Barry Smith - 'more alive than he's ever been'
July has been an 'incredible month' for the Smith Family,
and indeed for the many people who loved Barry, or followed his ministry. His
sudden departure from this life has left a large space in our hearts...
He used to say "One day you will read in the newspaper 'Barry Smith dead'
- But don't you believe it. I will be more alive than ever! In the presence of
God at last." As a family we have such confidence, knowing that dad went
straight from his hospital bed in England, directly into the presence of God -
how wonderful. He was loved dearly by each member of his family, and is greatly
missed. Characters like him are not easily replaced.
God has been graciously 'preparing us for this special
event' for some time, and we are thankful. Each member of the family has a
story to tell, and in this edition of The Omega Times I'll share a portion of
mine, in the hope that it will assist you to comprehend a little more our
perspective -– and better still, 'God's faithfulness'.
My wife Saskia and I live right next door to Dad and Mum, but
for most of last year we were away in Auckland, assisting in the establishment
of a ministry. Midway through the year, I began to feel very unsettled, sensing
that the Lord was prompting me, telling me that my father had a limited time
left here. My wife and I would discuss it, but Dad, who visited regularly was
looking fine and I wasn't sure if it was God or my imagination. Eventually,
the prompting became stronger and we felt we needed to shift home, to be close
by to support his work and ministry, and to be near Mum. The word 'legacy'
was lodged in my heart. Dad and I have spoken many times in the past two years
about the end of his life -– he was extremely responsible and made sure that we
would be on hand to look after his darling wife, my mother. In January of this
year, out of the blue he asked me to conduct his funeral service "Because I
trust you to do it well son," he said. I was amazed he would ask me to lead
such an important event, his 'final message' really -– he has many friends
who are far more qualified to speak than I. It wasn't surprising or awkward, I
just said, "You're not planning on going anywhere are you dad?" He said,
"It'll come soon enough, we just need to be ready." So, six short months
later -– although I would prefer to have dad sitting here with me, putting this
edition of The Omega Times together, he has gone on to be with our Lord -– and
we will continue the work.
Saskia and I were in England in June, and were able to spend
two special days with dad down in Bristol before we returned home. We sang for
dad at two of his meetings and for the last time I watched my father speak from
the Word of God -– it was powerful and I had shivers going up and down my
spine. I've watched him speak from the time I was knee high to a grasshopper...
but this was different, electrifying. As I sat there in the audience I
whispered, "Thank you Lord for this man. Thank you for all of the lives that
have been reached for your Kingdom through him. Thank you for such a good father
and friend." Late, after the second meeting, we hugged Dad goodbye twice -–
we told each other how much we loved each other, and Saskia and I left for
London. As we walked away I looked back at dad and said to Saskia, "I think
this is the last time I will see my dad on earth."
Dad went on to another crusade in Cornwall before his final
set of meetings held in a small Church in Winsford, Cheshire. Pastor Tim Leach
later told me that he was completely surprised that "Barry would consider
ministering to such a small group." But this was typical of dad. He would
speak about Jesus with real enthusiasm to crowds of thousands or 'tens'. The
Winsford church was packed with 350 people the night dad gave his last crusade
altar call - Saturday 23 June. Many people came to know Christ that night.
Following the meeting, Dad went to stay with friends Apollo and Selina Perelini.
After talking, eating and laughing, Apollo, who had noticed how fatigued dad was
looking, said, "Why don't you cancel your last few meetings Uncle Barry and
go home to rest." Dad said, "I will be going home soon Apollo." "Straight
back to New Zealand Uncle Barry?" Apollo asked. "No...to be with my Lord,"
was his reply.
Dad had one last meeting at the Church in Winsford before
being driven to Worcester to stay with some friends at the 'Peartree Hotel'.
As usual, Derek and Jan Hill took good care of him. Dad was not well, and began
to feel increasingly ill and was admitted to hospital for tests, being kept in
under observation. He was feeling very cold and experiencing pain in his left
shoulder. Our UK agent, Steve Avery phoned me in the early hours of the morning
of the 27th June, to let me know what was happening. I am so grateful
for that 'wakeup call'. I called the hospital immediately, they put me
through to dad and I spoke with him for around five minutes about how he was
feeling. "Don't tell your mother son, I don't want her worrying. I'm
fine -– it's just that sore shoulder... I'll be on the plane tomorrow, I'm
fine". I queried him about the pain in his shoulder and what the doctors were
saying. He said "It's nothing son, they've said that it was just a little
one...". I said "a little what?" And he said "A little heart attack".
I was a bit upset that he hadn't told me the extent of the situation sooner,
but he was trying to play it down so that the medical team would not stop him
catching his flight the following day. At that time a nurse said she needed the
phone and I said, "I will call you later dad"... he said, "Talk to you
soon". That was the last time I will speak to my father in this life, 3 hours
later he had left this earthly realm and was in the presence of God. The stunned
doctor phoned me and said that they had done everything they could, that one
minute dad was fine and then suddenly, he was gone. I asked the doctor not to
hang up, but to tell me everything that had happened at the end of my father's
life. "Your father was a very funny man," he said. "We're all a bit
stunned. He was telling us jokes right up until the moment he died." I can't
tell you how thrilled I am to know that God was right there with Dad, having
arranged the whole scene -– the joy of the Lord was upon my Dad right until the
Mum would normally have been in England accompanying Dad on
his ministry trip, but due to a knee operation she had stayed home this time. We
phoned my sisters Becky and Rachel who started making travel plans immediately.
A miracle was required for Becky and Dennie and their four children to get back
to NZ from South Africa. Over a number of hours, the Lord arranged the finance
and they 'squeezed' onto a flight for home. God has been good to the Smith
It was two weeks before we were able to hold a funeral
service for dad. A special brother in London, Kosi Latu, was able to assist us
to get dad's body home. What a special time it was at our Pelorus home to have
thousands of people phone, email and visit with us -– to say, "Thank you Lord
for the life of Barry Smith".
Dad always signed his name B R. Smith, John 3:30 "He must
increase, but I must decrease". I was mindful of this at the funeral service,
where we honoured dad, and praised God. It was not a time of mourning. It was a
great day of rejoicing, remembering, laughing and giving thanks to God -– to
Him be all glory!
This Saturday, 27 July 2002, is exactly one month from the
day dad completed his race. He ran well. As a family, we have peace. It's sad
to think that this character who meant so much to us will not share the rest of
our lives... but then, he is in the presence of God -– how wonderful.
Please continue to pray for us. Mum misses her darling so
much, having loved him, taken incredible care of him and supported him, through
many good times and many hard times. Becky and Dennie, Rachel, Saskia and myself
hurt at the loss. The grandchildren loved him so much. Now the work goes on.
Thank you to all who have made contact with us over the past
month. We have decided to continue with the work of the Omega Times, and look
forward to the Lord's ongoing blessing.
I trust you enjoy this edition of the Omega Times newspaper
-– God is good!
Andrew E Smith -– son of Barry!
One final thought: Last month I had really laboured to
complete a big pile of "Letters to the editor" for the June edition of Omega
Times. It was a tiring and busy month, doing my work in the prisons and trying
to find time to put the OT together was difficult -– I was really stretched. As
I was about to email my finished work back to the OT office for inclusion in the
layout, suddenly, all my work was 'gone'. Six A4 pages of responses to
questions -– somehow deleted. I was in tears in my motel room. I phoned Paul
Jones to tell him the 'sad news' and he said "I have one letter that I can
email to you -– if you just reply to this one it would be good". As it turned
out, the writer of the one letter to the editor for the month of June 2002 was
none other than Barry Smith, my dad. The paper came out just before dad went to
heaven! What a special letter it was...