Pastor Austin Smith’s Vision And Vynette Smith’s Grace Till The Ground Of An Aging Leslieville Church
Leaving a family behind, father and a nineteen-year-old Austin, migrate to London. “You did what needed to be done.” Pastor Smith explains that two years later, his Jamaican family members joined them in England. After attending Southeast London Technical College for an Engineering Degree, a jump was made to Canada after a bout of life’s disillusionment.
Toronto for the then thirty year old became an adventure, taking a lift truck mechanic job for twenty-eight years and then in 1980 meeting the beautiful Vynette. The almost three decade reign of being single came to a close as the two wed in 1982. It was Vynette who introduced God to Austin Smith who began a journey as Co-Pastor, then as sole Pastor of a historic Leslieville congregation on Rhodes Avenue, The Toronto Gospel Lighthouse – the capstone of a career.
Pastor and his congregation were often sidetracked by the maintenance demands of the 109-year-old building. Parking demands for the congregants and the real estate values helped make the decision easier; In agreement, they intended to sell. There were a few false starts before Austin and Vynette chose Trevor. Trevor lived around the corner and walking his dog (Sasha RIP), he frequently stopped at this simple late-Victorian behemoth, admiring its bold buttresses. Trevor and the Pastor struck up a conversation, as neighbours do, and he took the time to understand the complexities of the congregation’s needs and future goals. Success followed so The Toronto Gospel Lighthouse could begin a search for a new home in good faith.
With a vision to spread the good news of the gospel Pastor Smith traveled over 25 times to Africa, India, Europe, Caribbean, initiating numerous projects, from far eastern schools to hyper-local African micro financing. At the same time always remaining highly focused on Leslieville community projects year-round.
Pastor Smith is comfortable in his skin, with nothing to prove and the wisdom to know how much there is to learn. He is a pillar of faith with a calm demeanor and a personality that motivates and inspires. Now in his seventies, Pastor Smith credits his mother for setting the example of giving out of their poverty. That poverty is relative. The Smith family always had what was needed, yet gave from little. Like Austin, his mother was a student of pure generosity – she genuinely wanted to know and help her neighbours. “Giving perpetuates happiness.”
“An individual who gains respect is never poor.”
To earn the respect of Pastor Smith and Vynette one must carry themselves with a positive demeanor, care for others, be honest and work diligently,
“Say, do and be nothing and you’ll never be criticized. Or Say, do and be something and you will never be without potential. Don’t fear mistakes and what others may think.”
Pastor Smith will continue to impact the lives he touches and instill, value and nurture strong character: Trustworthiness, Integrity and Commitment. He asks you to do the same during your journey.
When offering to move a medical bed to the Pastor’s church from a congregant’s home across the street, my then-assistant, Andrew and I struggled with the behemoth until we reached the stairs at the entrance. We were winded and verging on pathetic. As we geared up for the final haul the bed appeared to miraculously enter the grand double doors under its own powers. In fact it was Pastor Smith possibly tired of watching two runts baby-handle the job, taking matters into his own hands. I should have known, one of my earlier memories of the Pastor is him hauling a commercial size furnace to the curb… by himself! He is uncannily strong, on all fronts.