The Impact of Women on My Life

When I was a student at Minneapolis North High School, Rev. Jesse Jackson ran for President. He even came to our school and had a rally in the gymnasium. I thought at the time that he was the first African American to make a serious run for the White House. Our school Librarian, Ms. Gregory shared with me that wasn’t the case. It was then that I was introduced to former Congresswoman, Shirley Chisholm. In 1968, the year before I was born and the year Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, she became the first African-American woman elected to Congress, representing New York’s 12 Congressional District. In 1972 she became the first major party African-American candidate for President of the United States. Because of Ms. Gregory, I read books and watched documentaries on Ms. Chisholm. She caused my dreams as a teenager to grow bigger.

When I was a college student, I had the opportunity to hear Rev. Madeline Manning Mims preach at an outdoor evangelistic festival. Rev. Manning Mims is an Olympic Gold Medalist, a member of the United States National Track and Field Hall of Fame, and also serves as a chaplain for professional sports teams. Her preaching all those years ago helped me gain my own sense of call to preaching ministry. As I watched her preach to a diverse crowd of people about the impact Christ had on her life, I wondered if I could do the same.

This summer Rev. Debbie Blue will retire as Executive Minister of the Department of Compassion, Mercy, and Justice for the Evangelical Covenant Church denomination. She was the first to serve in this role. Though she speaks with a quiet voice and brings a gentle demeanor to challenging social and spiritual issues, she has been a modern prophet for me. Through initiatives such as The Invitation for Racial Righteousness and the Sankofa Journey, she has shown many in the Body of Christ and beyond that reconciliation and justice are biblical mandates that play a major role in Christian Formation. She has been such a mentor and pastor to me that I call her “Auntie” Debbie.

I could go on and mention names such as Bishop Vashti Mckenzie, Dr. Rene Rochester, Dr. Brenda Salter-McNeil, Rev. Cecilia Williams, Dr. Virginia Ward, and Dr. LaVerne Tolbert. But if I were to talk about them, I would never stop writing. Let me just say that so many women of God have had such a tremendous impact on my call to ministry and my development in ministry. I’m deeply grateful to them all.

Efrem Smith is World Impact's President and CEO.