Carrie Smith, who serves as a pastoral resident in GCI’s congregation in Clarksville, Tennessee, is a self-proclaimed “camp-a-holic.” “I’ve had the opportunity to see God’s love poured out in exciting ways at various summer camps around the world. Though I know God works everywhere and all the time, there is something special that happens at camp and getting to witness the personal, intimate ways in which God calls to his children through summer camps has been a precious blessing in my life. To be able to participate in God’s movement towards his children is incredible.”
Carrie grew up in GCI. “My parents, Tom and Pam Smith, have been members most of their lives, and my dad has been a pastor since I was born.” Even though they were transferred a couple times, Carrie said the family somehow managed to stay in Washington, Pennsylvania for 17 years. “I cherish the memories of growing up in one neighborhood.” Carrie earned a master’s degree in counseling and at one time considered teaching.
A couple of years ago, Carrie had the opportunity to teach in Africa at GCI’s primary school in Malawi. Around that time she began looking at career options. “I came to a point in 2011 where I really was wide open as to what I could/would do next in my life. I earnestly began seeking God’s direction for where he wanted me to go and what he wanted me to do. What I didn’t realize until later, was that God had already been nudging me towards the GCI Intern Program through various people since at least 2008, when I first heard about it from Greg Williams (associate director of CAD) and Anthony Mullins (national coordinator of GenMin). I remember my initial excitement was not for me personally, but simply excitement that GCI would have a program to develop leaders and pastors.
A couple years later, my dad first asked me if I had ever thought about being a pastor, leading me down a path I hadn’t considered before. As I thought about this possibility, and asked for input from those around me, the idea began to develop roots. Anthony helped bring my thoughts and wonderings to the surface in early 2011 when he asked me if I had ever considered joining the GCI Intern Program. That is when I knew God was answering my prayers and showing me the next steps in my journey with him.”
Carrie’s willingness to move and go where God leads her opened an opportunity for her to intern in Southern California with Mark and Anne Stapleton. “My internship with them began in April 2012, in San Diego. My experience with Cornerstone Community Church and my previous background in education and counseling allowed me to grow and blossom into more of who God made me to be.”
After almost a year in California, a new opportunity arose for Carrie in Kentucky. “I had the opportunity to interview with the pastoral care team in Pikeville in January 2013, though it was more like a divine appointment than an interview. By the end of the weekend, there was no question that I was being called there and so I said tearful goodbyes to my Cornerstone family and moved in March.” It was in Pikeville that Carrie’s status changed from intern to part-time pastoral resident. Nine months later, she interviewed with the Clarksville, Tennessee, pastoral care team for a full-time pastoral resident position. She is now serving in that capacity there, focusing on community outreach.
When asked about the strengths of her intern experience, Carrie said, “I got 2-for-1 and then some in California! Being able to work with both Mark and Anne was fantastic because they were like an open book. They invited me into their home (literally) and got right into looking at how best to help me learn and grow. I ended up living with Cornerstone members George and Marguerite Casey. I was surrounded by a community of people ready and willing to support me, grow with me and encourage me.”
The intern program also had some challenges. “I was far from home. As much as I appreciate technology, there were times when being away from my family was harder than I expected. I went to college, then worked at two colleges about an hour from home, so getting together with family had been easy for many years.” Another challenge was “learning to build meaningful relationships with members in your congregation and the community, even though you know your time is temporary. I realized that even when you wholeheartedly embrace a relationship with someone, time is still a factor in the development of the relationship, and that’s okay.”
Though Carrie is thankful for her intern training, she is enjoying her full-time employment as a pastoral resident. What she enjoys most is “connecting with the members and getting to know them. As I hear their stories and see how God has led them through the years, I am encouraged and grateful for this time in life where our paths are joined. I also enjoy learning alongside fellow pastoral residents and other church leaders. As we learn together, we share together, and we encourage one another. It’s a blessing to be connected in Spirit even when there are miles between us.” This ties in with Carrie’s passion, which is “helping others see and understand who they are to God. Helping them experience God’s love regardless of their circumstances, heartaches, or hang-ups.”
What Carrie enjoys most about being part of GCI is that we are a family. “We grow together, we learn together and we embrace one another through the love of God. I rejoice when I am with my brothers and sisters at various events, whether I have known them for years or we just recently met.”
Though she has been in the Intern Program and then served as a pastoral resident for only a couple of years, Carrie already has many fond memories. “Each connection with someone is special. Whether through late night chats, making sauerkraut, eating frozen yogurt, or drinking coffee, I cherish the moments of sharing ideas, dreams, stories and life.”
Carrie says she feels closest to God “when I am in tune with his movement—speaking his words of love, life and grace into someone’s life, or receiving those words from someone into my life.”
We asked Carrie what advice she would give to someone considering the GCI Intern Program: “Be honest with yourself about your fears, worries, doubts and uncertainties. God’s got you covered and has so much to give to you that holding on to any of those things means your hands won’t be fully open to what he has to give you. Let God mold you, bend you and continue to refine you into the beautiful vessel of his love he has created you to be.”
For a video with Carrie discussing her community outreach experience, click on the link under “Church Development,” above, left.