Longtime child advocate Linda Smith is remembered this week for her eternal devotion to children that was propelled by her deep faith.
Smith died on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017. She was 65-years-old. A memorial service has been set for 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 8, at the Grove Christian Center.
Smith's two great passions in life were her family and service to women and families.
“The [Abundant Blessing Center] ministry was Linda Smith,” said Rev. Robert Carter, president of the Grove Ministerial Alliance. “Linda was doing it on her own for many years.”
Around a decade ago, Smith began offering counseling, care, love and most of all hope to young mothers in the area. She called the ministry “ABC.”
The Abundant Blessing Center ministry is a treasure trove of resources for single mothers and young families offering prenatal and childbirth education, parenting classes, pregnancy testing and counseling, post-abortion counseling and life skills.
Smith always made sure there were infant clothes, toddler clothes, toys, coats and maternity clothes for mothers that dropped by.
The ABC ministry was essential Smith’s baby in every sense of the word and meaning.
Not only did she birth the dream to offer help to young mothers, but she also nurtured it and until her final days and like a mom, she worried about what would happen to the organization after she was gone.
Members of the Grove Ministerial Alliance saw how many people the ministry reached and decided the ABC ministry would become part of the alliance's umbrella ministry. This elevated the ABC center to the same status of the Christian Help Center, by supplying prayer and funding.
Carter shared the conversation the two had just before Christmas.
“It was a hard meeting for me,” Carter said. “But she made it easy. She laid out the future of ABC.”
Her chief concern was that after she was gone, the ABC ministry would also fade away.
“I won’t let that happen,” Carter said. “We will move forward and we will continue to operate.”
In true typical form, Smith's memorial service will also double as a fundraiser for the ABC ministry.
“People are encouraged to give donations instead of flowers,” Carter said.
Before her death she submitted two grants to the Grove Rotary Club on behalf of SHAPE [Sexual Health, Awareness, Prevention and Empowerment] and for general operations for the ABC ministry, Carter said.
Both grants were approved.
“It’s a testimony to her legacy. She lived and exercised her faith – that is a part her legacy, Carter said, adding that thousands of lives were touched as a result of Smith's work with the ABC ministry.
“My relationship with Linda Smith does not go back as far as many in this community,” said Nancy Edwards.
Edwards said their friendship was solidified when they did a prayer walk around the land where an illegal abortion clinic once stood in Grove.
“Linda was a trailblazer,” Edwards said. “It was long after the prayer walk when she started the Abundant Blessing Center.”
Edwards volunteered to be the Center’s first trained assistant, saying that Smith's passion was contagious.
Throughout the years, the women worked on several community projects together.
“She was a powerful prayer warrior,” Edwards said, adding that Smith always combined practical help with words of hope and encouragement to her clients.
“Nobody left her presence without her praying over them,” Edwards said.
Delaware County Associate District Judge Berry Denney said Smith's love of children led to the creation of the center's Love and Logic Parenting class.
“I saw so many parents who had many struggles with their parenting actually get excited about parenting their children after experiencing Linda and her class,” Denney said, adding that Smith was an "enthusiastic asset" for Delaware County families.
Smith was quick with a hug and prayers, but she was also there to make sure a person didn’t go back to their old harmful ways.
Not only did Smith have a heart for pregnant woman and helping them get on their feet but she also had a heart for recovering addicts and people in active addiction.
“I was addicted to meth for many years and when I got clean Linda was there threatening to kick my butt if I went back to using,” said Amanda Tinney. “She helped me get back on my feet, and made sure if I ever needed to talk she would be there.
“She held me accountable. If she thought I was slipping she had no issues with telling me. Linda had a heart of gold, this is a true loss for everyone in this town."
For Tammy Sherman, Smith was not only her best friend but her "other" mother.
“Linda taught me many things about love and life, about walking with Jesus and keeping my faith when things looked bad,” Sherman said. “She taught me to control my tongue and polished me up a bit.”
Sherman said Smith taught also taught her that God was in control, no matter how she felt in her head.
“She helped me heal and grow and never asked a thing in return,” Sherman said.
She meant so much to this community and mothers who need her tender heart to touch theirs, she said.
Rev. David Knox, Smith's pastor at Grove Christian Center, said Smith helped change lives not only in Grove, but around the world.
“Several years ago, Linda gave the funds to build a church building in Nepal,” Knox said. “This was a huge sacrifice for her, but that was Linda, if the Lord said do it she would.”
Knox and members of the church make several trips a year to Nepal.
“We visit that church often and will always see what faith can produce in a life when we see this building,” Knox said.
As Smith's pastor for 10 years and fellow church member for more than 30 years, Knox said he got to know Smith well.
“Through these years I have watched her walk of faith in life in ways that only a few know,” Knox said, adding that Smith's faith was fueled by passion.
“Weariness, sickness, times of discouragement did not stop her determination to serve the Lord with all her heart, strength, soul and mind,” Knox said.
Her death, Knox said, leaves a huge hole in not only the body of Christ, but in the town of Grove.
Smith was the mother of six children and grandmother of 15 with two more grandchildren on their way.
Her son, Reid, remarked said after her passing that his mother “has left such a legacy.”
In lieu of flowers, Smith’s family asks people to support the legacy of the Abundant Blessings Center through a donation either by mail at P.O. Box 450635 Grove, OK 74345 or a tax-deductible donation through a GoFundMe crowd sourcing account at www.gofundme.com/linda-smith-abc.