VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 9/6/06)-The Rev. Joyce Elliot Smith, "an incredible example of servant ministry," says the Rev. Dr. David Laubach, National Ministries' Associate Executive Director, Program Ministries, died August 30, 2006, at her home in Ouzinkie, Alaska. She was 88.
Commissioned as an American Baptist home missionary in 1952, Smith moved to Alaska from California with her husband, the Rev. Norman Smith, that year. For more than a quarter century she and her husband and five children spent May through September each year on the Evangel, a mission boat that toured the waters around Kodiak Island, ministering in the tiny fishing villages.
During the remaining months of the year, the Smith family lived in Larsen Bay, maintaining a presence among native Alaskans in the state's south central region. In their first years in Larsen Bay, they lived in an old tarpaper shack with no electricity or running water.
Called to work in Christian camping ministry, Smith got involved immediately with a camp on Kodiak Island, and then a camp on Long Island. In the summer of 1956, the camping ministry had to find a new location, because Long Island was leased to a cattle company.
Two weeks before camp was scheduled to start, there was still no host site, but, Smith said later, she knew if she had faith, God would provide. When it turned out that the U.S. government admitted an army post on Woody Island was accidentally built on Kodiak Baptist Mission property during World War II, the government deeded all of the buildings back to the mission, and Smith found her camp. With volunteer labor, Smith transformed-in two weeks-an old military building that had not been used for 11 years into a working camp.
Smith and her family settled in Ouzinkie in 1958, where she started a morning kindergarten because the town had none. When she retired in May 2000, after 42 years, Smith had taught the grandchildren of some of her first students; she was never paid for her work. Her afternoons in Ouzinkie were devoted to the medical clinic where she served as the community health practitioner for 35 years.
When her husband and ministry partner of 56 years died suddenly in 1996, Smith realized that Ouzinkie was her home and its people her family. Subsequently, the Ouzinkie Native Corporation adopted her as one of their own, and she was given all of the rights and privileges of an Ouzinkie tribe member.
In 1997 Smith was ordained by the Alaska Baptist Association: She was given one year of seminary credit for every 15 years of service and awarded the equivalent of a master's of theology degree.
The Ouzinkie Chapel held a memorial service on Tuesday, September 5; another memorial service will be held at the Community Baptist Church at Kodiak on Thursday September 7.
Andrew C. Jayne American Baptist Churches, USA Mission Resource Development http://www.abc-usa.org/