The Honorable Penny Brown Reynolds
sis·ter (sĭs′tər) noun 1. A female having the same parents as another or one parent in common with another. 2. A girl or woman who shares a common ancestry, allegiance, character, or purpose with another or others, specifically: a. A kinswoman. b. A woman fellow member, as of a sorority. c. A fellow woman. d. A close woman friend or companion. e. A fellow African-American woman or girl. f. A woman who advocates, fosters, or takes. Women connect with other women. We share together. We laugh together. We cry together. When we truly connect, there is nothing more powerful in this world. We are special in that we learn life lessons not only through the process of our own experiences but from listening to the testimonies of our sisters. Advice is given and advice is taken. We share a common bond and are connected in the spirit when a woman is brave enough to share her joys and pains. It was important to me that this book places women and teen girls on a path that would allow them to embrace their own truth. “The Sisters Speak” is real talk from a gathering of women who have stories to tell. These contributors are women of courage. They believe in the sisterhood. They are not consumed by envy and jealously because they have been through a great deal in life and frankly, they will not waste their time with the destructive energy that those twins bring. They have faced struggles on various levels, but in the end they have managed to stand tall. They are different ages, from different backgrounds, with different careers. They are smart. They are reflective. They love God. Most importantly, all of them continue to dream. They share because they love you. It is their truth. It is wisdom. It is real talk.
"Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy” (Acts 2:18). God has the power and authority to use whomever God wants to use. It doesn’t matter what age, gender, limitations, or what’s in your past. I am a living witness of how God transformed the weaknesses of a girl, who was afraid to allow God to use her, into a woman who knows that there is nothing impossible with God. In 1990, upon entering seminary at the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) in Atlanta Georgia, we were given a survey questionnaire to fill out. One of the survey questions asked, “What is your family lineage into the ‘called ministry’?” The second part of the question asked us to list them and their relationships to us. The question baffled me because I couldn’t name any relatives, maternal or paternal, past or present, who had been ministers of the Gospel. After pondering further about my family lineage in ministry, I decided to do some investigating into the matter. My mother and her sisters informed me that their grandmother was known as an evangelist. She would preach on the street corners or anywhere she could. In addition, they had a sister and cousins who preached, prayed, and used their healing hands to pray for people. My lineage in ministry was passed through my maternal side of my family and through the females. These sisters of the Gospel were not allowed to minister in the church but worked for God in nontraditional ways throughout their lifetimes. If I had known their struggles with being called by God into ministry as women, perhaps my journey to accept being called to be a preacher would have been easier. Instead, it took a near-death experience for me to accept my calling from God. In the fall of 1974, I was in my college dormitory room when I heard the voice of God speak to me about allowing God to use me to spread the Gospel of Good News. More than being frightened, I thought I must be going crazy because I knew God didn’t use women to preach—at least this is what I had been taught. I laughed at this notion. How could I be hearing such foolishness? God went on to say, “If you will allow me to use you, I will place you with kings, queens, presidents, and leaders of the world!” I laughed even harder with that statement and vowed to myself that I would never tell anyone about my moment of madness. However, over the years, before accepting my calling, not a day went by when I didn’t think about my encounter with God in my dormitory room. In addition, every day after hearing God’s calling, I felt a tugging in my heart that God wanted to use me. It wasn’t until the spring of 1986 when once again I heard the voice of God speak to me in a hotel room in Seattle, Washington. God gave me the same commissioning orders: “Let me use you.” This time, in spite of the same fear, I decided to pray, examine, and explore what this meant for me. I asked God to send me signs indicating I wasn’t crazy. God did what God needed to do. Random strangers began telling me, “God has a divine purpose for your life.” I spoke with a few sisters in ministry as well as with my mother. The signs God sent me, the conversations with my sisters in ministry, and especially the conversations with my mother elevated me to partial acceptance. My mother shared that as a very young child, God used me to pray, prophesy, and heal. I didn’t remember ever doing so. The only thing I could recall is everyone being in awe of me and saying I was different. I also remembered always desiring to be like everyone else. However, the excitement was extremely short lived; fear crept back in quickly. I decided God had made a mistake. I wasn’t strong, smart, or wise enough to preach because the world tradition said no. I had what I thought was my final conversation with God about my allowing God to use me. Late one night while driving home alone, I told God how I felt, that I was simply too weak, unskilled, and scared for my life. I also told God that I would leave God alone, and I wanted God to leave me alone! I said to myself that’s it; I’m finished with God. And for a brief moment I was at peace with my decision. Five minutes later, I was looking at a tractor-trailer truck coming directly toward me. I had no control over the car, and the steering wheel column had locked. To avoid what I had thought was a body in the expressway, I had driven over on the shoulder of the road. Once I had passed the item in the road, I had looked in the rearview mirror to see if I could move back into the northbound lane. It was clear, but what I hadn’t seen in enough time were the sofa and dinette set in the expressway. I had hit the furniture and lost control of the car. I was now headed south in the northbound lanes of the expressway! Prior to the truck hitting me, I had an out-of-body encounter with God. I exclaimed to God as I was traveling rapidly down a lighted tunnel that showed my life story, “Lord, forgive me for not doing what you asked, and please don’t let me go to hell!” I didn’t ask God to let me live, but I knew I didn’t want to go to hell for being disobedient. Then I heard a voice like thunder say, “Go back, not now, there’s work for you to do.” I entered back into my body, took my flight attendant posture for a plane crash, and by God’s grace and mercy endured the impact of the truck, other vehicles, and the median wall as my car had become like a tennis ball before coming to a final rest. After the Jaws of Life released me from a totaled car and then doctors examined me at the hospital, I walked away without a scratch. That night, I said to God, “Thank you,” with a grateful heart, and “I surrender my life unto you; have your will and way.” God has been true to His words of using me to do what I feel are amazing works in ministry. Today, I’m a preacher and senior pastor; I serve in a dean’s role at ITC, and I’m a respected community leader. My work in ministry has allowed me the privilege of sitting with presidents of the United States and South Africa, with other influential politicians, and presidents of major corporations. If God is calling you into ministry, don’t risk your life in not trusting God. God can use you with all your faults, limitations, and weaknesses to do just what God said He would and what God wants you to do. —REV. PORTIA WILLIS LEE


copyright Judge Penny Brown Reynolds 2015

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