The first time I stepped onto her porch, it was a sweltering hot summer day in Maryland. I’d been encouraged to visit the woman who lived in this house because she was offering a Bible study for young women, and that’s exactly what I needed. Although I’d been raised in the church, I was really just a young Christian at the time—only a year into a personal relationship with the Lord. I was still unsure about a lot of things, including what it even meant to be a disciple. I wanted to learn.

The door opened, and Mary stepped into my life with her smile, warm hugs, homemade bread, and Snickers cookies. But she didn’t stop there. She shared the Word of God and taught me his truth. It was Mary who prayed me through some of the most difficult times in my young adult life. It was Mary who became one of my closest confidants and advisors. It was Mary who corrected my many shortcomings.

Mary was the first woman who intentionally discipled me. As a young midshipman from South Carolina attending the United States Naval Academy, I didn’t know how to cook. I rarely washed my own clothes. Aside from keeping a clean house, being hospitable, and throwing a great party, I knew little about homemaking because my mother proudly took care of those things. Her priority was to ensure that we, her children, had every opportunity to prepare academically and athletically for our futures. And while personal leadership, responsibility, and accountability were ingrained in me at a young age, I never learned certain life lessons as a child.

Mary gained wisdom from persevering through life. She was an older white woman, a former nurse, a devoted wife, and a stay-at-home mom. This mother of five (four of whom were still ...

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