Kay Smith’s Legacy for the Lord

Kay Smith’s Legacy for the Lord

Kay Smith’s Legacy for the Lord, Part 2: The Gift of Exhortation

By Christmas Beeler

Calvary Chapel pastors’ wives fondly remember Kay as a no-nonsense encourager and dear friend, especially when they were starting out in ministry. Kay Smith passed away on Friday, August 13; her husband Pastor Chuck preceded her in October of 2013. This is part of a continuing series on Kay’s legacy with other Calvary pastors’ wives and Kay’s family.

This installment features Karyn Johnson, wife of Senior Pastor Jeff Johnson of Calvary Chapel Downey, CA; Sandy MacIntosh, wife of CC Pastor Mike MacIntosh; and Carol Wild, wife of Senior Pastor Malcolm Wild of CC Merritt Island, FL.

Fear & Baby Steps—Karyn Johnson

Trying to ignore the fear churning in her stomach, Karyn Johnson sat timidly in the meeting that Kay Smith—wife of Calvary founder Pastor Chuck—had organized with several other pastors’ wives whom she had chosen. They were planning a retreat to exhort other Calvary Chapel pastors’ wives. Karyn was trying very hard to avoid Kay’s eyes. She knew that Kay wanted each of the women to be involved in some way. Don’t call on me; don’t call on me, Karyn thought, staring at the tabletop.

It wasn’t that Karyn didn’t love the Lord. He had saved her and her husband Jeff Johnson, and she was grateful. But she just didn’t feel that she fit in with this group of women leaders in the Calvary movement; she was nothing like Sharon Ries, the wife of Raul Ries, the daughter of foreign missionaries, and a fearless and bold woman of God. Sharon and the other women in the room seemed eager to serve the Lord, yet Karyn struggled with fear. She was afraid of speaking, afraid of being spoken to, afraid of teaching, and even afraid of sitting by someone like Kay Smith at lunch because of the spotlight. Couldn’t she just stay in the background? That’s where she was most comfortable.

Kay had sensed Karyn’s fear and even tried to help by gently sharing verses: For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7 KJV). Karyn knew her fear was not from God, but she didn’t know what to do about it. Kay had told her to get in the Word, pray against fear, and stay in fellowship with other Christian women. She was trying these things, but fear still plagued her about anything involving ministry.

Invading her thoughts, Kay’s quiet voice broke her reverie: “Karyn?”

Karyn froze, swallowing hard and looking up into Kay’s kind, knowing eyes. “Karyn, what can you do at the retreat? Do you have something that you’d like to share with the ladies?” Unsure what to say, Karyn hesitated. Kay continued, “What about that lovely adoption ministry you started, helping find Christian homes for the babies of unwed mothers? You could talk about that.”

Now this was a subject that Karyn was passionate about. And, as she had discovered, Kay was passionate about it too. Not many people knew that Kay Smith herself had been abandoned as an infant; years later, her family would discover Kay had been born to a Hollywood couple who wanted freedom to pursue their careers in New York. Kay had loved Karyn’s heart to help these young women in crisis pregnancy find loving Christian parents—since Kay’s own adoptive parents had been kind and loving believers.

Karyn didn’t want to let her friend down, but she couldn’t imagine herself standing up on stage with hundreds of eyes fixed on her. “I don’t know,” she muttered, miserably.

“What could we do that would make you more comfortable?” Kay asked patiently as the other women watched and listened.

Karyn thought about it; there had to be a way. “Well, if I shared a slide show,” she ventured, “then maybe I could talk about it from the back instead of on stage? And the room could be really dark. Like, dark-dark. With all the lights out.”

One of the other women interjected, “She can’t do that, Kay!”

Then Kay’s kindly voice went a bit sharp: “Leave her alone; yes, she can. She’s going to do this. That sounds very good, Karyn. That’s what you’ll do.” As the meeting progressed to other topics, Karyn’s cheeks blazed crimson. But that year, 1983, Karyn did share with all of the pastors’ wives at the retreat center in Twin Peaks, CA, about the adoption ministry—in the dark, from the back of the room—and many women were inspired to get involved. Nowadays, Karyn often speaks to groups of several hundred ladies at women’s events as part of her ministry.

“She let me take baby steps,” Karyn recalled. “We talked about fear all the time. She told me that fear was rooted in self. ‘Karyn, you’ll always be nervous. You better be careful if you’re not. You don’t want to have so much self-confidence that you’re not relying on the Lord.’ She didn’t want us to have anything of self in anything we did for God.”

Karyn remembered one of their most important conversations, about the pastors’ wives’ retreat. “Kay told me, ‘Their need is greater than your fears. It’s like they’re bleeding, and you’re afraid of blood.’ Well, that was the game changer for me. I was a nurse, and there was never a patient I wouldn’t help. It didn’t matter what the situation was. She helped me see that the pastors’ wives [at the retreat] needed to be ministered to.”

Years later, when Karyn’s own daughter was pregnant out of wedlock, Kay was a great support. “I called her, and I was really just crying, feeling like I had failed as a mother because my own daughter was pregnant.” Kay gave Karyn a prophetic word that the baby would be a girl, and that she and Karyn would be very close. “And she was right; the baby was a girl, and we have always been very, very close.” She added, “I think being adopted gave Kay a tremendous amount of empathy for those who had unplanned pregnancies and for those who were adopted.” Kay was a loving friend, Karyn remembered. “She loved pastors’ wives corporately, and her greatest joy was teaching them—but she also loved us individually.”

Unity, the Word, & Prayer—Sandy MacIntosh

Sandy MacIntosh, whose husband Mike MacIntosh founded Horizon Christian Fellowship in San Diego 50-plus years ago, agreed: “Kay had such a caring heart for pastors’ wives. Back then, she realized that many of these young women were new to the ministry, and some of them were even pretty new Christians. They needed to be brought together, encouraged, and prayed for. She impacted hundreds and hundreds of pastors’ wives over the years.”

In retrospect, Sandy added, “I think it was a huge step of faith for her to choose those of us that she did because we were so new and inexperienced, and she trusted us. I think we were chosen because she saw the work that the Lord was doing in our husbands. I’m still amazed that she chose me and trusted me.”

Sitting in the planning meetings with Kay and hearing her heart for women was an “amazing time.” Kay was encouraging, but she was also strict and direct as a leader. “She could pray the shingles off a roof. One time, Cathe Laurie and I didn’t pray out loud [during the prayer time], so after we finished, she said, ‘You didn’t pray. Let’s start over.’ And we all prayed again,” Sandy said with a chuckle.

“She was very intuitive about what was going on with each of us,” Sandy recounted. “I remember once when we came in and sat down, she said to [two of us], ‘OK, you guys aren’t getting along. I want you to leave the room, figure it out, and don’t come back in until you have.’ That really put fear into our hearts: We didn’t want to go into a meeting with anything unresolved between each other because she would know. I think each of us was corrected by her at least once in a meeting. But, because of her sweet demeanor and her lovely shyness, it was always done in a loving way. It was all very good for us because we all knew nothing about ministry. We have all really missed being around her for the last 20 years.” Kay’s illness had prevented her from continuing to meet with women.

“My youngest was 2, and I asked her once how to stay in the Word with such a large family,” Sandy said. At Kay’s suggestion, she placed a Bible in three different rooms in the house so that, no matter where she was, she could quickly read Scripture and meditate on it as she took care of her home and her children.

“Kay taught us to use all our chores as a prompt for prayer: ‘When you’re picking up your husband’s dirty laundry, rather than be irritated, pray that God would reveal to him any way that he needed to change and that he would be washed in the Word. When you’re in the kitchen throwing things in the frying pan, pray for the heat of the Holy Spirit to come into your life and direct you.’ She even told us that when she was sitting at a stop light and her turn signal was clicking, she would say, ‘Praise Him. Praise Him. Praise Him.’ I still use that. When I was watering my outdoor plants this morning, I was praying for the water of the Holy Spirit to come upon me and freshen me up.”

Sandy recalled that during the early days when Mike was on staff at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, Pastor Chuck gave Sandy a job as wedding coordinator. “We had three weddings every Saturday. That’s how quickly the young people were getting married. Hippie kids were getting saved, and those who were living together were getting married.” With a smile, she reflected, “Those were the days when everyone you invited to church came, and everyone who came got saved. It was a miraculous, supernatural move of the Holy Spirit—nothing less. If it had happened in any other way, with any pastor other than Chuck, it may not have lasted. But he made sure that they were grounded in the Word.”

Transparent Friendship—Carol Wild

A beautiful blond young English woman, Carol Wild was the wife of Malcolm Wild, a popular gospel beat musician who moved from England to serve at CC Costa Mesa along with their three children in the late 1970s; years later, they would move to Florida to plant CC Merritt Island. Carol enjoyed going to Kay’s Bible studies; she had never heard verse-by-verse teaching before. It had helped her understand the Word, like puzzle pieces all coming together.

“When I first started going to Kay’s Friday morning Bible study in the fellowship room, there were probably 100 women attending,” Carol related. “Never before had I met with women so hungry for God’s Word. Kay taught us on everything from raising children, keeping house, loving your husband, disciplining your children, and having a meaningful relationship with Jesus.”

She recollected, “Sitting under Kay’s teaching from the Word, I was taught how to respond and react in ways that my walk with the Lord would reflect Jesus. I realized lots of things—especially that my selfish ways and mood swings had to go!” Kay’s series on pleasing God “revolutionized my walk with Jesus. Even to this day, I still use that filter: Would this please the Lord? If not, then don’t do it, don’t say it, and don’t even think it!”

Carol recalled being a lonely young mother in the strange, new world of Southern California. “As I would walk home from Bible study, just across the street, I would hear other women making plans for tennis or lunch. I would pray and ask the Lord to give me a best friend. One day he showed me that He already had: It was Kay. I never asked Him for a best friend again; Kay was it.”

With gratitude, Carol observed, “She was so transparent; she let us all get to know her, her struggles, her failings. She let us know that she wasn’t perfect—which was something I hadn’t expected. I was used to people always showing their strengths and never their weakness!” After decades of ministry on the East Coast, Carol revealed, “I have learned to be transparent in my teaching and sharing with others because of her example to me.”

Listen to Kay Smith’s teachings on “Pleasing God” on pastorchuck.org.

Look for more upcoming interviews with other CC pastors’ wives at calvarychapelmagazine.org.



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

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