A Note from Kelly King: In today’s article, LifeWay Women’s Trainer, Stephanie Edge, shares personal insight about not only our friend, Dr. Deb Douglas, but also the influence any woman can make. I hope it will encourage you today in your leadership journey as it did mine.
Recently, I traveled to Bossier City, Louisiana, to attend the celebration of life service for a dear friend, Dr. Debra Douglas. Upon arrival, it became apparent that the impact of Deb was far reaching. A snapshot of the scope of her influence included a 23-year old elementary school teacher whom she had unofficially adopted as a “grandchild in the faith,” a girls minister from Montgomery, Alabama, a women’s ministry leader from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and yet another women’s ministry leader from Houston, Texas. Not to mention, Deb’s influence upon her daughter-in-law, precious grandchildren, a son, a daughter, and husband. When sharing stories about Deb, her husband Paul said, “I knew her life was huge, but I had no idea how huge.”
The hugeness of her life would become even more evident at the service the following day as LifeWay Women’s Ministry trainers, the Louisiana state Woman’s Missionary Union leader, individuals from Purchased the human trafficking ministry Deb loved, church members, neighbors, and friends entered the sanctuary of First Baptist Church, Bossier City.
The homegoing of a friend, women’s ministry leader, and faithful Christian always prompts reflection as well it should. What can we learn from the life of Dr. Deb Douglas?
God’s servants are unique.
I have often said, “There is only one Deb Douglas.” Deb was an image bearer of Christ by creation (Genesis 1:27) and because of her decision to become a follower and servant of Christ. Her uniqueness (Psalm 139:13-14) was seen not only in her personhood as one who had a great sense of humor, loved to have fun, and loved people, but also in the experiences she had. If you knew Deb, you know she had an endless repertoire of crazy stories of sometimes unbelievable experiences. But nothing deterred her spirit. She was always in continual motion. Deb was equipped for the task of ministry as the first graduate with a master’s degree in Women’s Ministry from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary where she later completed a Doctorate in Education. These accomplishments were no small feat for Deb who was dyslexic. She was prepared through her education, her ministry experiences, her family, and the places she lived. Like Deb, God has intricately created you and I. He continually shapes us through life experiences, education, and encounters with others so that we are specially crafted to do the work of ministry that He prepared ahead of time (Ephesians 2:10). Let us rejoice in our distinctiveness, embrace who God has molded us to be, and maximize our influence for the sake of the Kingdom.
Every person is important.
Paul shared a story of how he and Deb were dressed up one night on the way to a nice dinner. Walking to the event, they passed a homeless man on the sidewalk. Deb stopped and asked the man how he was doing. In Paul’s words, she always saw beyond the exterior and saw people. Deb took the time to speak to those who would otherwise have been passed by. This story brings to mind the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). A man on the way to Jerusalem was robbed and left along the road. A priest saw him and passed by on the other side. A Levite saw him and passed by on the other side. “But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and when he saw the man, he had compassion” (v. 33). He ministered to the man in need. Deb found it difficult to pass by on the other side. In fact, on the night that she became sick, she had made two trips to the hospital to take those who were in need. How often do we simply choose to pass by on the other side? In the parable, Jesus asked, “Which man was a neighbor?” The answer was clear. It was the Samaritan. “…Then Jesus told him, ‘Go and do the same’”(v. 37). It takes courage not to pass by on the other side. Whose example will we follow?
Following Christ is costly (Matthew 16:24). Through personal experience and the stories of other women’s leaders, I know that obedience and ministry come at a price—physical, emotional, and maybe even monetary (Matthew 6:19-20). Deb made a huge sacrifice of time, resources, and hard work in completing her seminary education. And, as an ongoing part of daily ministry, she spent time studying God’s Word, writing, planning, counseling, and investing in the lives of others. As women began to share how Deb had impacted their lives, someone said, “How in the world did she find time for that?” Time and energy are precious commodities, and we must spend them wisely. Are you investing in eternity? “For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will reward each according to what he has done” (Matthew 16:27).
Cheerleaders are desperately needed.
Dr. Deb was an encourager to many. She cheered on those new in the faith, those struggling to make tough life choices, fellow women’s ministry leaders, and those desperately seeking to find and to follow Christ. Paul shared that above all Deb was passionate about women fulfilling their callings. This passion was evident in the lives of those she chose to invest in. She encouraged women to pursue ministry and writing opportunities as well as education and training. Many sought her advice concerning both academics and ministry. I am a product of Deb’s encouragement to pursue further education. Deb was a constant source of strength for me when I was a Ph.D. student and was even investing in me through wise counsel the last time we were together. As a leader, will you follow Deb’s example and honor her legacy by committing to invest in another fellow-worker in ministry? “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
The purpose of this article was to honor the life of a precious, faithful follower of Christ who radically served others and impacted the lives of many! Well Done, Dr. Debra Douglas!
Stephanie is the former Director of Women’s Ministry at Poplar Heights Baptist Church in Jackson, Tennessee and a LifeWay Ministry Multiplier. She graduated from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with a Masters of Divinity. She also completed a Masters of Theology and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Christian Education from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Stephanie currently is an Associate Professor at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. She has a passion for God’s Word and ministering to women.