I have been sick now for an entire week. I thought it was a cold or maybe a reaction to the high ragweed count. My throat has been so sore. I cough and cough–and am now addicted to cough drops. My voice has been raspy and hoarse, and a few times I have had no voice at all.

Even when I was most miserable, I did not slow down. (I am one of those people who doesn’t “do” sick very well. I just keep going to meetings and working–hoping to push through the worst with only over-the-counter medication). But Sunday night I gave up pretense that this problem would go away on its own, and I decided I would go to the doctor. I got up Monday morning and headed to the walk-in clinic near my house.

I, of course, didn’t know the doctor, but he was thorough, asking lots of questions and checking my throat and ears.  He listened to my raspy voice and told me that I had a sinus infection and a very swollen throat, and he prescribed three medications and a nasal spray. And then he asked that dreaded question: So what do you do?

I never quite know how to explain my role as executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry to total strangers. Explaining being Baptist is hard enough, but then I have to talk about women ministers, the work of networking and advocating, and the running of non-profit organization . . . and all that explaining just seemed too complicated. So I said, “I am a minister.” And I hoped he would just say, “Great. Here are your prescriptions. Go be well.”

But instead he said, “About twenty years ago I thought about being a preacher,” and he preceded to tell me stories about some really unpleasant experiences he had had in Nebraska churches where he did a preaching tour. I sat, smiling (I hope), trying hard to suppress my coughing.  And then he said, “Ministry can really be hard, and I imagine that women face even more challenges than I did.”

Our conversation was interrupted by a knock on the door. His nurse had a question. When she left, the doctor turned back to me, held out both his hands, and said, “Let’s pray.” And so he prayed. He prayed for me, for my family, and for my work. He prayed for my return to good health. And then he prayed, “Jesus surely didn’t believe or treat women as if they were second-class citizens. Bless Pam’s work with women who are called to be ministers and provide them places of service. Bless their ministries.” The doctor pronounced his “Amen,” and then he opened the door and led me to the check out desk.

I walked out of the clinic stunned and a little teary eyed, realizing that I had just been blessed by a total stranger, a man who values the work that I do, a man who is not afraid to say a prayer with his patient. I am already feeling some better, but mostly I am feeling grateful for words of affirmation, which often come when I least expect them and perhaps when I am most in need of them.

Pam Durso is executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia.