Of the Order of Balaam’s Donkey

It was a rare opportunity for me to preach. In the Baptist Student Union (BSU) at the University of Georgia where I served as campus minister, the three campus ministers preached only a couple of times per year. I can’t recall what my sermon was about that evening or what biblical text I preached from, but I do remember a conversation that followed:

“Rhonda, can I come see you tomorrow?” asked James (not his real name), an earnest college student I had known for a while.

“Of course!” I said.

We scheduled a meeting in my office for the next day. James was a quiet young man, serious about his faith. I liked him, although I didn’t know him well. We hadn’t had many one-on-one conversations, so I was curious why he suddenly wanted a meeting. I would find out the next day when James showed up in my office, right on time.

“Rhonda, I wasn’t happy about you preaching last night,” James began. I nodded, not surprised that James would object to a woman preaching. “But you did a pretty good job,” he said to his own amazement.

“Thanks!” I said with raised brow, appreciating the hard-won compliment.

James continued, “I was talking about you with my roommates last night. Rhonda, do you remember the Old Testament story about Balaam?”

Not sure where this was going, I said, “Sure! The story in which God spoke to Balaam through a donkey?”

“That’s right,” James acknowledged. “My roommates and I decided that if God can speak through a donkey, then God can speak through a woman.”

After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I affirmed James in his conclusion, recognizing that it went against everything he was taught in the Southern Baptist church of his upbringing. For my part, if being compared to a donkey helped move the needle a little for women preachers in Baptist life, then hee-haw! I was happy to be, ahem, a donkey for the Lord!

The post originally appeared in the Introduction of When God Whispered My Name: Stories of Journey Told by Baptist Women Called to Ministry.

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