Wilton Baptist Church at 254 Danbury Road will welcome the Rev. Caroline Norton Smith as its new minister on Sunday, Sept. 10. Wilton Baptist Church\u2019s last minister, the Rev. Jason Coker, left in July 2016 and moved to Mississippi. The Rev. Bill Bruster was brought in to serve as interim pastor as the church searched for a permanent minister. \u201cWe\u2019re very excited about having a female minister,\u201d Wilton Baptist Church member Phyllis Boozer told The Bulletin. \u201cIt will be our [Wilton Baptist\u2019s] first female minister.\u201d Smith hails from Abilene, Texas, where she served as chaplain at The Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest for the past two years. Her involvement with the Baptist Church and interest in ministry started at an early age. \u201cI grew up in the Baptist Church [and] my grandparents were missionaries in Congo,\u201d said Smith. \u201cI always volunteered in the church growing up, and when I was 15, a pastor for the outreach programs asked if I would come help and lead some classes. He ended up being a big mentor for me.\u201d When Smith went off to attend Baylor University in Waco, Texas, she said, \u201cI knew then that I was going to be in ministry \u2014 I just didn\u2019t know what. I was sure I wasn\u2019t going to be a missionary, but if I ever was, I wouldn\u2019t be one in Africa [after hearing] all my grandparents\u2019 stories,\u201d she said. However, that\u2019s exactly what she wound up doing. After college, Smith and her husband, Josh, went to South Africa to serve as Cooperative Baptist Fellowship missionaries. After that, they went to Los Angeles on a furlough. Smith served as an associate pastor at the First Baptist Church in Glendale, while her husband worked on his Ph.D. While in Los Angeles, they also had their daughter, Bella. The family then went back to South Africa, where Smith served as pastor at the Refilwe Community Project, an organization that provides care to children to break the cycle of poverty and empower parents and individuals to become spiritually, socially, emotionally and materially sustainable. Her son, Noah, was born in South Africa. While in South Africa, a child-trafficking ring started near where they were staying in Johannesburg. \u201cSecurity in Johannesburg was bad, and we knew that going back the second time with Bella, but we were taking all the precautions,\u201d Smith said. After \u201cseveral children were picked up,\u201d including those of people they knew, Smith said, she and her family decided \u201cthat chapter was closed,\u201d and returned to the United States. \u201cWe were back in Texas on our furlough that we were due to take anyway, trying to decide where we would be next,\u201d she said. That\u2019s when she started serving as chaplain of The Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest\u2019s school for two-year-olds through fifth-graders, said Smith, \u201cwhich was so fun.\u201d During that time, Smith also interviewed at \u201cquite a few different churches\u201d \u2014 including ones in Los Angeles, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, as well as the Wilton Baptist Church. \u201cI just really felt that this [church] was the right place,\u201d she said. \u201cIt\u2019s great that the church is very family-oriented. There are lots of kids and the focus is on family, which is good for me because I need a church that\u2019s supportive of my family.\u201d Smith said not all the churches she interviewed at were as family-oriented as the Wilton Baptist Church. \u201cThat was very important for me,\u201d she said, \u201cso that was one of the big reasons for coming here and just the people in the church are so friendly.\u201d Smith, who arrived in town the evening of Aug. 19, said members of Wilton Baptist Church have been \u201cso friendly\u201d and \u201cso caring.\u201d She and her children are staying with church members while her husband finishes the closing on their house in Texas. \u201cSo many people have been helping, caring and supporting us, which is more affirmation for me that I\u2019m in the right place,\u201d she said. Once their home is sold, the family will move into a home on Cedar Road to be \u201cclose to the church and schools.\u201d As Wilton Baptist Church\u2019s new minister, Smith said, she hopes to \u201cdeepen people\u2019s commitment\u201d to family and outreach and \u201cwalk with them in life circumstances.\u201d \u201cWe do those two things \u2014\u00a0caring for our families and helping others in the community \u2014 really out of calling, out of direction and out of the Lord\u2019s guidance,\u201d she said. \u201cWe care for not just our own family, but families in the [greater] community. Same thing for outreach \u2014 reaching out and helping others in the community to share the love of Christ.\u201d Smith said it\u2019s also important for her to make sure that church members understand \u201cthe promises given to us [by God] in scripture,\u00a0and that we are all part of the same story.\u201d Information: wiltonbaptist.org or 203-762-2429.