Kay Smith’s Legacy for the Lord, Part 3: A Genuine, Joyful Servant
By Christmas Beeler
East Coast pastors’ wives Karen Pulley, Irma Pressley, and Cheryl Cahill remember how Kay Smith was a humble, genuine, loving servant who also sought to encourage women and pastors’ wives on the East Coast. After nearly 70 years of ministry, Kay passed away on August 13 of this year, preceded by her husband Pastor Chuck in 2013. Her oldest daughter Janette Smith Manderson shared her excitement about coming Home.
A Comforter & Encourager—Karen Pulley
Feeling led by the Lord to comfort their sister and fellow pastor’s wife, Kay Smith and Karen Pulley sat at Janie Alfred’s kitchen table in Murrieta, CA. Recently, Janie’s 19-year-old daughter Ashley had been tragically killed by her abusive boyfriend.
Wife of Pastor Lloyd Pulley of Calvary Chapel Old Bridge, Karen was in California and assisting Kay for the day, as Kay’s memory loss and mental awareness had been diminishing and required that someone be with her. Karen wondered how the Lord might use Kay today despite her illness; undaunted as ever, Kay had wanted to come and comfort her fellow pastor’s wife in her time of need. That was always Kay’s way, through all the decades Karen had known her, as the Lord had grown the ministry of Calvary Chapel through Kay’s husband Pastor Chuck Smith.
Karen prayed silently as Janie related how Ashley had seemed to be free of the abusive relationship and doing so much better just before the tragedy happened. “She was coming back to the Lord,” Janie recounted, tears running down her face. Janie was devastated that her daughter’s life had been cut short. Kay listened compassionately, nodding in sympathy, offering comfort. Then she spoke.
“Janie, I want you to know that Ashley is at home with Jesus now,” she said, sharing God’s promises about eternal life: Whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him should be saved (John 3:16b-17), and, Let not your heart be troubled. …I go to prepare a place for you… I will come again and receive you to Myself (John 14:1-3a). She assured Janie that Jesus had already received Ashley to heaven because she had believed in Him as her Lord and Savior.
Janie’s red, teary eyes began to fill with hope, and peace seemed to wash over her countenance as Kay shared words from the hymn, “It Is Well with My Soul”—that “no pang shall be mine, for in death as in life, Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul” as “for Thy coming we wait … the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend; even so, it is well with my soul.”
Janie and Kay rejoiced together in God’s assurance of salvation, and that Janie would see Ashley again one day in heaven. The three women prayed together with tears and praises to God, and they sensed His presence with them. After about an hour, Karen and Kay hugged Janie goodbye, then headed back to the conference center nearby. Before they reached their destination, Kay had forgotten where they had just been.
Karen recalled, “Kay really ministered to her through Scripture that Ashley was safe at home with the Lord. It just blew me away that, even in her condition, Kay was able to minister so powerfully to Janie, quoting Scriptures and the hymn. That was the mercy of God. She never forgot the things of the Lord. She was such a caring, loving person.”
“Sit at Jesus’ Feet”
In the early 1980s, Kay would invite pastors’ wives up to the Twin Peaks, CA, conference center for retreats, biblical encouragement, prayer, praise, and fellowship. Karen remembered Sharon Ries bringing her to a retreat in 1982. The other ladies were on the edges of their seats waiting for Kay. Karen recalled, “When she stood up to teach us, she was so humble. She called herself a lowly handmaiden of the Lord: ‘I’m learning right along with you.’ I was struck by the power and authority she had in the Word. When she spoke, it was as if she were an empty vessel, and Jesus was speaking right to you through her.”
Knowing her husband Lloyd was called to the ministry, Karen went to the retreat with “fear and trembling. Just the thought of being a pastor’s wife terrified me and seemed so overwhelming. She said, ‘Ladies, you just sit at the Lord’s feet and receive from Him. He will not call you to do anything that you can’t do. He will equip you.”
Kay shared the example of Mary of Bethany who sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word … And Jesus answered and said …“Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:39, 42b). When Karen heard those words, she felt a great weight lift from her shoulders: “That set me free—that as a pastor’s wife, I was simply to support my husband and sit at the feet of Jesus.” To her surprise, Kay related her own fear of teaching publicly. “She told how the Lord spoke to her heart, that if she would read His Word every day, that she could simply share with the ladies what the Lord had been teaching her in her own personal time with Him. I thought, I can do that. It was such a relief. And it pointed me back to the truth that ministry is rooted in my own relationship with God.”
Listening to Kay talk about tending the flame of her own devotional life with Jesus made Karen hungry to have the same. “I still like to say that your ministry is an overflow of your relationship with God,” Karen added. As Jesus said, “He who believes in Me … out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). Karen recommends Kay’s book, The Privilege, an intimate, encouraging look at the joys and trials of being a pastor’s wife.
Genuine & Joyful—Irma Pressley
Many pastor’s wives commented on Kay’s honesty and transparency with the younger women. “Kay was not self-conscious at all. She would let us in. She would honestly tell us about disagreements she had with Chuck and how she learned to take it to the Lord,” recalled Irma Pressley, whose husband Harry has pastored CC South Jersey, NJ, since 1989. She and several of the East Coast pastors’ wives were invited to join Kay’s retreats for encouragement. “She would meet with us younger pastors’ wives in Lake Arrowhead, CA. We knew we could just be ourselves. She shared things with us about raising kids and being in ministry.”
Back in the late 1980s, Irma recollected, “We were all looking for that mom figure; we needed that. She just opened her heart to us. …We were all hurting. Some of us had come out of cults, or out of legalism, or cancer, or marriage struggles. She just nurtured us and welcomed us with open arms. She really filled a place that was so needed at the time.”
Kay often shared funny stories about her own foibles. “She had such joy; she would just laugh about it.” As Chuck became more well-known in England, the couple decided to take a trip to the UK. Wanting to look her best, Kay used a dye that accidentally gave her dark brown hair a green tint and a frizzy texture. “She said, ‘Oh well, what can you do?’” Irma shared with a chuckle. “Another time, she and Pastor Chuck were racing to see who could get ready for church the quickest, and as they were driving there on Sunday, she realized her dress was inside out. Chuck wouldn’t let her go home and change it.”
A Time to Laugh
Another pastor’s wife on Kay’s council recalled a time that Pastor Chuck was having the sanctuary at CC Costa Mesa updated and asked Kay what her favorite color was. Mauve, she had told him, thinking little of it. A few days later, Kay walked into the sanctuary and saw mauve everywhere. “Can you believe it?” she asked the small circle of women, her hands covering her mouth, trying to hold back her laughter.
Weeks later, the women went up to the conference center at Twin Peaks for a retreat and walked into the auditorium: Sure enough, there was mauve everywhere—the walls, the carpet, and the cushioned pews. Kay thought it was endearing and humorous.
But Kay also had a sober side, warning the women against falling away and keeping their hearts right before God, Irma recalled. Kay often said: “We must lay down our will to do His will.” As Pastor Chuck taught and demonstrated servant leadership, following in the humility of Jesus, so did Kay.
At one conference, the theme was based on 1 Corinthians 15:58, which says, Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. Irma observed, “She was urging us to be strong in the Lord, to be steadfast and faithful in the ministry—not to get pulled down by the world. She told us stories of women who destroyed their ministries because of their sin. How easily the world can sway your heart away from Jesus. She would warn us about that; I’m so glad.”
Servants of All—Cheryl Cahill
Cheryl Cahill, wife of Pastor Randy Cahill of CC Boston, MA, met Kay 32 years ago. “I will always be so grateful for the influence Kay Smith has had on my life over the years that I’ve been in ministry. Ever since I was a young new pastor‘s wife, she has continually been an encouragement to me,” Cheryl related. “Her love for the Lord, her love for the women, and her dedication to God‘s Word have been an amazing example.”
Though Pastor Chuck and Kay were ministering to thousands of people in Southern California and beyond, they still took the time to serve individuals. Cheryl recounted: “I will never forget the time my teenage son wanted to travel from Boston to the kids’ Bible camp up at Twin Peaks, and Pastor Chuck and Kay offered to pick him up at the airport and let him stay at their home.” Pastor Chuck cooked omelets for her teen’s breakfast and brought him to sit in on Chuck’s radio program, then drove him an hour up the mountain. “What a wonderful example of love and servanthood they both have been to me and to so many.”
Women can still benefit from Kay’s humble, practical wisdom: “My prayer is that those who never knew Kay would take the time to listen to her teachings and follow in her footsteps as she followed Jesus. She will be greatly missed, but I am rejoicing that she is with her precious Jesus and with the love of her life, Pastor Chuck.”
Rejoicing in the Lord—Janette Smith Manderson
Many pastors’ wives testified that Kay was always ready to listen and minister, whether on the phone or in person. Kay and Chuck’s oldest daughter, Janette Smith Manderson, recalled, “It was fun to be around her; mom had a sparkle. She glowed. That was another thing that attracted people to her. There was a deep well of happiness in her, and a peace. And they wanted that.”
But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You;
Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them;
Let those also who love Your name
Be joyful in You. Psalm 5:11
Though Chuck and Kay went through lean seasons in their earliest days of ministry and then increasing demands on their time as Calvary Chapel grew, Janette remembered, “She was very happy and contented with her life. It was a very attractive feature about her, and yet she was so empathetic, too. She would spend hours counseling people on the phone. Just as she did with us: analyzing the problem, talking it out, helping us get through it—she would really give of herself.”
Compassionate to the Hurting
Reminiscing about Kay’s way with people, Janette revealed, “My daughter [Kay’s granddaughter], said mom would reach out to other people and help them when they were in pain. She was always looking for that person who was hurting, and she wanted to try and help them heal through the Holy Spirit.” Kay encouraged those in pain with God’s promises, Janette said: “She would have lots of good Scriptures and encouraging reminders of how much God loves us. Even in painful times, His love for us never ceases, and often He uses those painful times to grow us. He carries us to a place of peace; underneath us are the everlasting arms.” The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms (Deuteronomy 33:27a).
One of Kay’s most painful experiences was losing Pastor Chuck back in 2013. Her daughter Janette acknowledged, “When my husband Greg died in 2005, it was so sweet how mom comforted me.” Then, when Janette went to stay with her mother after Chuck’s passing, “I really saw that Scripture fulfilled that says God comforts us so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:4b).
“We had a close mother-daughter relationship, but we also had that comfort of widows. We knew what it felt like when the partner you’ve lived with all your life has gone to heaven, how lonely that felt,” Janette said. “When Dad died, we understood each other on a whole new level. It was a hard time, but a very sweet time, too.”
Though Kay’s short-term memory had been fading for the past two decades, Janette recounted that Kay would watch Pastor Chuck’s sermons on the television in her room, so she often had the impression that he had just been there speaking with her. “My mother and father loved each other deeply; that agape love was the foundation of their marriage,” Janette shared. “She left a legacy of love.”
Often, Janette and Kay would talk about what it would be like to be with Jesus in heaven, or during the millennial reign of Christ spoken of in Revelation 20. “She loved thinking about going to heaven. It was our greatest comfort, thinking of how joyful Daddy was in heaven, and knowing that he was loving every second up there with Jesus,” Janette stated. “I love thinking of her up in heaven with Him, too.” She shared a Scripture that she and Kay would often talk about as they looked forward to eternity:
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 1 Corinthians 13:12, KJV
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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