The blog below was written by Patricia Hernandez, national director of Women in Ministry and Transition Ministries, ABCUSA. Blogs written by ABCUSA Leadership Team members will be published periodically on the website. Views expressed are the sole opinion of the author. (Interested in submiting a blog for publication? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The night before Valentine’s Day, the phone rang at 11:30pm. Thinking it was one of my kids—and figuring they weren’t calling to wish me a Happy Valentine’s Day— I anxiously answered my phone. “Patricia!” exquisitely exuded the voice on the other end in her inimitable way, and I knew instantly it was Ronny—Rev. Dr. Veronica Lanier—especially as she emphatically effused, “Do you know how much I love you? You don’t even have a clue.”
So began Ronny, as she does every conversation, not just with me but with all of her 7,000 and growing number of children. Rather than being slighted as only one of many, I surged with pride to be counted among the many uniquely loved by a woman who loves all and bars none
Not too long ago at a gathering of the Asian conference and Asian American Baptist Caucus Convocation, we had the opportunity to honor this wonderful woman in ministry, a wonderful witness of a woman. Commissioned by the American Baptist Home Mission Society in 1957, she was later ordained in 1970, one of only two African American Baptist women ordained at that time. Having served for many years of ministry, in many roles from home missionary, host of international missionaries, pastor, preacher and interim minister, there was no lack of stories! As story after story was recounted, the room filled with the mirth of ministry.
One young man recounted how as he was driving home from church one snowy Sunday, he suddenly got caught in a New England Nor’easter. Uncertain whether he could continue, unable to see in the blinding blizzard, he had slowed to a snail’s pace—when suddenly from out of nowhere came a car that raced right past him with the ease of Santa’s sleigh. When he looked up after the snow had settled, he recognized Ronny’s car, which he then proceeded to follow through seething snow and slippery roads, arriving eventually—and quite safely– home.
Later this young man pulled me aside and said,
“There’s more to the story. It is because of Ronny that I am a Christian, because of Ronny that I am in ministry.
It is because of her that I believe.
It was her words about the Lord that awakened me to Jesus.
It was her witness that widened my eyes.
It was her love of Jesus that led me to love the Lord and called me to live out that love to others.
Now I can say that I have seen and I have heard and I have experienced Jesus for myself.
But if it hadn’t been for Ronny, I wouldn’t have believed at all.”
Two thousand years before Rev. Lanier’s lifetime, it was said that because of the Samaritan woman, many people believed.
Ultimately it was because of Jesus’ words but first it was because of the witness of a woman, a woman on the way, a woman at the well, a woman who crossed boundaries and ultimately bore the cross of Jesus.
As we head into Lent, a cross-bearing time, it is worth thinking about witnessing. Ronny has given her life to witnessing, from her service in Christian Centers across the United States, to her service on the TABCOM region staff, to the establishment of the Lanier Mission House, to the raising of the steeple at the First Baptist Church of Waltham. I’ve been in that church and seen that steeple, rising to the heavens, calling all to follow Jesus and give glory to God, to witness. To witness like Ronny, to witness for Jesus.
Ronny describes her goals as “to be of more and better service to God and to be of more and better service to people.” Witness. And isn’t this the real meaning of Valentine’s Day, whole-hearted witness rather than hallmark holiday, named in honor of a priest courageously living out his faith under oppressive Roman rule who by one legend healed the daughter of his jailer? Witness.
Is there a witness in your life? Is there someone who has awakened your soul, widened your eyes, warmed your heart, led you to the Lord of love, wellspring of abundant life? Is there someone who has in the midst of blinding blizzards guided you home to Jesus? If so, give thanks, or as Rev. Ronny would say “Be of Good Cheer!” And join her in witnessing!