Over the past 6 months the Church Leadership Council (CLC) has had discussions about KBC and how we can create a culture of “Goodness” as we find ways to reconnect with one another. The CLC through reading “A Church Called TOV” , and discussing where they have already seen “Goodness” within our church, the work of Louise Duke came up multiple times. Therefore, the CLC asked Trish Ordelheide to research and share how Louise Duke’s life exemplifies God’s love within our church and hopes her story may inspire you to join into a culture of “Goodness”.
If ever there was a person who personifies mission ministry, it is Louise Duke! She truly has a passion for mission work. Through the decades, Louise has been willing to be an instrument of God and continues to share her vision and drive with others to take on a variety of mission needs. She has created a culture at KBC that enables its members to express in positive ways their love and concern for those who need a helping hand. The way she lives her life exemplifies the kind of culture God desires for each of us and from each of us.
Louise never saw a ministry need that she thought was unattainable. She saw a ministry need, developed a plan to address the need, presented the plan to the church in order to develop interest and gain support, enlisted workers, and then jumped right in herself.
Louise’s ministry causes were varied and impacted many lives – the lives of those who were helped and the lives of the volunteers. In the 1950’s and 1960’s several KBC members moved to New York City for their work. Louise and Wil Duke and their family joined them in New York City in 1957. Louise and Wil, along with other KBC families, became “church planters” and established Manhattan Baptist Church, the first Southern Baptist Church in New York City. The Dukes were also involved in starting a church in Chesterfield in the Green Trails Elementary School which became Green Trails Baptist Church. As a Home Mission board volunteer, Louise spent three weeks in New York City developing a Volunteer Service program for the New York City work through 1988. She led KBC in 1979 to help pay the salary of a Christian Social Worker. Through the work of the Missions Committee, KBC sponsored two families: a Vietnamese family, the Nguyens, in 1975 and a Rumanian family in 1979. Louise along with three other KBC women planned their mission trip to St. Lucia Island in 1986. In 1990 another mission trip to St. Lucia was planned for dental and eye clinics. Also in 1990, mission trips were planned to Ecuador for evangelism and to New York City to work on buildings. Louise was always good at enlisting volunteers for mission work. She and Rene Shuler organized a food pantry at Fourth Baptist in the inner city which was open every Saturday. By 1994 or 1995, the food ministry at Fourth Baptist was moved to New St. Louis Park Baptist Church where facility renovations were carried out by KBC volunteers and St. Louis Metro Baptist Association to prepare the building.
Around 1986, Louise was involved with KBC as it began working with Glendale Memorial Chapel which had 40 members. By 1988 the missions committee recommended that KBC financially support Glendale Memorial Chapel in its construction of a church. KBC joyfully celebrated with Glendale Memorial Chapel when the church held its “mortgage burning.”
Louise and Wil were instrumental in involving KBC in the 2003-2004 mission project focused on the Bosnian and Romany Gypsy people who had congregated in south St. Louis. They and Scott Stearman, KBC senior pastor at the time, worked with some area churches to organize the Bosnian Ministry Council. After hearing a CBF speaker, Louise got in touch with a young Bosnian pastor, Sasha Zivanov, who was brought to St. Louis to work with the Bosnian community. His wife, Mira, and their son, Filip were later able to join Sasha in his ministry with the Bosnians. This ministry located at the Christy United Methodist Church involved a food pantry and various children’s and worship programs. Through the years, Louise and Wil have served tirelessly in this ministry in many different capacities. Following all of the startup activities, they have continued to be actively involved in soliciting money, involving the participation of new churches, and scheduling volunteers. The list goes on and on as they have selflessly given of their time, energy, and finances to this ministry. When word was received that the Food Pantry was losing its location at Christy United Methodist Church, Louise got on the phone and tirelessly began calling churches in search of a new location for the Food Pantry, the tutoring program Mira runs, and other programs and activities for the Bosnian community. She didn’t stop calling until she located a church, Jubilee, that would open its church to the Bosnian ministry and at no charge. Some of Jubilee’s members even volunteer at the Food Pantry. Had it not been for Louise and her efforts, there would not be a Food Pantry today.
Louise was instrumental in enlisting KBC members to become involved in partnering with a teacher in the Kirkwood school district in an after-school tutoring program in one of the Kirkwood schools. If not actively involved in a mission program herself, Louise is busy keeping mission opportunities available to KBC members and others.
Through the efforts of the Dukes, Gavins, Zivanovs and members of KBC that began in 2013, Kirkwood Baptist Church was able to purchase in January 2016 a property on Gravois in south St. Louis for the ministry of the International Fellowship guided by Sasha and Mira Zivanov. This was a long and involved mission effort but well worth it all. The International Fellowship building is a welcoming and supportive space for immigrants and provides for a Christian witness in a growing Muslim neighborhood. It has provided many opportunities to serve – a space for tutoring children two evenings a week, a weekly Thursday morning coffee for Bosnians, vacation bible school, holiday celebrations, cooking classes, and a meeting place for the Zivanov ministry. Time, effort, money, and commitment well spent in service to God. Louise was one of the major driving forces to bring this to fruition.
Louise and Wil have never sought recognition for doing the work they feel God has called them to do; but in 2015, they were recognized by CBF Heartland in its first Celebration of Excellence with an award for being passionate mission advocates, especially with the ministries of the International Fellowship in St. Louis and their support of CBF field personnel, Sasha and Mira Zivanov. Their son, Kerry, praised them for leading their children to be active in church and for their willingness to help people in need.
As is evident, Louise Duke’s life is one of giving of oneself, and she has followed Jesus’ example of not just seeing a need but reaching out to help the one in need. She has a loving, caring, and sharing spirit. Louise has used her gifts and willing spirit to make things happen in missions’ ministry. She has created a culture of love and service that has seeped into the DNA of KBC. We are deeply grateful for her life’s work. It certainly gives evidence that she has let God lead her life. She is a good and faithful servant. Thank you, Louise, for the example you have given to others by the way in which you’ve followed God’s call to missions in your life.