by Melanie Hemry
Marie Smith sighed as she slid into the familiar church pew. Heavy-hearted, she thought about her friend who had been diagnosed with cancer. She wanted to pray for the woman's healing, but doubts assailed her.
How could your prayers help her? They certainly haven't helped you! Marie shifted uncomfortably at the thought.
It was true. Her own husband had died of cancer in 1983, and in the nine years since then, she'd lived in virtual poverty. If her daughter, Connie, and son-in-law, Eddie, hadn't taken her in, there's no telling what would have happened to her. Financially, she just couldn't make it on her own.
Heaven knows, she'd tried. Right after her husband's death, she had taken a job at a yarn mill. Then, later, she had been employed by a furniture company. But as a grandmother seven times over, she couldn't physically handle the work. And since she didn't have a high school education or any marketable skills, she was hardly a candidate for the corporate world.
It seemed a widow's pension of $400 dollars a month was all someone like her could hope for. Pension? More like a widow's mite! she thought.
As the church organist began to play, Marie looked down and noticed her Bible had fallen open to Hebrews 11. She looked at the familiar passage and read the first verse: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
I have no idea what that means. Defeated, she closed her Bible and stood to sing the opening hymn.
"If God blessed people on the basis of being a good person and working hard, I should have been living in buckets of abundance," Marie says. "All my life, I'd worked hard. I volunteered for everything in the church. But good intentions and hard work didn't change my circumstances."
Day after day, Marie muddled along the best she could. Then on a bitterly cold February morning in 1992, God woke her at 5 a.m. Get up and go downstairs, He said, I want you to learn what Hebrews 11:1 means.
Marie hesitated. Her bed was warm. It was cold and dark outside. The Holy Spirit urged her again, and she pulled herself out of bed. Look up each word of that verse in the dictionary, the Lord instructed.
Marie opened her Bible to Hebrews 11:1. "Now faith is...." She looked up "now" in the World Book Dictionary. "Now," it read, "at this moment. At this present time. He is here now."
Indeed, God was there with Marie on that frosty morning. Forget all your yesterdays, He said. Forget your past. We'll start fresh now.
Could a grandmother start over? Of course! God seemed to say. Marie settled back to study the rest of the scripture. At 3 o'clock that afternoon she finally closed her Bible and the dictionary. A new revelation of faith burned within her.
Determined to walk in that revelation, Marie wrote the scripture on an index card, folded it in half and slipped it into her shoe. "I'm a very practical person," Marie explains, "and I'd always heard that we should stand on the Scriptures. I wanted a reminder that I was starting over and every step was a step of faith."
During the next few weeks, Marie began praying in faith for her friends based on Hebrews 11:1, and watched in amazement as God answered each prayer. Could she pray for her own problems with that much faith? Marie's prayer partner helped her answer that question by giving her a copy of the Believer's Voice of Victory magazine.
The articles in that issue triggered Marie's faith and she decided to believe for something she needed desperately: a car. She wrote a petition to God, based on His Word, on April 24, 1992. Three days later, Marie's sister called.
She had a shocking announcement. She and her husband had bought Marie a car!
Marie rejoiced over her faith victory. She knew it would be the first of many. What she didn't know was that another had already been set in motion.
"About five months before I prayed for my car, my son-in-law, Eddie, came home from work and noticed my grandchildren playing with an unusual toy," Marie explains. "It was a cross between a skateboard and a scooter. It had three different surfaces and could be ridden several ways. Years before, my husband had built and patented it for our children."
"Would you mind if I took that toy to work with me?" Eddie asked.
"No, I don't mind," Marie answered. Maybe someone will buy the patent.
In the weeks that followed, Eddie showed the toy to one person after another. Some offered valuable suggestions and Eddie faithfully followed up on each one. Finally, one day he came home with exciting news. A manufacturing company had expressed an interest in the board. But before the company would take any action on it, Marie and Eddie would have to start a corporation, get help in marketing and find money to back the project.
Suddenly, Marie Smith had a target for her faith. She put more scriptures in her shoes, taped scriptures to her bathroom mirror and aimed her prayers toward the success of this new endeavor.
Sure enough, she hit the mark.
In April of 1992, Marie and Eddie formed a corporation, Smith-Horton Ent., that became Rad® Board Inc. A local marketing firm saw potential in the young company and agreed to produce a commercial. One after another, every piece of the puzzle fell into place. Soon, the first Rad® Board rolled off the production line.
"Things moved so fast I could hardly keep up with them," Marie remembers. "I went from living on a widow's pension to working full time on the Rad® Board. I moved into a three-room apartment of my own, and each morning I set the VCR to tape Kenneth Copeland's television broadcast while I worked. Each evening, I came home and watched the program. I bought his books, subscribed to his magazine and listened to his tapes."
Even so, Marie was still hungry for more. So when her prayer partner, Sandy, invited her to River of L.I.F.E. Church in Chattanooga, Tenn., she enthusiastically accepted. There Marie's faith flourished under the teaching of Pastors Alan and Terri Crider. "God was doing something bigger in my life than I'd ever imagined," says Marie. "I needed all the faith I could get."
Meanwhile, Rad® Board sales stayed brisk enough to survive. But it quickly became evident that survival wasn't enough. To make a profit, Rad® Board Inc. needed an infusion of capitol to upgrade their product and expand their market.
Where would we get that kind of money? Marie wondered.
On an August night just a few days later, she found out. She awoke at 2 o'clock in the morning with the feeling that an electrical current was surging through her. Bolting upright in bed, she saw a vision of her first cousin - whom she hadn't seen in 40 years. You will get money from this man, the Lord said.
"I didn't even know what city my cousin lived in," Marie recalls. "I thought if I told anyone about the vision, they'd think I was crazy. Then I realized that if I didn't tell someone, God wouldn't get the glory. So I chose a select few people and told them what I'd seen and heard."
One month later, Marie was visiting a sick relative when her cousin walked into the room. "Marie," his sister said, "tell us about your toy."
"I told them about the Rad® Board," Marie says, "but I was careful not to make it sound like a plea for money. After a while, my cousin left the room and returned with a check. He gave me $30,000. I offered to write the money up as a loan to the company, or to assign him stock. My cousin wouldn't hear of it. He said God wanted him to give me the money. I cried and rejoiced all the way home."
Even before Marie's tears of joy had time to dry, Eddie met her with more good news. Another relative had arranged to loan the company $25,000.
That was all the cash they needed. Rad® Board Inc. was on the move again!
The company immediately stepped up production and began marketing the board to more states. As they did, the demand for them continued to increase. "One man who'd sold a few Rad® Boards in his store returned for 80 more," Marie recalls. "Another man wrote from Canada asking for a Rad® Board to use as a prop in a movie. We thought it was an unusual request, but we shipped him a Rad® Board and went on about our business."
There was only one problem. As demand increased, so did expenses. By the fall of 1993, the company had run out of operating funds.
Once again, Marie Smith called out in faith for supernatural intervention. And when a local businessman heard about the company and agreed to consider investing, she just knew it was an answer from God.
On the day he was to give them his decision, Marie and the rest of the Rad® Board group waited by the phone - prepared to celebrate. When the call came, they were stunned. The investor's answer was a resounding, "No."
Instead of a party, they closed the office. Marie felt a dark cloud envelope her. "I love You, Lord," she said driving to her younger daughter, Karen's, house, "but I don't understand how You could bring us this far and then..."
At Karen's house, Marie had a message that Eddie wanted to see her. "I prayed as I drove to Eddie's house," Marie explains. "I knew he needed comfort and I wasn't sure I had any to give at that moment."
Thankfully, when she arrived, she found Eddie was the one who wanted to do the talking.
"Marie!" he exclaimed breathlessly. "The investor changed his mind."
"The deal's back on!"
By the time Marie got home that night she felt like she'd ridden an emotional roller coaster. Drained, she dropped into a chair. Then the Lord's presence suddenly permeated the room. The date that flashed on the VCR seemed brighter, more illuminated than usual. She stared at the numbers.
Of course! Hebrews 11:1! Marie smiled. Faith is the substance of things hoped for...
With Rad® Board Inc. in the black again, Marie and Eddie and company decided to take yet another step. They created a little dinosaur-like character to ride the Rad® Board. "We named him Rad Rex," Marie says. "We made Rad Rex dolls, put him on our posters and made up stories about him around the office."
From then on, Marie's life took one exciting turn after another. One of the most remarkable occurred in November of 1994, when she went to the premiere of a new movie starring Tim Allen. It was titled The Santa Clause. All the major toy companies had competed to get their products featured in the film. But it was the Rad® Board that won the prize.
"The Rad® Board appeared five times in The Santa Clause," Marie recalls. "That was divine favor. I couldn't have arranged it if I'd tried. I felt overwhelmed."
Marie has been wonderfully overwhelmed a lot lately. "The first time I flew to New York for the Toy Fair, for instance, I'd never been on an airplane in my life," she says. "I sat there looking down at all the lights wondering why God loved me so much."
The fact is, God always loved Marie that much. Even when she lived on a widow's mite. He was just waiting for her to release her faith. When she did, He poured out His blessings.
And those blessings still haven't stopped. In addition to the United States, Rad® Boards are now sold in numerous other countries, and have been featured on several television shows, including Regis and Kathy Lee, Good Morning America and The Today Show. Articles have been written about them in Popular Science, Sega Genesis and many others. Stored in Hollywood prop rooms, they crop up in commercials and television shows.
With all that's been happening to her lately, Marie Smith may well qualify as Tennessee's hippest grandmother and executive. That's a title she wouldn't have even hoped for a few years ago. But, of course, her hopes are much higher these days. And her lifestyle of faith is more than just good.
"It's rad," she says with a grin, "totally radical."
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