Living With Childlike Faith | A Story of Hope

Written By: Sierra Okoniewski


July 12, 2023

“[Jesus] called a little child to Him and placed the child among them. And He said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.’” — Matthew 18:2–5 [NIV]

When reading the words of Jesus in Matthew 18, it might be difficult to understand the concept of “becoming like little children” when it comes to our faith while navigating the complex trials of life. How can Christians maintain complete trust in the Father when the uncertainty of a fractured world surrounds us?

Beth Smith has found a simple answer. A longtime member at Woodside Farmington Hills, Beth has been on a kidney transplant list for almost two years. But after 42 years of ministering to young kids about the love of Christ, she’s learned a thing or two about what it means to live with childlike faith.

“Things are not as complicated as we like to make them sometimes,” she said. “We feel like we’ve got to figure everything out — we’ve got to know what’s going on. God has a plan, and He doesn’t always let us in on it. But if we keep walking with Him, He’s leading us in that direction.”

Beth and her husband, Warren, became members of Strathmoor Judson Memorial Baptist Church in 1977 after Warren’s final military tour in Vietnam. Soon after, Beth began serving in the children’s ministry, where she eventually stepped in to lead Sunday School for two and three-year-olds. When their congregation became Woodside Farmington Hills 23 years later, Beth continued serving weekly as a leader for Woodside Kids.

“I’ve learned a lot by teaching,” she said. “When I was first starting out, I was learning as much as the kids were — maybe more. I’m 76, but I really don’t feel like it most days. I think it’s being active with the kids that’s really kept me going. You see their take on life — everything is new and exciting, and you can’t help but be excited along with them.”

“God can work in amazing ways with kids, regardless of the age,” Beth continued. “They grasp a lot more than we give them credit for at a young age. Kids look at things so honestly. They just see things as they are, and are willing to accept what you tell them. And that’s a big responsibility. You have to keep saying, ‘Lord, keep me on the straight and narrow. Help me lead them in the way they need to go. Help me to be the example they need to see.’”

Throughout her years as a volunteer, Beth has watched many of her young students grow up to raise families of their own. It wasn’t until 2020, over four decades since she began working with kids, that Beth reluctantly decided it was time to retire. Not long after, she discovered that her kidneys weren’t working properly.

“When I was a kid, I had a kidney infection,” she said. “It scarred both of my kidneys, but I had no idea. I was feeling fine — you know, I just went on with life. And then my thyroid numbers were out of whack. So, the doctor sent me to a nephrologist, which is a kidney specialist. And he said, ‘Here’s the number for the transplant team. You’re in kidney failure.’”

On the transplant waitlist, it can take up to five years before a kidney is made available to someone who needs it. Beth has been waiting since 2021 for a donor, but that hasn’t stopped her from sharing her faith, joy, and optimism everywhere she goes.

“People are saying, ‘How come this waiting hasn’t been bothering you? How come you’re not concerned?’ And I just keep saying,” Beth explained, “that God has a plan, and He has a timeline. He’s taking care of me, and I don’t need to know the whens, the hows, the whys. I just know He’s been faithful all these years and He’s not going to stop now. I’m not on dialysis — every time I see the doctor, he says, ‘We’ll talk about it the next time.’ And I keep telling him, ‘God is keeping me going.’ So, it’s given me the opportunity to talk to these different specialists and say, ‘It’s God; it’s not me.’”

As Beth and Warren approach their 53rd wedding anniversary, the couple continues encouraging their church family to serve others joyfully. Beth’s years of teaching have taught her that God can take even the smallest of our gifts and use them for a great and beautiful purpose.

“The church is more than a building; it’s the people,” Beth said. “It’s more than what we get out of going to church — it’s what we can give. I really take to heart that the Bible says we’re to encourage each other all the more as we see the day approaching. The body — all the parts have to work. There’s something that God has gifted you with, and whatever part you are, you need to find out what that is and get busy. Even when you feel like there’s not much that you’re doing, it makes a difference.”

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” — Hebrews 10:23–25 [NIV]