A Mother, Extraordinarily Blessed!

A Mother, Extraordinarily Blessed!

Written By Viola (Vi Estel) Smits

A Mother, Extraordinarily Blessed!

As a teenage girl, I felt God was calling me to “full-time Christian service,“ Upon graduation from Fresno High School in 1960, I moved to Riverside to attend California Baptist College, where I anticipated finding the Pastor/Prince of my dreams, getting married, and fulfilling my calling as Mrs. Pastor’s Helpmate. God was so gracious to me, and I found my life partner, Curt Estel, who was preparing for the music ministry. Since I played the piano, I was never quite sure if he married me for love or because he needed an accompanist!

The psalmist asks God to Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me” (119:133 KJV). That is my request also, and throughout my life, I have been aware of God ordering my steps, including determining the “times and places I should live.”

Upon graduation, Curt and I began the great adventure of serving many churches in cities throughout California. We were always very much aware of God’s leadership in trusting us with various assignments. We believed He was ordering our steps.

Acts 17:26-28 states, “From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. He did this so they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. For in Him we live and move and exist.”

These verses dramatically came to life when we moved to Royal Avenue Baptist Church in Simi Valley, where Curt served on staff as Education & Youth Director. Perhaps you have heard of the concept of “divine appointments.” God had such a life-changing appointment waiting for us in Simi Valley.

By this time, our family consisted of a Dad, Mom, two wonderful sons, and a Grandma. We were about to have an extraordinary addition by “special delivery.”

His name was Eric Mowry.

Eric was almost eleven years old and had been living in a very dysfunctional family. Our church had a bus ministry, and Eric frequently rode the bus to church. Curt and I had not yet met him when Eric’s mom called the church, asking for a pastoral visit. Curt was given the assignment, and I went with him to meet Eric and his Mom for the first time.

Eric was such a sweet child. Most everyone was drawn to him. His mother had serious emotional problems, and we soon became aware that she needed professional counseling. It was also obvious that Eric had some special needs which affected his learning. He was enrolled in a class for children with significant needs. When we left his house that day, I said, “No telling what could become of that child if he were out of that home.”

Two weeks later, we learned that Eric’s mother had stabbed his father. We quickly decided we should try to get Eric. Within 24 hours, he joined our family, never once expressing a desire to return to his other home.

We didn’t realize at the time God’s hand and great providence in bringing Eric into our family, but it became clear as the days, months, and years passed.

Immediately it was like a soap opera coming to life in our home. Our steps took us to the jail to see the mother; ICU in the hospital to meet the dad; to meetings with psychologists, psychiatrists, school teachers, and social workers. At times we were overwhelmed, but as each day passed, we all became accustomed to each other, and Eric became our third son.

There were many accolades from church friends and family as to how generous we were to take in a boy such as Eric. From the very beginning, we felt that Eric was a rich addition to our clan and enjoyed including him in every way.

As mentioned before, Eric had such a sweet, positive spirit. His favorite thing to say when seeing anyone was, “Hi, good to see you!” And for Eric, everything was “GREAT!” He loved going to church, and God provided exceptional special ed classes at some of the wonderful churches where we served. God ordered our family’s steps to places where Eric could thrive.

Summers found us trekking with the family and church groups to Glorieta, New Mexico, to attend leadership conferences. Glorieta usually provided a week-long program for special needs children and adults, and Eric loved his classes. He was very outgoing and made friends easily. One summer at Glorieta when Eric was 19, Curt led him to the Lord.

Eric could read his Bible and pray. He volunteered for many years with the custodial staff of our church in Riverside, Magnolia Church. He considered it his job, and as he swept leaves or vacuumed rooms, he spread his joy in serving everyone he encountered.

In 2006, my husband, Curt, completed his work on Earth and graduated to Heaven. It was at this point that I realized that back in 1976, when Eric joined our family, God knew that in 2006 I would be the one to need Eric. He became the “Man of the House” and helped me in so many ways. As Eric swept, mopped, vacuumed, did the dishes, watered, took out the trash, and mowed the lawn, I marveled at God’s divine appointment those many years ago when He gifted our family with Eric.

In 2003 Eric was diagnosed with stage four cancer. He went through treatment for about a year and was proclaimed cancer free. We were thrilled. As an aside, Eric loved to go to church, but he wasn’t very interested in going during his treatment. We finally discovered that his hesitancy to attend was that he didn’t want anyone to “catch” cancer from him! Although he won the battle with cancer, the chemotherapy ruined his kidneys.

So God allowed us to have Eric for 18 more extraordinary years, but then, on October 20, 2022, his kidneys failed, and he went to be with Jesus. He was not suffering or in pain until his final 10 days, which were spent in the hospital. Even on the day he died, he said, “I’m going to beat this.”

He was 56 years old.

I did not realize the scope of Eric’s influence until his memorial service, where so many expressed their love and admiration for his positive outlook, his ever-present smile, his love for the Lord, and his willingness to help wherever needed. What an extraordinary privilege to have been his mother for 46 years.

The psalmist asks God toOrder my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me” (119:133 KJV). That is my request also, and throughout my life, I have been aware of God ordering my steps, including determining the “times and places I should live.”

My steps are slower these days, but I am still aware of God’s direction and am confident that He has a few more for me to take. The best gift of senior adulthood is the track record you have built with the Lord. He is not only trustworthy, but His pathway is perfect and purposeful, and exciting!


As a footnote, many of you have heard that I recently married. My husband’s name is David Smits. God caused our steps to cross at church. After a year of getting acquainted, we determined that God’s purpose for our future is to walk together for whatever time we have left. My, my, my……..

Eric went home to be with Jesus on October 20, 2022. David and I married on November 19, 2022. What extraordinary timing! God is still ordering my steps and determining the times and places I should live.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

About the Author

Viola (Vi Estel) Smits
Magnolia Church

Viola (Vi Estel) Smits is a long-time friend of the convention. She is a graduate of California Baptist College (now University) and served as church pianist and pastor's wife for many decades. Most recently, Vi has served as the Director of Senior Adult Ministries at her home church, Magnolia Church in Riverside, and in 2017, Vi retired as the Archivist of California Baptist University.

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