Glenn Edward Smith now rests. Although the sun set for him on December 2, 2020, one month shy of 96 years old, the sky glow of this great though unfamous man will continue until split by the Master he served. Edith, Glenn’s tiny mother, taught him to sing, “Jesus, Rose of Sharon, Bloom Within My Heart,” in a chorus of seven brothers and sisters at a parlor piano in the 1920s in upstate New York. Her meek piety gave voice to the Call of God and Glenn’s nine decade Gospel ministry began.
Lila Rex Smith, the wife of his youth, called him, “GE,” and together they raised sons Jerry, David, Doug, and Ted. She boosted the young pastor’s preaching under evangelistic canvas, and in halls and converted theatres. Together, they lit Adventism’s flame in western Pennsylvania’s hamlets and cities in the 1940s and 1950s, from Six Mile Run and Punxsutawney, to Johnstown. God’s call took the Smiths to the Chesapeake Conference’s (1950s) Martinsburg district and Spencerville Church, and then westward to direct the Nebraska Conference’s Stewardship Department in the early 1960s. The General Conference’s Inter-American Division (late 1960s) chose Smith to direct the Stewardship Department and train pastors throughout Central America, the Caribbean, and northern South America in spiritual principles of stewardship. The Florida Conference (early 1970s) brought Smith stateside again to lead its Stewardship Department, and, as members learned spiritual partnership with God, churches and schools in their field reaped benefits from greater financial consecration. The General Conference’s Trans-Africa Division (late 1970s) needed Smith to direct trust services, so he and Lila travelled the Dark Continent for the Lord.
Smith’s hands wore out his Bible, but also gripped hammers, trowels, and wrenches to build four churches and many homes. In the 1970s, he preached a series of sermons to a mass congregation in the sweltering temperatures of Soweto, South Africa. Ravenous for the Gospel, 20,000 listeners broiled in the sun but kept coming back day after day. Like the Galilean Preacher concerned for His hungry hillside horde, Smith’s practical side strategized a solution. Rolls of burlap suspended by wires were stretched above the seating area. This sun break comforted seekers while the Comforter brought conviction to hundreds.
As handy replacing head gaskets as giving black light prophecy lectures, Smith balanced mechanic’s tools for his family and biblical typology for the Lord. Driving to General Conference Sessions introduced his boys to every continental state and many National Parks. Before it was paved, the Smiths drove the Alaska-Canada Highway’s 1,387 miles with tires atop the roof to replace those shredded by the road bed’s grader-sharpened stones.
Smith’s paid ministry closed as trust services director in America’s Southern Union Conference in the early 1980s. Richard Center, retired Southern Union treasurer, who worked briefly with Glenn Smith, remembers him as “a sincere man whom people trusted to guide them with their estate planning.”
Retiring to Calhoun, Georgia, he has been engaged for 35 years supporting pastors as an elder, applying his skills to the church structure and lawn when needed, and making friends for the Adventist Church in Gordon County.
Roberta Berkeley Smith sparked fresh love in Smith’s later years. They loved their way across the nation by motorhome and across oceans via cruise ships. Their bond was stronger than late-life dementia, her faithfulness a powerful testimony to married affection.
Thousands heard him preach and came to trust the Savior. Hundreds called him “Pastor” and emulated his everyday faith. Dozens took his hand as they stepped down into baptismal waters. Beloved by four generations of Smiths, Glenn Smith was my Dad, my hero.
Southern Union | January 2021