Valerie Carter Smith Ministers to Chowan University at Annual Religious Heritage Celebration
Valerie Carter Smith blessed Chowan University with her encouraging testimony for a span of three days the week of September 23, 2019. On Monday and Wednesday, in Turner Auditorium, Smith delivered her autobiographical addresses. Tuesday evening, Smith attended an event where she spoke to Chowan Chrstian Service Association (CCSA) donors and distinguished guests about the importance of making monetary investments in the education and spiritual growth of the university’s students. During each lecture, Smith stayed true to her theme: “Against All Odds but With God”. She also accomplished her two main goals with her passionate story and delivery: to challenge students to identify with her personal struggles and to illuminate the sociological concepts evident in her story.
Smith, a Long Island, NY native attended Adelphi University majoring in sociology and religious studies. She has been in Richmond since 1984 and has been blessed to serve in Virginia Baptist life since 1988 beginning as the Director of the Hillside Baptist Center, then to Bon Air Baptist Church as the Associate Pastor for Global Ministries and now as the Executive Director/ Treasurer of WMU of Virginia.
In these years, Valerie completed the M.Div., M.S. and D. Min degrees while raising two children and serving in the local church in various capacities such as youth minister, women’s ministry leader, and Sunday school teacher. Through the years, Smith has remained committed to meeting basic human needs for the poor and the marginalized.
For the past decade, Smith has led a ministry in The Prostitution Zone in Richmond. The Streetwalking Ministry aims to reach women caught in prostitution with the good news that they are fearfully and wonderfully made, and that God has plans for an abundant life for them through Christ.
In her Monday address, Smith utilized character building, autobiographical experiences she endured as a child, teen, and adult to illustrate how generational patterns, addiction, poverty, and historical trauma impacted her life. As a young girl, Smith struggled with abandonment issues from an absent father and an abusive mother who despised her dedication to the Church and Christianity. Living in different homes throughout her teenage years, Smith acquired 157 dollars in welfare emancipation as a provisional student and was told she could attend university is she could make the grades to stay.
Smith worked three jobs and took out student loans to afford her education. The added stress of an abusive boyfriend contributed to her low performance in the classroom, and after three semesters with about a 2.0 GPA, the dean sentenced her to be dismissed from Adelphi University. After three days of desperate prayer and meditation, Smith returned to the dean’s office for one final entreat. After all of her perseverance, the dean graced her with one more chance to get her grades up, inspiring the audience that children of God can conquer life's storms if they focus not on the chaos, but on Christ.
Smith’s address Tuesday evening reiterated her struggles throughout her adolescent and young adult years. She concluded by imploring her audience, CCSA scholars and donors, to invest in a worthy individual’s future. CCSA scholarship recipients received the challenge as well to pay forward the generosity and financial aid bestowed upon them. Smith reminded her audience that no superb individual got to where they are without help from selfless, willing individuals. She stands as a successful woman, able to lift others up, because generous people invested in her future.
In her final address on Wednesday, Smith told a recent story about an encounter she experienced working The Prostitution Zone in Richmond, VA. A woman she met named Rachael had plans to leave her impoverished life behind. Smith, happy to help Rachael break out of her dangerous lifestyle, agreed to assist her the night she planned to depart. The evening’s conditions made Smith wary and paranoid; she found herself suspicious of Rachael’s motives and feared for her own safety. With her anxiety at an all time high, Smith inched her car into an unlit alley, then refused to go any further. In the darkness, Smith heard Rachael’s raised voice. Terrified, she inched open the car door to hear better; with her bags in tow Rachael begged, “Please Mrs. Valerie, just a little more light.” Through her gripping story, Smith conveyed beautifully that all the needy, desperate, lonely people need is a little light from God’s ministers.
Smith concluded her powerful, emotional message by reciting Isaiah 30:21, “And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.” She challenged her audience to be on a mission for God, with God. Let the Lord be a guiding compass. Be the light for someone else in times of tribulation. And finally, keep your eyes focused on Jesus no matter what chaos surrounds your life.