Jesus met Earnest Gerald Smith (Ernie) at the gates of Heaven on February 5, 2010. What a great day that was – home at last! Jesus said, “Well done good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of your Lord!” Ernie was 75 years of age, and left behind an amazing legacy of innovation, trailblazing, and true dedication to serving God.

Ernie was born in Artesia, New Mexico on March 23, 1944 to Gordon Blackwell Smith and Beatrice Hill. He was raised in Florence, Arizona. Ernie loved being with his friends, did well enough in school, found adventure while involved in Cub and Boy Scouts, enjoyed the competitiveness of Little League baseball, and learned mechanics while helping in his Dad’s Engine Repair Shop. In his teen years, Ernie joined Future Farmers of America (FFA), and raised livestock. He was also involved in school sports, worked in his Dad’s shop after school - then in his junior year, met and fell in love with his best friend’s sister, Anna Louise Carter. She became his wife on December 22, 1962.

After graduating from Florence Union High School, Ernie enlisted in the United States Air Force (USAF), and spent eight years and six months in such places as Texas, California, Michigan, and Guam, as well as temporary duties in other distant locations around the world. He worked on the flight line, in a flight Control Center, and as a Staff Sargent Crew Chief for KC-135’s (similar to the Boeing 747 aircraft).

Ernie became father to Catherine Louise on June 20, 1964 and Scott Avery on January 15, 1966, while at Beale AFB, California. Shortly after Cathy’s birth, God began gently nudging Ernie’s heart, letting him know it was important to raise his children in church. Consequently, he and his young family began attending the Methodist Church in Yuba City, California, where they found fellowship with young couples who were also seriously seeking God. Ernie greatly enjoyed the spiritual knowledge he was gaining under the ministry of Dr. and Mrs. Edgar Nelson, but this just made him want to know more. One of Ernie’s favorite verses became “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path” Proverbs 3:4-5. Within two years of study, learning and fellowship, Ernie found salvation in Jesus the summer of 1966, and later received a definite calling from the Lord for a lifetime of Christian service.

The first ministry assignment entrusted to Ernie and Anna at the Yuba City Church was serving as Assistant Youth Leaders, working with Pastor Leonard Stewart, and taking seven teens to Mexico for a summer of renovating a Methodist church. This experience became a seal for service and highly motivated the Smiths to follow God wherever He might lead them.

A military transfer in 1968 took the Smiths to Michigan, where they became involved in the Pickford Methodist Church. This is where Ernie experienced the sanctifying stirring, cleansing and filling of the Holy Spirit. All he wanted to do from this time on was serve the Lord. An article in World Gospel Mission’s (WGM) magazine caught Ernie’s eye. The title of the article was, “Missionaries Needed!” This set Ernie’s heart on fire, and he wrote to WGM regarding the possibility of serving as a pilot and mechanic sometime in the future. A special verse for Ernie at this time was: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33.

Ernie was discharged from the USAF on 12/30/70, and moved his family to Oskaloosa, Iowa where he studied at Vennard Bible College. Although the Smiths had financial help through the GI Bill, Ernie also worked as a grain elevator repairman, and later as a welder to supplement their income. A happy surprise and addition to the family was Michael Anthony, born on December 26, 1973.
Intending to complete only two years of Bible College (at the time this was the minimum required schooling needed for missionary service), verses from Romans chapters 8 & 11 regarding a definite call to preach convinced Ernie to stay for four years and graduate. In 1975, Ernie walked across the platform and received his well-earned diploma – a B.A. in Bible and Minor in Pastoral Ministries.
After graduation, a major life transition happened when Ernie and Anna accepted an assignment with WGM to serve as evangelist, builder, and brick-making missionaries in the distant and remote country of Burundi, Africa. Later the Smiths transferred to Tanzania where Ernie was instrumental in opening that field for WGM. They also served two years in Kenya, where Ernie worked at Tenwek Hospital in construction and later at Kenya Highlands Bible College where he set up the college’s first computerized accounting and student tracking systems using one of the first Kaypro Computers.

In 1985, after the Smiths returned to the U.S., Ernie studied at Asbury Seminary in Kentucky. Another move took the family across country to California where he served as WGM’s Southwest Regional Director and later pastored two Evangelical Methodist Churches, one in Mt. Shasta and one in Lake Elsinore.

In 1998, Ernie and Anna once again became missionaries and were assigned to Ukraine to help establish WGM’s field there. Under Ernie’s leadership, the Home of Hope Ministry Center was purchased and renovated. It currently hosts a home for several churches, holds English classes, a youth club, and is providing housing for refugee families as a result of the on-going Russia-Ukraine conflict. Ernie also worked diligently to establish churches in outlying villages and cities, preaching, mentoring, encouraging, and teaching believers to reach out to their own people.

Ernie shared one time at a service: “It was exciting to see God work in the midst of different cultures and language groups. Anna and I have been allowed to join God’s work in many different ways. I believe we have witnessed most of the New Testament miracles: people healed, demons cast out, revivals, lives transformed from darkness to light, people sanctified, and special anointing for unique ministries.”

Ernie served with WGM for a total of 37 years. After retiring in 2009, the Smiths returned to Arizona, purchased a home, and Ernie became the pastor of the Arizona City Evangelical Methodist Church. This became the new love of his life and a perfect place to serve the Lord in his elderly years.

A final challenge came to Ernie in October 2018, when it was discovered he had a Glioblastoma: Stage 4, cancerous, fast-growing brain tumor. Confident in God’s will for his life, Ernie claimed Romans 12:1-2 as his verses, “…in view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God…test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” It was given to Ernie to walk through surgery and faithfully endure a difficult health journey, resulting in his heavenly home-going.
Ernie’s life-long work of evangelist, pastor, missionary, youth worker, teacher, regional director, mechanic, builder, church planter, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, family-man, friend and co-worker - touched many lives, brought unknown numbers of people into God’s Kingdom, and helped a multitude of others draw closer to Jesus.
The February 22 Celebration of Life to honor Ernie represents a temporary farewell. We will see Ernie again. Look for him - he will be dressed in a shining white robe and welcoming us home with hugs and love at Heaven’s gates.

    J. Warren Funeral Services