ATHENS, Ga. -- Congenital cataracts left the Rev. Dorothy Jones legally blind, a disability that hasn't stopped her from answering her call to the ministry.
"I guess I've felt all my life that I had a calling," she said. "It came from so much pain as a child. I developed a relationship with Jesus."
Living on a small Social Security check, the Rev. Jones' purpose is to inspire others with disabilities and deliver messages of love in a trouble world.
She began pursuing a career in the ministry in 1997 at Macedonia Baptist Church in Athens. Her first sermon was on unconditional love.
"That's what my ministry is all about -- love," said the Rev. Jones, 48. "That's what God is all about. We need to love each other, regardless of race or creed, short, tall, fat. We have to love unconditionally."
An energetic woman with a cheerful voice, the Rev. Jones became a licensed minister at Macedonia under the leadership of the Rev. Willie Flint. She expects to be ordained in about two months.
Growing up in Athens, the Rev. Jones was mocked by other children and even a teacher because of her disability.
"Kids pointed and laughed. A high school teacher said to me, `What are you gonna do when you get out of school, be a blinker on a Christmas tree?"' the Rev. Jones recalled.
"Through it all, I knew Jesus would come through," she said. "He was always there."
She began helping people with disabilities as a teen-ager and now is a volunteer ombudsman for the disabled in Athens. She said she feels God is using her as an example for others.
Gerald Hancock, a longtime friend of the Rev. Jones, said he was not surprised by her decision to enter the ministry.
"She's always been a religious person," said Mr. Hancock, who also is blind. "I knew it was coming, I just didn't know when. She's a real go-getter, and she doesn't let her vision impairment stop her."