MCCRABB: Mother of 12 is the glue of their family, local pastor says

She was diagnosed with thyroid cancer when she was 9, and while it wasn’t part of her thought process at that young age, she was asked how many children she wanted.

“Ten,” she told the doctor.

“You’ll be lucky if you have one,” she was told.

“God proved him wrong,” Juley Smoot said of the doctor’s diagnosis.

Wrong? He wasn’t even close, that doctor.

That was 46 years ago, and now on Mother’s Day, Smoot, who lives in Maryland, will celebrate the holiday with six of her 12 children, including Elijah Smoot, 29, worship and visual arts pastor at Berachah Church in Middletown, and Kristen Jones, who attends and serves at Berachah.

“I’m a mother so being with my family means everything to me,” Smoot said during a telephone interview from her home. “I’m absolutely blessed and I don’t take that for granted. I thank God I have 12 kids.”

All of her six sons and six daughters, who range from 14 to 35, are somehow involved in ministry. They’re an extension of the lessons they learned at home where they were homeschooled by their mother while their father, Ronald, worked to support the family.

Smoot, 55, said she’s the same person at home as she is in public. She said parents can’t act “real” at times and “fake” at times in front of their children.

“I love God with everything,” she said. “I want my kids to love God with everything. I live right so my kids have an example.”

Elijah Smoot, who joined the Berachah staff in 2018 after graduating from Champion Christian College in Hot Springs, Ark., said his mother instilled in her children the importance of church, ministry, serving and “living right,” he said.

So it was natural for the Smoot children to stay connected to the church.

“It’s where we feel at home,” he said while sitting in his Berachah office.

His mother’s message was always authentic, he said. Whether at home, church, grocery store or the restaurant, Juley Smoot always prayed.

That, of course, created what Elijah called a few “embarrassing” moments for the children when they were younger.

After meeting a person who was hurting in the grocery store, Smoot encouraged her children to sing.

“I need you to sing right now,” she told them. “God is telling us we need to sing.”

Elijah said they looked at their mother and asked: “Right here?”

There was a serenade in aisle seven, right there between the fruits and vegetables.

Another time, during a family dinner, the waitress told them it was her birthday. She received a Happy Birthday song from the Smoot singers.

Now, Elijah said he sees the value in the spontaneous songs.

“There is always someone hurting,” he said. “Mom always said, ‘God gave you that talent, use it.’”

Elijah and his wife, Christy, have two children: Maxwell, 6, and Mia, 2. They’re 10 children short of catching his parents. When his youngest brother was born, Elijah had already moved out of the house. That happens when there’s 21 years between the oldest to the youngest.

“My childhood scares me to think about it,” he said with a smile. “She was the glue that held us together. There are challenges you can’t imagine unless you’re part of a very large family.”

He was asked what message he’d deliver to his mother now that he’s a parent.

“Thank you for always pushing me to serve through the pain,” he said. “I know that sounds weird and hard. But sometimes, and pastor says this a lot, ministry is ‘brutalful.’ It’s beautiful and it’s brutal at the same time.”

On those days, he reflects on what he was taught by his mother.

“When things got hard growing up, mom would say, ‘We’re going to serve God anyways. I need you to trust me and you will thank me one day.’”

That day is now. Happy Mother’s Day.

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