Remembering Pastor Chuck Smith

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A Mother’s Secret Promise—Part 1
Broken & Surrendered

Story by Debra Smith
Photos courtesy of CC Costa Mesa, CA

Join us as we remember Calvary Chapel founder Pastor Chuck Smith. Calvary Chapel Magazine first ran this story in Issue 58, Winter 2014.

Click to read Part 2 of  "A Mother's Secret Promise" which chronicles Chuck’s response to his vocational call to ministry—Bible College, his early pastorates, and introduction to expositional Bible teaching.

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Two months before Chuck was born in 1927 in Southern California, his 3-year-old sister Virginia contracted spinal meningitis. As the girl went into a seizure and then disconcertingly stilled, her mother scooped Virginia into her arms and darted down the street to the parsonage. As the pastor began to pray, Virginia’s father entered the room. Chuck later tearfully recounted: “When he came in and saw her lifeless body, he fell on his knees and started crying—realizing she was gone. Then she opened her eyes—and she was healed. So that made a dramatic change on the family.” Chuck’s mother was already a devoted believer, but his father then became one as well. And unbeknownst to Chuck, his own life was also radically impacted.

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As a toddler, Chuck was taught by his mom how to memorize Scripture. She prompted him to recite Bible verses aloud while they did chores and grocery shopped, and she read Bible stories to him and Virginia every night. He regarded biblical characters as heroes and even friends: “I ran with David” mentally, Chuck later said. But despite his mom’s faithful discipleship, the young man’s priorities were athletics and academics. Then two years after yielding to Christ as Lord and Savior at age 14, he attended a summer youth camp. He wasn’t initially interested in going—he had made plans to surf. But his pastor urged him to utilize the scholarship a lady in the church had donated. While there, Chuck was challenged to live his life in light of eternity. His dream heretofore had been to become a surgeon, which he felt would guarantee him success and affluence. But meditating on the preacher’s words, Chuck was drawn to the pastorate.

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Arriving home, 16-year-old Chuck timidly approached his parents. He feared his announcement would deeply disappoint his mother, whom he loved intensely. After conveying that he intended to spend his life leading God’s people rather than practicing medicine, Chuck was surprised at his mother’s simple smile. Not until years later did he learn the full story: On the day of Virginia’s healing, his mom had silently devoted herself and the life of her unborn child—Chuck—to God’s service in vocational ministry. However, Chuck clarified, “I didn’t know that until she was on her deathbed. She didn’t want that to influence me; she wanted it to be the Lord” directing his life’s course.


Click to read Part 2 of "A Mother's Secret Promise" which chronicles Chuck’s response to his vocational call to ministry—Bible College, his early pastorates, and introduction to expositional Bible teaching.

(To learn more about Calvary Chapel University, visit their website or read our past coverage on the school)

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

© 2022 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.