Kay Smith’s Legacy for the Lord

Kay Smith’s Legacy for the Lord

Kay Smith’s Legacy for the Lord, Part 1

Kay’s daughter Janette Smith Manderson, Sharon Ries, & Jean McClure remember her spiritual gifts

By Christmas Beeler

Kay Smith, beloved wife of Calvary Chapel founder Pastor Chuck Smith, passed away peacefully at her home on Friday, August 13. Kay’s friends and family remember her powerful and loving way of ministering to others.

Prayer Warrior: Sharon Remembers

Late one night driving back from a speaking engagement, Sharon Ries was nearly forced off the road by an aggressive driver. As she tried to get away, she realized the vehicle was pursuing her. Her heart hammering in her chest, Sharon called Kay Smith and blurted, “Kay! Someone’s trying to run me off the freeway!”

Sharon had a feeling it was the same person who had been harassing her for the last three years. With a tireless vendetta against Sharon, someone had been sending nasty letters about her to Calvary Chapel pastors and their wives, warning them that Sharon was an ungodly, unsupportive wife and urging them to cancel her as a guest speaker. But this was taking harassment to the next level. The daughter of South American missionaries Edmund and Naomi Farrel, Sharon was no coward; but tonight, she feared for her life as this wicked person pursued her on the California freeway.

Without hesitation, Kay began to pray. She called on the name of Jesus, the blood of Christ, the power of God. She cried out for protection, asking God to bind the enemy from harming Sharon. She prayed against demonic attack, quoting Scripture fervently, standing on the promises of God’s Word with authority. Pressing the phone to her ear, Sharon felt the presence of the Lord with her and the heat of the battle as her friend Kay interceded. Never lagging, Kay prayed until the stranger’s car seemed to fall behind and continued to pray until Sharon got safely home.

Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints. Ephesians 6:18

Spiritual Discernment

Later, Kay called Sharon and said, “As I was in prayer this morning, I believe God gave me a word about this person who has been tormenting you. This is a demonic attack! And it’s someone who is close to you, who shows up at the church, hovering near you.”

In that moment, Sharon knew exactly who it was—a volunteer who had been at the church for many years. From that point on, she knew she was engaging in a fierce, demonic, spiritual warfare against not only herself but her husband and the church. This wasn’t the first time that Kay had received a word of knowledge from the Holy Spirit to help Sharon, wife of Senior Pastor Raul Ries of Calvary Chapel Golden Springs, CA.

In fact, at the beginning of their ministry, Sharon experienced that Kay’s discernment could be a little unsettling at times. Once, at their first Ladies’ Tea where Kay was a guest speaker, Sharon had been sitting across from Kay, silently fuming in her heart against Raul, who was still a fairly new believer. Once again, he had hurt Sharon’s feelings with his aggressive way of speaking. Letting her imagination run wild, Sharon was considering leaving Raul. Kay had looked straight into Sharon’s eyes across the table—in the midst of about eight other women—and asked, “Are you thinking of leaving him?”

Sharon’s face paled. “What? What, no! Of course not!”

Searching Sharon’s eyes, Kay said calmly, “Something’s wrong.”

Sharon looked away—panicked. Later, Sharon felt so bad for lying to Kay, Pastor Chuck’s wife, that she called her to confess. “I wasn’t honest with you.”

“You lied to me,” Kay scolded. Sharon argued that there had been other women at the table, and she was embarrassed. “They weren’t listening. But Sharon, you lied to me.”

“I know,” Sharon sighed.

“Did you repent? Have you told God you’re sorry?” she asked.

“Yes, I have,” Sharon answered.

“Well, then, it’s done. It’s forgiven,” Kay said, a smile in her voice. Sharon smiled too, marveling at Kay’s spiritual discernment and how quick she was to forgive.

“She was a powerful woman,” Sharon recalled. “She could be so tender and caring, but also a force for the Lord.” Kay had a huge heart for pastors, their wives, and their churches. Sharon learned compassion from her.

Rescuing the Wayward

Once there was a woman serving in ministry who had fallen back into drug use. Kay called Sharon and asked her if she would go help the woman. “Kay, I’m not like you. I don’t know how to talk to people. Give me a team, and I’ll go into South America and build a Bible school. But I don’t know what to do with people.”

Having ministered to many young people on drugs by this point, Kay said, “Sharon, I know what to do, and I trust that you listen to me.” So Sharon agreed. Kay gave her specific instructions over the phone as Sharon headed to the woman’s home.

Praying for the Lord’s help, Sharon knocked on their door. The sad man welcomed her in and showed her where his wife was laying on her bed in an apparent overdose.

“Go put your arm around her,” Kay had told her. “Pray for her. Pray in the name of Jesus that the Lord would bind the enemy; pray that He will heal her and comfort her.” So Sharon, trembling, went to the woman and prayed.

The husband told Sharon he didn’t know how his wife had gotten so many drugs. Kay had already instructed Sharon to tell the man to check for drugs throughout the house, so she did. He searched underneath some large potted plants and pulled out a stash of drugs.

“Tell him to check the top shelf of the closet,” Kay had recommended confidently. Sure enough, the man found a container of pills. Yet again, Sharon had witnessed how the Holy Spirit led Kay in supernatural ways to help others.

Though Kay was a soft-spoken, naturally shy person, Sharon reflected, “Spiritually, she was very powerful, discerning, caring—very engaged, and very unafraid. Fearless. When it came to the things of God, she feared God, but she feared no man.”

God’s Life-Changing Love: Janette Remembers

Though Kay accepted Christ at a very young age and grew up in a Christian home, she had a heavy burden for young hippies who were caught in sin and drug addiction.

“I remember when it began,” said her daughter Janette Smith Manderson. “I had graduated high school in 1967, and Dad took us all out for a meal to celebrate.” Driving along the Pacific Coast Highway, they saw droves of long-haired young people dressed in flowing, colorful outfits. Kay spotted a beautiful young woman with long blond hair, staggering along with one foot on the sidewalk and one in the gutter.

“Oh, look at that poor girl,” Kay had noted. “She’s so vulnerable. Why is there no one to help her or protect her?” Then she noticed other young people with the same vacant look, staggering around as if drunk. Her heart pierced with concern, Kay began to pray fervently for the hippies and ask God how to reach out to these young people who were so in need of Jesus.

A few months later, Janette began dating a young Christian man named John at college. “When he came to pick me up, he would wait and talk to my mom. She asked him about the hippies, and he showed her his driver’s license with his long hair and told her how the Lord had miraculously saved him after he had gotten in trouble for drugs. The two of them talked endlessly about the hippies.”

Kay asked John to bring one of the hippies to meet her. Soon he picked up a young man hitchhiking who was on fire for Jesus Christ. John introduced him to Chuck and Kay; later the young man became instrumental in bringing other young hippies to Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, where they got saved and began writing original worship songs based on the Scriptures that Chuck taught them.

“It was such an exciting time,” Janette recalled. “Our church was the place to be every night. People would even put their arms around each other as they worshipped together. They listened avidly to the verse-by-verse Bible teaching because they had been on a spiritual quest. Every night people were getting saved. It was wonderful to see them come in one way and leave changed, filled with the joy of the Lord.” Cars were parked bumper to bumper on both sides of the streets in this quiet part of Santa Ana.

“Instead of going to Huntington Beach or Newport Beach to get high, kids came to our church and got saved,” Janette recalled. Drawn by God’s love, new believers returned every night to devour the Word and grow in their faith.

“The hippie kids would call her Mama Kay and my dad Papa Chuck.” One assistant pastor said that Kay was the “big heart of the church.”

Janette noted that Ephesians 3:17 urges believers to be rooted and grounded in love. “She was just carrying that message. I was so grateful because that’s how she raised us, in the love of the Lord. And a lot of the hippie kids came from homes where they were not loved. As she talked to them, she found out that’s why they were on drugs—because they were hurting and looking for something real. They found real love when they found the Lord.”

A Gift from God: Jean Remembers

Jean McClure, wife of Pastor Don McClure, recalled that Kay prayed for her son Michael who at 18 months old began hemorrhaging internally. After that, Kay often prayed for Michael, who is now pastor of Calvary Christian Fellowship of San Jose, CA. Her throat thick with emotion, Jean said, “Today I was thinking about all that Michael has gone through in the past year, and I believe her prayers have helped him rise to the occasion and be able to stand firm.”

Pastor Mike has been fined $3.8 million for holding church services in the state of California—a fine that county officials are not redacting, even though the Supreme Court ruled that churches could open. “His church has quadrupled in size, and he’s baptizing 40-50 people every couple of months,” Jean reported. Seeing this move of God reminded Jean of the early years of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa when God sparked a revival among the hippies, which many believe was ignited in part by Kay’s ladies’ prayer group. “Kay told us to start a prayer group in our churches, to find godly women who want to pray,” Jean recalled. “She was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she was a wonderful example to all of us.”

A stay-at-home mother of four, Kay didn’t start teaching women until about 1970. After droves of hippie kids got saved, began following Jesus, and found themselves as wives and mothers, there was a real need for instruction from a godly woman like Kay. Jean first asked Kay to teach all of the young women at CC Costa Mesa nearly 50 years ago. At first Kay was unsure, since her daughter Cheryl was still in junior high. “I prayed, Lord, just tell her she has to do this because we really want to know what she knows. I had other godly women in my life, but I wanted to know what she knew as a pastor’s wife.” In Jean’s home, more than 30 ladies would sit on the floor, couches, and chairs to hear Kay teach.

“She always told us the three most important things: Love the Lord with all of your heart (nothing else would work if you didn’t); love our husbands and children; and love God’s people. That’s what God was calling us to do as pastors’ wives,” Jean recounted. “She taught us to get into God’s Word every day. She warned us about staying away from worldly things, worthless TV shows; she taught us from the Word how to be godly wives and moms. When we applied these things, it changed our lives.”

After putting together the first Calvary Chapel pastors’ wives’ retreat, which had taken a lot of planning and effort, Jean was surprised to hear Kay say they should host one every year. “I said, ‘Are you sure?’ She said, ‘Absolutely. They need to hear about the Lord, and to be taught, and we need to minister to them.’ She was adamant about it. And over the years, I have heard from so many pastors’ wives who were deeply touched by things that she taught us at those retreats.”

Kay knew that women teaching women was essential for having a healthy church. “She used to say, ‘If you don’t have something for your women, they will go some other place to get it. We have to meet with the women, together.’ I love that, in Calvary Chapel, women minister to women.”

Fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, one mind. … Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:2,4

Although she ministered to hundreds of women, Kay would often reach out individually. “When she was burdened for you, she’d call or send a note,” Jean reflected. “I felt loved by her. One of my boys was being a real rascal in junior high, and she wrote me a note, telling me about raising her own kids, and it really comforted me. She said that no one is perfect, and that there are stages to motherhood. She encouraged but didn’t criticize; she showed love and compassion.” Many of the ladies would go to Kay directly. “If we were hurting, she would walk us through it, give advice, and pray with us.”

The busyness and stress of ministry can be wearing; Jean recalled, “She taught us to pray for our husbands—especially on Saturday night, just to lie in bed and pray for them, and to pray for your own peace and quietness. She was always sharing practical, loving things to help us. She had a tremendous heart for pastor’s wives because she was one. She knew what we went through.”

Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11

Having a deep respect for God’s Word, Kay admonished the women “to be of sound speech. If you are in the pulpit, you must be careful with what you say because you represent Jesus Christ. Don’t use slang or share inappropriate stories or try to be cute. Have sterling speech because you represent the Lord. Don’t do anything that Jesus died for.”

“She taught us to love each other,” Jean concluded. “She really was God’s gift to us.”

Read other reflections and remembrances from pastors’ wives, including Karyn Johnson, Karen Pulley, Sandy MacIntosh, Carol Wild, Gail Mays, Irma Pressley, Cheryl Cahill, Jeanette Graves, Iselle Vasquez, and others in upcoming online stories.


Kay Smith

Kay Smith inspired many pastors’ wives in her long years of ministry.


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

© 2020 Calvary Chapel Magazine. 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.


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