Leaving a LegacyWe are women of God.
She Leads America is a faith-based organization that strives to empower women from across the nation to use their voices in their areas of influence, providing community that offers encouragement, support and networking opportunities. In 2021, Commissioner Jolene Hodder received Congressional recognition for her leadership and was recognized by She Leads America as a Woman of Distinction. Commissioner Hodder’s goal is to have Army representation on each state’s She Leads chapter throughout the nation, empowering our women in leadership in the public sphere.
On a recent trip to Washington D.C., Rev. Liz Doyle, founder of She Leads America, Dr. Alveda King, author and former State Representative from Georgia, and author and Olympian Dr. Madeline Manning Mims, met with elected officials, staffers and those in ministry to introduce She Leads America to Christian women in leadership working on The Hill. During their visit, they made time for an interview with Lt. Colonel Margaret Davis, to talk about legacy and what drives them in their work.
Dr. King, you are the daughter of Reverend A.D. King and the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. How does that legacy inform your faith and the work that you do?
Dr. Alveda King: Legacy is so important, and sometimes we forget our legacy or maybe never even understand it. So if I want to remember what my uncle, Martin Luther King Jr. said, I’ll have to go get a book or listen to a recording perhaps or I’ll see those pictures. But I remember him as a real person. I remember my parents as real people. My mother is still living. So legacy is important. I was reading Deuteronomy, generation by generation. Whatever the legacy has to be in our family—and the King family legacy is faith, hope and love, and forgiveness—we have to take that message and continue to share it here … in every generation.
What motivates you to continue advocating for the resolution of issues that create divisiveness even in the religious community?
King: The word of God encourages us to love each other, to forgive quickly. Acts 17:26, “We are of one blood.” God made all people regardless of ethnicities or different experiences. We happen to be advocating for women today, but this is for men and children as well. So, if we are motivated by the faith, love and forgiveness, that’s required to break down the walls of hatred. As we do that, we end up with the results that we are seeing right here at this moment. All these different backgrounds, experiences, ethnicities. We agree that faith, hope and love, and forgiveness are interwoven. All the hurts from the past, I don’t say forget them because when we forget our past, we will repeat it. We need to remember our past to get past it and to this unity that’s required.
What’s your favorite scripture verse?
King: My favorite scripture verse is John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.” And then it goes on, “But God did not send his son,” that’s Jesus, “into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him would be saved.” It said the world. It didn’t say the white people, the black people, the old people, the young people, the boys, the girls, it’s for everybody.
Dr. Mims, you have a long-standing relationship with The Salvation Army. Can you share just a little bit of that with us?
Dr. Madeline Manning Mims: When I was a freshman at Tennessee State University doing my undergrad work, I was called back to my hometown Cleveland Ohio, where they were burning everything. The Hough community was being burned out. It was an inner-city project, and they were shooting people and burning. At that time, (then) Major Henry Gariepy called me and said “Madeline, you’ve won a gold medal and we need you. We need you in our city.” And so I came back and I said, “What is it that you want me to do?” He said, “We have decided to build a community center for this region, but we need somebody to forward it for us.” I said, “In what ways?” “Well, to be truthful, we’re going house to house and we’re asking them what they want in the community center for their kids.” I said that is the smartest thing to do. You never build something and say, “Now come and be a part of this.” You go and ask them what they want and let them build it. Give them the vision to raise up a difference in their community. And I saw that happen. I started the gymnastics team, and we were going everywhere. We’re doing half-time shows. We would go to the different homes where people were and we’d sit there and have fun with them. But then these little kids would be flipping across the floors and doing the splits! It has started changing that whole community and I would go into the schools where kids were acting up and I would stay on top of it and give them things to do. So when I would go to some of the Olympic Games that I was a part of, I would get some of the athletes to go out to the street where The Salvation Army were blowing their horns. We would give our testimonies and share with people and they were astonished. I would take them into prisons and The Salvation Army sometimes would assist us. It’s been a long journey that I’ve had with The Salvation Army. I learned to speak because Major Gariepy said, “We need to take you to our kids and let them hear what you you’ve gone through.” That’s how I started speaking. Next thing I knew I was all over the country speaking for 28 years in schools because of what started with The Salvation Army.
You created the U.S. Council for Sports Chaplaincy. What motivated you to take that step?
Mims: I was one of them. As an Olympian, I knew what it meant to be a Christian and have no one to pray for you. No one to come in and say “I’m a chaplain. Is there anything I can do for you?” I was the one on the team that everybody was coming to at two and three o’ clock in the morning like, “I’m so scared” or “I just did this,” or “I hurt my leg.” “Well, where’s the chaplain? Is there anybody that can help us?” I was actually called into chaplaincy in 1988 as a part of the Seoul, Korea Olympic chaplaincy team. One of two women out of 27 people, in other words, 25 men that didn’t think that we should even be there. And yet, I was the only Olympian that was on that team. I realized, wait a minute, who better knows how to minister to Olympians than Olympians? And so, the Lord gave me the vision to raise it. I was the captain of a lot of the teams that I was on, and that’s where God was schooling me on how to be a chaplain. I didn’t know that. But the same thing I did as a captain on the team is what I do as a chaplain for the team.
Reverend Doyle, tell me about She Leads America.
Rev. Liz Doyle: Well, in 2019, as I was looking around me, I was thinking, where are the voices of Christian women in this country? And for the last 20 years previously, I’ve been traveling all over the world mobilizing Christian women globally, from all different denominations, all different backgrounds, about 60 different nations, to reach their nations with a love of God, to bring the Gospel to them. But I’d never done anything in the United States. In 2019, I was hearing lots of female voices but they weren’t representing traditional values, biblical values. That concerned me because I saw a lot of bitterness. I saw a lot of anger. I saw a lot of hurt. I saw this, but I wasn’t seeing reconciliation, love, forgiveness, kindness, which is who we are as women. That’s who we were created to be.
So I went to the Lord, I said, “Well, Lord, what do you want to do?” He said, “I want to give Christian women a voice. I want them to rise up and have a voice.” In the Bible, people prayed and they heard from God. Well, that’s who I am. I read the Bible. I study the word of God so I know that what I hear is rooted in Scripture … But what does it say? … “In the last days I will pour out my spirit on all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy.” As women of God, our voices should be filled with the Gospel, the good news of Christ. So I said, “Well, Lord, what are we going to do? What is it you want to do?” He said, “I want to bring my women out of hiding. I want to honor my daughters. For too long they have been hidden or they have been marginalized.” It’s now time for these women to rise up and to show the world how they’re supposed to live.
God told me to go to my state representative, who is a believer, and tell her this strategy. She said “Let’s call it She Leads Michigan.” She became our representative, and she was prepared to bring a certificate for every woman that we honor, and God began to lead us to ten women in ten different areas of society. So, ten businesswomen, ten women in health and welfare, ten women in community service, ten women in social action, ten women in sports and media, ten women in all these different areas that we would identify. Interestingly enough, I hardly knew anybody because I was always working globally, but I would get this one woman and I’d call her and say “We’d like to honor you. Can you think of someone that you would like to honor?” She would immediately say a name.
So that first team we had was in 2019, a hundred women were honored. Well, that’s grown now, we’re onto our fourth team. But then the Lord began to speak to us and said, “I don’t only want to honor women, but I want to bring them together in collaboration. All these wonderful leaders. I want you to introduce them to each other because they can bring faith-based solutions to modern-day challenges.” We love each other and we honor each other, and we trust each other because we are all members of the body of Christ.
Different denominations, different backgrounds, and we’re coming from that perspective. That’s where we get the mind of Christ and His love for us. He loves the world. He wants to heal. He wants to set people free. He wants to give them the grace to forgive. That’s what He wants to do. Now the Lord has said, “Take it to all the states, take it across America.” There are women in every state who need to be recognized because when you’re honored, you’re validated. When you’re validated you have courage to speak up. You’re no longer alone. That’s what She Leads is. You know, God has brought us together … These amazing women who are here but never given an opportunity to relate, to know each other, to trust one another because we don’t know each other. All of a sudden, we’re all in the same room and we all have the same experience with Jesus. That’s what draws us. That’s what cements us together regardless of our political aspirations, regardless of our denominational background. It has nothing to do with it. It’s our love and passion for Jesus that brings us together.
I know you have a lot of support with the mission but there are naysayers. How do you deal with folks who say religion and politics don’t mix? What’s your message to those folks who would just say no?
Doyle: Well, I haven’t had anybody who’s ever said no. Because the women that are in this, they are so highly qualified you don’t want to say no to them. How do you say no to Alveda King? How do you say no to Dr. Madeline Manning Mims? You don’t say no to them because you admire them. What they’ve accomplished and who they are is worthy of admiration and you should step back and say, “I want to learn from you.” We haven’t had a lot of no’s and naysayers. But I did have one lady… She was in politics and when you get in in politics you can become jaded. I told her what the plan was, and she said “Oh, tea parties” because we have tea parties to honor and welcome the women in. Tea parties. What can God do with tea parties? We said, “Well, there was a real amazing tea party in Boston. God used that one.” The graciousness of the women that are in She Leads, the love that they show, the compassion. I mean, we have people from all political parties, all backgrounds. What can you say to that? That is what the world is looking for and that’s what the Lord has done.
Mims: I’ll say one more thing. This movement that God is doing, bringing all these women together, we want to see it throughout the United States of America. This is for every Christian woman in leadership in America. If anybody wanted to get in touch with us, they can do so at sheleadsamerica.com because it’s for every woman. There are so many women, they are lonely, they’re in leadership. They don’t have someone to talk to and sometimes we just feel so isolated with what’s happening when in fact, what we are feeling and what we’re thinking is the majority thought. But we don’t know because we aren’t speaking to one another. We haven’t been connected. This is a great way to connect, and God is just moving us together. We are women of God. We are women. I like that. And that’s what He’s doing.
Lt. Colonel Margaret Davis currently serves as the National Secretary for Social Services and Public Policy.