Dusty and Wanda Dupree have learned of God’s goodness and great purpose in suffering.
The couple met in a Lubbock hospital as they were each losing their first spouses. Wanda and Joe had been married twenty-seven years; Dusty and Leanne had been married for thirty.
Based on what Wanda was hearing from the doctors and what she had read, she understood that Joe’s battle with leukemia was nearing the end. Overwhelmed with everything, Wanda started crying, got up and ran out of the hospital room door and hit someone in the hallway, bouncing off the floor.
Dusty’s wife Leanne had just received a stem cell transplant and was having trouble getting rid of a staph infection. She already had titanium rods in her arms to deal with tumors––but they had each broken, and now the doctors were concerned that a spreading infection would require amputation. When Dusty heard the news, he left to catch his breath and ran (literally) right into Wanda.
After they got up and apologized to one another, they sat on the window seal and talked for a long time. The next day, they met one another’s spouses and the four of them became friends.
Leanne and Joe would develop a profound friendship during those last few months of their lives, as well. Wanda and Dusty said, “They had a bond that none of us understood because they were going down a path that we weren’t on.”
When Joe died, Leanne would call and check on Wanda and ask how she was doing. Wanda was working as a lab secretary at the hospital at the time, so Leanne would call her when they were coming in for treatments and Wanda would walk over to see them.
It was about a year and a half of friendship later when Leanne passed away.
Neither Dusty nor Wanda thought about marrying again because they loved their first spouses so much. They didn’t want to cheapen what they had with Leanne and Joe. They felt so blessed the first time around. So, Wanda and Dusty would just go eat or shop together with no intention but friendship. They said there was an invisible barrier between the two of them—they wouldn’t even touch elbows. “It was just safe”, Wanda recalled.
One day while they were sitting at a restaurant, God took the blindfolds off of them at the same time.
They realized they could have another happy marriage. It was possible to marry again with God’s help, without falling out of love with their late spouses. In the midst of suffering, they found that their increased dependence on God served to deepen their trust in him.
They both experienced a strengthened faith through the grief of losing the people they love. They are much more trusting of God because he carried them through seasons they did not think they would be able to survive. God showed them that he was not only capable of supporting them through those seasons, but he could use the suffering to bring them further.
For example, they both attended church with their first spouses but they say they were often going for the wrong reasons. They did things back then because they felt like they were supposed to, not with the right heart attitudes. After losing their first spouses, they say that God has opened their eyes so much to see the peace and joy to be found in God, and how that spills over into serving the Church.
Asked about the most surprising parts of suffering, Wanda boasted of God’s power over it, saying, “The blessings… I’m sitting here looking at blessings.”
Dusty added, “The thing I’ve noticed is that when you go through the hard times, you either get stronger or you push God away––and what you need to do is just turn to the Lord and get stronger.” Wanda chimed in, “Yeah I would second that. I mean, those are the only two choices you have, because you’re not going to stay neutral. You’re not going to straddle the fence.”
Dusty and Wanda agreed that a crucial part of getting through the difficulties of life is having other Christian brothers and sisters alongside you. “That’s what is so wonderful about our small groups”, they said. “You know when somebody is hurting–everybody is right there for you.”
Wanda and Dusty are loving grandparents to their grandchildren and affectionately known and loved by many students in the Redeemer College Ministry. They serve regularly there and with the church as a whole, often hosting in their home, sponsoring young men at the Boys Ranch, and much more. They say that God has blessed them richly through Redeemer and the avenues through which they have been able to serve there. They plan to use the rest of their retirement for the advancement of God’s Kingdom here on earth and are grateful for the opportunities the Lord has given them through Redeemer to grow in their faith and serve the Body of Christ.