Each week, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. Today, we are excited to introduce Caroline Smith.

Caroline, tell us about your ministry journey, the places and ways you have been serving and are serving.
The Lord has faithfully led me throughout my ministry. My journey has been rich with mentors and I am humbled to say that the Lord provided all these mentors; I never sought them out. I knew that I was called to full time ministry from the time my pastor, David, took me on my first home visit in the spring of 1994. I was teaching a fourth-grade class at the church’s inner-city program when I developed a close relationship with a girl named Jackie. Jackie was brought to church each Wednesday night by one of the church buses. I spent a lot of time with her and really enjoyed ministering to her. David came to me one evening after class and asked if I would go with him to Jackie’s house on Saturday morning for a home visit. Her mother had just been released from prison and we were going to check in on the family. When we arrived in the neighborhood we were walking to their residence when we passed a car parked outside on the curb. There was a teenage boy sleeping in the back. While in the living room talking with Jackie and her mother we learned that the boy was Jackie’s 16-year-old brother. When her mother arrived home from prison 2 days before, she kicked the boy out of the house. He had nowhere to go, so he was sleeping in someone’s car. This really had an impact on me, because I was sixteen years old, and I could never have imagined sleeping in a car on the side of the road after being kicked out of the house upon the homecoming of my mother from prison.

I continued to learn from David over the next few years prior to heading off to college. While receiving my education in college, seminary, and graduate school I continued in various ministries part-time, gaining invaluable ministry experience. It was in 2005 that I was ordained into the ministry by my church, Calvary Baptist Church of Waco, Texas. My understanding of my calling and my passion for it continues to grow.

In 2005, my husband and I took a one-year assignment with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship to missionary service in Johannesburg, South Africa ministering to people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. We enjoyed the ministry so much and extended to a second year of service. We returned to the United States in 2007 for my husband to begin his Ph.D. studies in intercultural studies at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. It was then that I accepted the call to First Baptist Church, Glendale, California where I served as associate pastor of education and outreach. During this time, we continued to build our ministry network and returned to missionary service in South Africa in 2011.

I served as the pastor for a children’s home in Johannesburg, South Africa. We also worked directly with the Baptist Association of South Africa and the Baptist Mission of South Africa as liaisons with American Baptist. We assisted a nurse in opening her own clinic, and I was the founder of the El Roi baby home for abandoned babies which has now placed over fifty babies into forever families. This ministry was so fulfilling and enriching in so many ways. Due to security concerns regarding our children, we knew it was time to return to stateside ministry. While we were sad to leave this ministry we continue to trust God’s guidance in our lives.

I now serve as senior pastor for a small church in the northeast. The church is spiritually alive and flourishing! It is a church with clear vision and the strength to accept the call to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God.

What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
My greatest sources of joy have always been, and will always be, the relationships that I am so grateful to develop. It is these relationships that sustain me during difficult times, and help me to be reminded of the purpose of God’s call on my life.

One day at the children’s home, I had only the preteen girls together for our Bible study in my home, and we were talking about when Moses’ mother placed him in the river to save his life. At the end of our time, the girls were then sharing things that they wanted prayer for.

One of the girls, Mavis, had only been at the home for a few months at that point. She said that she missed her mom. I knew that this was something that several of the other girls struggled with as well so I asked if anyone else felt the same way. Several of the girls then talked together about how they missed their moms. When we finished I didn’t want to end on a sad note so I asked the girls what was their favorite thing about being at the home. We have a lot of parties, people bring gifts, the kids have their own bed, but what Mavis said really touched me. She said, “this is where I met God.” God’s message is one that must be shared.

We must love others in a way that they see the Light; that they experience Love; that they might know the love of their savior; that they too might learn to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God.

How do you keep healthy physically, mentally, and spiritually?
Holistic health is important not only for me but also for my ability to be fully present for my family and for congregation. I have always been physically active and continue this practice through daily yoga, a cardio routine, and strength training. Even if this means cutting something else out of my day, I stick to it!

My devotional practices have really evolved over the years. While at one time I had rigid times of prayer, reading, and journaling I have now let devotion be a part of my living. This practice began to take shape about five to six years ago after reading some writings of Brother Lawrence. I did further study reading Thomas Merton and Henri Nowen that helped me better develop techniques in this way of devotion.
Right now, this means that I have a time of prayer in the morning followed by a brief
devotional reading whether that be from Foster, Merton, Brother Lawrence, Nowen,
Thomas Kempis, or a devotional guide of some sort. Throughout the day I then
intentionally read (or often listen to) scripture, have times of solitude for reflection and prayer and often listen to music or read from hymns.

I think that there are several aspects to my spiritual growth. I am an extreme extrovert and so naturally lean toward community and fellowship. However, I have learned to have times of solitude and reflection as well. I grow spiritually when I put my faith in God and step into situations that I find uncomfortable. I feel that this is the result of my inability to control a situation or to rely solely on my training or developed skills. When in situations that God has led me to cause discomfort, I must rely on God’s strength and trust that these words of Jesus Christ will remain true throughout the ages: “I am with you always.”

My mental health is supported by my physical and spiritual health practices. In general, this means ensuring that I take a Sabbath each week; for me, this is Friday and Saturday. I make sure that I use part of that time for rest and relaxation, which is something I have to force myself to do! Specifically, though, I was taught an important practice by my mentor:

There are 3 parts in a day (generally, morning, afternoon, evening), never work all 3
There are 7 days in a week, always take off 2
There are 4 weeks of vacation, always take 2 of those in a row
This is a simple idea that can really have a great impact on the effectiveness of our efforts!

What advice would you give to a young woman sensing a call to ministry?
God calls us, while we are going about our ordinary lives, doing ordinary things. There may be times of uncertainty along the way; there may be times of doubt when we just don’t feel adequate, but we hold on to the promises of God and know that He is with us, each step of the way. We stand on the promises of God and give of ourselves to the work that he has called us to. We answer with open hearts and open minds. We step out on faith and we surrender ourselves. We say together, “Here I am, Lord” and we are ready to work.

Remember, you are not alone. Moses was not alone, he had the whole of the Hebrew people with him. We know that Aaron and the elders often were with him as they together faced trials and celebrated triumphs.

Remember, we respond with humility and inadequacy. We have a great responsibility before us and we know that we are not capable of fulfilling the tasks that have been and will be set before us without the love, the grace and the guidance of the Lord. We are called not simply to the task that the Master has for us but also to step out in faith, unsure of what lies ahead.

Remember, we have been called together, to walk together, to live our ordinary lives together, listening to the extraordinary God of the ordinary.