Alma Doering

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Alma Doering (b. Chicago, Illinois, on April 18, 1878) was one of the first leaders in the Congo Inland Mission (or the Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission).

Early Life and Education

Doering's father, William,[1] was a Civil War veteran and her paternal grandfather one of the early settlers of Chicago.[2] Her mother, born in Germany, lost both parents by age eleven. Her faith was ridiculed and restricted by the foster family who took her in, and she eventually immigrated to America in search of religious freedom. According to Doering's writings, her mother was very influential in her life.[3] At least three children were born to the family, but two died in childhood within a single year.[4] Alma's brother, Edward Doering, who lived in Cleveland, Ohio, supported her missionary work.[5]

Alma came to personal salvation at age nine. She began teaching Sunday school at age thirteen, and by sixteen was teaching several classes in two Sunday schools.[6]

Alma attended and graduated from the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. While she was there, at age 18, she felt a call to full-time service, and specifically to what she described as “the unevangelized tribes of Africa.”[7] Following this, she began speaking of her faith to everyone she met everywhere, and turned over her jewelry and other perceived luxuries to a mission society for sale.[8]

On her way to her first term in what was then the Congo Free State, she took six months of Red Cross nurse's training, especially in tropical diseases, in Europe.[9]

Missionary career

Early Ministry Before Congo

Doering began her missionary work in 1898 in Chicago[10] in the slums of the south side.[11] She soon continued on as one of the first missionaries to Native American reservations and lumber camps in northern Wisconsin & Upper Michigan, serving as a deaconess from Bethany Deaconess Home in Brooklyn, NY,[12] and working with Dr. & Mrs. J. O. Buswell, Sr.[13]

Pioneer work in the Congo Free State

Although she also worked briefly in Kenya, most of Doering's missionary work was done in what was then the Congo Free State (now Democratic Republic of Congo), from 1901 to 1938. Working first under the Swedish Mission Society,[14] then under Congo Inland Mission[15] and finally under Unevangelized Tribes Mission which she helped to found, Doering walked into interior areas where no roads yet existed and served many tribes, surveying areas unexplored by westerners, opened new mission stations, and endured countless hardships such as malaria, blackwater fever, and lost of all her goods three times due to fire. Early in Doering's missionary career, she received the bantu name “Malembe,” meaning “peace.”[16] Missionaries to the Democratic Republic of Congo recall that she is still remembered there as somewhat of a legend.[17] She also had a profound influence on other missionaries, such as William Sheppard, an African-American missionary doctor.[18] Missionary Joanne Kroeker traveled with Doering on her last missionary voyage. She wrote that on "November 4, 1938, I boarded the S.S. Elizabethville with Miss Doering, Miss Runkelberger, Dr. and Mrs. Laban Smith with their children Junior and Phyllis..."[19] Dunkelberger had previously traveled with Doering and written about their experiences.[20]

Founding of Unevangelized Tribes Mission

Doering is best remembered as founder of the Unevangelized Tribes Mission (UTM) and its field secretary for many years. Doering was international and interdenominational in her views. She spent time speaking in several countries of Europe as well as the United States, so much so that she was (mistakenly) called by one writer a “Swiss Pentecostal.”[21] He quotes an article she wrote while living in St. Croix, Switzerland[22] for a Pentecostal magazine.[23]

Technically and officially she was a Lutheran,[24] but she was sent to Congo first by a Swedish missionary society and then by the Defenseless Mennonites.[25] She was described by another author as “A Mennonite missionary with holiness sympathies.”[26] She was also influenced by the Pentecostal movement, apparently following an experience she had while attending the Sunderland Convention in the UK in 1908. Donald McGee relates that she testified in that meeting to recognizing a “unknown tongue” spoken there as a warning in the Kifioti tribal language with which she was familiar, and she said that the “interpretation” was given correctly.[27] Following this experience, Doering wrote frequently for Pentecostal publications, but also spoke at major Mennonite Conferences.[28] Never one to be tied down by any one single Christian group, Doering tried to steer the Congo Inland Mission in the same interdenominational direction. Conflicts with the mission board over this issue eventually led Doering to resign in 1925[29] and found the Unevangelized Tribes Mission the following year, 1926.

A map published in 1939 by the mission shows nine mission stations the full length of the southeastern part of the Bandundu Region (now Bandundu Province). It stated that the aim of the UTM is to “occupy fields not touched by other missions,” and claimed work in eleven tribes, with beginnings in three others.[30] The official organ of the mission was “The Unevangelized”.[31] The UTM was eventually absorbed by the Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission and other missions.[32][33]

Missions promoter and recruiter

In both her writings and in her multitude of speaking opportunities[34][35][36] Doering constantly pleaded for more missionaries to join the work. She figured that she was responsible for recruiting over 100 missionaries.[37] One Mennonite church in Steinbech, OH credits their missionary vision to Doering, then working with Africa Inland Mission, speaking at that church in 1910.[38] The Mennonite Central Committee, too, has credited the strong missionary addresses given by her and by Charles E. Hurlburt with their decision to start mission work in Africa.[39] Even the time she was forced to spend in Europe bore fruit and yielded new missionary candidates.[40] Unevangelized Tribes Mission, which she helped to found and under which she served many of her years in Congo, had a policy of never taking an offering or directly asking for funds, but Doering certainly did everything under her power to promote the work. One of her pamphlets lists “what could be done” for certain amounts, and the pamphlets were sold to help support the work.[41] In one of her books, she wrote accounts of the work geared to whetting interest in missions, appealed for more missionaries, told of creative ways Christians in several countries were supporting missions, and even gave lists of items mission stations could use in their ministries along with directions for packing them.[42] She raised over 1.5 million dollars for missions during her lifetime.[43] She was a frequent missionary speaker. The newspaper of Hope College in 1922 described her as “full of the message.”[44]

Missions strategist

Doering also used those same opportunities to promote certain strategies of mission, based on Scripture and on her experiences in Congo, and argued for a re-interpretation of certain popular conceptions of the day concerning missions. She argued for sending a few missionaries to every tribe rather than sending many to a few tribes and for occupying strategic points and key tribes on trade routes that could in turn reach many other tribes, as well as for bringing the Gospel to a tribe and then leaving the remaining evangelization and development work to the local churches established there.[45]

Linguistic and Translation Work in African Languages

Although not a trained linguist, Doering showed unusual linguistic ability. She learned and reduced to writing eight African languages, and was also fluent in several European languages.[46] She translated several books of the Bible into tribal languages, which were later used by the British and American Bible Societies in the production of tribal New Testaments.[47][48]

Founding of D&D Missionary Homes, 1949

Doering was the founding visionary behind D&D Missionary Homes. After health problems prevented her from active service in Congo, she spent more energy in calling other Christians to help in the work. In 1929 she met Stella Dunkelberger at a New Jersey Bible Conference after speaking about the need for missionaries to have a home while on furlough and after retirement. Stella had been associated with the D.M. Stearns Missionary Fund in Germantown, PA. that had a couple of apartments used for missionaries on furlough. The two became immediate friends, and Doering moved into a Stearns apartment. The two made a final trip to Congo in 1938. Recurring strokes forced Doering's resignation from Unevangelized Tribes Mission in 1948,[49] and in 1949 she and Dunkelberger joined talents to found D&D (for Doering and Dunkelberger) Missionary Homes in St. Petersburg, FL.[50] They continued to live in Germanstown, traveling frequently to St. Petersburg to oversee the missionary homes there. D&D started with one 12’x12’ cabin, but has grown to more than 50 homes on seven acres of property in 2015, and now includes a ministry to single mothers called “Next Step Village.”[51]

After the death of Dunkelburger in 1953, Doering moved to D&D homes herself.

Death

Doering died quietly on July 12, 1959, in her favorite rocking chair at D&D Missionary Homes in St. Petersburg, FL. She was 81.[52][53][54]

Publications

41 articles authored by Alma Doering were published in 1912 and 1913 in the Pentecostal magazines "Confidence" and "Latter Rain Evangel" (archived and accessible at www.IFPHC.org).

  • "Leopard Spots or God’s Masterpiece—Which?" (Cleveland, OH: Evangel Publishing House, “Malembe” Publisher, c. 1916)
  • "Ups and Downs in Africa: A Thrilling Account of a Survey Trip by Misses Alma E Doering and Daisy Forel through Unevangelized Tribes in the Belgian Congo", 192? www.IFPH.org
  • "Vision Victorious—Opening the Door to a Challenge", Germantown, PA: Unevangelized Tribes Mission, 1939.
  • "His Way Out", Germantown, PA: Office of the Unevangelized, 1940.

References

  1. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online, Doering, Alma http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Doering, Alma Accessed October 20, 2015.
  2. Alma Doering | Unevangelized Tribes Mission | Zoominfo.com. http://www.zoominfo.com/p/Alma-Doering/1519452500 Accessed October 27, 2015.
  3. Doering, Alma, "Busy Mothers as God's Prayer Warriors", The Latter Rain Evangel, July, 1914. Accessed at https://ifphc.org on October 6, 2015.
  4. Doering, Alma, "Busy Mothers as God's Prayer Warriors", The Latter Rain Evangel, July, 1914. Accessed at https.://ifphc.org on October 6, 2015
  5. Doering, Alma, Leopard Spots or God's Masterpiece--Which? (Cleveland, OH:"Malembe" Publisher, Evangel Publishing House, 1916), p.10
  6. Alma Doering | Unevangelized Tribes Mission, http://www.zoominfo.com/p/Alma-Doering/1519452550 Accessed October 8, 2015
  7. Doering, Alma, Vision Victorious,(Germantown, PA:Office of the Unevangelized, 1940), p. 16
  8. Doering, Alma, Vision Victorious, (Germantown, PA:Office of the Unevangelized, 1940), p. 40.
  9. Alma Doering |Unevangelized Tribes Mission, http://www.zoominfo.com/p/Alma-Doering/1519452550 Accessed October 1, 2015
  10. Estes, Steven R. "Doering, Alma (1878-1959)" Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1990. Web. 9 Oct 2015 http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Doering,_Alma(1878-1959)&oldid=123729.
  11. Alma Doering | Unevangelized Tribes Mission | Zoominfo.com http://www.zoominfo.com/p/Alma-Doering/1519452550 (Accessed October 15, 2015)
  12. Estes, Steven R. "Doering, Alma (1878-1959)," Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Onlinfe, 1990. Web. 0 October 2015
  13. Doering, Alma, Vision Victorious, (Germantown, PA:Unevangelized Tribes Mission), p.16.
  14. Cornelius H Wedel, Late Professor at Bethel College, Sketches from Church History for Mennonite Schools, (Newton,KS:Western District Conference of Mennonites of North America, 1920).
  15. "Stepping Stones--The Journey of the Mennonite Church in Congo. http://www.mennonitemission.het/SiteCollectionDocuments/Stories/BeyondOurselves/Cono/DL.BYO.Congo.SteppingStones.pdf
  16. Doering, Alma, His Way Out (Germantown,Pa:Office of the Unevangelized, 1940), p. 57.
  17. Interview with Lorella Rouster, former missionary to Congo, Every Child Ministries, Sept. 5, 2015
  18. "Historical Riddle", Beyond Ourselves, Nov. 2012, "Congo--100 Years" http://www.mennonitemission.net/Stories/BeyondOurselves/Congo/Pages/HistoricalRiddle Accessed October 8, 2015
  19. Joanne Kroeker, Shiny Shoes on Dusty Paths Vol 1, Destiny Image Publishers, October 1, 1995)
  20. Stella C. Dunkelberger, Crossing Africa in a Missionary Way, The Mission Offices, 1935).
  21. Eric Nelson, Newburg, The Pentecostal Mission in Palestine 1906-1948, Dissertation for Regent University, February 2008
  22. Anderson, Allan Heaton, To The Ends of the Earth: Pentecostalism and the Transformation of World Christianity, Oxford University Press, 2013
  23. Doering, Alma, “Those Frustrated Calls to Ministry—Are They Divine?”, Confidence, February 1914, p. 32
  24. Klaus Fiedler, History of Faith Missions,PUBLISHER, 1994, p. 52
  25. ”Stepping Stones—The Journey of the Mennonite Church in Congo, Congo—100 Years http://www.mennonitemission.net/SiteCollectionDocuments/Stories/BeyondOurselves/Congo/BL.BYO.Congo.SteppingStones.pdf
  26. Robison, James, Divine Healing:The Years of Expansion, 1906-1930 (Eugene,OR:Pickwick Publishers, 2014). P.49
  27. Revival Library Online “Wind and Fire”, http://www.revival-library.org/index.php/catalogues-menu/pentecostal/wind-and-fire The same event is related in McGee’s book The Pentecostal Movement—A Short History, n.p., n.d
  28. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online http://www.gameo.org/index.php?title=Doering, _Alma_(1878-1959) Accessed October 23, 2015.
  29. Snyder, C. Arnold, and Lapp, John Allen, A Global Mennonite History: Africa (Pandora Press, 2003), p. 84.
  30. Doering, Alma, Vision Victorious, (Germantown, PA:Unevangelized Tribes Mission), p. 16.
  31. Doering, Alma, His Way Out, (Germantown, PA:Office of the Unevangelized, 1940) p. 57
  32. "Congo Mission News, 1959, Zaire Church News, Vol. 185-206, p. 21.
  33. Cornelius Dyck & Dennis D. Martin, The Mennonite Encyclopedia, (Mennonite Brethren Publishing House, 1990).
  34. "Mission Worker Speaks Sunday" The Evening Independent, April 24, 1937. Picture of news clip accessible at http://www.auspostalhistory.com/articles/1923.php.
  35. Willard E Cassel & Richard E Taylor,"Edgewood Camp Meeting:Research & Remembrances. Mentions addresses by Doering. Accessible at http://www.bfhistory.org/edgewood.htm
  36. "Recent Special Speakers," Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, MBI Monthly, Vol. 22, No. 1, Sept, 1921
  37. Doering, Alma, Vision Victorious, (Germantown, PA:Office of the Unevangelized, 1940), p.13.
  38. Gospel Tidings, 1987-1990, Vols 27-30, Evangelical Mennonite Brethren Conference, 1987
  39. Cornelius H Wedel, Sketches from Church History for Mennonite Schools, (Newton,KS:Western District Conference of Mennonites of North America, 1920).
  40. William B. Weaver, Thirty-Five Years in Congo (Congo Inland Mission, 1945)
  41. Doering, Alma, His Way Out, p. 57-58 as one example.
  42. Doering, Alma, Leopard Spots or God's Masterpiece--Which?, (Cleveland,OH:"Malembe") Publisher, 1916.
  43. Marjorie Creamer, Times Religion Writer, "Mission Provides a Restful Haven," St. Petersburg Times, July 1, 1967, p.45
  44. The Anchor, February 15, 1922
  45. Doering, Alma, Vision Victorious, (Germantown,PA:Unevangelized Tribes Mission, 1939), p. 9-10, p.21, p.31, p. 36-37.
  46. Marjorie Creamer, Times Religion Writer, "Mission Provides a Restful Haven," St. Petersburg Times, July 1, 1967, p. 45
  47. http://www.zoominfo.com/p/Alma-Doering/151945255
  48. Doering, Alma, Vision Victorious, (Germantown,PA:Unevangelized Tribes Mission, 1939), p.40.
  49. Marjorie Creamer, Times Religion Writer, "Writer Provides a Restful Haven", St. Petersburg Times, July 1, 1967, p. 45.
  50. Laurie Lindeman, "Missionaries Caring for One Another", St. Petersburg Times, May 17, 1975, p. 40.
  51. http://www.nextstepvillage.com/our-history.html Accessed October 9, 2015
  52. "Mennonite Weekly Review" Obituary: 27 Aug 1959, p. 5.
  53. "Congo Mission News 1959: Zaire Church News, Vol. 185-206, p. 21.
  54. "Alma Doering, Ex-Missionary, Dies at 81, St. Petersburg Times, July 13, 1959