As Mike Smith approached open-heart surgery in 1998, he made a promise to God.
"I said that if I came out on the other side, I would do whatever he asked."
Ten years later, Smith heard a "little voice" asking him to make good on his promise when he was nominated president of the Holston Conference United Methodist Men. Smith took the volunteer job seriously, throwing himself into four years of transformational service.
Last month at Annual Conference, Smith completed his presidential term with high honors -- receiving not one, but two awards.
He received the James Award, established by the Southeastern Jurisdiction UMM for "faithful members of the local churches who quietly go about serving God."
He was also recognized as a fellow in the Society of John Wesley, created by the UMM Foundation for servants "known by their witness, vision, and stewardship that enhance and strengthen the mission and ministry of the church."
Smith, age 63, said he was "humbled" and not sure he was "deserving" of recognition, but was quick to say how proud he is of Holston's United Methodist men.
During Smith's four-year term, "Calling All Men" was created. The annual summer spiritual retreat for men started in 2008 and is scheduled again this year on Aug. 11 and Aug. 25. With changes and improvements such as moving the location from a convention center to churches and shortening the event, Calling All Men is now a financially self-sustaining event with more than 350 participants, Smith said.
Smith also increased Holston's participation in the Society of St. Andrew. He organized gleanings of green beans, sweet potatoes, and watermelons following by distribution of fresh produce to pantries, homeless shelters, and other ministries throughout the Southeast. (See Knoxville News Sentinel story.)
Smith also said he was proud of successes in scouting, the Upper Room Prayer Line, establishing district men's gatherings, and taking Disciple Bible Study into Tennessee prisons.
"I'm proud of the men. They're now talking to each other," he said. "I'm proud that we spread the word that the United Methodist Men are getting off their tail ends and doing things together."
Smith is a retired trucking company administrator and salesperson, originally from Conover, N.C. He is a member at Concord UMC in Oak Ridge District.
The incoming president of Holston's United Methodist Men is Eric Knoefel.
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.