to love others.”

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13


Follow previous articles Part 1: Kay’s daughter Janette Smith Manderson, Sharon Ries, & Jean McClure remember her spiritual gifts. Part 2: The Gift of Exhortation. Part 3: A Genuine, Joyful Servant.

Watch Kay Smith's video series Joyful Life and Pleasing God



All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.

© 2021 Calvary Chapel Magazine (CCM). All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.