2010 January 25 Thoughts
Today marks the fifth year anniversary of the death of Matt Smith. Matt was, for those who never met him, in the words carved into his headstone, "a minister of the gospel". He was a loving husband and father. He was a mentor to many. He was also a neighbor. But most importantly, to me, he was the 'Minister of Community Outreach' at the church I used to attend. In his position as such, he and I worked together twice yearly on a project called The Children's Clothing Closet, which offered gently used donated clothing at an affordable price (a buck for a bag) to the many families in our community. We spent time getting to know one another during drives to picked donations at suburban churches in the early days of his arrival in the neighborhood.
I had come to faith in Christ just months before Matt came to our church. As such a baby believer, I had questions, struggles and baggage. Matt was always available to answer questions, offer scripture to soothe struggles and baggage, to pray for and with me and to generally be a cheerleader. I wonder at his ability to juggle all the roles in his life without ever seeming to forget that first and foremost he was a child of the living God! I counted Matt among my friends, although something his brother, Chris said after Matt's death made me wonder how many people made that assumption about their relationship with Matt. Chris said that if Matt was in a room with ten people, seven would say he was their best friend, and the other three would wish he was. That seems a tribute to Matt's ability to make friends across all barriers and to his uncanny capacity to make everyone feel accepted and comfortable.
Though I was never in one of Matt's bible study groups, he was one of the leaders when all the groups met together usually once or twice during our study, depending on the length of the study. It was during one of these times that Matt asked everyone the question: Where do you see yourself in 5 years with relation to your faith? It was the first time I had the courage to tell anyone that I saw myself on the mission field at some point in the future. The following Sunday in between our Sunday school class and service, Matt took me aside. He shared with me a brochure from our sister church, North Park, detailing three mission trips available to participate in that summer. As I read the pamphlet my eyes were drawn to "The Dublin Prayer Conference", but I read about the other two trips, one to Appalachia and one to Russia and said, "I find myself wanting to go to Ireland, but the Russia trip would probably be more of a sacrifice." Matt asked me why on both counts and after hearing what I had to say, told me his ideas. He explained to me that his first thought for me, had been the Dublin Prayer Conference. There's more to be told about that, but it is for another time. Matt was an encourager, and I had rarely encountered that before in my life.
Matt made time to befriend my husband, even though my Raymond is not yet a believer, nor a member of the church. Raymond is a sports fan, a former football, baseball and softball player, and has a wide knowledge and appreciation of music. Matt used these common interests to lay the foundation of his relationship with Raymond. That and the fact that they were both incredible carnivores! Both Raymond and Matt were the kind of guys who when given a casserole containing, veggies, meat, and carbs would ask, " Where's the meat?" simply because they liked and wanted a piece of meat on their plate. Matt made an impact on my husband.
When Matt got sick, it was hard. When Matt died, it was a devastating blow to our church and our community. But, it was also an example to all of how to finish the race while keeping the faith. Matt was one of those special souls who come into our lives every now and then. He taught all of us something. Most of all, he left a Matt shaped hole in most of our hearts.