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  • Dorothy Patterson

The Incredible Race: Dr. Rhonda Kelley

In the book of Hebrews, the writer encourages followers of Christ to run their race with endurance, fixing their eyes on Jesus, so they do not grow weary and lose heart (Heb 12:1-2). As God took Dr. Rhonda Kelley home to heaven on the morning of February 17, I can’t help but reflect on what an incredible race she ran for the Lord. Dr. Rhonda lived with purpose, loved people, and leaves behind the legacy of a life permeated with the fruit of the Spirit. 


Dr. Rhonda poured her life into countless women over the course of her life. I am thankful to be just one of the many younger women in the faith who were blessed to know her and be encouraged by her Titus 2 example. One of the earliest teaching opportunities I got at the seminary level was to co-teach a week-long intensive class on biblical womanhood with Dr. Kelley at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary while she was the first lady there. Whew! I was so nervous! She was incredibly gracious, even sitting in on my lectures and giving me feedback and encouragement. I learned so much that week about how to be an effective communicator just by watching her.


If you had the privilege of sitting in one of her classes at NOBTS, in one of the Bible studies at her local church, or in one of the many women’s conferences where she taught, you know what an incredibly wise woman she was. She spoke with clarity and wielded her pen with creativity and an unwavering commitment to the Word of God. The Bible studies, commentaries, Study Bibles, and Spirit-filled resources she leaves behind will serve as edifying and equipping tools for generations of women to come.


You couldn’t be around Dr. Rhonda for any length of time without sensing her infectious joy. In fact, when I think about her, that is the word that immediately comes to mind—Joy! The source of that joy was her relationship with the Lord, which saturated every area of her life. In fact, Dr. Rhonda, probably more than any other person I know, consistently displayed the full abundance of the fruit of the Spirit in her life. Not only joy but also love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). Just reading those words brings to mind situations where I saw her display each fruit in multiple ways, often when it would have been easier to display the opposite!


When you consider Dr. Rhonda, you can’t help but think of her husband Dr. Chuck Kelley. This beautiful couple loved each other so much. Through life’s peaks and valleys, through hurricanes and sickness, through great joys and deepest sadness, they modeled a truly Christian marriage of devotion to the Lord and each other.


While believers don’t grieve like those who have no hope, we still grieve. Knowing Christ as Lord and Savior means we will get to see Dr. Rhonda again someday when the Lord takes us home. However, on this side of heaven, there is loss. In our grief, though, we can and should give thanks for the incredible race that Dr. Rhonda ran for the Lord. May it spur us on to do the same.


Dr. Candi Finch

Dean of Women

Director of Admissions

Associate Professor

Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary


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