I, Mike Smith, am married to Glynn and we have three adult children, Keri, a nursing sister, Simone, a teacher and David, an accountant. All three are married. Simone and Rob, her husband, have blessed us with two grandchildren. Keri gave birth to our third grandchild, Sofia Grace on 25 July 2011 and is currently expecting our fourth. Her husband Ignatius (Natio) Meyer is a proud "Pa". David and Lisa hope to add to the number in the near future.
I was brought up in a church going family, but, in hindsight, I knew about GOD but did not know GOD.
My younger sister was “zapped”, as they called it in those days, in the early 70’s when she was in her late teens. Shortly after I married Glynn in January 1975, Barbara, my sister, wrote a letter to my brother and I about a dream she had of her being taken to heaven, whilst we cried out to her to be taken as well. She quoted Ezekiel 33:8 – 9 in her closing paragraph, “when I say to the wicked man, you shall surely die and you do not speak to warn the wicked man from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand….”
Needless to say we were not too happy about receiving this letter, but nevertheless I believe it had an impact on my future actions.
My wife accepted Christ into her life shortly before we moved to Port Elizabeth in 1981 and I was perfectly happy with that arrangement. I had been asked to manage the local office of the international accounting firm I worked for, a move, which I now believe was orchestrated by GOD. However it was not long before I was challenged by two young Christians from the church we joined when we arrived, namely St Nicholas, then pastored by Brian Bird, a well known teacher of the Word at the time. I accepted Christ into my life in October 1981, convicted that compared to Jesus; I was a very wicked man.
The next 19 years spent at St Nicholas were an incredible learning experience, first under Brian Bird, then during a period when we had no Pastor and the lay people had to rise to the occasion. I learned about serving the very poor and downtrodden in the community, my mind was renewed, I discovered God’s healing power for myself when Jesus miraculously removed a kidney stone, and learned how GOD spoke, which at the time for me, was primarily through the Word. Although St Nicholas had already earned a reputation as a Charismatic church, I really enjoyed the fullness of the so called “Toronto blessing” where the Holy Spirit really ministered to me, releasing the stress and strain I was consistently subjected to in my job. It was during this time though that I received the first inkling that GOD had something for me to do. Rory Mole, a prophet who we had invited to St Nicholas several times visited in 1993 and part of his prophecy over me read “GOD is saying that he’s got a plan for you, and there is much ahead of you, you just have to press in…”
Although I was very happy in my spiritual walk to date, I periodically wondered when GOD was going to call me into the “Ministry”. It was only in late 1999 that Brian Cape, the then President of the South African chapter of the ICCC (International Christian Chamber of Commerce), dropped a pearl into my mind which convinced me that I was exactly where GOD wanted me to be, i.e. Managing Partner of KPMG in Port Elizabeth. Immediately following my attendance at the International Conference of the ICCC in Johannesburg in 2000 my renewed focus on my business resulted in us beating a fairly aggressive budget for the year to 31 August 2000 by miles. The following year we met an even more aggressive budget. My understanding about Workplace Ministry really began to grow. So much so, that I felt called to make it my work, after my pending retirement in 2008.
As it happened I was not to last until 2008 as some very difficult internal management issues began to manifest, culminating with my being diagnosed with clinical depression in 2005 and resulting in a decision to step down before the official retirement age. During this time my prayers were answered in that the management issues were sorted out, although in a way that brought me no glory and left me feeling very much a failure.
I now know that GOD often uses failure to make us useful. When Jesus called the disciples, He did not go out and find the most qualified and successful people. He found the most willing, and He found them in the workplace. He found a fisherman, a tax collector, a farmer, and a doctor.
The Hebrews knew that failure was part of maturing in God. The Greeks, on the other hand, used failure as a reason for disqualification. This is not God's way. I needed to understand that failing did not make me a failure. It made me experienced. It made me more prepared to be useful in God's Kingdom, as I have learned from it.
I took very early “Retirement” from KPMG with effect from 1 September 2006 and have plunged full tilt into this workplace ministry. I would characterize it as a vocational “priestly call” to the workplace. This call is not a “higher call” in the sense that it is a holier call than what I was doing previously at KPMG or what others may be doing who have chosen to remain in their fulltime employment; it was simply a new call focused on equipping believers to see their work as a calling.
Since then I have been involved in a Mentorship Programme in conjunction with Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber as well as promoting a Worklife Ministry under the umbrella of the Transformation Christian Network. This is done mainly by encouraging the local church to introduce a Worklife focus to their overall ministry to the "saints". One of the highlights of this period to date was a trip to Atlanta, Georgia, where I attended a training session with an organisation by the name of HCAW (His Church At Work), now renamed Maestro Worklife Coaching, in October 2008.
I completed a four month contract in August 2009 with a major Development Corporation in the role normally assumed by the CFO. It was an interesting time for me and I hope I was able to make a valuable contribution, both physically and spiritually. In addition it was a clear example of God's provision for me at a time I would otherwise have had to draw down on my retirement savings, which would have been the worst time to do it given the prevailing market conditions.
St Nicholas church has registered with the Maestro Worklife Coaching Organisation and the people in the church are benefitting from twice weekly devotionals which apply scripture to many of the issues experienced in the workplace. They also have access to biblical support for personal issues they identify through an assessment tool. This kind of assistance can be made available to any church whose leaders are desirous of equipping their people navigate their way through their worklives.
The work I am doing as coordinator of Transformation Christian Network (TCN) worklife initiative is gaining momentum with the most recent thrust being the start of a city wide ethics campaign, partnering with Unashamedly Ethical. See the link page. This campaign will be the major thrust into what is known as the Business Domain, one of the 7 domains which need to be changed before we can see city transformation taking place. Naturally the other domains will also benefit from a moral and ethical turn around.
4 December 2012.
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