“God fixed my marriage and I believe He can fix anything,” Steve Dupree, owner of Steve’s Maintenance Co., said. “We were divorced. My wife didn’t love me any more. It was over. But God is good at fixing things.”
In 1969, Steve met Debbie at the Empire Roller Rink. A friendship ensued. “She was only 13 but, so cute,” he says. “I was 16 and in high school.” Steve came from an abusive home background. The oldest of five boys, Steve caught the brunt of the emotional and physical abuse from his alcoholic step-father.
“Drinking was all I knew,” he said. “I was headed in that direction. Debbie stabilized me and gave me something to believe in. I didn’t have much confidence in the future because of the negative words said over me constantly.”
Debbie, however, had a good home life with a Christian mom who took her to church. “I believed in God but, church was boring,” she says. “Still, I went every Sunday.”
Church, God or anything spiritual was the furthest thing from Steve’s mind. He waited a few months before asking her to be his girlfriend.
“Her dad didn’t know we were boyfriend and girlfriend,” he said. “To her mom, dating meant meeting me at the movie theater. Her mom would drop her off. As soon as her mom left, we’d go riding around and come back when the movie was over. Her mom didn’t know we hadn’t been there the entire time.”
Steve looked younger than he was so, it was easy for Debbie to let her mother believe he was her age.
Debbie enjoyed the attention she received from Steve, going out and having fun. “I really didn’t have any adult thoughts,” she said. “Oh, I thought I loved him but, in a 13-year-old way. I had boyfriends before but he was the only one I have ever been intimate with.”
Desperate to get out of his home situation, Steve joined the Navy after high school. “When I came home on leave, Debbie told me she thought she might be pregnant,” he explained. “We really didn’t say anything else about it because she didn’t know for sure.”
When she was about five months along her mother asked her straight out if she was pregnant. Debbie admitted she was. She felt as if she were in an unreal dream not really knowing what to do. Steve’s mom called him, told him the news and asked what he was going to do.
“I said without hesitation, ‘I’m going to marry her.’ One thing I hoped would come to pass was that we would eventually get married. I knew I loved her. I hadn’t dated any other girls. She was the first.”
Marrying Steve was something Debbie wanted to do, as well. “ I wasn’t pushed into it,” she said. “It seemed like what we needed to do. We knew we had created a life and wanted to make a home for the baby.”
The two were married on July 3, 1972 while Steve was home on leave. Debbie was 15; Steve was 18. The next day he shipped out to Ireland. Their son, Steven, was born on Sept. 19. By December, the teenage mom, her newborn infant, along with a case of formula, bag full of cloth diapers and clothes for both flew 6,000 miles away to worn-torn Belfast.
“When I got off the plane with Steven in the pumpkin seat and both shoulders full of heavy bags, the first thing I saw was a sign that said, ‘Do not leave luggage unattended or it will be shot.’”
She felt scared and alone. Eventually she found Steve. He was at the airport but had fallen asleep upstairs because he had just gotten off of a double shift as a radioman.
Steve and Debbie agree, though, that living in Ireland for the first few years of their marriage was good for them. “It helped to not be around family,” Steve said. “It bounded us together as a family unit. It gave us a good foundation as a family.”
However, due to their immaturity, both say they were like two kids playing house. “I didn’t know how to cook,” Debbie said laughing. “We ate a lot of spaghetti, pizza and Campbell’s soup.”
Their second son, Bryan, was born in 1975 while the Duprees were stationed in Florida. When Steve got out of the service, they moved back home and rented a trailer in Columbia.
One evening, Steve got up with the Bryan and discovered to his horror his son had passed away of crib death. “Bryan’s death hit me hard,” Debbie said. “I couldn’t go back into the trailer. We moved in with my Mom and Dad.”
Although she doesn’t remember much about the days after her son’s death, she remembers a day when things changed. “I was sitting by the side of my parents’ house and a voice said to me, ‘You still have Steven and he needs you.’ I got up and went forward from there.”
To Steve, Bryan’s death was one of the lowest points of his life. “I felt I was the dad and I should have somehow made this not happen,” he said. “I felt worthless and guilty that I couldn’t do anything to help Bryan.”
Where Steve had always prided himself in being a valuable employee, it got to the point where he didn’t care any more. He started partying, drinking and smoking marijuana with a guy from work. and his friends. At first Debbie was going with him.
“Steve always wanted me to go with him,” she said. “I didn’t mind drinking every now and then but, I didn’t like doing it to excess. I didn’t like not knowing what I was doing.”
They left the children with her mother while they spent late nights with Steve’s new friends. “He really wanted friends,” she said. “This guy and the ones he was partying with seemed like the friends he had never had.”
Drinking and smoking marijuana became an escape for Steve. “I didn’t want to think about Bryan. Drinking was a crutch, a poor crutch. It made things a whole lot worse instead of better. When the numbness wore off the problems were still there along with more problems on top of them.”
Meanwhile, Debbie was begging him to stop the partying lifestyle and spend time with Steven and their new daughter, Christean. “I wanted a happy family, the storybook family. But he wouldn’t give up the friends. He had become a different person than the man I married. I didn’t love him any more.”
Steve admits that he had no consideration for how Debbie felt or even for the family. Debbie was working long hours while Steve drove back and forth to Linn Technical School to get a heavy equipment degree.
“I wasn’t being a good husband,” he said. “I wasn’t helping out. I was either in school or partying. I just wasn’t paying attention to my wife and family. “
The problems they were having were not one-sided, though. “I was stubborn and had a terrible temper,” Debbie admitted. “I would get really angry and yell. Because of the way Steve was raised, he wouldn’t fight back. He would just leave. That made me even madder.”
Being back in Columbia around family was also an issue for Steve. “It brought back bad memories for me,” he said. “I had no real extended family in my life. Her family had a strong bond that I never really understood. I didn’t fit well. It added friction to our relationship.”
When Steve and Debbie got married both agreed they would never consider divorce. Being raised by a devout Christian mother and father, Debbie especially felt this way. But she decided divorce was the only recourse.
“Debbie had turned off her feelings for me altogether,” Steve said. “That was just something more to feel guilty about. I didn’t want the divorce. I really wanted to make it work but, Debbie felt it was too little, too late.”
They were divorced in 1981. Looking back on the divorce now, Debbie said, “It’s weird to me that I felt that was what I needed to do.”
Steve didn’t hire a lawyer even though Debbie’s attorney urged him to. He gave the house and everything to Debbie and agreed to pay a large sum to her each month. Not finding a job in Missouri to go with his new training, Steve went to work in Texas.
“I was miserable,” he said. “I ran up a huge phone bill calling Debbie and the kids. I came back in a few weeks.” He moved into the house with Debbie as a housemate but, the problems they had started all over again. They continued to argue. He moved in with his brother. Still, he mowed the lawn, maintained the house and fixed whatever was broken. He even babysat the kids when Debbie went out on a date.
“I like to say we had a good divorce,” she said. “He was still the kids’ dad. But my feelings hadn’t changed for him. We still had the same issues.”
Looking back on things Steve says the time apart helped them both reflect on things. “I got worse and Debbie got better,” he said. “God was working on both of us. Debbie had to come to a point of release. I had to come to a point of acceptance.”
Steve was working for a lumber company but, still drinking heavier than ever. Friends at work invited Debbie to go to church with them. She went, she says, become she knew she knew she needed something and the kids needed a better foundation.
“I went and loved it,” she said. “It was different from the church I grew up in. I felt love that was warm and real. Every teaching hit me in the heart but, it was with love.”
Debbie accepted Christ as her personal savior right away and was Spirit-filled. “It was a totally new life,” she said. “God remade me. It was beyond my wildest dreams that I could finally feel peace and joy.” Her children immediately loved the church and accepted Christ, as well.
Although Debbie had wanted the divorce, she was not happy. “I wanted a life with my children’s dad. When I found Jesus was there for me, it gave me hope where I had lost hope. But, I knew I would never consider marriage to Steve unless he accepted Jesus.”
Debbie vividly remembers one evening sitting in the living room with her children. “We held hands and prayed in agreement that Daddy would come to Jesus as we had. We asked Him to put our family back together. After that, the kids just felt it would happen. They had pure faith.”
The biggest thing Steve noticed about Debbie after she accepted Christ was “that irritating difference. She was just so calm. She had found peace without me. I felt hopeless. I had thought maybe we could patch everything up and get back together but all of a sudden I felt it would never happen. She didn’t need me.”
Though Debbie’s new found faith had a negative affect on Steve, it also made him curious. “She wasn’t acting like ‘Ha ha, I found God and you didn’t.’ And that was intriguing. She invited me to church. Even though I said, ‘No,’ she left the door open for me to call anytime I wanted to go.”
Curiosity eventually won out. “I remember walking in the door and a man by the name of Norris grabbed me and gave me a big hug. I thought, ‘What is this guy doing? What is this all about?’ He was grabbing everybody who came in the door and hugging them.”
The message that night and the people in the church resonated with Steve. “The way people treated me and each other was so alien to me. It was a type of love I hadn’t experienced before. It was like what I had always a imagined a family should be.”
Steve found the environment to be “very intriguing. I was hearing and seeing things I had never seen. The flow of the Spirit was amazing.”
As Steve attended the church, Debbie was fighting a different battle. “I constantly prayed for him to be born-again and Spirit-filled. I determined I wasn’t going to marry him until I saw him living as a Christian.
“Finally, I realized I had to let go. I prayed, ‘God, Steve’s salvation is more important than he and I being together. However it happens it will happen between You and him. I’m giving him to You.’ “
After she prayed she told Steve about her decision. “She told me about how God had told her she had to give me up and let Him do His work in me,” Steve said. “I didn’t know what she was talking about.”
The night Steve finally made his decision for Christ he was attending a newcomer’s class. Debbie was not there “I remember the joy I felt,” Steve said. “I was driving home with tears flowing down my face. I couldn’t see to drive. It was overwhelming joy.”
For the first time, Steve saw clearly the years he had wasted. “What I had lived up to that point was misery,” he said. “I was so happy but I also saw what a wretch I was. It made the grace and love of God even more profound that He accepted me just where I was.”
The next Sunday when he went forward, Debbie says was a time of rejoicing. “Steve had a huge, deep hole that God had to fill. He is slow to commit but, when he does it is a deep commitment.”
After that, Steve’s life took a dramatic turn. His old drinking buddies just laughed at him when he told them what was going on in his life.
“God opened my eyes to the evil of everything about that situation,” he said. “I realized I was caught up in the world. I wished that I had come to faith an earlier age to avoid all the difficulties I had created in my life. I stopped the drinking and partying.”
In the church they attended at the time, marriage was a serious business. Those who wished to be married in the church by one of the pastors needed to complete six months of premarital counseling. However, after three months, the pastor counseling them said, ‘There is no doubt in my mind you were meant to be together.”
They were remarried on Oct. 10, 1982, less than a year after they were divorced. “We have two anniversaries and we earned both of them,” Debbie said.
The Duprees started their second marriage totally devoted to God. “We were very active in the church,” Steve said. “We went to all the functions. I wanted to learn as much as I could about how to follow Christ.”
Knowing their children had suffered a lot in the divorce, Steve and Debbie determined to bring them up in a godly manner. Norris, the door greeter, also turned out to be a prophet. Debbie had been told by doctors she would not have any more children, but Norris told her she would have a dark haired, dark-eyed girl. Daniela was born the next year. He also told her she would have another son. That son was Jesse, who is now in the Army.
Eventually the church they were attending had difficulties and closed. “We were out of the loop on a lot of that,” he said. “It is always difficult when a church falls apart. It was like our family and that is traumatic.” Despite the problems with the church, Steve and Debbie’s faith held strong finding other churches and avenues in which to serve God.
Their daughter, Daniela, sees her parents as the pillars of the family. “They are ones everyone depends on,” she said. “I can always talk to mom. She’s my best friend. I have a different perspective of what a parent looks like than a lot of my friends.”
Her parents have taught her that love is a choice. “They decided through all the drama that love for each other and their family was worth it,” she said. “Today they have a strong relationship and a solid faith.”
Debbie believes wherever a person starts with God, He can work things out if the individual is willing to allow Him into their life. “We started our marriage young. We made a mess of a lot of things but God worked it out. We are living proof of that.”
Her advice to others in the midst of divorce or considering remarriage is to give it to God and let Him work it out. “Don’t lose faith. In my situation, it wasn’t going to happen. I didn’t love him any more. I really cannot articulate how bad it was. God turned my heart back to Steve and Steve’s heart to God. It is an absolute miracle that we got remarried.”
Today, Steve and Debbie know each other so well they can finish each other’s sentences. “When she suffers, I suffer. When the family suffers, we all suffer. We have learned to lean on each other in the rough times. We know the power of prayer and of praying in agreement.”
Debbie adds, “I couldn’t be happier. He’s my best friend. He’s my lover. Love just gets better.” Next year they will celebrate a combined total of 40 years of marriage.
As a general handyman, Steve fixes things for a living. But there’s Someone who is a better repairman that Steve.
“God is the master fixer,” he said. “I know He can fix anything because He fixed me. He fixed my wife. He fixed my marriage. He swirled His hands and made everything fit together like a giant jigsaw puzzle.
“He is an amazing God. He has filled our lives with miracles.”