So how did God bring together and use for His service a gal from Chicago, Illinois, and a young man from Southgate, California?
It was the summer of 1953. Duane’s first wife Ladene, had been killed, about 6 months before, in a car accident. He survived and yet was left with with three young daughters (one age 5 and twins age 2). His parents immediately said they would care for the girls so he could continue in college at Biola in California. That summer he read a book, Beyond Civilization by Sophie Mueller, and his heart was challenged to be a part of that type of missionary work. Hearing Arthur Mouw tell about his work with the Dyaks in Indonesia furthered that desire. He wrote to NTM and they sent their representative, Mel Wyma, to talk to him. Mel arrived on the day Duane was moving, as he had just sold his house to Bob & Marge Gilman (who later also became NTM missionaries). After visiting, Mel said “How about moving right on to the field?” Three days later Duane left for missionary training with NTM in Fout Springs, California.
The previous year, 1952, Howard and Mary Rowe heard an NTM missionary speak in their church. They invited them to their house for dinner. As they heard about missionary work, they both felt that was something they also wanted to do. By then they had 2 children. Howard had finished college and was attending a Baptist Seminary in Chicago. They sent in their application to NTM and in the summer of 1952 left for Fout Springs, California. The training at Fout Springs was a one year program, which they finished in the summer of 1953. They stayed on living there while preparing to head on to the field. Duane and Howard met each other on work detail duty that summer. Howard introduced Duane to Mary, his wife, one day after work detail.
The Fout Springs NTM missionary training center was located on government land in the Mendocina Forest. It had previously been an old CCC camp. NTM had an agreement with the Forestry Department, that they would send a crew from the student body to help fight fires when they occurred. All the men would go when there was a fire. It was the beginning of the 1953 fire season when Duane arrived at Fout Springs to begin missionary training. On his third day there was a forest fire and a Forestry truck came to pick up the men. The truck’s arrival was announced by the ringing of a bell. As the men all headed out to get on the truck, Howard Rowe said to Mary, his pregnant wife, “Kiss me Mary, because I may not come back.” The men fought the fire all day and all of the next night.
Fourteen of the NTM missionary candidates and one forest ranger perished while fighting that fire – including Mary’s husband Howard. Duane was one of the ones that returned. His mind was in turmoil. “Did I make a mistake in even coming here?” Then the thought, “No, God spared my life two times now… once in the car accident and now in the fire!” God then gave him peace to continue on training to serve Him. Mary’s husband, Howard, did not return. When Mary was given this news, she remembered Howard’s last words to her and had a peace that God had prepared Howard’s heart for what was ahead.
Since his wife’s death, Duane had had a habit of walking and praying through his times of loneliness. He continued this after the men’s death in the fire and he prayed especially for those that had lost their spouses, as he understood their loneliness. Soon he realized that many of his prayers were centered on Mary. He went and talked with her about this and she admitted that she was drawn to pray for him too. They then went to the training center staff and talked with them about their feelings. The staff said they too were praying for them to be drawn to each other. Duane and Mary were both rather stunned that this was happening so soon. As Mary’s pregnancy progressed, she decided to go back to Chicago to have her baby so that her parents could help care for her other two children when she was in the hospital. This time apart gave Mary and Duane the opportunity to think about their future relationship. In May of 1954, Duane and Mary were married and started their life together with 6 children! By November of 1954 they left to serve the Lord in Paraguay! In 1956, the Lord gave them another daughter Juanita making a perfect number 7.
(Duane and Mary Stous served in Paraguay in the Mbya (Guarani) tribe for years. Duane served on the NTM field leadership team as well. Then Duane was asked to teach at the NTM Bible School in Waukesha, Wisconsin. During those years, Mary worked in the bookstore and as Dean of Women. Then Duane served as Coordinator of the NTM Bible Schools and Boot Camps and in 1975 was asked to join the Executive Committee. Duane and Mary retired in 2008 after serving more than fifty years!)