Bishop Emeritus Victor Paul Smith
Born in December 1935, Joseph and Celina Smith were blessed with the birth of their third child, Victor Paul Smith. This would mark the start of a journey for an individual who would eventually be called by God to do miraculous work in the ministry. Victor Smith was nurtured and groomed in Los Angeles, CA with his two older brothers, Joseph and Jerry (deceased) and a younger sister, Lucille. They all were raised in the Church of Christ (Holiness) U.S.A. or COCHUSA, and worked faithfully in the family’s cleaning business. Upon graduating from Thomas Jefferson High School, Smith enlisted in the United States Army where he served overseas in the Philippines. While stationed there, he led a fellow soldier, Ralph Porter, to the Lord. The two who became lifelong friends.
In 1957, Smith experienced a spiritual birth. Although he was very involved in both the choir and Sunday School at Christ Temple in Chicago, his personal relationship with Christ had yet to evolve.After an inspiring message by the late Bishop O. W. McGinnis, Smith heeded the call of the Spirit and gave his life completely over to God. As his spiritual walk progressed, God allowed Smith to meet the initial love of his life, Ms. Juanita Sadler. He pursued her relentlessly and eventually captivated her heart. They were married in 1962, and God blessed their union with three children: Vania Phyllis, Paul Joseph, and Brian Timothy (who succumbed to illness shortly after birth). In the mid 1960s Smith accepted God’s call to the ministry, and in 1969 began an assignment that was long and fruitful in the City of Atlanta.
Elder Victor Smith was appointed Pastor of Beulah COCHUSA in 1969. Membership was small, two families to be exact, and the battleground for growth seemed ominous at best. This did not discourage Elder Smith. Through his influence and connections garnered from his work in the Mayor’s office (City of Atlanta), Elder Smith channeled his efforts toward youth in the various housing project communities of Atlanta. This grassroots campaign was not the easiest to navigate, especially alone. However, Elder Smith’s strong faith in God, love for people, and obedience to God’s will allowed him to press forward. These efforts paid off as Beulah experienced extensive growth.
In 1982, after a long and painful battle, his wife, Juanita, was called home to be with the Lord. Elder Smith looked to the Lord for strength. Elder Smith met the second love of his life, Ms. Elma Rene Johnson. They were married, and this union was blessed with two children: Kristofer Charles and Eric Dwayne. As a unit, the family was strong and Elder Smith thrived both in his personal life and the ministry. In 1989, the Southeastern Diocese of COCHUSA was in need of a new Presiding Prelate who could lead the diocese into the new millennium. In 1990, Elder Smith was officially elevated to the Bishopric. It was in this capacity that Bishop Smith would exercise his passion for church planting and growth.
During his tenure, Bishop Smith was determined to see the Southeastern Diocese prosper not only spiritually but in numbers as well. His vision looked beyond the established works in Georgia and Alabama as he ventured to expand the work to South Carolina and Florida. Bishop Smith’s passion was rooted in planting churches throughout the region. He was driven to spread the Gospel outside the standard areas within the Diocese. In 1996, Bishop Smith took a sabbatical from his duties as pastor to devote his energies toward planting new works in the Apopka and Jacksonville, Florida areas. During a six plus year time-frame, Bishop Smith traveled to these locations twice each month to conduct services for the Saints in those congregations. Though attendance was minimal, Bishop Smith’s faith never wavered as he remained obedient to God’s Word.
Bishop Smith would eventually return to his pastoral role at Beulah leading them once again into new territory. In 2006 the congregation moved to its current location in Decatur, Georgia. In 2006, Bishop Smith took ill and would have to step away from his active role as Pastor and Presiding Prelate of the Southeastern Diocese. His fate to many seemed grim, but to his tight inner circle, healing was only a prayer away. Many have prayed and believed that Bishop Smith would be fully restored from illness, which had physically depleted him. But his spirit remained strong, and he continued his fight for several years. Many have gone on before him and even more counted him out. But again, he never wavered and fought valiantly until the end.
“Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness” (Psalm 48:1, KJV). On Tuesday, February 21, 2017, Bishop Smith received his final call from God. This call was to receive his crown in glory and take his place at the feet of Jesus. It was on this glorious day that he said, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith:” (2 Timothy 4:7, KJV). “His Master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.’” (Matthew 25:23, NIV)
Bishop Smith leaves to cherish his memory his wife of 34 years, Elma; daughter, Vania Smith Burney (Terrence); sons, Paul Joseph (LaTonya), Kristofer Charles and Eric Dwayne Smith; brothers, Elder Joseph C. Smith (Vernell) and Major Rudd Conic, Jr. (Dorothy); four sisters, Lucille Smith Harris, Frances Carlotta Conic Tucker, Bettye Conic Stevens (William), Elizabeth Conic Najarian (Richard); two foster sons, Allan Johnson (Camille) and Robert Wilson (Jennifer); sisters-in-law, Viola Johnson Purry (Freddie), Laurie Bufkin Johnson (Napoleon, deceased), Carol Crum (Earl); brother-in-law, Arthur Dwayne Johnson; mother-in-law, Dolly Redd Johnson; 8 grandchildren; a host of nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends.