Paula Smith has been settling into her job as the first director of the newest department at the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board (MBCB) — the multicultural ministries department.
The department will work cross-culturally throughout Mississippi to touch lives with the gospel message.
“My thoughts for this department are to strengthen the churches that we have now — African-American churches, Hispanic churches, Chinese, Korean, Choctaw churches,” Smith noted, “and start new churches hand in hand with the [MBCB] church planting department.”
One of Smith’s immediate goals is to plant a church for the deaf. Another goal is to utilize the department to help the predominantly “Anglo” churches of the Mississippi Baptist Convention minister to other ethnic groups.
“How do we reach out and welcome internationals? What is an effective multicultural ministry? We will focus on raising up multicultural leaders,” she said. “Looking at five-year periods of time, we’d like to have these measured goals.”
Such work is not new to Smith, who formerly served as a career missionary to Uruguay with Southern Baptists’ International Mission Board. “What I’m doing now, I had actually been doing out of my house,” she said. “I was working with what was called the Intercultural Fellowship, which was started by a man from Iran.
“I started having meetings in my house on Friday nights. There was a little network of people in their 20’s and 30’s who just got together to pray. We’d invite people in our ESL classes, college students, just whoever. That’s what God was calling me to do,” she said.
In April 2022, Smith was invited to serve as a ministry assistant in the new multicultural ministries department. She had worked previously at the convention board in the Mississippi Woman’s Missionary Union and the graphic arts department.
The multicultural ministries directorship seemed like a natural fit to Smith when Shawn Parker, MBCB executive director-treasurer, approached her about the position.
“I’d be doing this if it wasn’t my job,” she noted.
The department will be providing resources and strategists to assist churches in those ministry areas as well as for special needs adults and Chinese and Korean churches.
Smith is a graduate of William Carey University in Hattiesburg and Clarke College, and she received a master’s degree in religious education as well at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
She served as minister of education at First Baptist Church Greenwood; First Baptist Church, Water Valley; minister of education/youth at Flowood Baptist Church, Flowood; and minister of youth at North Carrollton Church, North Carrollton.
She also participated in summer missions to Israel, Massachusetts, Texas and at Garaywa Camp and Conference Center in Clinton and Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina.
“God called me as a missionary when I was 12,” Smith said. “It’s a delight for me to serve in this role. It gives me pure joy.”
For more information, Smith can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Tony Martin and originally published by The Baptist Record.